Every jacket brand has their own technology/innovations claiming their jacket is the best, but there is no consistency between brands to gauge which jacket would be better. The only consistency I was able to find was to compare the amount of insulation (in term of grams) in each jacket. But even then, most jacket brands call their insulation technology by different names or have a different rating scale. Even the website www.thegoodride.com, mentions that there is no industry standard for comparing jackets and which make it very difficult to do extensive reviews on jackets.
I made it my goal this fall to find a really warm snowboard jacket. Here in eastern Canada, it gets wicked cold during the winter months. The coldest I have ever snowboarded in was -36C and the wind hollowing. I know people have been saying the key to staying warm is to layer up. But honestly, how many layers do I need to stay warm in - 40C weather? I tried to layer up with all types of different base layers, mid-layers and coat combination, but yet I was still getting cold and after I had on all those layers I felt like my movement was really limited. Something wasn't right.
I was determined this year to find a super warm snowboard jacket and one where I didn't have to layer up, but full discretion, I'm super particular about my jackets and this review is only what I think makes a great jacket. You might have a different opinion on what you think is a great jacket. Over my 15 years of riding, I have learned what I like and don't like in a jacket. This might not be the same for everyone, but to me, a great jacket has a bunch of little-hidden features that make it far superior to other jackets.
I'm happy to report that I have found the jacket that is going to be my cold weather jacket! I think this one is a winner.
I recently pick up Burton's [ak] Heiltrack jacket in Sparrow red. I got it about two months ago and finally had a chance to give it a full test at Mont Tremblant, a place that is notorious with being cold and windy. The Sunday I went up was typical of Tremblant, -20C, windy and the top of the mountain was in a thick cloud. You couldn't even see the chairlift in front of you. This would be a perfect test bench to do a full review of the jacket.
My first impression of the jacket was that the jacket was really well built. All the seams and stitch work was tight and neatly done. What I also thought was clever was the seam placement. The seams around the jacket all are fashioned in a way that would mimic the bodies natural movement. I was a little surprised when I open the packaging, that the jacket wasn't as puffy as I expected it to be. I know it's not down filled, but a jacket that was 100g of insulation in the arms and 120g of insulation in the body, I anticipated it to be a little bulkier. I was pleasantly surprised at how light the jacket weighed.
As I mentioned above there are certain features I look for in a jacket that I think make a great jacket. The first thing that drew my attention to this particular jacket was the zipper flap was in the inside of the jacket. This might not be a deal breaker, but I ride goofy 90% of the time and on most jackets that have a zipper flap, they open towards the left. If you ride goofy this is a terrible feature because as you ride the flap catches the wind and channels it right into the zipper and into the jacket. At the bottom of the jacket, there is also a snap that keeps the bottom from the jacket from opening up when you bend over.
Another feature I look for in a jacket is a jacket that has a good sized hood. There is nothing more frustrating then being on a chairlift when it's -30 and the wind is blowing at your back and you have the mess around trying to get your hood over your helmet. I have had jackets before where I had to almost fully unzip my jacket to get the hood over my helmet. For me, my hood needs to be able to slide over my helmet, even when the front zipper is done up all the way around my neck. This jacket has a perfectly sized hood for that. If I have to pull the hood over my helmet it is comfortable and it makes a nice seal around my helmet and stays in place when I feel like riding really fast. The only issue I had with the hood was when I was riding really fast. If I had my hood up and the zipper all the way up, the collar of the jacket covered my mouth and it actually made a tight seal on my face making it a little difficult to breathe.
The real question, was this jacket warm enough? The day I went out riding it was -20 and the wind was hollowing and the wind kicked up all these small ice crystals. It was like getting sandblasted. All I had on under my jacket was my Ninja suit by Air Blaster and a Stompy Wax hoodie and I was toasty warm all day. The jacket is made with Burton's GORE-TEX 2L Fabric and it does a great job of keeping the wind out but still being breathable. You don't feel any drafts while wearing it. The jacket is mapped with Stretch Insulation and Engineered Buttery Soft, Stretch Lightweight 20 Denier Down-Proof Lining (120G Body / 100G Hood and Sleeves) which I feel does a great job of keeping in the warmth.
The only issue I have with the jacket so far is the armpit vents do not have any sort of mesh fabric over the opening. They just open right up. This isn't a deal breaker, but I would have liked to have seen some type of mesh fabric there to keep the snow out. Whenever I'm riding in deep pow I like to have some air flow, but I'm worried the pit vents are going to let in a bunch of snow into my jacket. We will have to see what happens next time I head out to BC in search of pow.
Anyways I hope you enjoyed reading my review of my new jacket. I'm really happy with it and I think Burton has done a really good job of delivering what the claim to be their warmest synthetic insulated GORE-TEX jacket.
Keep the stoke high