THE BEST MEN’S SKI JACKETS: BUYING GUIDE
How to choose the best men’s ski jacket
Our buying guide will not only show our best men’s ski jacket options, but we’ll provide you with everything you need to make an educated purchase, including types of jackets and features you should look for before you buy.
A winter sport like skiing, has its own set of gear associated with it. Apart from the actual skis, the ski jacket may be the most important component. Finding the right jacket, not just for functionality purposes but also for comfort, style, and safety, is also important. But where do you start? With the vast selections available choosing the right jacket can be a daunting task. But we have simplified the process below, focusing on the types, features, and some of our top picks.
Types of Ski Jackets
While there are numerous styles available, there are five main types of jacket to consider. These are:
- Ski Jacket Shells
- Insulated Ski Jackets
- Technical Shells
- Soft Shell Jackets
- 3-in-1 Ski Jacket
Each type has its own unique set of features, pros, and cons.
Ski Jacket Shells
Sometimes referred to as hard shell jackets, ski jacket shells are intended to keep you dry by moving sweat away from the body. As the name suggests, shells are thicker than some of the other options available. The benefit of this type of jacket is the level of insulation. However, buyers should be aware that the thicker the jacket, the less apt it is to breathe. What makes the shell different from others is that the ski jacket has a definitive and solid form, hence the shell title, whereas other jackets have a form which adapts more to your form. Hard shell jackets tend to be more restrictive to movement. Yet, for durability and weather-blocking, it is a standard choice for skiers.
Insulated Ski Jackets
Insulated Ski Jackets are those which have a layer of cotton or wool lining to provide extra warmth. Insulated jackets can be based on a shell or can be layered with another thinner jacket. The key to picking an insulated jacket is to determine how well the fabric breaths, how the insulation effects the size of the jacket, and how well the insulation keeps out wind and water. Insulated jackets are well suited to skiers who wish to have the warmth of layering up without having to have multiple layers.
Technical Shells are ski jackets which have been “stripped” down to the bare minimum design elements to be as light and as functional as possible. Typically, the technical jacket is best suited for high winds and blinding snowstorms, as well as mountainous backcountry terrain. Most technical shells are designed with abrasion-resistant base fabrics to boost durability. The jackets also have waterproof laminates. Keep in mind that technical jackets are usually slim to medium fit, so pay close attention to fit if you’re planning on layering this jacket.
Soft Shell Jackets
If you are one of those winter sports enthusiasts which have a tendency to sweat a lot, then the soft shell jacket may be the choice for you. Designed out of flexible and light fabric, it allows for increased breathing. Compared to the traditional hard shell jacket, the soft shell also offers more movement. This is due to the stretchy nature of the design as well as the laminates. Soft shells is not intended for extreme conditions but rather for the lighter courses.
3-in-1 Ski Jackets
If during the season you’re likely to see a multitude of different conditions then a 3-in-1 may be the best solution. Technically, the jacket is a combination of two jackets. There is the outer and thicker layer and then the inner thinner jacket. Each can be worn separately, or the two can be combined to form a single jacket. It should be noted that the 3-in-1 ski jacket is not the same as a jacket which has a removable insulation or lining. The 3-in-1 jackets each have pockets, linings, and the features of a jacket and can work independently as such.
Once you’ve figured out the type of jacket you need, you then need to understand the features which will best suit your favorite activities. Key features include:
- Powder Skirt
- Pant Connectors
- Wrist and Cuffs
- Waterproof Zippers
Ski Jacket Venting
When picking a ski jacket, look for how well the jacket “breathes” or vents. You don’t want a jacket that locks in sweat, but rather a jacket that wicks it away from the body. Typically, the thicker shelled jackets have less venting than the soft shell. However, where the venting may be slightly lower on thicker jackets, the insulation is higher. The trick is to balance the warmth of the jacket with how well it deals with wind, rain, and sweat.
Ski Jacket Pockets
Most ski jackets have pockets. The question which you should ask is how functional are they. In many cases, those who hike and climb prefer the technical jackets where the pockets are higher and easily accessible. Also, look for ski jackets with pocket zippers to secure your gear.
Ski Jacket Hood
There are various hoods available on a ski jacket. For 3-in-1 jackets it is normally a zippered connected hood attached to the thicker outer jacket. Hard Shells, technical, and soft shells normally include a pocket hood that zips into the collar. When trying on the jacket make sure you have good visibility. Hoods should protect the ears and the face adequately while allowing ample movement of the head and neck. While most hoods do allow for the use of helmets and other equipment, it is very important that you check to see how the hood actually accommodates your specific equipment.
An important feature of a ski jacket is the powder skirt. Its primary function is to prevent powder snow from reaching your body. For this reason, some associate the powder skirt with novice wear. Yet, the powder skirt does more than keep you from freezing your butt off, if it’s removable you can decrease the jacket’s weight which will help on those long runs. A powder skirt also Reduces heat loss and allows for better movement. And if you’re skiing in the backcountry or in areas where winds have high powder content a powder skirt will be a real life saving.
Like the name suggests, pant connectors secure the jacket to the pants. Normally ski pants have suspenders which fit under the jacket. But is some cases the jacket may have the ability to snap directly to the pants (usually if the jacket and pants are sold as a pair). If purchasing a ski jacket with pant connectors, keep your mobility and flexibility in mind. When pant connects are part of the jacket design, look for loop designs rather than buckles (as falling on a buckle snap could be quite painful). Additionally, if pant connectors are a specific feature you desire, check the pants available from the manufacturer to ensure the best fit to the jacket.
