We don’t think winter is as miserable as some people make it out to be. After all, it gives us an excuse to go skiing and tubing—and to break out our favorite toasty winter jackets. Speaking of jackets, the best ones keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. So last week at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver, our team of gear editors scoured the convention center to find the coolest ones coming out next winter. These are the eight that have us most excited to play in the snow.
—FOR THE RESORT SKIER—
686 Weapon 3-in-1 Jacket
California-based 686 debuted its Hydrastash system—a hydration bladder nested inside the powder skirt of a ski/snowboard jacket—a couple of years ago as a way for riders to get water on the slopes without having to stuff a water bottle in a pack or pocket. And for Fall 2020, the brand took Hydrastash and incorporated it into its Gore-Tex 3-in-1 jacket to make the Weapon. Aside from how easy it makes carrying water, the jacket has the laundry list of features any ski shell worth $600 should: a stretchy Gore-Tex membrane and fully taped seams for waterproofing, pit zips to dump extra heat, a helmet-compatible hood, and more. We’ve tried on the original Hydrastash jacket and can attest that even a bladder full of water doesn’t feel overly constricting around the waist.
What’s more, the Weapon comes with 686’s zip-out Smarty Clo bomber-style midlayer. The story here is the insulation, which has tiny pores that, according to the company’s tests, boost the breathability by 30 percent but still hang onto warmth. We haven’t tested that ourselves yet, but the insulation isn’t too different from what The North Face did a few years back with Ventrix, which has pores in it that open as you move and stretch the jacket’s fabric. The difference with Clo is that, from our look at 686’s booth at OR, its pores remain open. For $600, the three-piece Weapon could prove a good value for skiers and snowboarders looking for an all-in-one waterproof, warmth-trapping, and water-carrying system.
—FOR THE BACKCOUNTRY SKIER—
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell
When you’re skinning up the ski hill to access untracked snow, you want a jacket that’ll vent enough to keep you cool and dry as you sweat. And on the way down, you’ll need something solid enough to keep the whipping wind off your skin. Often, this means wearing a light jacket to start, then stripping it off once you reach the top and swapping it for a full shell before skiing down. What’s cool about Black Diamond’s $350 Dawn Patrol Hybrid is the “dual zipper” on the front, as BD is calling it; zip up the outer teeth and it resembles a regular ski shell, but zip up the inner teeth to reveal a strip of mesh ventilation running the zipper’s length. Black Diamond says that, combined with the breathable softshell panels, it will keep you from overheating as you skin up before you reach the top and zip the outer teeth to cover up the mesh and block out the wind. (The chest, shoulders, and hood are fully waterproof courtesy of the company’s BD.dry membrane.) We haven’t tested the Dawn Patrol Hybrid yet, but this system, if it holds up, could take some of the hassle out of ski touring.
—FOR THE WINTER HIKER—
Fjällräven Vidda Pro Wool Padded Jacket
Fjällräven’s Swedish style is undeniable—just look at the popularity of its simple yet handsome Kanken backpack. And at OR last week, it added the Vidda Pro Wool to its lineup, another capably good-looking product from the trekking brand. A tweak on the regular Vidda Pro jacket, this version has an outer G-1000 Eco shell made of a recycled polyester-organic cotton blend, which is then stuffed with wool and biodegradable corn starch for insulation. The wool Fjällräven uses here, which comes from Gotland sheep and doesn’t make for a very comfortable next-to-skin liner, is hardy—the company claims that when it's mixed with the corn starch, it won’t compress over time, therefore retaining its loft and insulating power.
The feature that stands out most about the Vidda Pro Wool is its abundance of pockets—the jacket has eight of them, handy for stashing enough essentials so you don’t have to carry a pack if you’re heading out for a short hike. Other smart touches include the cinch cord at the hem, adjustable cuffs, and seamless shoulders for minimal irritation if you do wear a pack. The Vidda Pro Wool goes on sale this fall for $400.
