It can be hard to keep up with the latest outerwear trends. From fit to functionality, puffies, baselayers and hardshells undergo small design tweaks every year and we are here to help you parse out the gear that best fits your backcountry needs.
For our 2017 Apparel Guide, we focus on the timeless and the trending. These are classics that we know and love, alongside the best in new materials, styles and tech. For our first installment of the Apparel Guide online, we introduce jackets that both bring back memories and break molds.
Ortovox Merino 3L Guardian
$749 – ortovox.com
While the name Ortovox is most commonly associated with beacons—they began manufacturing them in the early ’80s—the German brand has also been producing wool-centric apparel since the end of that same decade. Now with the Merino Guardian, Ortovox integrates the old school with the new, with this hardshell’s 100-percent merino-wool interior that offers a soft finish without adding bulk or weight. And to keep up with the 21st century, the Guardian hardshell face utilizes a Dermizax membrane to add waterproofing properties without sacrificing breathability.
As the Guardian rolls into its second iteration this season, Ortovox has reworked some of its classic features, creating softer cuffs and additional wool in the collar for a more comfortable feel. The seams are flatter this go-around as well, thanks to improvements in pressing technologies, to increase durability and longevity. Luckily, the details of the jacket remain, like the adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, the two, sizeable front pockets and the pit zips.
Bottom Line: The Guardian borders on fairytale, between the soft merino interior and sealed, waterproof exterior.
Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based Stio has offered the Environ Jacket (also available in a women’s cut) since 2013 as its “signature waterproof/breathable workhorse,” and this year, it’s new and improved. Stio switched from a two-layer membrane to Dermizax—a popular alternative to Gore-Tex—for all-day dryness against the elements.
Features: The Environ is fully equipped, between its sealed construction for increased waterproofing, underarm pit zips, sewn-in powder skirt and a cinchable hood. The cuffs also rock tidy zippers instead of Velcro fastenings to keep snow out.
Fit: The Environ offers a slightly looser, freestyle-fit that’s intended to give a high range of motion, and look good, too.
Bottom Line: A freeride-cut option designed for deep Jackson days.
Mountain Equipment Lhotse
There’s a reason why the Lhotse has remained a fixture in Mountain Equipment’s line for nearly five years—it lives up to the British manufacturer’s imperative of crafting no-frills, hardwearing layers for harsh environments, whether that’s while alpine climbing, skinning or resort skiing.
Features: The Gore-Tex Pro shelled Lhotse is trimmed with clean zippers on its foot-long pit-zips and three large pockets, each of which could capably swallow skins (there’s an internal chest pocket, too). The three-way-adjustable hood has a wide, flexible brim to further keep elements out.
Fit: The clean-cut Lhotse runs true to size when layered over a midweight puffy. Select a smaller size for an alpine cut.
Bottom Line: A trusted membrane and a tested design combine to make a timeless shell for uncertain weather, damp days and powder skiing.
Arc’teryx’s Sphene is new this year and comically light, weighing only 430 grams, or just less than one pound. That’s part of the Vancouver-based company’s mission, to create a hyper light, packable shell without sacrificing on water resistance and function.
Features: The Sphene (and the women’s Shashka) relies on a Gore-Tex Pro shell with DWR finish to keep dry when the snow picks up. The cinchable and helmet-compatible hood, long pit zips and deep chest pockets are additional perks.
Fit: Arc’teryx markets the Sphene as offering a trim, athletic fit, and they’re spot-on; the jacket runs snug through the midsection without compromising range of motion.
Bottom Line: The Sphene is best suited for long days in the elements, whether that’s slush or cold smoke.