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

How We Tested Ski Jackets

Monday December 3, 2018
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.

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.

Warmth


We tested the warmth of each jacket by skiing in each model in a range of temperature 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.

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 models 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.

The excellent contoured fit is one the many reasons this jacket is so comfortable.
The fit is generally good but a little boxy. The comfort is affected by the bulk of the 3-in-1 design  but not as much as other models.

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, its 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.

These vents are huge. You can even open the snap at the hem and basically wear it like a cape.
These vents are huge. You can even open the snap at the hem and basically wear it like a cape.

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.

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 feature each one has but how useful and well executed those features are. This 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 the features a jacket are typically appreciated, while the ones it omits often go unnoticed.

The pass pocket on the sleeve of the KT Component jacket.
The pass pocket on the sleeve of the KT Component 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.