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hard shell jackets and layering - advise needed

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Last session I had my first real off-piste experience, safe to say i got loved it and will be doing more of that. From that experience i've come to learn that my current clothing setup isn't ideal for this, so i want to switch to a hard shell and layering. I've done a bit of homework and tried some different jackets on eventually narrowed it down to a couple both are Arcteryx mostly because they seem to fit my shape best and they are great quality. So here my questions

1. A lot of hard shells arn't ski specific, other than no snow skirt (which for me i never use) is there any advantage of going for one that is snow sports specific? I've got my eye on the Alpha SV or the Sidewinder, leading towards the former.

2. Mid layer recommendations? i've recommended the Patagonia Nano Air Jacket, i've tried it on would seem fit the bill if not slightly expensive.

3. If i go for shell style ski pants, what does layering look like on a cold day? more base layers? I've got insulated ski pants now but if its cold i'll have my ice breakers on underneath those.
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Depends a bit on you...

I run "hot", so I only ever use a wool base layer and a shell jacket, and shell pants. If its more than more minus 10, I use 2 layers of base layers on my upper body. I used to use a mid-layer, but it got too hot for me - therefore foggy googles. Never a good thing.

A friend of mine taught me that trick years ago by saying that when you are on the lift, "its better to shiver than sweat".
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@Russeh, From my research of Arc ranges, the Alpha SV is intended at the very worst of weather halfway up Everest. So is possibly overkill?

Beta range maybe better?

Snow skirts a waste of time.

Nano Air probably excellent. Never tried one though. Can't see how it's slightly expensive compared to the Alpha SV, which is most definitely very expensive.

Pants? I wear Marmot Spire GTX shells with cheap decathlon fleece underneath, mostly. Very occasionally a light thermal underneath the fleece, often in spring just the thermals as I don't like clammy goretex next to my sensitive skin.
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I’ve used an arcteryx AR beta which was good for skiing, don’t go too long. For trousers some very lightly padded mountain force, and vary the long john thickness. For the insulation layer, I also run warm, usually a light marino vest, and thin fleece, occasionally a thick fleece or feathers.
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I’ve used a non ski specific jacket for winter activities (Arc’teryx Zeta) and for 90% of the time I don’t miss having a snow skirt. But I do appreciate the other snow specific features on my 2 Norrøna ski jackets: removable snow skirt, goggle/glasses wipe, hand gaiters and ski card holder. For really cold days the snow skirt and hand gaiters are great at trapping in heat.

I’ve only heard good things about the Nano Air.

For really cold days I use a pair of these over my merino 3/4 tights:

https://www.northernplayground.no/shop/zipshorts-padded/zipshorts-padded-m/

It has full length zips so you can put on/removed with your pants and boots still on. The padding is removable and is great for cold/icy chair lifts or when you’re inactive.
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Burton expedition base layer
Various fleeces of different weight & thickness for different weather
Padded shorts = boarder
3/4 length shorts/tracksuit bottoms
Bib pants (take into consideration fleece choice)
Jacket

I run hot, when moving, but get cold when stationary or on a lift
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@Lilledonmarco i use to run really hot but then i lost 5 stone and i've gone the other way. got to agree, would rather be briefly cold on a lift hen sweating buckets.

@under a new name, probably a bit overkill but equally its the features and toughness you're paying for.

@jbob, you said don't go for too long, can i ask whats the reason behind that?


Spoon - i think the only thing i'd miss is the ski pass pocket in the right place, will take a look at the Mario tights.
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(1) I like snow-sports specific, as the cut is purpose-built and I'd want a snow skirt. If you want a hard shell for both uses, I'm not sure which way would be the best compromise. Note that Arc have two different fits available. Advantages: cut/ snow-skirt/ I wouldn't use a hard shell for my own general mountaineering these days. A quick look suggests that the "features" (left arm pocket, glove closures, pit zips etc) are all identical on Arc's mountaineering and ski focused ranges.

(2) I have had Arc's Atom jackets for a few years now and I think they're similar to the Pat one. For mid-layers I just have a bunch of different weight fleeces and I use as many as dictated by the thermometer. I can never remember quite how many to use season-to-season so usually have a few days working that out each December. The Atom seems to give better warmth/ weight/ bulk than fleece, but I'd probably not use it alone. If bothered by price then maybe looking at stuff less influenced by the Sterling exchange rate would help, or just use fleeces which are pretty much all the same irrespective of brand.

