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The Duel: Men's Ski Touring Outerwear

Big-deal outerwear companies collaborate to design backcountry-oriented bibs and jackets.

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Backcountry x Flylow kit
Backcountry’s entire namesake line includes skis, gloves, and more.Photo courtesy of Backcountry

TREW and Flylow are known for their bomber bibs that dedicated backcountry skiers swear by. So it comes as no surprise that each brand has started working with other radical brands to make better-than-ever jackets and bibs specifically tailored for backcountry ski touring.

This season Oregon-based TREW created a backcountry-specific kit with CAPOW! guides, a ski guiding operation based in snowy Revelstoke, B.C. Flylow, on the other hand, has roots in the Colorado high-country, and worked with Utah-based online retailer Backcountry to design a full touring kit made with Polartec NeoShell fabric. 

SKI took both kits to notoriously wet Whistler Blackcomb and then to the Colorado Rockies to put them through the wringer. Here’s our take on each. 

TREW CAPOW! Jacket and Bibs

Trew kit interior
Hey, where’d my watches go?Photo courtesy of TREW

TREW used Dermizax NX fabric to build both the jacket and bibs, which met and exceeded expectations in the freezing rain of British Columbia and blustery snow of Colorado without compromise. The jacket also incorporates fabric that stretches in key locations, and the bib uses flexible buckles on the suspenders to prevent chafing in the skin track. 

TREW Capow Jacket in Sunrise
The TREW CAPOW! Jacket in SunrisePhoto courtesy of TREW

The kit also withstood strenuous abuse from weather and wear during long days in the Colorado backcountry. The jacket’s roomy interior pockets successfully accommodated skins during descents, and the dedicated avalanche transceiver pocket in the bibs keeps a beacon in the perfect spot on every ski tour. The Dermizax NX fabric is so breathable and comfortable, we forgot the jacket had pit zips during one tour.

While the colors might be designed for visibility, a critical factor for guides, we have to admit that we were turned off by the Sunrise color of the TREW CAPOW! jacket. It doesn’t match the toffee bibs, which aren’t the most inspiring color either. But if backcountry skiers are looking to distinguish themselves from the resort crowds, this interesting colorway may be just the thing. 

Besides the color, we had no complaints with TREW CAPOW! kit. TREW sets a new standard with the bib pants in particular, which, considering the brand’s history of unbreakable bibs, is impressive. [MSRP $449 (jacket), $449 (bibs);]

Backcountry x Flylow Grizzy Gulch Jacket and Mill D Bibs

Backcoutry x Flylow kit
The Backcountry x Flylow Grizzly Gulch Jacket and Mill D Bibs.Photo courtesy of Backcountry

The Backcountry x Flylow Grizzly Gulch jacket and Mill D bibs use Polartec NeoShell fabric, which is soft to the touch and is especially supple, despite not having any stretch. It also breathes phenomenally well, and the pit-zips provide an additional venting system. One tester, who wore both the bibs and jacket during a full day of touring in the Colorado backcountry, claimed that the kit stays comfy “without overheating or having the humidity in my outerwear rise to the level of the Everglades.”

The other key features of the Backcountry x Flylow kit include well-designed retention systems in the bib’s chest pocket for ski touring skins. Two straps with low-profile hooks can be used to hold folded skins close to the body during descents, which prevents glue freezing issues that sometimes occur in internal jacket pockets.

One drawback of the Backcountry x Flylow collab kit: it just didn’t hold up well in wet snow and a “wintery mix” of freezing rain nearly as well as the TREW CAPOW! jacket and bibs. The NeoShell fabric became saturated waiting for the Whistler Gondola in 38-degree rain, and then froze at mid-mountain, negating the suppleness of the fabric entirely.

But thankfully we don’t often encounter weather like that in Colorado, and the kit performed well in the high, dry snow of the Colorado Rockies. [MSRP: $430 (jacket), $320 (bibs);]

The Verdict

Both jacket/bib combos are perfect for the regions they were designed to perform in. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, TREW’s CAPOW! kit will hold up to all types of weather and long days in the skin track. The Backcountry x Flylow kit is made to excel in drier conditions, and, we have to admit, looks better overall. Our testers still wear both kits regularly, so there’s no real loser—both do what they are designed to do, and do it well.