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 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 comprehensive 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 skin track than riding lifts, this little jacket might be the one for you.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active on March 23, 2022, with an assessment of value versus performance and suggestions for other products that may better suit your needs and budget.
Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active - Women's Review
Cons: Trimmer fit, sparse features, poor versatility
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Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active - Women's
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|Pros||Lightweight, good ventilation, breathable material||Warm, lofty insulation, soft, very mobile despite insulation, excellent comfort and fit||Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation||Warm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatile||Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Trimmer fit, sparse features, poor versatility||Lackluster ventilation||Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers||Slim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are worn||Not 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 pursuits||A super warm and soft resort jacket with a cool utilitarian look, this is perfect for someone who runs a little colder||An excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountry||This jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable price||A 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%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||Backcountry Notchto...||Helly Hansen Powder...||Outdoor Research Ca...||The North Face Ther...||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Main Fabric||100% Polyester||70% nylon, 30% polyester||100% Nylon||100% Nylon||Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.|
|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|
|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|
|Weight||1.2 lbs||2.2 lbs||1.2 lbs||2.0 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Cuff construction||Velcro with wrist gaiters||Velcro with wrist gaiters||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro|
|Powder skirt?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes, behind insulating layer||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Backcountry 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.
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 a 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 deficiency allowed wind and deep snow to creep under the hem even when cinched down.
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.
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 allow some drafts to permeate the shell.
This shell feature both classic and innovative ventilation. It features wide pit zips that extend from hips to pits. This jacket's front pockets and center zip 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.
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 jacket's trim fit.
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.
Should You Buy the Backcountry Notchtop Gore-Tex Active?
The Backcountry Notchtop 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. We find that the Backcountry Notchtop fits squarely in the price range for similar Gore-Tex shells on the market. However, the shorter hem and trimmer cut of this jacket makes it less versatile than other shells in this price range. 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.
What Other Women's Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
We think if you are specifically looking for a backcountry-oriented jacket, the Backcountry Notchtop is a good value. But if you want a one-size-fits-all type of jacket, an option like the Helly Hansen Powderqueen 3.0 may be more suitable for your needs. If you split your time between the backcountry and resort, the Flylow Billie Coat offers more ski-specific features. It is also worth comparing the value and performance of the Backcountry Notchtop to the Outdoor Research Carbide, a value-conscious jacket that performs just as well, if not better, in the backcountry.
— Jacqueline Kearney
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