13 best men’s ski and snowboard jackets that keep you warm and protected on the slopes

Choose from hardshell or insulated designs for comfort and practicality 

James Forrest
Wednesday 09 December 2020 15:08
We looked out for key design elements including a powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, hood, vents, and a Recco reflector
We looked out for key design elements including a powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, hood, vents, and a Recco reflector

A warm, weatherproof (and super-stylish) jacket is the most important piece of kit any self-respecting skier or snowboarder owns.

Top-rated jackets will be impermeable to snow, block out the cold, fit comfortably and imbue you with some snowsports swagger, whether you’re shredding like a pro or snow ploughing on the baby slopes.

The first thing to check is a jacket’s waterproof rating measured in millimetres – its so-called “hydrostatic head” rating. The lowest you’d ideally want is 10,000mm, with premium-end gear graded 20,000mm+.

Pay attention to a jacket’s breathability rating too – for effective wicking of sweat and venting off excess heat, aim for 10,000g/m²/24hr or above.

Hardshell or insulated? That’s your next decision. Hardshells are a waterproof and windproof outer layer with no insulation, whereas insulated jackets are filled with fluffy, heat-trapping padding to keep you warm.

For ski touring and off-piste, opt for a hardshell jacket. It’ll be light, breathable and streamlined – perfect for dynamic activities. Hardshells are versatile too. Simply layer with a fleece or thermals and you’re set for colder days.

Insulated jackets, conversely, are better suited to general on-piste skiing, or all types of skiing in the colder months.

Another major consideration is the fit. Ultimately, it’s all about what you find most comfortable, whether that’s a baggier cut with room to manoeuvre or a figure-hugging style that’s fast and light.

Key features to look out for include powder skirt, zipped pockets, wrist gaiters, hood, vents, and a Recco reflector – a nifty safety device that enables you to be detected by an avalanche receiver.

Covid-19 put paid to our plans to test these jackets in the Alps (weeps gently), but we did hit the slopes for a number of sessions at the Chill Factore indoor ski centre in Manchester, where the temperature was -3C.

The technical performance of each jacket was carefully considered and we’ve graded them in terms of comfort, waterproofing, warmth, build quality and price.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Picture demain jacket

We love this jacket for two reasons: its eco-friendly credentials (the shell fabric is ingeniously made from sugarcane waste) and its top-notch technical performance. It’s a win win. The 25,000mm hydrostatic head is the most waterproof we’ve tested and you also get fully taped seams and a durable water repellent (DWR) coating.

In other words, this hardshell is a workhorse – strong, durable and determined to keep you dry in even the most brutal of snowstorms. An impressive 20,000 g/m²/24hr breathability rating, as well as pit-zip vents, ensure you don’t overheat, and the cut enables slick mobility around the slopes. All of the features you’d want are present too: a powder skirt, adjustable hood, thumb-loop wrist gaiters, cuff adjusters and ample pockets.

Jack Wolfskin solitude mountain jacket

Everything about this hardshell jacket feels high-end. The 20,000mm-rated waterproofing keeps you dry, no matter how deep the powder (or regular wipe-outs), yet you won’t sweat like crazy thanks to superb breathability and large venting zips. There’s a Recco chip, detachable powder skirt and helmet-ready hood – all premium features – but better still is the lightweight, streamlined style.

The stretchy fabric gives you unlimited freedom to twist, turn, carve and shred to the max, without compromising on comfort. We absolutely loved this jacket during our tests. We felt light, nimble and flexible and we’re fans of the versatility too – we’d happily use this jacket all season long, by simply changing our base layers to match the conditions. For the serious, high-octane skier or boarder, with off-piste and backcountry on the agenda, this is an excellent choice.

Oneskee mark v

Oneskee is here to make the all-in-one ski suit cool again with striking colours, contemporary patterning and border-inspired baggy cuts, and we love it. But this head-turning jumpsuit isn’t just about the look, as it’s technically proficient too. Imagine your favourite pyjamas onesie has been kitted out with extra insulation and sturdy waterproofing (20,000mm), and that’s what you get with this ensemble.

