Shop for Outdoor Research jackets and pants that you’d use for backcountry skiing.
Intro, by Lou Sr.:
Here at WildSnow world HQ we’ve got enough jackets to outfit the porters for a deluxe Annapurna expedition. Yet sadly, most of our jacket quiver are really not that great. Some fit poorly, with too-short sleeves or a high waist that shows off your trim rear but also causes dread “back gap,” that fearful condition that’s nearly bad as plumber’s crack. Others jackets are weighty for what you get in performance, or have hoods that fit like they’re made for shrunken heads hanging from some guy’s hut rafters in New Guinea.
Even so, a few gems can be found of you shop hard and are willing to accept inevitable imperfections. To that end, we work with closely with two clothing companies in outfitting our adventures: Cloudveil and Outdoor Research (OR). We also like some of the offerings from Marmot, and North Face comes up with nice stuff as well.
Most of Cloudveil’s clothing is definitely oriented to a trim fit — appreciated by those such as myself who grew up in those days when mountain clothing was supposed to cling our fine forms, or by present day athletes who’ve gotten their body fat to the point where anything but a shear cut feels like they’re wearing a circus tent. More, Cloudveil’s garments have simplicity and functionality that appeals greatly to us.
As for OR, they’ve recently made stupendous efforts towards a clothing line that’s deep and varied, with everything from feather weight rain shells, to more bulky layers with comfortable fits, rounded out by hand and foot gear that’s the foundation of the company and is still one of their strengths.
I’ve got to give Louie credit for working hard this winter to find backcountry clothing that functioned correctly but still had the youthful, loose cut look he wanted. To that end, he latched on to an OR Motto Jacket and Cloudveil’s uncharacteristically loose fit pant, the Headwall. Sadly, the Headwall is discontinued this year, but perhaps Cloudveil has something similar in the works. At any rate, here is Louie’s take.
Cloudveil Headwall pants & OR Motto jacket
By Louie Dawson
For a while now I have been looking for ski clothing that is functional enough for backcountry and still fits the way I want. Most clothing that is made for AT skiing works great but is usually not loose fitting.
The Headwall pants are nice and baggy but still designed for backcountry or ski area use. They are fairly minimalist, the only feature that I donâ€™t need is the built in belt system, since I usually use a normal belt. Although they are probably too much for really warm spring days, they havenâ€™t been to warm or to cold so far. The heavy softshell fabric insulates fairly well, and the vents combined with breathable fabric ventilate nicely.
I prefer a limited amount of pockets to keep things simple, but I also like to have a back pocket to put my wallet in. Headwall pants have two pockets in front and two in back, the perfect amount. There was mesh on the thigh vents that only allowed them to open two inches or so, which limited the ventilation. I slashed the mesh out with my pocketknife on a recent warm day, and they now work much better (though I have to watch out for mosquitoes).
Of course, the headwall pants have their flaws. They have a built in elastic and Velcro belt system, that does not work very well and seems like a lot of weight, especially since I like using a real belt more anyway. The fit is also a bit strange. I am a skinny guy, and the waist on the medium is just right while the legs are way long. The aforementioned mesh in the vents was an unneeded feature but that was easily fixed. Also, one of the back pockets has a zipper, and one doesn’t, this results it the open one filling up with snow on deep days, I am considering just sewing it shut.
The Motto jacket from OR is a fully waterproof softshell made with Ventia fabric (softshell combined with a membrane, like Gore Windstopper but it seems more waterproof). Ventia is heavier than a waterproof hardshell, but more breathable. Most other softshells I have owned were only waterproof as far as their DWR treatment lasted. This is not the case with the Motto; it has protected me from the heaviest snow and rain I have used it in. It gives up a little in breathability over DWR treated softshells, but not to much, especially since it has pit zips.
Fit and sizing of the Motto are perfect for me. The cuffs fit over my gloves nicely, and the hood is oversized so it fits over my ski helmet. Unfortunately, the big hood is also a disadvantage; I used the Motto for some bike errands on a rainy day, whenever I tried to put the hood on, it fell over my eyes. It is so big that the edge of the hood reached the bottom of my nose. That said, since this is a ski jacket the advantages of the oversized hood outweigh the disadvantages, at least for me.
Motto has four pockets: ipod pocket on the inside, two on the front outside, and one in the back. The front pockets are positioned above the waistbelt of the pack — a terrific feature. The construction is top notch, it is fully seam taped and they use quite a bit of welding. The hood and the powder skirt are removable, which reduces weight a little and a makes carrying a big pack more comfortable. I usually use it with the hood but without the powder skirt. The hood attaches with a zipper and four snaps, so you can hardly tell it is removable when it is on. The only issue I have with the Motto besides the big hood is that it is a little on the heavy side.
The Motto and Headwall combo is a superb all around system, perfect for everything from the lifts to spring corn runs. I don’t get hot or cold that easily, so I only wear a thin base layer under them, and they work great. They both have backcountry functionality combined with the baggy freeride look that I like.
OR Motto jacket (large): 31.3 oz
Removable powder skirt: 2.7 oz
Removable hood: 4.0 oz
Cloudveil headwall pants (medium): 24.3 oz