(3) I use compression tights under shell pants. If it's cold I'll add some three-quid decathlon polyprop leggings.
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@Russeh, only looked at the Alpha SV - it doesn't look like the armpit vents have a lining behind the zips - so a tumble in the deep stuff would allow snow to get inside your jacket if you have the vents open. That may or may not be an issue for you...
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@Russeh, My wife has Alpha SV and she is very happy with it. Expensive and relatively heavy, but bombproof. I have Patagonia Nano Air Jacket that I have been happy with. In dry days I sometime ski only in it, with no shell. One issue is that Nano does not have a sleeve pocket. On the bottom, Icebreaker 150gr for everything other than -20C days.
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I much prefer mons Royale merino to icebreaker - much better fit for me - longer, looser and better quality. Have had a few icebreaker things fall apart way too quickly.

Also don’t like mesh in pit zips and thigh vents - gets stuck in the zips. Not always the case but worth checking out if trying stuff on.
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@Russeh,

I have an old sidewinder - its been great but a) I don't bother with the snow skirt much and b) the hood is a bit small to go over a ski helmet (I assume the hoods are bigger on the latest models).
Think your choice depends on whether you intend to use it for just skiing or as a general mountain jacket (and then as something you carry in your pack or wear most of the time).
I think there are a load of good general purpose mountaineering shell jackets and the last one I bought was just a wait for a good deal on a good brand on Sportspursuit - got a haglofs one 55% off.

For mid layers I tend to use either a heavier merino zip neck (over a lighter one) or a stretch fleece hoody if it is cold (I have a mountain equipment one but Alpkit do a really nice one for little money). I find that stretch fleece is very warm to weight/bulk and wicks brilliantly which is important if you are a sweaty bar steward like me.
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I love a snow skirt on jackets. Not for stopping snow but it stops any wing getting inside the jacket on cold windy days!

Also love my hard shell pants. For me they are better than the hardshell jacket but I do have both.

As long as you have the right combination of layers for different temps you are fine so when starting out buy various different levels, to include a warm under trouser. People often tend to concentrate on the right tops but ignore the bottoms.

I would personally go for a snow specific jacket. There is enough choice out there that you can find one you like. For me I really like the bits like a pass pocket, thumb holes, helmet hood and snow skirt. whilst individually not all required, together they do become a benefit worth getting IMO. (Armpit vents are obviously a must!).

If Arc'teryx is key then why not go for the Rush or either of the Sabre jackets? The Alpha SV looks like it has been designed quite short but that may be your preference hence the pick.
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FWIW I think the Rush is basically one of the alphas with a snow skirt
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Pretty sure the Rush is longer when I was looking at them. The Alpha definitely came up shorter. But I do think it's preference, some people like a shorter jacket, some don't.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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ok got a lot to look at there in terms of layers. I think the nano air is a goer going off what other people have said.

I have looked at other brands its just Arcteryx fits well, unlike say Norrona who appear to be only making gear for basket ball players.

i tried the rush and it ticks the boxes from a technical perspective but i don't like the style or colours it comes in. The rush and siderwider are both slightly longer than the Alpha jackets, but not by much maybe 1-2cm at most from the front, the alpha has a drop hem at the back. Can't work out if thats a good or bad thing. for me the slightly shorter Alpha doesn't interfere with my legs where are there is a slight restriction with the sidewider because it comes further down. my current softshell comes right down but its 4 way stretch so doesn't restrict movement.


I've not started looking at shell pants yet but these fleece tights seem like a good option for when its really chilly.

@jedster i've sent you a pm
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Russeh wrote:

2. Mid layer recommendations? i've recommended the Patagonia Nano Air Jacket, i've tried it on would seem fit the bill if not slightly expensive.
3. If i go for shell style ski pants, what does layering look like on a cold day? more base layers? I've got insulated ski pants now but if its cold i'll have my ice breakers on underneath those.


