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Ortovox Swisswool Piz Bial - Women's Review

A veratile wool-insulated jacket with fantastic overall performance in a reversible package.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $280 List | $280.00 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Great style and colors, lightweight warmth, warm when wet, versatile use, durable
Cons:  Expensive
Manufacturer:   Ortovox
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 14, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 12
  • Warmth - 25% 8
  • Weight & Compression - 20% 7
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort & Coziness - 15% 7
  • Breathability - 15% 7
  • Style & Fit - 5% 9

Our Verdict

The beautiful Ortovox Swisswool Piaz is a reversible wool-insulated jacket that takes home our most prestigious award. The two sides of the jacket offer different pockets and use options. The exterior fabric is made of 100% Pertex quantum material that cuts the wind, while the 89% wool interior offers fantastic warmth in a lightweight package. While it is quite compressible, it doesn't have its own stuff sack, nor it is stacked with cozy and comfortable features. This jacket is simple, and it provides exceptional warmth and breathability that'll have you skiing big slopes, hiking long trails, or simply taking the dog out for a walk. While the initial investment is high, two jackets in one package is an excellent deal. It comes in many color options and is sold by a company dedicated to sustainable production.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award   
Price $280.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$194.95 at Backcountry
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$99.99 at Amazon$154.96 at Backcountry
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Pros Great style and colors, lightweight warmth, warm when wet, versatile use, durableWarm, lightweight, packable, windproof, water resistant, slippery smooth face fabricsWarm, lofty, inexpensive, cute and stylish, removable faux-furBreathable, warm, great comfort features, mobile face fabric, great layering abilityAttractive style and fit, breathable, water resistant, cute colors
Cons ExpensiveNot breathable, boxy fitLacks water resistance, no pull tabs on zippersNo cinch cord around hoodSmall pockets, lacks wind resistance, no stow-away system, expensive
Bottom Line A veratile wool-insulated jacket with fantastic overall performance in a reversible package.Warm and compressive, this continuous shell jacket is an excellent option for all types of adventures.An inexpensive and well-performing synthetic jacket perfect for winter weather.Offering a unique balance of warmth and breathability, this jacket is highly versatile.This technical insulated jacket boasts great breathability and protection that does best on its own during the warmer season, or with another layer in the coldest months.
Rating Categories Swisswool Piz Bial Rab Xenon Hoodie - Women's Peak to Park Ventrix Hoody Atom LT Hoody
Warmth (25%)
10
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8
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
6
10
0
5
Weight & Compression (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
7
Weather Resistance (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
6
Comfort & Coziness (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
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9
10
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8
10
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8
Breathability (15%)
10
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7
10
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6
10
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4
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8
10
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9
Style & Fit (5%)
10
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9
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6
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8
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7
10
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8
Specs Swisswool Piz Bial Rab Xenon Hoodie -... Peak to Park Ventrix Hoody Atom LT Hoody
Weight 12 oz 8.75 oz 25.15 oz 11.1 oz 11.18 oz
Number of Pockets 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest) 3 (2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest)
Insulation 88% virgin wool, 12% polylactide 60g Stratus Synthetic down 100% polyester 80g 100% polyester Ventrix stretch synthetic insulation 60g/m squared Coreloft
Outer Fabric 100% recycled nylon Pertex Quantum Atmos ripstop Storm-Lite DP II 100% Polyester 92% nylon, 8% ripstop Tyno 20D Shell, Polartec Power Stretch with Hardface Technology - 88% polyester, 12% elastane, 230 g/m squared
Lining 100% nylon Nylon Microtex Lite II Taffeta 100% Polyester 92% nylon, 8% elastane Synthetic textile
Hood Option? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Stuffs into itself? No Yes No No Yes
Cuff construction Elasticized cuffs Elasticized cuffs Stretch-knit Elasticized cuffs Stretch-knit
Warranty Information 30-day return Lifetime warranty with original proof of purchase - includes repairs Limited lifetime warranty Limited lifetime warranty; will repair or replace due to manufacturing defect (not regular wear and tear or misuse) Lifetime warranty; includes zippers, buckles, and other manufacturer defects.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Swisswool Piz Bial Jacket is a top performer and earns our Editors' Choice award. For a high initial price, you get two jackets in one package, as it's reversible. Built with virgin wool, it offers impressive warmth, even when wet. Its lightweight build can be worn with a solid base layer and fleece in cold weather, and it can also be easily worn underneath a shell. It wins this award for its knock-out versatility and fantastic performance in the mountains and low lands.

