Coat Check, Outside Buyer's Guide, Winter 2019

WBG19 LAYERS JacketsA good shell is your best ticket to winter adventure

(co-produced with Frederick Reimers)

Eddie Bauer BC EverTherm Down ($499)
If you’re a cold-weather backcountry adventurer, you need a fail-safe layer stashed in your pack—the lighter the better. Warm enough for an emergency alpine bivy and waterproof enough to handle drizzly conditions, Eddie Bauer’s BC EverTherm is your superlight safety kit. At just 1.2 pounds, it has the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any waterproof puffy we tested. The secret is Eddie Bauer’s proprietary Thindown insulation, which debuted last year and is made of ultralight down clusters that are pressed into a continuous sheet rather than blown loose into baffles. That means the jacket isn’t perforated by thousands of stitches that allow heat to escape, so you stay warmer. The seam-taped 15-denier waterproof shell keeps the down dry and offers additional wind protection for a truly impervious outer layer; we pulled the BC EverTherm out during many a storm-lashed Teton summit last winter. The long hemline offers great coverage in back even while swinging ice tools overhead. With an eye toward backcountry travel, Eddie Bauer included a cavernous hood with a stiff brim and plenty of storage—including a huge interior drop pocket to quickly stash essentials—without adding much weight. 1.2 lbs (men’s, pictured) / 1 lb (women’s)

Salewa Sesvenna Polartec Alpha ($225)
Assembled from five distinct fabrics, the Sesvenna is a veritable Megazord for high-output ski missions. A wind- and weatherproof Pertex Quantum outer layer shields the chest and shoulders, which had us leaning into blowing wind and precipitation on the skin track, while four-way Durastretch rounds out the torso for base-layer-like mobility. The sleeves and hood are insulated with breathable Polartec Alpha, while across the back porous Alpha Direct moves excess heat and moisture so efficiently that we were able to wear the Sesvenna on snowy evening training runs. Kudos for sustainability: the fabric is Bluesign approved and the DWR finish PFC-free. 1.3 lbs (men’s, pictured) / 1.1 lbs (women’s)

First Lite Chamberlin Down ($360)
Designed for hunters sitting perfectly still in the woods amid inclement weather—think 34 degrees and rain—the Chamberlin Down, from Ketchum, Idaho, apparel maker First Lite, is an absolute bear of a coat. It’s overstuffed with top-shelf 800-fill down sandwiched within sturdy, DWR-treated waterproof fabric. It also boasts a sophisticated design you don’t see a lot in camo and earth-tone duds, with box-baffle construction and articulated sleeves. While First Lite named the Chamberlin Down for a peak in the threatened (and big-game-rich) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the jacket served us beautifully in the lower 48 as we slashed downhill through Douglas fir forests in the Tetons. 1.5 lbs

Picture Signe ($350)
This insulated jacket has something special going for it: it’s sustainably made, yet it performs just as well as conventional outerwear. The PFC-free DWR coating prevented puking snow from soaking through the recycled-nylon face fabric. Across the back, Sorona insulation—a corn-based alternative to down—delivered a welcome dose of warmth on the lift and wasn’t stifling during powder laps. Mesh-lined pit zips on the Signe (the men’s version is called the Goods and runs $400) kept us from overheating, and an extra-tall collar screened our cheeks from raking wind. The removable powder skirt sealed out snow on deep days. For aggressive in-bounds riding, this jacket hits all the notes. 2.8 lbs (men’s) / 2.6 lbs (women’s, pictured)

Black Crows Ventus Light ($549)
Here’s the Goldilocks option for backcountry touring and mountaineering. Neither flimsy nor overbuilt, this three-layer shell is breathable enough for high-output climbs and just tough enough to spar with errant ski edges. The 70-denier Gore-Tex C-Knit fabric fended off hammering wind and snow and was flexible even in brittle-cold conditions. An array of huge pockets, patches of fleecy jersey on the inner collar, and a grippy hem to prevent the jacket from riding up combine for a surprising feature set for fast and light apparel. And the pit zips—21 inches long, with a three-way zipper for endless adjustability—are next level. When the Ventus’s work is done, it balls up to the size of a grapefruit. 1.3 lbs (men’s) / 15 oz (women’s, pictured)

Fjällräven Keb Touring ($330)
Most people love soft shells because they’re stretchy, quiet, exceptionally comfortable, and more casual than their techy-looking hard-shell cousins. We also dig their breath­ability on days when the risk of rain or snow soaking through the seams is low. Fjällräven’s Keb Touring jacket is the exemplary softie of 2019 for cold, crisp cross-country ski tours or spring skiing at the resort. The handful of no-nonsense accoutrements—enormous drop pockets on the inside to hold a hat or climbing skins, big chest pockets that don’t interfere with the waist belt of a pack, and vents on the torso to dump heat on the go—team up well with the Swedish brand’s famous streetwise style. 1.9 lbs (men’s, pictured) / 1.6 lbs (women’s)

Arc’teryx Gaea ($199)
This is the finest winter training piece we’ve ever pulled on. With synthetic Octa Loft insulation across the chest, at the shoulders, and even in the snug collar, the Gaea (and the men’s Argus) is warm where you need it to be while remaining supremely breathable, thanks to Octa Loft’s excep­tional permeability and the jacket’s stretchy, uninsulated back panel. Fleece-lined pockets in the front warm chilly hands, and a pair of stash pockets in back swallow a hat and gloves when you build up steam. Plus, those pockets have media ports to keep a headphone cord neatly out of the way. And like most Arc’teryx garb, the trim, articulated Gaea just fits better. 11.3 oz (men’s) / 9.3 oz (women’s, pictured)