Polartec Powerstretch fleece tights works well on cold days (Powerstretch is also good for mid layers on the upper body).
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Quote:

Polartec Powerstretch fleece tights works well on cold days (Powerstretch is also good for mid layers on the upper body).

@Oceanic, are they branded (expensive) or just what Decathlon sell for £2 ?
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@Russeh, I think Norrona makes gear for Scandinavians actually wink Fortunately works for me too but I can see why quite a few people have trouble with the fit!

Back OT, I have an Alpha SV, Beta LT and have had a Sidewinder SV jacket. I would find the front of the Alpha a bit short for skiing in powder anyway but the Beta would be fine. Sidewinder was a great jacket, not too long for me at all but I lost a little weight and the fit became a bit baggy hence changing it for something else.

In terms of layering under the shell, I use a merino base layer and then a choice of fleece/wool, synthetic or down mid layer depending on weather and activity. Can also just stick with the base layer and have a lightweight vest thing I can put over that if needed.

For bottom half, Dane merino base layer and then have some Haglofs Barrier Knee shorts which I can add-not sure if they are still sold now mind.

No experience and of the Nano Air but am a big fan of the Atom LT as a mid layer and use that for most conditions to be honest!
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@Russeh, consider fleece pants under the shell pants. You can wear them on the drive to the hill or in public without scaring the children and pull on the shells when you arrive. As for the shell pants, there's two ways to go: full side zip or not. Advantage of full zip: you can put them on or off without messing with your boots. Wear 'em on a spring morning, rip 'em off when it gets hot and ski in the fleece pants. They often only come this way in a bib style, I've noticed...not high style, but high function. Either way, make sure you have a way to ventilate them. Most regular pants-style shells have vents, and you'll use them a lot. We all have our favorites; I like Marmot gear, it fits me and they still use two-way zippers on their coats, handy when sitting.
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under a new name wrote:
Quote:

Polartec Powerstretch fleece tights works well on cold days (Powerstretch is also good for mid layers on the upper body).

@Oceanic, are they branded (expensive) or just what Decathlon sell for £2 ?


I have both branded Polartec Powerstretch, and stretch fleece from Decathlon. The pair of fleece tights I bought from Decathlon 8 years ago are every bit as good as Polartec Powerstretch, but the stuff I bought from Decathlon last year is less warm and has pilled up quicker.
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Russeh wrote:
@jbob, you said don't go for too long, can i ask whats the reason behind that".


Some mountaineering hard shells are designed to be worn mainly without over trousers so are longer to cover ones bits. When skiing in ski pants a shorter more fitted jacket is better IMHO.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Couple of comments on the Sidewinder as it's been my go to on and off piste jacket for a number of years now.
Good points - very durable - very well thought out pockets/stowage
Other points - snowskirt - number of times I’ve actually needed it in many months/years of skiing in the Aravis = zero. Mind you it’s very inconspicuous even though it’s not removable. Especially considering the built in clips that lock the jacket to my Arcteryx shell pants it's pretty superfluous.
Sizing - Arctyrix used to class it as, I think, ”expedition fit” meaning a generous cut allowing lots of layering. I bought a medium but could easily have got away with a small (l'm 5’10” and 70kg) - some would say it might look too baggy. The hood on mine allows ample room for a helmet.
Styling - The offset top end of the front zip gives the jacket its iconic look and on cold days means your mouth/chin is very cosy. Only downside I've noticed is that when skiing at speed with it partially unzipped the wider side under your chin can flap - a lot - probably a good indication I need to slow down Laughing
Overall I love it - plenty of mobility, never too hot, yet feels absolutely bomb-proof. Zip up and cinch everything down and I can feel snug and protected even in a blizzard on the slowest chair-lift in the resort.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Thu 24-10-19 17:46; edited 2 times in total
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gvj wrote:
...Sizing - Arctyrix used to class it as, I think, ”expedition fit” meaning a generous cut allowing lots of layering. I bought a medium but could easily have got away with a small (l'm 5’10” and 70kg) - some would say it might look too baggy. The hood on mine allows ample room for a helmet. ...
This is a good point, what was Medium is now Small in Arc, XS in Burton AK.
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@jbob ah right - yeah this is one of the things i've been toying over in terms of preference, longer vs the shorter. in this case the mountaineering jacket is slightly shorter at the front.