—FOR THE COLDEST OF DAYS—
Patagonia DAS Parka
Patagonia debuted the DAS (standing for Dead Air Space) parka in 1992, and it was the thick, insulated jacket that you wanted in bitterly cold conditions, mostly if you were out climbing in the mountains. This fall, the brand will launch the latest version for $449. What’s new here is that Patagonia is making the DAS parka with synthetic insulation (a blend of PrimaLoft’s Gold Eco 75 percent recycled polyester and 35 percent recycled 40-gram polyester), meaning the jacket retains its heat-trapping ability should it get wet. The designers took that insulation and layered it thicker in the jacket’s torso, where you need the additional warmth. Other than that, the features read pretty standard for an active, cold-weather jacket: a two-way center zipper, internal pockets, and stretchy stitching on the side panels. But we most liked that the zipper is made out of plastic instead of metal, sacrificing some durability so that it won’t freeze in the cold.
—FOR WINDY WEATHER—
United By Blue Bison Ultralight Jacket
More bomber jacket than puffy, the new Bison Ultralight (which we’ve already got some testing time in and is available for $198) weighs just less than a pound and seems like a coat you’d wear in the late fall or early spring. But the insulation—a combination of sheep’s wool and United by Blue’s BisonShield yarn—makes the Ultralight winter-ready. BisonShield blends bison fiber, recycled polyester, wool, and nylon to create a lightweight fabric that can hold up against moisture. The recycled ripstop nylon shell was excellent at blocking powerful gusts of bone-chilling wind. Unfortunately, this also meant the standard fit coat wasn’t the most breathable when we went hiking in it. Our biggest complaint is the hood. It fit somewhat loosely, and without any way to tighten it, it didn’t stay on well when we were moving. But when we were sitting still during the warmth test, the hood sealed in enough heat to keep us cozy.
—FOR THE MOTORCYCLE RIDER—
Filson Alcan Quilted Jacket
Sitting nicely between outdoor and moto apparel, Filson’s Alcan Quilted Jacket is expectedly burly. Its shell is a wax-coated cotton canvas, with panels of Cordura ballistic nylon overlaid for durability. Even the pockets are reinforced with rivets. But don’t take this for a spartan piece of outerwear. Filson incorporated creature comforts like moleskin lining in the pockets, and stuffed the jacket with toasty synthetic PrimaLoft Gold insulation. The designers even made the sleeves one inch longer than they’d typically be and the back hem fall low so riders don’t expose wrists or crack when hunched over motorcycle handlebars. Filson says specifically not to wash the Alcan, which is fine; we’re betting that, like most of the company’s gear, the jacket looks better with a little age and wear. It’ll hit shelves in the fall—along with the rest of the Alcan collection of cruiser jackets, vests, pants, backpacks, tool rolls, and gloves—and will cost $450.
—FOR THE ENVIRO-CONSCIOUS ATHLETE—
Houdini Mono Air Houdi
Microplastic shedding is the silent killer in your favorite fleece. As more and more garments are made of polyester and synthetic fibers, more of those fibers come loose in the washing machine and eventually make their way into the ocean and the diets of marine life (and possibly humans). As the issue has garnered widespread attention, gear and apparel manufacturers have been working on ways to cut down on the shedding.
For fall 2020, Houdini made the Mono Air Houdi with Polartec Power Air, an insulation that Polartec says sheds a fifth the amount of fibers as other fabrics while still holding up performance-wise. Plus, Power Air is made of 73 percent recycled fibers and can be recycled again. The Houdi itself (which will run $200) makes for a slim-fitting midlayer under a ski jacket or winter coat and a soft breathable fleece on its own on more mild days.
—FOR CITY DWELLERS WHO WANT PERFORMANCE CHOPS—
Marmot WarmCube Havenmeyer Jacket
Marmot’s WarmCube technology launched this past fall in the West Rib, a mountaineering jacket that’s the warmest winter coat we’ve tested. The cube-shaped interior baffles retain even more heat than a traditional puffy because warm air is trapped not only within the baffles, but between them as well. In 2020, WarmCube is making its way to other outerwear from the brand. We’re especially excited for the (men’s-only) Havenmeyer, a minimalist everyday coat that goes on sale September 15 for $500 and offers broader appeal than the highly technical West Rib. Still, it has enough performance features for playing in the snow or bearing winter’s worst. A two-layer waterproof construction keeps you dry, while 800-fill down that’s treated with hydrophobic DWR maintains warmth. Articulated elbows offer full range of motion, and the understated colors—olive, black, and gray—provide a low-profile look for urban environments.
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