The ski and snowboard jacket world offers a wide range of styles. The Nelson from Armada combines urban styling with proven goose down insulation and basic waterproof-breathable shell technology.
Jediah Porter rocking the Armada Nelson on a stormy Mammoth day.
Putting on the Nelson is like slipping into a sleeping bag. The initial impression is one of absolute warmth. The long cut and generous sleeves, plus a weighty feel, ensconce the wearer in comfortable insulation. In actual comparative testing the Nelson stacks up favorably, but isn't the absolutely warmest in our test.
A thick, heavy jacket like the Nelson deserves effective venting options. Even on the coldest days, the user will want to shed excess heat. The short, mesh-backed pit-zips on this piece let a little cool air in, but not nearly as much as can be found on something like our Editors' Choice Patagonia Primo Down.
As noted in our Ski Jacket Buying Advice article, weather resistance of any given coat is a function of the shell fabric and various design criteria. The fabric of the Nelson is more than adequate, especially in the colder climates this jacket is best for. And the cut supports that fabric choice. The hood is generous and clean, with an effective simple drawcord arrangement. The hood on the much more expensive Arc'teryx Macai is a little more sophisticated, and the protection provided reflects that. However, the Nelson certainly serves the user in burly conditions. The interior stretchy, thumb-looped cuffs effectively span the gap between sleeve and glove, but our testers found Armada's execution to be lacking. The Nelson's thumb loops leave a bulky swath of material between the user's thumb and index finger. We prefer cuffs, like those on the sleeves of the Helly Hansen Enigma that leave just a tiny bit of material in this sensitive zone.
In general, we really appreciate "wrist gaskets" like those that come with the Armada Nelson. This feature really seals the weather out. However, Armada's execution is a bit sloppy. The best thumb loops leave just a small sliver of material between the thumb and forefinger. Those on the Nelson are a bit bulky.
The snap-up powder skirt is really the only ski specific feature on this jacket. It would be even better if the skirt zipped off completely.
At first glance, the generous cut of the Nelson seems as though it should be very comfortable. However, our entire testing team, ranging from scrawny to beefy, found the shoulders and upper back of the jacket to be just a little confining. It is something you'll hardly notice in application, but when worn back to back with other jackets it jumps out. Notably, the cut of something like our Top Pick Arc'teryx Modon appears much closer, but actually offers greater range of motion.
Ken E in the Armada Nelson. Without fail, every size medium tester found the back and shoulders of the Nelson to be somewhat confining. The fabric tension shows here in this photo. For such a generous fit, this constricting portion was mystifying and undesirable.
The Armada Nelson is by far the most aggressively styled jacket in our test, especially in the tested camouflage color scheme. Armada offers this jacket in black, for those with more subdued tastes. In either color, the Nelson is definitely a snowboarder styled piece.
Two very different stylistic messages. The subtle and "grown-up" Arc Teryx Modon as compared to the "steezy" Armada Nelson.
The camoflage styling and generous cut reflect contemporary youthful style. The Armada Nelson's down insulation and bomber construction will probably far outlast its style. But for someone going for this look, the Nelson nails it.
We do not hesitate to recommend the Nelson as a cold weather and cold climate jacket for a ski or snowboard freeride aficionado.
Tester Jediah Porter in the Mammoth Mountain backcountry in the Armada Nelson and Flylow Baker Bibs. Beefy ski area clothing is often overkill for the backcountry. But more and more skiers and riders are going past the gates. Both of these pieces fall on the heavier, more ski-area specific end of the spectrum.
As compared to other down insulated jackets in our test, especially those that are this warm, the Nelson is an excellent value. It is the least expensive down insulated parka in our ski jacket test. The down will last a long time, and the construction seems good enough to hold it all together. If the style works for you, this is an excellent value.
Armada successfully makes a rare combination of high quality materials and street-savvy style. The Nelson jacket brings high-end down insulation to an affordable price point. The style is uniquely "free ride", and the fit is a bit confining for most, but the value can speak for itself.