The Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket is a three-layer hardshell ski jacket that uses a proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane to provide weather resistance nearly on par with much more expensive jackets. The result is the most breathable water-resistant hardshell we have ever tested, though it lacks the level of weather resistance that Gore-Tex jackets provide. It's comfortable to wear and stretchy, but the cut is a bit generic. It has plenty of features to boot, making it a great choice for backcountry skiers who regularly tour uphill in their hardshells or those looking for an affordable performance hardshell.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket on March 6, 2022, with an unbiased take on value versus performance and a direct comparison with other jacket options.
Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Review
Cons: Not warm, style could be better
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Compare to Similar Products
Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell
Check Price at REI
$360.00 at REI
$299.00 at REI
$171.49 at REI
$138.69 at REI
|Pros||Comfortable, breathable, relatively inexpensive||Strong value, highly versatile, warm, loaded with ski-friendly features||Weather resistant, good vents, plenty of features||Versatile, inexpensive, warm||Affordable, weather resistant, good set of features|
|Cons||Not warm, style could be better||Heavy, poor ventilation in combined figuration||Hanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfect||Bulky, basic fit and styling, limited weather protection||Not stylish, no ventilation, boxy fit|
|Bottom Line||This breathable hardshell jacket is great for backcountry skiing or for users who want a good hardshell at a low price||This versatile and reasonably priced jacket helps you customize your layers, whether you prioritize warmth, weather resistance, or both||A high-performance shell at a great price||A versatile and very affordable jacket for the occasional skier or snowboarder||A good entry-level ski jacket for an affordable price|
|Rating Categories||Outdoor Research Sk...||The North Face Ther...||REI Co-op First Cha...||Columbia Whirlibird...||Columbia Last Tracks|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Outdoor Research Sk...||The North Face Ther...||REI Co-op First Cha...||Columbia Whirlibird...||Columbia Last Tracks|
|Main Fabric||93% nylon, 7% spandex||100% nylon||2-layer Gore-Tex||Nylon||100% nylon|
|Insulation||None||100% Post-Consumer Recycled Polyester||Recycled polyester lining||80g MicroTemp synthetic||Omni-heat thermal reflective|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 sleeve, 1 internal zippered chest, 1 internal mesh||Shell: 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest,1 internal media, 1 internal goggle, 1 internal zippered sleeve. Liner: 2 hand||2 handwarmer, 2 chest, 1 internal chest, 1 sleeve||Shell: 3 external, 1 internal. Liner: 2 external, 1 internal||Zippered hand, chest, and ski pass|
|Weight||1.5 lbs||2.86 lbs||1.76 lbs||2.94 lbs||2.14 lbs|
|Water Resistance||AscentShell||DryVent 2L||Gore-Tex||OmniTech||Multi-layered waterproof construction|
|Hood||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable||Adjustable and Removable|
|Pit-Zips||Yes||Yes (shell only)||Yes||Mesh-backed (shell only)||None|
|Powder skirt?||No||Yes||Yes, removable||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Using a proprietary membrane instead of Gore-Tex, the Skytour AscentShell Jacket trades some weather resistance for increased breathability. Our testers the protection of a completely waterproof hardshell, but it's hard to ignore the superior breathability here.
The Skytour AscentShell is a very breathable hardshell jacket, meaning it provides very little warmth to the user. The thin shell allows air to move through the fabric, which means that warm air can escape very easily. This jacket needs to be paired with insulating mid-layers if any warmth is expected. The warmth of this jacket is comparable to that of a heavy rain jacket. This lack of warmth is a desirable trait for those who ski hard and raise their heart rate.
A proprietary waterproof/breathable membrane called "AscentShell" is built into this three-layer hardshell, and in our experience, this material is almost as waterproof as Gore-Tex. This jacket is fully seam-sealed, and the main front zipper and hand pocket zippers are waterproof. The chest pocket and armpit zippers aren't waterproof, but they feature storm flaps, which helps. The hood offers decent coverage, but it doesn't fully wrap around the helmet, and it's hard to get a tight seal around the face and chin.
Comfort and Fit
Most hardshell jackets are crinkly and stiff, but the Skytour AscentShell does not have this problem. The shell material is soft and slightly stretchy, and the brushed interior fabric lining is gentle on the skin. There is a fleece-lined chin guard, but it's not big enough to provide comfort. The fit is generally straight-cut and could be better tailored to the body's contours. But overall, the fit is comfortable and ergonomic.
The Skytour AscentShell uses the most breathable membrane we've ever tested in a waterproof jacket. Somehow, this hardshell allows plenty of air movement through the fabric without letting water in. It is as breathable as many softshell jackets that we've tested. The armpit vents are long and easy to manipulate with gloved hands. This jacket is a good choice for skiers who spend a lot of time hiking to find fresh powder or skiing bumps. We also like it for backcountry skiing in good weather. Still, in general, we don't find ourselves touring while wearing our hardshell jacket unless it is dumping out, in which case we prefer a Gore-Tex shell.
The Skytour AscentShell has an understated and generic style and has nothing to write home about. The cut is a little boxy in the torso, allowing plenty of movement, but it isn't great for looks. We prefer a more tapered and slim look. We also don't love the two-toned color panels or the color options, which seem too "primary" compared to the earthy tones of other products on the market. But style is subjective, so you be the judge.
The Skytour AscentShell comes with plenty of pockets for ease of use on the ski hill. Two hand pockets and two external chest pockets provide storage galore. A left sleeve pass pocket is useful for getting through RFID turnstiles without stalling. One mesh stash pocket and one zippered chest pocket get the job done on the inside. We like this jacket's allowance of versatile features while also keeping the bulk and weight down.
Should You Buy the Skytour AscentShell?
The Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket is a waterproof and highly breathable hardshell packed with features and comfort, all for an attractive price. While not cheap, it is much more affordable than most Gore-Tex shell options and all other three-layer shell jackets. It isn't as protective as the more expensive options, but it is much more breathable, making it a great choice for users in dryer climates who know how to layer underneath and do not want an insulated jacket.
What Other Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
No one buying a hardshell jacket should expect standalone warmth. If you are looking for a single-layer jacket, without all of the fuss of figuring out a layering system, the award-winning Helly Hansen Alpha LifaLoft is perfect for most skiers, and the Arc'teryx Macai is best for those getting out in the coldest climates. For skiers battling the worst and wettest weather, the Arc'teryx Sabre AR Jacket or Norrona Lofoten Gore-Tex Pro Shell offer superior protection. And if you want a balance of warmth and weather resistance, the Patagonia 3-in-1 Snowshot is a great choice at a price point similar to the Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell.
— Jeff Dobronyi
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More