If you’re like me, gearing up a for a day of backcountry ski touring is akin to an Olympic sport.
Where’s my beacon?
Why do I only have one ski boot?
How many snacks are you bringing? Do I need more?
How many layers do I need?
WHERE ARE MY GOGGLES?
The list goes on and on. But, of all the gear I snag for a day in the backcountry, I’d argue my touring shell is the most important (aside from my skis, of course). Not only is it a fixture on the downhill, but I usually throw it over my baselayer for the ups to give me a little weather protection. But you know what I really hate? When my shell turns my upper body into a veritable sweat lodge. I’m all for an exercise-induced sweat session, but it’s really annoying to saturate faster than a sponge thanks to an ill-breathing jacket. You know?
That’s why I love the jackets I’ve listed below. Not only do they look good (because, obvi), but they breathe well which means I’m not stuck wringing out my sports bra on the side of a mountain. And, I’d wager the majority of these brands are new to some of you, so happy to make the introduction. I believe that’s what Michael Scott would call that a win-win-win situation.
Let’s talk about why I most love this shell: no crunch. You know that really annoying swish-swish sound that emits when your shell scrapes against your skin? The Ortler doesn’t do that which automatically bumps it up on my list. Ortovox trimmed weight to create an ultralight shell that features four-way stretch for total movement and uber breathability. Plus, Merino wool inserts line select areas for added comfort and two-way underarm zips dump heat in a hurry.
If you’re not familiar with Picture, let’s do a mini deep dive. The brand believes we need to wipe out fossil fuels and our reliance on oil, so they ingrain this ethos into ever fiber of their business from sourcing to packaging to shipping. In the past, Picture was known for their use of PET (recycled plastic) in all of their synthetic products, but they knew those plastic bottles were still petroleum-based waste. So, they launched the first bio-based membrane, used in the Harvest Jacket. Made from castor oil, this membrane makes the Harvest jacket equally durable as other options, but it does without any reliance on oil.
And also: the jacket looks sweet.
Let’s get this out of the way: this jacket costs more than your mortgage payment. But, that’s because it comes with every single bell and whistle that modern technology has created for the ski industry. Spyder is known for making premium gear and the Eiger is no exception. A Gore-Tex laminate combines with strategic layering to enable breathability and mobility during hard-charging days. Large pockets, a mesh goggle pocket, and an insulated cell phone pocket add to the bevy of nice-to-have features.
Money doesn’t grow on trees, and sometimes you need to cut down the features in order to find a price range that suits your budget. If that sounds like you, take a gander at pretty much everything on Decathlon’s website. This UK-based brand has recently come stateside and with it is a multitude of affordable apparel options, like this Mountaineering Light Jacket. It’s waterproof and moves well. Breathability isn’t quite on the level of the other jackets on this list but for $80, we’ll make an exception.