Model: Guardian Shell
Cold-weather explorers who struggle to stay warm raved about this three-layer nylon shell, which marries a waterproof/breathable membrane to a thin merino backer. “It kept me from feeling chilled as soon as I stopped skinning,” reports our tester, who was able to dispense with her bulky midweight puffy while hiking and skiing near Banff. The wool also keeps sweat from condensing on the inside of the fabric, which remained dry to the touch even after rigorous exertion. Caveat: Even with the pit zips open, hot-running hikers overheated in 20°F temps.
The cut is body-hugging and long, providing extra coverage through the hips and upper thighs (and a good fit for tall folks). Arms are also long, so the sleeves never got yanked out of place during steep bootpacks.
A removable powder skirt seals in heat; a huge, brimmed hood slides easily over the largest ski helmets; and an ultrahigh collar shields the chin and nose from icy winds. The merino lining compromises packability (compressed, it’s volleyball-size) making it best for missions that necessitate wearing a shell from door to door. Ouch: Warmth and features don’t come cheap.