Outdoor Research Skyward Jacket II Review

The Outdoor Research Skyward II is a quality ski jacket that delivers high-end performance. It also comes in at a price that’s more approachable than other top contenders in the category. It works well at the resort and in the backcountry, providing extra versatility in many different conditions. 

Quick Summary

  • Where to buy: Amazon, EVO, REI
  • Best for: Male and female skiers who want an effective, versatile jacket that will offer excellent all-around performance without breaking the bank. 
  • Pros: Affordable and high-end. Comfortable and breathable. Good cold-weather protection and waterproofing. 
  • Cons: Doesn’t come with a large number of additional features. The hood is a little small. 
  • Alternatives: Patagonia Snowshot Jacket, Outdoor Research Ferrosi Jacket, Volcom L GORE-TEX Jacket

Why Trust Me

I have skied all over the world and have decades of experience skiing on, testing, and reviewing different skis and skiing equipment. I heavily researched the Outdoor Research Skyward II jacket and looked into all aspects of its build and performance. Below is my detailed review. 

Detailed Review

This is a solid all-around jacket that will deliver across the board for many different kinds of skiers. It’s not the greatest jacket out there, but it’s much more affordable than other options and manages to offer plenty of protection against the cold and snow. It’s comfortable, versatile, and well built. It could be more durable, but that’s nothing to be alarmed about.

Warmth and Weather

This jacket offers plenty of versatility when it comes to warmth and protection against winter weather. It’s a shell design, which means you don’t get any extra insulation. However, even with that lighter design the jacket helps you regulate and maintain body temperature in rapidly changing conditions. If you expect to be in below zero temperatures, you’ll want to layer up.

In addition to warmth, the Skyward II also does a decent job of blocking out both moisture and wind. It’s not a GORE-TEX jacket, which is part of the reason it’s a lot more affordable than some other options out there, but even then it’s effective at keeping you dry when conditions get bad. That’s largely thanks to the completely waterproof AscentShell that protects you extremely well.

The lack of additional features does mean the jacket won’t always cover you completely, however. If you wear it in a big blizzard, you will notice some drafts coming through, specifically around the waistline. That’s more of a design flaw than anything else, but it’s a definite downside on powder days when it’s really dumping.  

Comfort and Fit

The Skyward II is a comfortable jacket. It’s lightweight, which is great for any backcountry adventures you find yourself on, and it flows freely no matter how you like to ski. For me, one key aspect of a comfortable jacket is the ability to not notice while it’s on. This jacket lives up to that standard (so long as you get the right size) and gives you great freedom of movement without sacrificing performance. 

Part of that comfort is a result of the Skyward’s slightly looser fit. It’s not a slim fitting or tight jacket, which is a preference for many skiers. That allows you to easily add layers when you want or need to or to keep things loose if you’re skinning or touring and want a jacket that won’t hold you back. Lightweight and flexible, the Skyward meets the marks for comfort and fit. 

Another aspect that adds to the Skyward II’s comfort is the excellent ventilation. Anytime you play in the backcountry or ski hard you won’t have to worry about it holding in extra moisture or excess heat. It has good venting and a breathable material that works time and time again.

Construction and Style

As mentioned above, this isn’t a GORE-TEX jacket. While that material is the industry standard, the Skyward II has a solid construction that utilizes different materials. That enables it to give you good protection at a more affordable price point. The AscentShell Electrospun Membrane is the key here. It offers excellent waterproofing while keeping things light, flexible, and breathable. 

A downside to this material is that it’s just not as durable as GORE-TEX. While the jacket will still give you plenty of use, it’s not going to be as bulletproof as some other high-end jackets that have full GORE-TEX construction. That’s a definite trade off when it comes to price, but you should know about it regardless. 

The jacket’s lining features a 100 percent polyester 50D knit backer that adds just a little bit of insulating properties and additional comfort. You also get a venting system throughout each arm that offers extra customized airflow so you can match your needs and activity levels. 

The Skyward II is a stylish looking jacket that’s both modern and simple. It’s not flashy but it’s not boring either. You have the option to choose from several different colorways with contrasting color shades in the torso and arms as well. It’s even available in a women’s and men’s cuts.

Additional Features

The Skyward II isn’t jam-packed with additional features, but it still does have a few things worth mentioning. First, it comes with a helmet-compatible hood. While that works for some, the design is a bit disappointing. The hood runs a little small if your head is large, and it won’t do a lot if the weather gets rough. 