Performance Comparison


The Ortovox Swisswool Piz offers incredible warmth and durability. Here we pose on the top of a small summit in the San Juans with this new Editor's Choice winner. Its reversible style makes it quite versatile.
The Ortovox Swisswool Piz offers incredible warmth and durability. Here we pose on the top of a small summit in the San Juans with this new Editor's Choice winner. Its reversible style makes it quite versatile.

Warmth


On cold days, the Piz Bial offers surprising warmth. While most synthetic jackets are loaded with some kind of manufactured material, this uses 88% virgin wool and 12% polylactide. We like to use it as our final layer in cold weather or as an insulative jacket underneath a shell when the temperatures plummet into the double negatives. It's not the warmest insulated jacket on the market, but it can be worn all year round.


We tested in cold temperatures that dipped right below freezing. With a solid base layer, it insulates perfectly on its own in a dry climate. In colder weather or where the climate might be wet, you might benefit from an additional fleece layer. While the piece we tested doesn't have a hood, we appreciate that layering is easy, both under and over the top, which adds to the overall warmth you'll receive while adventuring.

Jack and I enjoy warmth and comfort when going from hiking up steep scree fields to straight chilling. The wool offers great insulation and enough warmth for on-the-go missions on its own. It also layers well under a shell.
Jack and I enjoy warmth and comfort when going from hiking up steep scree fields to straight chilling. The wool offers great insulation and enough warmth for on-the-go missions on its own. It also layers well under a shell.

We're most impressed by the relative amount of warmth when wet. Insulated jackets keep you warm, even if you accidentally get soaked. We got caught in a rainstorm on a cold-weather hike, and the integrated wool did a great job of keeping us warm, even when wet - more so than other synthetic contenders. As a result of this experience, it's one we'd easily recommend for pretty much any activity, either on its own or under a shell. Just let it be known that it's far from waterproof.

The Swisswool insulation offers great warmth  even when wet. Layer it under a shell or wear it on its own.
The Swisswool insulation offers great warmth, even when wet. Layer it under a shell or wear it on its own.

Weight & Compression


When stored in a separate stuff sack, this jacket is lightweight and compressive. It's perfect to stuff into a bag when hiking or while on a ski tour.


When put into a stuff sack, it can compress to the size of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Unlike other contenders that have built-in stuff systems, it does not come with this feature. It wasn't uncommon for us to stuff this jacket into a backpack when it got too hot.

While it's not as compressive as other super lightweight contenders, its lightweight design (12 ounces) isn't bulky or annoying to carry around. If you're thinking of buying this jacket for recreational activities all year round, it's one we'd recommend. However, if you're seeking ultralight performance, be sure to check out other more compressive options that pack into an even smaller package.

Here we put our jacket in with some carry-on luggage. While it does compress down further  there was no need for this package.
Here we put our jacket in with some carry-on luggage. While it does compress down further, there was no need for this package.

Weather Resistance


The exterior fabric provides great wind and water resistance in poor weather. While it's far from waterproof, the double layers of synthetic fabrics easily cut the wind. They also help wick away water for several minutes in a heavy downpour before saturating through.


When testing, we ran into wind and water quite often. The Piz Bial features a continuous face fabric made of 100% Pertex Quantum material, which is known to sheer the wind completely. Given the reversible nature of the jacket, both the inner and outer layer is made from this material. The interior is composed of a wool material, which provides amazing and unbeatable insulation when wet.

When caught in a rainstorm on a hike, this jacket became saturated with water. Luckily, the water didn't permeate to the inner layers, keeping us dry. While the insulation eventually did get a little wet, we still felt warm hiking on the trail. Have no fear if you accidentally get caught in the rain. This will keep you warm, even if the fabrics do eventually saturate after several minutes of moisture. But, if you expect to be in a fair amount of rain, you'll want to bring along your rain or hardshell.

Even on windy peaks  it offers great wind resistance. In the rain  it does pretty well too!
Even on windy peaks, it offers great wind resistance. In the rain, it does pretty well too!

Comfort & Coziness


We love the Piz Bial's reversible nature; you basically get two different jackets for the price of one!