@gvj, Thanks for that, interesting your comment on the wider part flapping at speed. I PM'd the other two people in this thread who also have the Sidewinder to ask just that! both says its not really a problem, does it flap into your face? It looks like the 2019 model has a clip for it if want to use it when half open.

I've ordered it anyway, will post some pictures once i've got it. The 2019 model now moves it into the pro range and has a N80 denier face fabric, no one seems to have a bad word to say so expecting good things.
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@Russeh, Great, I’m sure you’ll love it. By far the most important question- what colour did you go for Smile ?
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I've gone for "pulse" - i just hope i don't get confused for the gilet jaune in it Laughing
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Cool colour
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It arrived, will do a post on it over the weekend

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Similar, but slightly different topic:

Every time I've been to the slopes, it's been the first or second week of March. During this time, I've only ever worn base layer, t poo-poo and Volcom GTX shell jacket on top, and base layer and Volcom GTX shell pants on the bottom. This was perfectly fine this last time in 3 valleys in March 2019.

However this year I'm going to Morzine/Avoriaz in mid/late December and Fernie in Canada in late Jan/early Feb. I'm not bothered about upper body as I have many layers, but no other layers for my legs - does anyone recommend I would need more? And if so, what?
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@karansaraf, Canada can often be a lot colder than Europe (over 6 weeks of 3 Canada trips, often seen -15C - -25C - which would be very unusual for French alps).

I wouldn't worry overmuch about PdS in December.

A pair of 100/200 weight fleece leggings should do the trick.
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Coincidentally, I've just put up an Arcteryx Atom LT jacket (midlayer) in the classifieds section.
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@diaphon, why would you sell such a piece of wonder? I have two!
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under a new name wrote:
@karansaraf, Canada can often be a lot colder than Europe (over 6 weeks of 3 Canada trips, often seen -15C - -25C - which would be very unusual for French alps).

I wouldn't worry overmuch about PdS in December.

A pair of 100/200 weight fleece leggings should do the trick.


Or these:

https://www.stellarequipment.com/product/m-ultralight-down-pants-black/
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@Tom Doc, indeed. I need (!?) a new shell (well, I absolutely do!) I shall be ordering a Stellar one next week (in blue) in the faint hope that it's not too big. I shall report back on results.
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@under a new name, I'm sure I'll regret selling it. But at the moment I haven't been using it, mainly because I just haven't been cold enough - with a good merino wool base layer and at most a thin undershirt, I'm pretty happy with my shell alone.When I need more warmth, I throw on a wool jumper.

I've only started venturing off-piste more, and it's totally possible that as I do more of that I'll want my Atom LT back! I think it's a great jacket for keeping you warm during very strenuous exercise.
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karansaraf wrote:
...........and Fernie in Canada in late Jan/early Feb. I'm not bothered about upper body as I have many layers, but no other layers for my legs - does anyone recommend I would need more? And if so, what?


I have an older pair of 3/4 length Snow and Rock branded base layers from when I was a bit heavier so they're one size up. I throw these over my normal base layers and have been fine in shell and two best layers down to -30 wish.
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@under a new name, I'll be interested to see what you think. It looks like good stuff.
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under a new name wrote:
@karansaraf, Canada can often be a lot colder than Europe (over 6 weeks of 3 Canada trips, often seen -15C - -25C - which would be very unusual for French alps).

I wouldn't worry overmuch about PdS in December.

A pair of 100/200 weight fleece leggings should do the trick.


My merino base layers are 100gm Merino wool, but I assume that 100 is a different measurement to the one you mentioned, as it's not fleece-like at all, it's extremely light/thin.

Something like this perhaps? This says 140gm/sqm density micro-fleece:

https://www.decathlon.co.uk/forclaz-50-mens-fleece-trousers-black-id_8228616.html

Having spent several grand on snow gear in the last couple of years, I'd like to get away with something cheap if possible!
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I found a bit of a bargin on a pair of last seasons Arcteryx shell pants. Really like them only trouble is it seems they are the expedition fit and are super roomy.



I think i already know the answer to this, but this amount of volume isn't going to be good for staying warm is it?
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