This suit is waterproof and warm with excellent features including internal braces, Lycra wrist cuffs, a lift pass pocket and ankle gaiters. Value for money is superb considering you don’t have to buy separate trousers, and then there’s the added bonus of being sealed up in a one-piece – snow can’t get up your jacket or down your pants, and overall warmth is enhanced. It’s a revelation.  

Klattermusen draupner jacket

Bombproof and well-executed, we love the reassuringly sturdy build of this offering from Klattermusen. It’s a classic hardshell jacket with an extra dollop of ruggedness – “made to withstand the toughest abrasion and abuse”, as the Swedish mountaineering brand put it. It certainly feels stronger and more durable than others and – despite weighing slightly more – it still manages to be light and mobile enough for high-intensity snowsports.

20,000mm waterproofing keeps you dry no matter what, while 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability and large underarm vents help regulate your temperature effectively. We were particularly impressed by the Velcro storm flap over the main zip, which seals out the cold like an impenetrable barrier, as well as the plethora of nifty extra little features: emergency compass, gear attachment points, and glove-friendly zipper pulls. As you’d expect for the price, you also get a Recco reflector.

Helly Hansen odin mountain infinity shell jacket

This sporty-looking hardshell jacket from Norwegian brand Helly Hansen does everything right. It’s a superb all-rounder with premium-level performance, although you might need to sit down before checking the price. Named after Odin, the Norse god who undertook grand long-term quests across the nine worlds, this jacket is aptly prepared for gnarly, tough conditions and prolonged use. Helly Hansen uses an environmentally friendly fabric made entirely without added chemicals or eco-hazardous PFCs. It provides premium waterproofing (20,000mm), windproofing and breathability (20,000g/m²/24hr).

High-end features include a Recco reflector, powder skirt, adjustable hood, ski pass pocket and vent zips, while the athletic cut not only looks great but works brilliantly too. We loved how weightless and sprightly we felt in this jacket – it’s just a shame the price-tag is so, well, Scandinavian.

The North Face summit series L3 50/50 hooded down jacket

It’s not really protocol to ski in a down jacket, but you’ll be forgiven for wearing this one. New for 2020, this not only looks uber-stylish on-piste and around town, it performs phenomenally as a technical layer. The lofty, 800-fill down insulation keeps you as toasty as you’d expect, but what makes this jacket superb is that it overcomes the usual downfalls of down. Unlike regular down jackets, this one retains its loft and warmth when wet – so you’re free to wipe out, slice through powder and continue through a blizzard without any worries. You won’t overheat either, as the down filling is truly breathable, offering impressively precise temperature regulation when exercising in extreme environments. If ever a down jacket was good for skiing, this is the one.

Schoffel ski jacket trittkopf

Probably the best insulated jacket on test, the trittkopf is a classic-style ski jacket with all the features we look for. It’s impressively waterproof (20,000mm) yet breathable too (20,000g/m²/24hr), and the synthetic insulation keeps you amply warm without feeling overly bulky. There’s a warm and detachable hood, stretchy wrist gaiters with thumb loops, a powder skirt, Recco reflector, underarm vents and a myriad of useful pockets. It won’t win any style awards and the price-tag is perhaps a little lofty, but we were certainly impressed during our tests. We found this jacket hit that sweet spot between warmth, weather protection and freedom of movement – and for resort skiing we’d happily rely on it.

Ellesse drummond jacket

This jacket is like getting a loving hug from a cuddly bear. It’s unbelievably thick and cosy – and the warmest on test by some margin. Padded baffles are positively bursting full of toasty insulation, as if your favourite snuggly duvet has been transformed into a ski jacket. For resort skiing in the height of winter, beginners who think they’ll spend a lot of time face down in the snow, or those who struggle in the cold, it’s a great choice – super-warm at an affordable price.

But for others the Michelin Man style padding will be way too bulky, with the colossal size causing drag and hindering the speed and slickness of your downhill manoeuvring. Features are good for the price, including wrist gaiters with thumb holes, a detachable snow skirt, insulated hood, mesh pocket for goggles and forearm pocket for your ski pass. We love the bold, colour block styling too – bright, confident and uncompromising.