The reversible option is not available with a hood; if a hood is a must, they do have other options that appear to be constructed of similar materials. Aside from that, this jacket isn't incredibly cozy but it sure is comfortable. It layers easily and has lots of room in both the torso and arms, which will allow for a base layer and fleece to be worn comfortably underneath.

The face fabric easily layers over or underneath other layers.
The face fabric easily layers over or underneath other layers.

Wearing it with bulkier mid-layers is no issue. The Pertex Quantum liner easily slides against even the fleeciest of layers, while the arms offer lots of room for additional layers. We love the different pocket options, which are dependent upon how you wear the jacket. On one side, it has one taller, but shallow chest pocket that's big enough to fit a smaller iPhone.

We appreciate the pockets that offer enough room for phones or other items. They are just a touch bit shallow.
We appreciate the pockets that offer enough room for phones or other items. They are just a touch bit shallow.

On the other side are two smaller hand-pockets that are lined with a soft fleecy material. We appreciate this versatility. When climbing, we typically used the side with the chest pocket, and while hiking or walking around town, we preferred the hand pockets. What's also cool is you can use all pockets, no matter the configuration; the ones on the inside can just be a little harder to access.

The garaged zipper is nice  especially when in cold weather.
The garaged zipper is nice, especially when in cold weather.

Breathability


Designed as a 'light' jacket, we are surprised by its breathability. We tested it while running in cold weather, and while the Pertex Quantum shell isn't the most breathable fabric, we appreciate that you can open up the zippers for a little more ventilation.


When running in colder weather, we found ourselves warm and comfortable, especially when the temperatures were below freezing. As soon as the sun came out, we found ourselves taking it off quickly and wrapping it around our waist. The jacket isn't very thick, so it offers some breathability in that respect. It'll perform perfectly for resort skiing, hiking, and backcountry skiing on super cold days. For everything else, find a more breathable option.

Heading out on a little winter run in the Ortovox Piaz. This jacket offers great warmth when it's SUPER cold  but isn't breathable enough for sunny cool weather like this.
Heading out on a little winter run in the Ortovox Piaz. This jacket offers great warmth when it's SUPER cold, but isn't breathable enough for sunny cool weather like this.

Style & Fit


We love the reversible options in this jacket that offers two different colors and styles. The face fabric and super colorful look really do turn heads.


We had plenty of compliments from strangers while wearing this jacket in our home town in Colorado. The fit is regular and true to size. The arms and torso lengths are "regular"; taller women may find the arms to be a little short.



The back of the jacket is fitted and provided our broad-backed women with enough room to easily paddle a boat and climb. The material isn't very stretchy but holds its shape well. While it doesn't have any adjustable pull-strings around the hem, the precisely placed elastic offers a sufficient fit that makes this jacket appear relaxed and athletic. We appreciate the relaxed and athletic look, which is great on its own, worn both ways, or underneath a shell.

The elastic hem is sufficient and offers a relaxed fit that doesn't allow cool air to vent upwards.
The elastic hem is sufficient and offers a relaxed fit that doesn't allow cool air to vent upwards.

Check out the other color combinations if you're not into the most colorful out there. There are a few to choose from.

Value


This jacket is expensive as an initial investment. If you like what you see and you're seeking a jacket that offers good warmth through all the seasons - with amazing insulation when wet - you might find value in it. Plus, you basically get two jackets for the price of one. It's versatile and great for all uses, from backcountry hiking to ski touring; it's built for the mountains. However, if budget is a big concern and you're not ready to throw down, check out other high scoring contenders; however, you'll find that none offer the performance and versatility that the Piz Bial does.

Here we collect some water in a pond on a Fall camping trip to filter. The Ortovox Piz Bial offers versatile and functional wear for all sorts of activities throughout the year.
Here we collect some water in a pond on a Fall camping trip to filter. The Ortovox Piz Bial offers versatile and functional wear for all sorts of activities throughout the year.

Conclusion


The Ortovox Swisswool Piz Bial Jacket is super unique. First, it's reversible and has different functions on each side. The color combinations are awesome, with many choices to choose from. While it's considered a lightweight jacket, it offers the best warmth (when wet) that we've tested so far! This is due to its materials, which are wool based. We appreciate that it's compressible, even though it doesn't come with a stuff sack, and can be used for a plethora of functions. If you're seeking an insulated jacket that can be worn on its own or as a layer for super cold weather, you've got to check this one out.


Amber King