The Arc'teryx Macai is an effort by this Canadian manufacturer to deliver the hands-down best ski jacket made. Our team validates this effort and awards the Macai the Editors' Choice honor. In joining proven waterproof Gore-Tex material with both synthetic and down insulation, all wrapped in Arc'teryx's impeccable fit and finish, the Macai is indeed a high-end specimen of ski and snowboard elements protection. As compared to its closest competitor and former Editors' Choice winner, the Patagonia Primo Down, the Macai scores about the same in weather protection and ski features. Stylistically, the Macai has a slight edge, especially as compared to the latest iteration of the Primo Down, that is even boxier than its predecessors. With regards to warmth and fit and comfort, the Macai edges out the Primo Down; however, the Primo Down ventilates better. The only other jacket in our test that can adequately be compared is the Stio Shot 7. The Stio has down insulation and good weather protection. It fits similarly. The Stio is a little less refined, in almost every way. However, the Stio is almost $300 less than the Macai. It is worth a look at a lower price.
Arc'teryx Macai Review
Cons: Super expensive, close fitting.
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Arc'teryx pulls no punches with this high-end piece of weather protection. As the most expensive piece in our test, the Macai holds a special place. Is it worth the high entry price? Read on to answer for yourself.
Overall, the Arc'teryx Macai is our highest scoring piece. If you seek a standard, insulated ski resort jacket, the Macai is the best you can find.
Featuring down insulation complemented with body-mapped synthetic insulation in key areas, combined with that impeccable Arc'teryx fit, the Macai comes out as one of the warmest jackets in our test. Only the Best Buy Columbia Whirlibird Interchange, with two separate layers, is warmer. The insulating value is slightly ahead of that of the latest version of the Patagonia Primo Down that we find to be a little loose fitting, and virtually indistinguishable from that of the burly Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0. The Stio Shot 7 is a little less insulating than the Macai.
As shown here, our test is full of highly insulating products, the Macai partially earns its top spot because of its light weight. Especially as compared to all of the other warmest jackets in our test, the Macai is light for its warmth. The Patagonia Primo Down is basically the same weight as the Macai. If you carry your ski jacket in the backcountry, as many members of our testing team do, something like the Macai can really lighten your load. Don't be misled though, this jacket holds its own while riding in-bounds, too. In fact, it is primarily designed for in-bounds use. Dedicated backcountry users should seek a different product.
Arc'teryx brings its Canadian Coast Range heritage to the Macai. In that wet and stormy climate, effective weather protection is a must for all skiers and riders. The zippers, fabric, collar, and fit work together to make the user feel as protected from the elements as is possible. Whether the user is hunkered down on a chairlift, ensconced in helmet and goggles, or skiing fast in open terrain, the whole package will beat back the gnarliest wind and precipitation. The Macai sits right at the top of the weather resistance scores for this insulated sub-category along with the Patagonia Primo Down.
The Macai also compares favorably to the shell-only jackets like the Outdoor Research White Room and the FlyLow Gear Genius. The other Editors Choice, shell-only Arc'teryx Sabre has the same weather protection, minus the insulation of the Macai. On the very top of our Weather resistance charts, Norrona Lofoten Gore Tex Pro Shell is well ahead of the rest of the pack. With top of the line fabric, excellent hood and cuffs, and a set of features that provides for unparalleled integration with associated Norrona pants, the Lofoten is in a class of its own, in this scoring metric.
Additional resistance to wet weather come in the form of the Macai's body-mapped insulation. Though this jacket is primarily insulated with down, synthetic Coreloft insulation is placed on the hood, hem, and underarms. This type of insulation retains its insulating properties when wet, so these wetness-prone areas get a little extra protection.
In a thick and warm jacket like the Macai, the user will regularly face conditions that call for a little fresh air to the torso. Because of how warm and well-designed this contender is, we wish it allowed for better ventilation without needing to fully open the main front zipper. In fact, given Arc'teryx's otherwise impeccable design history, it is surprising that the ventilation on the Macai isn't far more polished.