The YKK AquaGuard Zippers are pretty awesome, however. These help to effectively keep out moisture from critical points and the zippers are easy to use despite being pretty burly. The jacket also has plenty of pockets that you can utilize to store additional items, whether that’s small items or snacks. The zipper chest pocket is easy to access and features an internal media pocket for your phone or other devices.  

Some additional design features also worth mentioning are the elastic wrist cuffs and the special draw cord that keeps snow and wind from getting into your jacket. Both features do a good job of ensuring warmth stays in and the cold stays out.

Price and Value

The price is right for the Skyward II due to how approachable it is for a higher-end jacket. Even though you don’t get GORE-TEX construction and extra durability, I’d still give the garment excellent value for its comfort and performance. If you want to save a few hundred dollars and still get a high-quality jacket, this is one of the best options out there. 

What I Like

My favorite aspects of the Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket are its price and its comfort. These are my two main parameters for any ski jacket purchase, and it’s always nice to find something that meets the standard. Performance is another essential aspect for serious skiers, and this jacket does a great job at keeping you warm and comfortable. That’s just not one of my favorite things about it.

This jacket is extremely comfortable. A lightweight and flexible construction makes that possible, holding it to a comfort standard that I can definitely recommend. You won’t be disappointed with how this jacket feels, no matter if you wear it on its own or with a multitude of layers underneath.  You’ll barely notice it, and that’s the highest praise I can give.

The jacket’s lower price is a big bonus for me. The model provides you with high-end comfort and excellent performance without totally destroying your wallet. It’s not a budget jacket and will still set you back a couple hundred dollars, but that’s not too bad when compared to some of the other high-end jackets on the market. The price point alone makes the jacket worth looking into. 

What I Don’t Like

My primary dislike here is that the Skyward II isn’t as durable as jackets made with Gore-Tex. While many options don’t offer a high level of waterproofness or weather resistance if not made with the sturdy material, the Skyward II certainly delivers. However, the material used in this model’s design is just not as strong as I would have liked. If you don’t ski hard, that probably won’t be an issue, but if you beat up your gear, you can quickly burn through this jacket. 

That being said, it’s not like this jacket is going to fall apart right away. It’s tough, but could be better. That’s the tradeoff you make for getting a more budget-friendly option with slightly less quality materials. I would expect this jacket to last for several seasons under normal use and maybe only a single one under extremely heavy use. 

The only other thing I don’t like about this jacket is that it doesn’t allow you to batten down the hatches when conditions really get bad. The hood and its brim are both a bit undersized, which translates into a loss of one critical line of defense if you find yourself in a heavy blizzard. That’s another small complaint, but it’s a complaint, nonetheless. 

The Alternatives

If you’re looking for a good alternative to the Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket, take a look at some of these other options. They are all a bit more budget-friendly, but still offer plenty of comfort and protection. 

  • Patagonia Snowshot JacketThis is a more affordable option from Patagonia that will give you excellent protection from the elements, has a quality construction, and comes from a trusted brand name. It can run a little small, so you’ll want to size up accordingly if you’re a larger skier, but there isn’t a lot of downside here.
  • Outdoor Research Ferrosi JacketThe Ferrosi is more of a warmer weather or lightweight shell option, but that makes it affordable and a good choice for those who want to add a little versatility to their setup. It comes in a large variety of different colors and offers pretty good weather protection for a lighter jacket. 
  • Volcom L GORE-TEX JacketThe Volcom L GORE-TEX Jacket is a great option for anyone who wants the benefits of GORE-TEX without spending top dollar. This model is effective for just about any skier or snowboarder. It’s comfortable as well. 

FAQs

Why doesn’t the Skyward II use GORE-TEX? 

This jacket is made with an AscentShell membrane that, while reliable, is different than GORE-TEX. It’s cheaper to use, and that lower cost is most likely why it’s used here. 

Does this jacket come in a women’s specific fit? 

Yes, the Skyward II is available in both women’s and men’s fits. There are a variety of different sizes available for each as well. 

Is this jacket insulated? 

No, it’s not. However, the 3-in-1 construction still offers good warmth and protection against the elements. 

Final Verdict 

The Outdoor Research Skyward II Jacket is a comfortable, affordable model that’s great for skiers at all levels. It’s reliable in different conditions and comes with great ventilation. It lacks the durability you’ll find in options that are made with GORE-TEX, and you’ll want to be well prepared in truly nasty winter conditions, but it’s still highly recommended for its price, versatility, and performance. 

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