I have been looking for a lightweight windshell to add to my backcountry skiing layering system for some time. This spring I tried out First Ascent's High Season WindShell Jacket. As you know most windshells are a simple cut of DWR coated ripstop nylon layer, they can fit into your back pocket and are ultra light. Only thing is they don't breath so well on the up track, so though it cuts the wind it can end up steamy on the inside. It looks like First Acsent had this on their mind when they and decided to innovate the classic windshell and came up with the High Season WindShell Jacket. With this jacket they have essentially gone hybrid by introducing a more breathable four way stretch material into areas where you need to vent. This technique is a recent development in outdoor apparel often referred to as body mapping or zonal construction. It is designed to provide the weather resistance you need whilst allowing for breathability.
Womans First Ascent High Season Wind Shell Jacket.
Mens First Ascent High Season Wind Shell Jacket.
The High Season Wind Shell Jacket uses a lightweight, windproof, 2.44-oz. 70-denier 100% ripstop nylon with StormRepel® DWR finish in the body, shoulders and hood. This protects the most exposed areas of your upper body from wind. A breathable, four-way stretch woven 90-denier 88% nylon/12% spandex with StormRepel® DWR finish is used in the back, sleeves and hood panel of the jacket. The four-way stretch fabric not only optimizes breathability, it also allows for freedom of movement and a more tailored fit for active pursuits so it won't flap in the wind.
Other features on the jacket include:
- A minimal hood that can stretch over a small helmut.
- A minimal hood that can stretch over a small helmut.
- One internal chest pocket with media port and two hip pockets, all with zip closures.
- Single hand hem drawcord
- Elasticized cuffs
- A refelctive area for visibility at dawn or dusk
In action on the approach to Mt Olive, Wapta traverse.
This jacket is a keeper. I first tested it out on the multi-day Wapta traverse (above) and it's such a practical layer that I wore it non-stop for the entire 5 day trip. Firstly it's super comfortable, it's a trim cut that has the flexibility to move with your body, the fabric never feels sticky or clammy. When you are wearing you pack, your back can breath. When you're on the move your body can breath. I kept it on when the sun was heating things up just to protect my arms and it could still breath enough so I didn't cook from the inside. Even though it is highly breathable it cuts the wind well so is ideal for ridge walking. It's well constructed, the zippers are easy to locate and toggle with gloves on. It's lightweight and highly packable. Oh and the hood fabric doesn't crackle so when you have the hood it's not noisy. I also skied downhill in this jacket in spring conditions and it performed well enough. The stretchier fabric on the forearms was great at resisting snags in the trees.
Aside from the depths of winter or really cool temperatures I am ditching my softshell layer and replacing it with this jacket. It is so much lighter and keeps me warm on the up-track without overheating. I would also use this jacket for hiking, climbing, biking or any other pursuit where you need to go light and fast.
I initially was worried colour of the woman's jacket would be more susceptible to getting grubby. I have been wearing the jacket for more than two months now and it's still looking good as new.
All this and did I mention the price on this jacket?
Weight: 8.64 oz / 245g (Women) 10oz / 284g (Men)
Colours: Glacier (Women), Ascent Blue (Men)
Sizes: XS-XL (XXL available in Mens)
Great cut, well-thought through zonal construction, highly breathable, wind-cutting, lightweight, comfortable good looking and affordable.
The light grey not so practical for staying clean long term.
Want more reviews on First Ascent products? Check out this one on the First Ascent Hyalite Jacket, or the First Ascent Seaba Heli Guide Jacket. Don't miss the 2010 Gear of the Year Award winning First Ascent Front Point Jacket. And for the off-season, how about the First Ascent High Route Shirt and Guide Pants review.
Fit / Mobility 2/2
Quality / Price 2/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.
UPDATE APRIL 2013:
The First Ascent High Season Wind Jacket has seen a full season of ski touring now and has kept me warm on plenty a windy ridge and long up track. It's part of my dedicated ski touring kit and is my 2nd layer after my base layer. It rarely comes off while ski touring unless it is a particularly warm day. It has completed the Wapta Traverse and countless other ski touring missions and peak bagging outings. So far it performs as stated in the review and so far I am one happy camper.
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