When it comes to jackets and pants, there is plenty on offer as you hit your average ski shop these days. You want your outerwear to be comfortable and keep you warm and dry so you get out on the mountain in all conditions. Fortunately, technical advances over the past decade mean that outerwear that does perform in all conditions is easily attainable, and for a variety of budgets.
Outerwear with higher ratings is now more affordable and a 10,000mm jacket would have been around $400 five years ago, you can now pick one from a reputable technical brand for $250.
Waterproof and breathability ratings are the two important factors you should consider when purchasing your gear and the rule of thumb is the higher the rating the more expensive the outerwear.
Waterproof tests are pretty well standard across the industry and the ratings are a good indication of one fabric compared to another. The tests involve placing tubes of water above fabrics; the height of the water on the tube when leaking begins is the waterproof rating – which is why the measurement is in millimetres. In real world terms here’s what those measurements equate to:
– 15,000-30,000mm fabric should be totally rain proof, be able to withstand prolonged pressure against damp surfaces – such as sitting on a wet chairlift.
– Fabrics 5,000-15,000mm should keep out the rain completely, and not do too badly keeping your butt dry on the chairlift.
Breathability ratings are a measure of how much moisture can escape through a fabric when you sweat, and are usually indicated in terms of how many grams of moisture can pass through a square metre of fabric in a 24 hour period. The higher the number, the more breathable the fabric.
Of course there are plenty of other tech features that result in different costs in jackets. Besides a waterproof and breathability rating of 10,000mm and above, you want to be looking for the following features:
– Laser-cut seams and fully seam-sealed construction, help keep out the elements.
– Waterproof zips – again, keeping out the wind and rain.
– Multi-way stretch fabrics that improve comfort and allow movement.
When you check out the jackets and pants in most stores, you’ll notice that the lighter weight shells are usually more expensive than the heavier, insulated garments. This is because they not only have higher waterproof and breathability ratings, but they are wind-proof and often made of two or four-way stretch material.
This “performance” gear is the best stuff to ski in and, if you’re a keen skier who is out there a lot in all conditions, is what you want. The trend here is to layer up with a thin natural fibre base-layer and lightweight mid-layer like a micro fleece under your shell.
If you’re a fair weather type, or only get to ski a few days a year, then the mid-range gear will do the job and do it for quite a few years.
Of course, the biggest factor when you come to buy new outwear is how you look and how you feel when you check yourself out in the store’s mirror. Fortunately, all the good technical brands also pay a lot of attention to fashion as well as function.
The days of having to wear something that looks like it’s made out of a canvas tent if you want stay dry are long gone. There’s a lot of different styles and colours available, just make sure you have the right beanie to complete the look.
Ollie Cain in the latest gear from Picture. Bottom row (left to right) The North Face, Fuse Form Brigandine 3L jacket, Rip Curl, Men’s Ultimate Gum Jkt Patagonia women’s 3 in 1 Snowbelle Jkt