REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's Review
Cons: Clunky, not breathable, not the most flattering
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's
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|Pros||Water resistant, inexpensive||Breathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic look||Inexpensive, stylish, warm, stretchy and comfortable||Stylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensive||Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Clunky, not breathable, not the most flattering||No insulation||Not the most water resistant, runs a little small, not very breathable||Feels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistance||Not very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together|
|Bottom Line||This inexpensive shell keeps you dry with its Gore-tex material and helmet-compatible hood||A sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair price||An inexpensive, synthetically insulated shell to keep you warm, dry, and stylish without breaking the bank||We got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopes||A decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket|
|Rating Categories||First Chair GTX||Black Diamond Recon...||Columbia Wild Card...||Burton Jet Set||Whirlibird IV Inter...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort And Fit (20%)|
|Specs||First Chair GTX||Black Diamond Recon...||Columbia Wild Card...||Burton Jet Set||Whirlibird IV Inter...|
|Insulation||None||None||60g Omni-Heat||80g Thermolite||Thermarator|
|Weight (in pounds)||1.5 lbs||1.5 lbs||2.1 lbs||1.6 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|# of Pockets||2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered pass, 1 zippered chest, 2 internal mesh||2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal||2 zippered hand, 1 mesh, 1 media||Shell: 5, Liner: 3|
|Main Fabric||Recycled polyester||84% nylon, 16% elastane||Omni-Tech Lux Stretch 94% Polyester/ 6% Elastane||Polyester, nylon||Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.|
|Unique Features||headphone port, snap-away powderskirt||removable powder skirt, 4-way stretch shell||mesh lined pit zips, headphone port, built-in spandex wrist gaiters||Mesh-lined vents, mesh dump pocket, snag-free neckline||3-in-1, internal goggle pocket|
|Cuff construction||Velcro||Velcro||Velcro with wrist gaiters||Velcro||Velcro|
|Ski features||Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, hem cinch, pass pocket, helmet compatible hood||Powder skirt, hem sinch, goggle pocket||Powder skirt, pass and goggle pocket|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We found that the First Chair performed well in weather resistance for its price point. Where we find it lacking is in the technical construction, breathability, and overall style. That being said, we think it's a great value and a good option for someone wanting to try out the hardshell world.
The 2L Gore-tex shell of the First Chair blocks wind and moisture, and shows good beading on its DWR treated exterior. The two-layer construction feels a little less burly than higher end, triple-layered jackets, but it has the same waterproof rating. While the material is strong, the construction leads to some concerns about waterproofness. The flaps that cover the zippers are sewn to protect them from moisture, but these seams are not taped.
Comfort and Fit
The First Chair GTX has a spacious fit. It runs a little on the large side, which we liked to leave room for the appropriate layering underneath. The hood is also fairly well designed, oversized to comfortably fit over a helmet and zip fully, protecting the chin and lower face with a fuzzy, tricot-lined zipper. There is a little awkward poof that remains on top of the hood where it does not lie flat against all helmets. The Gore-Tex material does feel a little stiff and crinkly at the outset, but it does not restrict movement. Additionally, the polyester lining slides smoothly over layers and doesn't feel clingy or sticky, which we found very comfortable for layering.
Like the other shells we've reviewed, this jacket does not score too well on warmth. The First Chair does have a smooth polyester lining that slightly increases its warmth. Therefore, we did feel a little more comfortable when we tried this jacket with fewer layers. We noticed only a slight draft around the front zipper, but with a layer underneath, this jacket was adequately windproof.
We ran into some resistance from the First Chair when we began to work up a sweat in it. Unfortunately, we find that the silky polyester lining really hinders the breathable qualities of the Gore-Tex shell and traps both heat and moisture inside the jacket. The First Chair does have open pit zips that can mitigate this a little, but if you often find yourself hiking or sweating on the downhill, this might not be the best option for you.
We really like the flattering earth tones of this jacket, as well as the contrasting zips that go along with that. The cut of the First Chair is not the most flattering of the bunch. We found it to be a little boxy around the hips and that the powder skirt holds the hem of the jacket out from our frames. The flaps over all of the zippers feel a little clunky and outdated compared with a lot of the sleeker, taped looking zips on the market.
The First Chair has a pretty standard selection of features for a resort-specific jacket. These include a wrist pass pocket and two chest pockets so you can keep your phone, pass, and payment options separate. We also like the key clip inside the left-hand pocket, so you won't worry about having your keys fly out if you take a digger or forget to re-zipper after taking out a hand warmer. These hand pockets also have a nice tricot lining for a little bit of added comfort.
The powder skirt has the ability to be buttoned back when not in use. We really like this feature's versatility, but found that it makes the shell portion of the jacket hang a little awkwardly like it's riding up. You can also find an effective mesh drop pocket on the inside of the jacket that works well to keep your goggles safe when you are not wearing them.
The First Chair is a good value for someone looking for the bare bones benefits of a Gore-Tex shell layer. This jacket is a great value for its weatherproof qualities but lacks in some of its technical and functional construction if that's high on your list of needs.
For its price point, the First Chair provides excellent waterproof qualities of its Gore-Tex shell, and if this is your priority, its value is hard to beat. However, if you seek more technical performance and breathability in your ski jacket, this might not be the best choice. We think that this inexpensive option is a great entry-level jacket for someone who knows that they want a shell but aren't quite ready to push its functions to the extremes or not yet willing to swallow the price.
— Jacqueline Kearney