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Least breathable ski shell?


I'm looking for a ski shell that I can use all season long for resort skiing.  I'm happy to open vents and unzip zippers in the spring, but I'm really challenged to find a jacket that's windproof, waterproof and will help keep me warm on the coldest days.  I have the Arcteryx Ravenna and Patagonia Powderbowl shells, but neither one keeps me as warm as a 1990s era North Face anorak that I can wear with only an expedition-weight fleece, a thin base layer and maybe a vest on the coldest days.  I suspect that the newer jackets are more breathable and that the old jacket is not very breathable.  Other than looking through eBay ads for old shells, do you have any suggestions?    

3 Replies

@SGMRockyMtn Thanks for reaching out!

It could very well be that the breathability of your new jackets is impacting your ability to stay warm on the slopes, in that either your body heat is escaping too easily or more air is moving through the fabric and cooling you too quickly! Both of the shells you mention are great, however if they are allowing too much heat to escape, you might consider switching from the expedition-weight fleece to an insulated jacket (synthetic or down) as your middle layer, which will trap and hold your body heat amidst the insulation and provide significantly more warmth! ​Some great middle layer options include the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket, the Patagonia Down Sweater, the Arc'teryx Atom LT jacketor the REI Magma Down Hoodie. Stopping by your local REI store to try one of these jackets together with your shells is a really good idea, if possible. If they don't fit well together, or everything together is too bulky, you could consider a 3-in-1 jacket. Because the shell and insulating layer are designed to fit and work together, it can give you the warmth you need while still providing the flexibility and freedom of movement you want. On those warmer days, you can remove the insulating layer entirely if you would like. 

I hope this helps, best of luck!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Thanks John.  My ideal solution would be a warmer shell with less bulky midlayers to impede movement.  A few years ago, the Helly Hansen Vanir Silva w Primaloft insulation advertised breathability of 5,000 gm “specifically designed for the women who need a little extra warmth”.  (Their current jackets are much more breathable.)  I’m hopeful there’s something w comparably low breathability today? Thanks in advance! 


It is actually pretty hard to pin down a fabric's breathability rating as there isn't a standard test or metric that all manufacturers use. I noticed that Helly Hansen does not list their breathability ratings on their website any more. There are a few other websites who attempt to quantify breathability of different fabrics, but I cannot vouch for their accuracy. It does appear that H2NO (Patagonia's proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric) and Gore-Tex (what Arc'teryx uses exclusively) both score very high on breathability, which would speak to your issue keeping warm in the jackets you own. 

Given how challenging it can be to even find a breathability rating and that most companies are using fabrics at or above 15,000g, it is going to be hard to find a jacket that hits that sweet spot for you. Obermeyer uses a proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric that comes it at 10,000g, which is the lowest breathability I could find. REI carries the Obermeyer Tuscany II Jacket, which is an insulated jacket that uses that particular waterproof/breathable fabric. Just a head's up though, they also make a 'pro' version of that fabric that is rated at 15,000g so you'll want to keep your eye on the rating!

I hope that helps, I hope you're able to find the perfect jacket for you!


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.