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Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active - Women's Review

A lightweight performance oriented shell that is best suited for backcountry uphill pursuits
Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active - Women's
Photo: Backcountry
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Price:  $425 List | $297.46 at Backcountry
Pros:  Lightweight, good ventilation, breathable material
Cons:  Trimmer fit, sparse features, poor versatility
Manufacturer:   Backcountry
By Jacqueline Kearney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2021
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63
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 6
  • Warmth - 20% 3
  • Ventilation - 20% 9
  • Style - 10% 7
  • Features - 10% 6

Our Verdict

While Backcountry only recently began making their own clothing, this venture into a lightweight active Gore-Tex shell is fairly impressive. The Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active Jacket is a minimalist softshell best suited for backcountry or mixed resort and backcountry use. We like the stretch in this shell and how comfortable and soft the material is, best for heavy hiking or skinning days. The features on this jacket are fairly minimal, but it does feature a thorough ventilation system. Not only does it feature pit zips, but it also has central ventilation thanks to laser-cut holes in the second layer of Gore-tex. If you tend to run hot, or choose more days on the skintrack than riding lifts, this little jacket might be the one for you.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  
Price $425 List
$297.46 at Backcountry
$450 List
$337.50 at Backcountry
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
63
76
71
66
62
Star Rating
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Pros Lightweight, good ventilation, breathable materialWarm, lofty insulation, soft, very mobile despite insulation, excellent comfort and fitRelatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilationWarm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatileInexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable
Cons Trimmer fit, sparse features, poor versatilityLackluster ventilationNon-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiersSlim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are wornNot very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together
Bottom Line A lightweight performance oriented shell that is best suited for backcountry uphill pursuitsA super warm and soft resort jacket with a cool utilitarian look, this is perfect for someone who tends a little colderAn excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountryThis jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable priceA decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket
Rating Categories Backcountry Notchto... Helly Hansen Powder... Outdoor Research Ca... The North Face Ther... Columbia Whirlibird...
Weather Resistance (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
6.0
9.0
9.0
5.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
3.0
8.0
2.0
8.0
8.0
Ventilation (20%)
9.0
6.0
9.0
4.0
4.0
Style (10%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
5.0
Features (10%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Backcountry Notchto... Helly Hansen Powder... Outdoor Research Ca... The North Face Ther... Columbia Whirlibird...
Insulation None Body: 60g PrimaLoft Sleeves: 40g PrimaLoft None 100% Postconsumer recycled polyester Thermarator
Waterproofing Gore-Tex PFC free DWR 3-layer Pertex Shield 2-layer DryVent Omni-Tech
Weight (in pounds) 1.2 lbs 2.2 lbs 1.2 lbs 2.0 lbs 2.4 lbs
# of Pockets 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 2 internal drop-in 2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 1 internal goggle Liner: 2 zippered hand Shell: 5, Liner: 3
Main Fabric 100% Polyester 70% nylon, 30% polyester 100% Nylon 100% Nylon Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro with wrist gaiters Velcro with wrist gaiters Velcro Velcro Velcro
Powder skirt? No Yes Yes Yes, behind insulating layer Yes
RECCO? No Yes No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Notchtop is a backcountry oriented jacket that focuses on breathability and ventilation. What strikes first about this jacket is the innovative combination use of ventilation in the chest pockets and front zipper. The design of this jacket prioritizes the skier who spends most of their time off the resort but will work on days when you wish to batten down the hatches and ride lifts for a change.

Performance Comparison


The Backcountry Notchtop is a good option for someone looking for a...
The Backcountry Notchtop is a good option for someone looking for a mostly backcountry oriented jacket. This being said, you can zipper up its many vents and have fun at the resort too.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Weather Resistance


As the name suggests the Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active Jacket is constructed of thin Gore-Tex stretch material. This material beaded water extremely well and the fully taped seams didn’t show any signs of leaking. All zippers on this jacket are water-resistant, adding an additional level of leakage protection.

We tested this jacket on the notoriously windy Colorado Continental Divide and the Gore-Tex performed adequately. On the strongest gusts, the cold did permeate this jacket. In its minimalism, this jacket also lacks a powder skirt. This allowed both wind and deep snow to creep under the hem even when cinched down.

A large hood and tall collar help keep wind and snow out, but the...
A large hood and tall collar help keep wind and snow out, but the shorter hemline and lack of powder skirt do not always fully block strong winds.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Comfort and Fit


This jacket fits true to size, although its fit trends more active than freeride. It has a slightly narrower and shorter cut than many other jackets we tested. This jacket did run a little short in the hemline and sleeves, rising when lifting arms. The stretch integrated into this shell encouraged natural movement and a soft overall feel to the jacket.

The Notchtop tends towards a more athletic fit, with a shorter hem...
The Notchtop tends towards a more athletic fit, with a shorter hem and sleeves. While not great for this resort, we did find that this combined with the stretchy material lent great mobility.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Warmth


As an uninsulated jacket, this shell received low scores in this category, further indicating its preference for backcountry use or layering underneath for resort riding. Additionally, the very thin Gore-Tex with stretch allows wind to be felt through the shell, and the shorter length and sleeves allowed some drafts to permeate the shell.

We were able to feel some drafts through this thin Gore-Tex and it...
We were able to feel some drafts through this thin Gore-Tex and it understandably did not provide any extra insulation.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Ventilation


This shell feature both classic and innovative ventilation. It features wide pit zips that extend from hips to pits. The front pockets and center zip on this jacket are lined with laser cut material and double as ventilation. The efficacy of this central zipper ventilation is minimal, but when temps and body heat rise, every bit of ventilation is useful.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Style


This jacket is a little more styled to the backcountry and alpine touring world than many of the jackets we tested. We like its trimmer fit for uphill use and out of the gates skiing. We also like the neon pastel color scheme and streamlined taped zippers. The logo on this jacket does seem disproportionally large for the trim fit of the jacket.

The shorter and narrower cut give this jacket a more technical look.
The shorter and narrower cut give this jacket a more technical look.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Ski Features


This backcountry-oriented shell has bare-bones features. There are no internal zipper pockets to keep electronics warm, but the chest pockets are large enough for several items or a pair of skins. One of the best features of this jacket is the ergonomic design of the elastic hem, which has a large internal cinching mechanism that is easy to use with gloves or mittens on.

The button and loop elastic hem cinching feature on the Notchtop was...
The button and loop elastic hem cinching feature on the Notchtop was easy to adjust with or without gloves on.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Value


We find that the Backcountry Notchtop fits squarely in the price range for similar Gore-Tex shells on the market. The shorter hem and trimmer cut of this jacket, however, make it less versatile than other shells in this price range. We think if you are specifically looking for a backcountry-oriented jacket this is a good value, but if you want a one size fits all type choice, another option may be more suitable.

Conclusion


The Notchtop Gore-Tex is a great technical and minimalist shell. We like its lightweight, stretchy, soft, and breathable material. We also think the ventilation system is innovative, and its look adds modern understated style in a pastel package. If you are looking for a shell that will serve you well in uphill focused pursuits, this jacket is a great option to suit your needs.

Pictured on the downhill here, we believe the Notchtop is best...
Pictured on the downhill here, we believe the Notchtop is best suited for uphill pursuits.
Photo: Jeff Dobronyi

Jacqueline Kearney

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