Ski Jacket Cuffs
The functionality you’re looking for in cuffs is pretty straightforward. Cuffs should fit securely around the wrists and be made of materials which are flexible while at the same time secure enough to keep water and snow from getting down the sleeve.
It is critical that the ski jacket that you choose have waterproof zippers. Check to ensure that not only the main zipper but also the pockets and any supporting zippers are waterproof. In addition to the zippers, make sure the jacket has taped seams where the jacket and zipper connect.
The lining of your jacket needs to have stitching that is tight, the fabric needs to be durable, and the design sensible. Granted, some jackets have insulation built into the outer layers and the lining is primarily for aesthetics and for an extra layer of moisture protection, but even in these cases, you will want to ensure that you have a quality lining. It would be a shame to have a great jacket which gets frayed and turns useless because the interior design was not given proper consideration.
While the other features are important, the fit is the most. Jackets should cover the torso, have coverage of the neck, and overlap the upper thigh slightly. You should be able to lift your hands above your head without exposing your belly. If your torso is exposed, then you need a longer jacket. Cuffs on a jacket should allow for lifting and movement of the hands without exposing the wrists. Keep in mind that you do not want a jacket to be baggy, but you do want to have enough extra space to allow for movement and growth.
The Best Men’s Ski Jackets
Keeping both the types as well as the features which are most dominantly required in a ski jacket, we have found 6 of the best men’s ski jackets.
3-in-1 Ski Jacket: 3-in-1 North Face Thermoball Triclimate Men’s Ski Jacket
The 3-in-1 North Face Thermoball Triclimate Men’s Ski Jacket ($300) has an exterior waterproof shell coupled with an interior PrimaLoft insulated liner jacket. As with most 3-in-1 designs, the hood is attached to the exterior jacket and adjusted by drawstrings. As such, those wearing the interior PrimaLoft insulated liner jacket will need to consider additional head protection when not using the exterior shell. Adding to the exterior shell design are two lower side pockets and one upper access pocket. The design of the jacket allows for the outer shell to be worn without a lining due to the dry-touch coating on the waterproof stretch shell. Cuffs are adjustable to fit over or under gloves. The interior jacket’s cuffs are non-adjustable. Both the interior as well as the exterior jacket are compatible with zip-in garments from North Face. All main components of the North Face Thermoball Triclimate Jacket are zipper connected.
Ski Hard Shell Jacket: Arcteryx Macai Men’s Ski Jacket
The Arcteryx Macai Men’s Ski Jacket ($740) is one of the hard shell jackets on the list. Like many ski jackets, it is composed of 100% polyester with waterproofing Gore-Tex fabric. In terms of features, the jacket has adjustable cuffs by means of Velcro on the exterior, a drop hood which can fit over your helmet, as well as a powder shirt and mesh lined powder-guard. Waterproof zippers are found throughout the design. Pockets on the Arcteryx Macai Jacket are located on the upper pectoral region to allow for easy access when strapped down with gear.
Insulated Ski Jacket: Helly Hansen Enigma Men’s Ski Jacket
The Helly Hansen Enigma Men’s Ski Jacket ($800) is a technical professional jacket designed with 2 ply fabrics and 4 way full stretched fabric. This means that the wearer has maximized movement within the jacket, increased ventilation, and heightened moisture protection. The design of the Helly Hansen includes a drawstring hood, sleeve, and lower arm pockets. Both the hood and the pockets are designed to allow for use with other gear such as a helmet or a backpack while at the same time, the jacket can work independently from such. All zippers on the jacket are YKK water resilient.
Technical Shell Ski Jacket: Arcteryx Alpha LT Men’s Ski Jacket
While the Arcteryx Alpha LT Men’s Ski Jacket ($540) is technically a shell jacket, it does not have the look or the feel of a hard shell but more of a technical shell jacket. The ski jacket is lightweight and has the spaciousness for layering when it is worn. Additionally, the flexibility of the nylon and the ability to accommodate a helmet under the StormHood gives it greater functionality than the traditional shell. In addition to the standardized pockets on the exterior, the Arcteryx Alpha LT jacket has an interior pocket. Hem drawstrings are a key feature of the design, minimizing the slipping of the jacket from under a harness.
Technical Shell Ski Jacket: Patagonia Men’s Triolet Gortex Men’s Ski Jacket
If you are a skier who needs pockets, quick accessibility, and a practical design, then the Patagonia Men’s Triolet Gortex Men’s Ski Jacket ($399) may be the ski jacket for you. Designed with deep side pockets as well as upper pocket access, the jacket is suitable for wearing with or without gear. The fabric has a tough exterior which resists abrasion. An ideal jacket for those seeking something lightweight, windproof, and durable. Sizing of the Patagonia Triolet Gortex jacket tends to lean on the larger side, especially in the arm region. However, this is not a bad thing as, typically, it is around the cuffs which people find the most problems in length and coverage protection.
Soft Shell Ski Jacket: Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Men’s Ski Jacket
A soft shell jacket with multiple color and design features available, the Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Men’s Ski Jacket ($399) should be a consideration for anyone looking to purchase a great jacket at a great price. Arms shoulders and the hood are waterproof which are ideal for the backcountry use it was specifically designed for. Flex fabrics on the design give the jacket breathability while the DWR finish keeps the material dry and limits snow and water from penetrating the jacket. Taped Seams add to the moisture barrier in the design. Pockets are in abundance on the Patagonia Men’s Reconnaissance Jacket with one upper arm, two lower side pockets, two upper pockets (one with a smaller pocket for music complete with earbud access from the interior of the jacket) and one drop-in pocket on the interior of the jacket.