The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

How We Tested Ski Jackets

Tuesday December 3, 2019

Our primary test procedure for the ski jackets in this review was simply going skiing, a lot. This review is a compilation of testing done over the course of several seasons in places like Mammoth Mountain, Jackson Hole, Alaska, the Lake Tahoe area, and various backcountry locales in those same areas. The resort-based testing involved a range of weather conditions, from cold and story to warm and sunny.

A good chunk of the OutdoorGearLab Mammoth Lakes team. Jessica Haist and Mike Phillips test jackets and boots on a sunny  cold day.
A good chunk of the OutdoorGearLab Mammoth Lakes team. Jessica Haist and Mike Phillips test jackets and boots on a sunny, cold day.

Warmth


We tested the warmth of each jacket by skiing in each model in a range of temperatures and weather conditions. From sitting on the chairlift to boot packing up for a lap in the bowl, we paid close attention to each jacket's warmth or lack thereof. Our assessment of warmth is based on how well each jacket did in insulating our bodies during our ski days and comparing them to each other.

Lots of down and synthetic insulation make this jacket one of the warmest we have reviewed.
Lots of down and synthetic insulation make this jacket one of the warmest we have reviewed.

Weather Resistance


Weather resistance was tested in a couple of ways. One of those involved skiing in all types of weather, from stormy and foul to sunny and pleasant. We battened down the hatches of each model and hunkered down on chairlifts as the storm raged around us. During those times we assessed each model's ability to keep the elements at bay, things like powder skirts, wrist cuffs, and hood designs were taken into account on each model. In addition to real-world testing, we also wore each jacket in the shower for 4-5 minutes to see just how well the waterproof fabric and its DWR coating repelled water. This is an extreme test of water resistance, but it showed very quickly which models bead water and which wet-out in a deluge.

Arc'teryx has their waterproof fabrics and DWR dialed. After several minutes of dousing in the shower  the water still beads off the Macai like water off a duck's back.
Arc'teryx has their waterproof fabrics and DWR dialed. After several minutes of dousing in the shower, the water still beads off the Macai like water off a duck's back.

Fit and Comfort


All of these jackets were tried on, swapped out, and tried on again. Often we switched between jackets frequently for a direct comparison of how each model fit and the comfort that it provides the user. The fit is somewhat subjective, but we assessed the cut, length, and shape of each model in comparison to the next. Comfort too is subjective, but we took things like bulk, restriction of movement, and feel of materials against the skin into account.

This jacket has plenty of pockets on the chest  which is a good thing  but it might take you extra time top remember where you stashed your car keys...
A boxy fit stands between this jacket and its more close-fitting competition.

Ventilation


To test ventilation, we got hot and sweaty while using all of these jackets in the field. Either while racing friends on traverse tracks or simply heating up on a warm sunny day, it's easy to get warm while skiing. We tested each model's ventilation capabilities while trying to cool off on the chairlift or while waiting for our friends to catch up. We also considered the size, placement, and execution of each jacket's vents and their effectiveness in real-world ventilation.

The vents on this shell are long and mesh free  providing great airflow.
The vents on this shell are long and mesh free, providing great airflow.

Style


Perhaps the most subjective of all criteria is style. To rate this, we combined the impression of each of our testers, as well as that of friends and random people we encountered during our ski days. Opinions vary, but this gave us a range of input to work with.

Do you like the style of this jacket? We weren't sold on the color panels and zippers.
Do you like the style of this jacket? We weren't sold on the color panels and zippers.

Ski Features


We compiled a list of features that complement a ski jacket and may enhance the user's experience while wearing it in a resort setting. We evaluated each model by not only counting which features each one has, but also by observing how useful and well executed those features are. Things like a powder skirt, helmet compatible hood, pass pocket, goggle wipe, media pocket, RECCO reflector, and the pocket layout are all important considerations. In general, we found that we could get by without many features if we had to, but a jacket with tons of helpful features was noticeably more convenient.

Lots of pockets with waterproof zippers were the main features of this jacket.
Lots of pockets with waterproof zippers were the main features of this jacket.

Conclusion


We tested each jacket in this review thoroughly so that you don't have to. We hope the information presented in our detailed comparative reviews helps you decide which model is right for your needs, style, and budget.

The skiing is the best part  of course  we had no problems dealing with part of the testing process.
The skiing is the best part, of course, we had no problems dealing with part of the testing process.