Reviews You Can Rely On

REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's Review

This inexpensive shell keeps you dry with its Gore-tex material and helmet-compatible hood
REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's
Photo: REI Co-op
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $299 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  Water resistant, inexpensive
Cons:  Clunky, not breathable, not the most flattering
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Jacqueline Kearney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 12
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 7
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Ventilation - 20% 6
  • Style - 10% 6
  • Features - 10% 8

Our Verdict

REI's First Chair GTX shell is a good, waterproof ski jacket at a great price. It manages to give you the weather resistance of some more expensive jackets on the market at a fraction of the price. It's a good entry-level jacket for inclement weather and offers many of the standard resort-specific ski jacket features. We found fault with the fit and styling, though. Our testers prefer sleeker jackets with more flattering cuts. This shell gets it done, but we recommend hard-charging skiers to look for a more breathable and higher-performing shell.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
Price $299 List
Check Price at REI
Check Price at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$199.96 at AmazonCheck Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
64
76
65
63
62
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Water resistant, inexpensiveBreathable, versatile, comfortable, strong value, classic lookInexpensive, stylish, warm, stretchy and comfortableStylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensiveInexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable
Cons Clunky, not breathable, not the most flatteringNo insulationNot the most water resistant, runs a little small, not very breathableFeels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistanceNot 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 hoodA sleek and technical backcountry shell with enough stretch, space, and breathability to be extremely versatile at a fair priceAn inexpensive, synthetically insulated shell to keep you warm, dry, and stylish without breaking the bankWe got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopesA 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%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort And Fit (20%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
Warmth (20%)
5.0
4.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Ventilation (20%)
6.0
9.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
Style (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
Features (10%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
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
Waterproofing Gore-Tex BD.dry Omni-Tech DryRide 2L Omni-Tech
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
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
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.

Performance Comparison


The First Chair fills a niche for a reasonably-priced Gore-Tex...
The First Chair fills a niche for a reasonably-priced Gore-Tex shell. When testing on an uphill hike, though, we discovered that its breathability fell short of other, higher-end shells.

Weather Resistance


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.

The DWR treated Gore-tex shell of the First Chair beads moisture...
The DWR treated Gore-tex shell of the First Chair beads moisture very well.

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.

The smooth polyester lining and fuzzy tricot backer on the collar of...
The smooth polyester lining and fuzzy tricot backer on the collar of the First Chair.

Warmth


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.

Ventilation


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.

Style


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 cool blue tone of this First Chair are right at home in the high...
The cool blue tone of this First Chair are right at home in the high mountains. The fit does stick out a little bit around the hips, which can be seen here.

Ski Features


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.

Media pocket with a headphone port in the First Chair.
Media pocket with a headphone port in the First Chair.

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.

We liked how the powder skirt could snap away behind the zipper flap...
We liked how the powder skirt could snap away behind the zipper flap when not n use.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Testing the breathability of the First Chair on a tour in Southwest...
Testing the breathability of the First Chair on a tour in Southwest Colorado.

Jacqueline Kearney