Gear Review: Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Kit

Clay Malott | | Gear ReviewGear Review
The 2022 Skytour AscentShell kit. Credit: Outdoor Research

This past season, I had the opportunity to test Outdoor Research’s new Skytour AscentShell kit. I’ve broken the review up into 5 sections: fit, uphill performance, protection from the elements, miscellaneous pros/cons, and “the bottom line.” This is my initial, unbiased review of the kit – both the shell and the bibs.

Reviewer Stats:

  • Name: Clay Malott
  • Days with the Skytour AscentShell kit: 25
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 170lbs
  • Testing location: Aspen, Colorado; Lake Tahoe, California


I’m a tall, slender person, so it’s usually hard to ski clothes that fit particularly well. I had to order the bibs in a size large to ensure that the legs were long enough. However, as a person with fairly skinny legs, this meant that there was some extra space in the legs. Ultimately, the fit worked out well, and the extra room provided lots of mobility without resistance, which I loved. For most people, the fit in the legs should be excellent!

Another thing I loved about the bibs was how easy Outdoor Research made them to adjust. The bibs feature super easy straps that make adjusting a breeze, so getting the ultimate fit is quite easy.

The fit on the jacket was excellent. It runs a little big, so I had a bit of extra room, but not to the point where I’d list it as a complaint. Just like the extra space in the legs, I found that the extra room in the jacket allowed increased mobility and ultimately a better touring experience. The adjustability of the jacket was another huge pro. A great sinch-system powder skirt was great for quickly tightening up the bottom of the jacket to keep snow out. The hood was plenty big enough to fit over a helmet, but when I didn’t have a helmet on while touring up, a similar sinch system made it super easy to tighten the hood around my head a bit more so that it wasn’t flopping everywhere.

Overall, I was super pleased with the fit of both the bibs and the jacket shell.

Uphill performance

This kit was incredible on the uphill. Credit: Clay Malott

Before I start an in-depth analysis of the uphill performance, I’ll start by saying these were the best hardshell layers that I’ve ever toured in. The confluence of ventilation and mobility made touring in these a breeze.

First, the ventilation. The Skytour AscentShell kit tours like a softshell jacket. Even on tough, warm tours, there was never any moisture buildup or condensation on the inside of the layers from sweat. They breathe ridiculously well, and air temperature alone never caused me to overheat. When I began to run a bit hot, the vent placement on the jacket came in handy. The vents are placed strategically directly underneath the armpits and extend decently far down the torso and arms. This allowed for super-efficient moisture and heat transfer and kept me very comfortable.

However, the black color of the jacket made sunny days difficult, particularly in the spring, when the sun angle makes the radiation so intense. The jacket absorbed lots of sun and got hot quite easily. But on cloudy, stormy days, or particularly cold sunny days, I never had to change layers once. That’s the beauty of having such a versatile hardshell jacket, and for that reason, I was absolutely blown away by the Skytour AscentShell material.

The bibs also breathed and performed very well on the skin track. The bibs feature long vents on both legs, which helped keep me cool on very warm days.

Perhaps my favorite part about the uphill performance on both the bibs and the jacket was the mobility. As I mentioned above, as a tall, skinny person, the layers fit a bit big on me, which ultimately provided more freedom in my movements. However, the material itself provided tons of mobility that I’ve never experienced before in a hardshell jacket. The material is quite stretchy, making the uphill genuinely enjoyable. The feeling of taking off your boots and putting them into casual shoes back at the car? That’s the same feeling I got after touring in the Skytour AscentShell kit: liberating.


I definitely appreciated the excellent moisture protection (and powder skirt + bib) on deep days like this! Credit: Clay Malott

Of course, the main reason to buy a hardshell jacket over a softshell jacket is for protection from the elements. The Skytour AscentShell excelled in this regard. Even during the heaviest snowfall, the layers never soaked through and got me wet underneath. On exposed ridgetops during high winds, the kit kept me warm and protected from the elements. Even during a somewhat miserable rain event this spring, the water simply beaded up and slid off the jacket and bibs, leaving me 100% dry.

With a jacket this light and breathable, it’s extremely hard to also get weather protection this good. However, this was really the first dedicated touring jacket that I’ve tested that I feel genuinely competes with heavier waterproof hardshells. I can’t think of a day where I’d prefer a different outer layer over the Skytour AscentShell.


This section is dedicated to highlighting some of the various pros and cons of the jacket. One huge pro of the bibs was the dedicated beacon pocket on the chest. Not only does it mean that you don’t have to wear a cumbersome and uncomfortable beacon strap, but it also makes access infinitely easier; important for both pulling it out to do a beacon check at the trailhead or in an emergency avalanche rescue situation, when every second counts.

Another great feature of the jacket is the pass pocket on the left sleeve. When I skied with the Skytour kit in the resort, this was super convenient to keep my RFID pass in. In the backcountry, I like storing chapstick and sunscreen in this pocket, since it allows such easy access.

One minor gripe I have is with the zipper. The zipper extends quite far up onto the face, which is great for protection but also ended up rubbing on my chin a bit while skiing. This is a gripe I have with other hardshells, too, not just the Skytour in particular. Overall, not a big deal at all, but I’d be interested to see if Outdoor Research could come up with any solutions for this problem in future models!

The bottom line

All things considered, this is the best hardshell setup I’ve ever tested. The Skytour’s protection from the elements, the uphill performance, the lack of “fiddle factor” (easy-access pockets, easy to zip vents, etc), and more make the Skytour AscentShell bibs and jacket absolutely excellent choices for anyone looking for a hardshell kit to tour with. In fact, I loved the performance of the Skytour kit so much that it ended up seeing significant use in the resort for me, just because it’s so great to ski with, particularly in poor weather. And all that for the price of just $700 for the entire kit is pretty incredible.

Days like this are incredible no matter what, but the Skytour kit made them even better! Credit: Clay Malott

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