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Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Review

This breathable hardshell jacket is great for backcountry skiing or for users who want a good hardshell at a low price
Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell
Photo: Outdoor Research
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Price:  $349 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, breathable, relatively inexpensive
Cons:  Not warm, style could be better
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 30, 2021
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 17
  • Warmth - 20% 3
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8
  • Ventilation - 15% 8
  • Style - 15% 5
  • Features - 10% 7

Our Verdict

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 tour uphill in their hardshells regularly, or those looking for an affordable performance hardshell.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  
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Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$300 List
Check Price at REI
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
63
72
65
54
51
Star Rating
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Pros Comfortable, breathable, relatively inexpensiveStrong value, highly versatile, warm, loaded with ski-friendly featuresWeather resistant, good vents, plenty of featuresVersatile, inexpensive, warmAffordable, weather resistant, good set of features
Cons Not warm, style could be betterHeavy, poor ventilation in combined figurationHanging liner makes it a bit warm for a shell, fit isn't perfectBulky, basic fit and styling, limited weather protectionNot 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 priceThis versatile and reasonably priced jacket helps you customize your layers, whether you prioritize warmth, weather resistance, or bothA high-performance shell at a great priceA versatile and very affordable jacket for the occasional skier or snowboarderA 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
Warmth (20%)
3.0
8.0
4.0
8.0
6.0
Weather Resistance (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
Ventilation (15%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
4.0
2.0
Style (15%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
4.0
Features (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
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 (pounds) 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
Cuff construction Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro
Powder skirt? No Yes Yes, removable Yes Yes
RECCO? No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

Using a proprietary membrane, the Skytour trades some weather resistance for increased breathability over Gore-Tex. Our testers generally prefer the protection of a completely waterproof hardshell, but it's hard to ignore the superior breathability here.

Performance Comparison


The Skytour AscentShell in action on the slopes during testing.
The Skytour AscentShell in action on the slopes during testing.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Warmth


The Skytour AscentShell is a very breathable hardshell jacket, meaning that it provides very little warmth to the user. The shell is thin and 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 to be expected. The warmth of this jacket is comparable to that of a heavy rain jacket. For those that ski hard and raise their hearrate, this lack of warmth is actually desired.

The Skytour has no insulation and provides almost no warmth.
The Skytour has no insulation and provides almost no warmth.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Weather Resistance


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 zippers 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.

The Skytour's hood doesn't provide complete coverage of the helmet...
The Skytour's hood doesn't provide complete coverage of the helmet or face, and a tight seal is hard to achieve.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Comfort and Fit


Most hardshell jackets are crinkly and stiff, but the Skytour 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 all the time. The fit is generally straight-cut and it could be more tailored to the body's contours. But overall, the fit is comfortable and ergonomic.

The Skytour's fit is pretty good, but it lacks some refinement...
The Skytour's fit is pretty good, but it lacks some refinement around the torso.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Ventilation


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. For skiers who spend a lot of time hiking to find fresh powder or skiing bumps, this jacket is a good choice. We also like it for backcountry skiing in good weather, but in general, we don't find ourselves touring while wearing our hardshell jacket, unless it is really dumping out, in which case we prefer a Gore-Tex shell.

Long pit vents with easy-to-grasp zippers add to the Skytour's...
Long pit vents with easy-to-grasp zippers add to the Skytour's already excellent breathability.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Style


The Skytour has an understated and generic style, and is nothing to write home about. The cut is a little boxy in the torso, which allows for plenty of movement, but 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 looks decent on the slopes and in the backcountry, but...
The Skytour looks decent on the slopes and in the backcountry, but it isn't as elegant as other (more expensive) options.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Features


The Skytour 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. On the inside, one mesh stash pocket and one zippered chest pocket get the job done. We like this jacket's allowance of versatile features while also keeping the bulk and weight down.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Value


While not cheap, the Skytour is much more affordable than most Gore-Tex shell options and all other three-layer shell jackets. It provides nearly as much weather resistance at a much lower price, making this jacket a great value. If you are in the market for a budget ski shell but don't experience the wettest winter weather, this jacket is probably enough for most days at the hill, while saving you some money. Still, there are less expensive options out there with as much weather resistance.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Jacket is a waterproof and highly breathable hardshell that is packed with features and comfort, all for an attractive price. It isn't as protective as 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.

The Skytour is great for aerobic bump skiing.
The Skytour is great for aerobic bump skiing.
Photo: Jackie Kearney

Jeff Dobronyi

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