With a slew of waterproof-breathable jackets on the market designed for dragging up chairs and slamming down slopes, narrowing down to a few, durable, and well-performing candidates can be a challenge. If style is your criteria, then much of the following discussion will be moot; though I find the Arc’Teryx Stingray a stylin’ tweed, the point here is that this is one bomber jacket that is versatile for a number of winter activities.
I’ve had an Arc’Teryx Stingray for three seasons. I now own the 2011 edition, which is redesigned from the ground up with noticeable improvements over previous versions.
The 2011 Stingray uses Gore-Tex Softshell, which is not what the rest of the entire universe calls a “softshell” fabric but is the Gore-Tex membrane bonded to a microfleece on the inside and a durable nylon on the outer. The outer shell of the Stingray is abrasion-resistant; not quite as bomber as the Pro Shell jackets, but more durable than you’d think, and an upgrade over the previous editions of the jacket. I find the microfleece (which is super-micro and not that much fleece) to be a bonus for winter use. The microfleece absorbs dampness and sweat, as well as adding slight warmth to the shell, which I find reduces clamminess. I dig Gore-Tex Softshell; my Mammut pants use G’T Softshell too.
The Stingray has a decent length—long enough to cover your behind on the chair and to keep the snow out, but not so long that it feels like an oversized garbage bag fit to hide a park rat. The Stingray features a powder skirt, which I find indispensible in keeping out—wait for it—the powder (others detest them as they apparently limit venting and airflow; I’ve never found this to be the case). The powder skirt is not removable.
There’s full-length pit-zips that, like all quality A’T gear, feature rubber-sealing high-end zippers. The sleeves have efficient, slim cuffs (not much to say there except that they work and don’t eat fluff), and there’s both a drawcord around the bottom of the jacket and just below the waist on the powder skirt. But we’re just getting to the good part: the high collar and the hood.
I can’t stand “winter” jackets that don’t have a distinct collar from the hood (save those aiming to save weight for alpinism/touring). I want to be able to drop the hood but keep the collar high. If I can’t do that, and have the hood-collar combo zipped up when whipping downhill, I find the hood billows out like a parachute. The Stingray is a true skier’s jacket—the hood drops down with the collar up, and stays put when laying down into mach speed. The hood is spacious, large enough to pull over my Smith helmet, has an adjustable drawcord and a brim, and offers serious weather protection when it’s storming. (It’s also been completely redesigned from its previous incarnation—for the better.) As for the collar, it has some sweet microfleece on a flap over the zipper, and comes up high enough to reach the nose when scrunching down when the wind is whipping. A drawcord around the neck cinches it all up.
The Stingray has served me well, and I use it often for touring. Frankly I like a somewhat burly jacket in the backcountry—though keeping in mind this is Arc’Teryx, and all the usual weight-saving measures apply, from precise seam-taping to minimalist design throughout. But overall, give me a good shell. If you’re looking for the lightest jacket, this is not it. But neither is the even at all close to being the heaviest jacket out there (especially compared to the stylin’ brands with their bazillion MP3 player pockets and digital doodads). The Stingray is certainly light for its class. Underneath, all that I wear is a softshell jacket (a real softshell, made with Windstopper—North Face Summit series), and a merino longsleeve baselayer (Icebreaker 180 GT). That’s my standard ski uniform for nearly all conditions. When I’m heading uphill, if it’s really getting warm I vent or remove the shell and underneath the softshell is ready to go. If it’s cold, the shell stays on and I vent with the zips. It’s a worthy system in the Coast Mountains when temperatures range from 15 below to plus 5 or so, often in a single day. In these conditions, the Stingray is a versatile, bomber piece to have as your outerwear.
The Arc’Teryx Stingray is available online at Escape Route and in-store in Whistler.