Black Diamond recon stretch ski shell

This jacket wins the prize for best value hardshell. It offers premium performance at a surprisingly affordable price – and that extra cash in your pocket might just fund some epic après-ski shenanigans. It’s stretchier than all other hardshells in this list, with the four-way stretch fabric moving and flexing with your body for excellent freedom of movement. The vital stats speak for themselves: a 20,000mm hydrostatic head waterproof rating and matching 20,000g/m²/24hr breathability grade ensure you stay joyously dry without overheating, while the in-built powder skirt and helmet compatible hood add further weather protection. There’s no insulation (as expected with hardshells), but the relaxed fit is well-designed for layering. For the serious skier who’ll be venturing both on and off the piste, this is a technical jacket at a decent price.

Montane extreme smock

If you could borrow a polar bear’s coat, this is what it’d feel like. The jacket is luxuriously cosy, with its puffy, fluffy interior providing a thick layer of warmth. It feels different to anything else in this list – and that’s because it is. Neither an insulated jacket nor a hardshell, instead this jacket consists of the so-called “double-p” construction: pile and Pertex. The inner is made from a deep pile fleece while the outer is a windproof and water repellent Pertex material. And the result is a very warm jacket (no need for lots of layering here), with a lining that wicks sweat, dries fast and stays warm even when wet. It’s far from the most waterproof in this list, but it can still cope with a battering from the weather, and for skiing in a snow flurry it’s more than capable. The styling is retro, the fit is relaxed and the price is sensible. It won’t suit everyone, but some will love the fleecy vibes of this old-school jacket.

Columbia wild card jacket

Columbia’s lightly-insulated wild card wins our accolade for most futuristic tech. The jacket’s inner has a shiny, metallic lining – think silver space suit meets sequinned dress – that reflects back your body heat for a much-welcomed temperature boost. But it’d be wrong to suggest this jacket is just about the tech. It’s a solid all-rounder made from a waterproof-breathable fabric, with top-notch features including a helmet-compatible hood, powder skirt, underarm venting, drop tail and good pockets.

Paramo enduro jacket

Hardshells can sometimes be stiff and crinkly, while insulated jackets often make you feel bloated and slow. But this jacket doesn’t suffer from either problem. Instead it’s soft, cosy and comfy, with an athletic fit, stretchy materials and lightweight insulation that strike an excellent balance between warmth and mobility. We found it extremely comfortable and loved the softshell-like style – for us it was warm and windproof enough to cut out a chill, light enough for agile downhill antics, and weatherproof enough to never let you down.

Waterproofing is via Nikwax Analogy’s two-layer tech: a water-resistant outer deflects the impact of rain (or snow), while the inner layer – known as a “pump liner” – physically moves liquid water away from the body. This jacket comes with a host of great features too. We’re big fans of the peaked hood, pocket orientation and scooped tail (to keep your bum warm). Collectively they make this a great ski jacket, particularly if you’re looking for something a little different to a classic hardshell or traditional insulated top.

Keela munro jacket

More of a hillwalking anorak than a ski jacket, this is a wise choice if you don’t ski that often, and therefore want a multi-purpose coat you can use on the slopes and in everyday life, be it walking the dog, a showery dash to the shops or a weekend of hiking in the Lake District. It’s sturdily waterproof, with rugged features including double storm flaps over the central zip, a huge protective chin guard and an excellent hood with a wired peak.

It’s pretty warm too, courtesy of the thick, heavy build, and for skiing there’s a detachable powder skirt. The styling is very traditional – more rambler than mountain shredder – but there’s no doubt this is a waterproof, warm and versatile jacket designed for tough conditions. If you’re an occasional skier, but regular hiker, it might just become your go-to dual-purpose jacket.

The verdict: Men’s ski and snowboard jackets

Our top spot goes to the Picture demain jacket, thanks to its superb technical performance, highest-on-test waterproofing and innovative eco-friendly approach. We also loved the Klattermusen draupner and Jack Wolfskin solitude mountain hardshells, while for standout style and a unique approach the Oneskee mark v was a revelation.

Kit yourself out for your next winter adventure with the best men’s ski and snowboard pants and ski goggles

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