The pit-zips are long enough, but the mesh backing inhibits their function. Certainly some prefer the mesh backing to prevent snow from sneaking into the jacket, but in our testing the ventilation quality is significantly limited with mesh over the pit-zips. Of course, you could cut out the mesh if you so desire. However, an $925 jacket shouldn't require scissoring in order to function at the top of the heap.
Better venting jackets include the Patagonia Primo Down, the Stio Shot 7 (with longer, but otherwise still mesh covered vents), and the Outdoor Research White Room. The Macai vents just as well as the Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0, while the three-in-one styles like the Columbia Whirlibird and the Patagonia Snowshot bring modular versatility that provides for excellent climate control that isn't typically described as "venting."
The Macai doesn't overdo it with the bells and whistles. True to the Arc'teryx sophisticated design model, frills are left behind in the interest of svelte appearance and utilitarian usage. The removable powder skirt, pass pocket on the sleeve, and the RECCO reflector are nice touches, as well as some of the other more subtle but well-considered details like the waterproof zippers, pit-zips, and ski helmet compatible hood.
The Helly Hansen Alpha and Spyder Leader offer the same ski specific features as the Macai, and step it up a little. The Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell, FlyLow Genius, and Columbia Whirlibird have fewer features than the Arc'teryx Editors' Choice, the Macai.
Fit and Comfort
In a quiet testament to the fit and comfort (not to mention style) of this award winner, our testing team found themselves reaching for this jacket for evening and daily wear in addition to ski area usage. Like Patagonia, Arc'teryx comes to ski jacket manufacturing from a climbing background. Climbing jackets require a significant range of motion in the sleeves and shoulders; in doing so, Arc'teryx borrows from its climbing jackets in this design mode.
Anyone can join three tubes to shelter a person's torso and arms. However, truly sophisticated construction transforms fabric into a second skin. Arc'teryx nails it with the Macai. Like the Patagonia Primo Down, the hood on the Macai sports a complicated combination of drawcords to lock things down over both a helmeted and bare head. The hood turns with the wearer's neck, and the cords stay out of the way. The design is a little more intuitive and easy-to-use than the Patagonia offering and is much appreciated.
The close fit and easy freedom of motion of the Macai is accomplished with very careful tailoring. The Helly Hansen Alpha 3.0 accomplishes similar comfort and fit with also careful tailoring, stretchy materials, and a shell fabric that seems as soft as a cotton sweatshirt. The Macai offers a higher level of protection than the Alpha 3.0 does, but the Alpha is perhaps a little more comfortable.
Arc'teryx doesn't make the most steezy clothing, but its designs do nail the classic, enduring look. The smoothly taped seams, low-profile zippers, and close fit provide a neutral and classy appearance. This jacket certainly doesn't make the same aggressive statement as the Spyder Leader. It seems to inspire a similar comfort and appreciation as the Primo Down and Outdoor Research White Room.
One notable and significant drawback in the aesthetics category is the Macai's stain resistance. More than any other jacket in our test, the first orange tested color showed stains in everyday use. Our second and third grey testing units have not showed stains quite as dramatically as the orange one did. It is worth noting that the team testing best women's ski jackets also found that the women's version of this jacket shows the same propensity to staining, which may be a function of the type of material used.
This jacket is built for the dedicated foul weather skier. If you log a hundred days on the hill each season in all conditions and in a relatively cold ski climate, and have the money for a high-end piece of equipment, this could be the jacket for you. Also, because of the overall lightweight construction and large range of motion, resort skiers that also venture into the backcountry on occasion can press the Macai into duty as a wilderness insulation piece.
One hardly considers the question of value of a jacket in this price range. However, it must be noted that Arc'teryx uses proven fabrics, long-lasting down insulation, and offers a sound warranty. Even though this jacket will set you back quite a bit at the outset, this product will last you.
The price of this jacket is the major consideration in the overall evaluation of the Macai. It is entirely possible that you will fall immediately and deeply in love with this jacket. In this case, if you have the means, you'll do no better for any and all gravity powered winter mountain recreation. The function, design, and materials stand up. However, when the competition offers similar function at $250 less, we don't hesitate to recommend the Patagonia Primo Down, our runner-up choice. For even less, the newly entered Stio Shot 7 is a contender.
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Most recent review: February 14, 2018
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