By Dougald MacDonald
I’ve been wearing the Bombshell Jacket, the flagship waterproof-breathable shell from Backcountry.com’s new Stoic line, for much of this winter. And after months of backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and a bit of ice climbing, I’m definitely impressed.
At first, I wasn’t at all psyched with the jacket’s fit. At a trailhead in the Indian Peaks, as I pulled on the coat, my female skiing partner gave me that look I know oh-too-well from my wife—the look that says: “You’re not going to wear that, are you?” Don’t get me wrong: The jacket looks sharp. Mine is black with turquoise highlights, and the cut and detailing are fine. The problem is the super-trim fit around the waist, which would have looked great when I was a 145-pounder in college but looks and feels a bit snug as a 162-pounder (OK, 164-pounder).
I almost always wear a medium jacket, and the Bombshell fit me perfectly in the chest, shoulders, and arms; if I sized up, I think there would be too much fabric bunched around these areas. I grew to appreciate the trim cut on long ski tours and while climbing; the jacket fit great under a harness, for example. But it limits your options for layering. If you wear your jacket as a true shell, over multiple insulating layers, think about a larger size. If you wear the shell over light inner layers while moving and throw a puffy over the top when you stop, as I increasingly do, this fit might be perfect. If you’re just thinking about taking up ski touring to lose a few years of accumulated paunch, consider another coat.
Despite my quibbles about the fit, the Bombshell hits nearly every other note perfectly. The weight (about 1.5 pounds for the medium on my postage scale) is perfect for winter, providing a measure of insulation as well as full wind and water protection from the 3-layer, slightly stretchy fabric. Five clean and well-placed external pockets give ample storage options, without adding bulk, and there’s a slick media pocket inside. The jacket’s zips are super-smooth and easy to grab. The powder skirt zips out (which seems to help with the fit, by the way). The hood fits well over most helmets, with a short, stiff brim for visibility, and it has effective adjustments; it feels like there’s a bit too much extra fabric around the neck and chin when the hood is up and the front zip is down, but I appreciated the protection and comfort when I had to zip up completely while skinning into a ground blizzard in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The jacket seemed to breathe well, with mid-length pit zips; unfortunately, the Bombshell failed one of my standard shell-jacket tests, which is ease of use for pit zips. I like to be able to grab the zippers and open or shut the pit openings with gloves and pack on and with no yoga contortions; the Bombshell required too much stopping and fiddling to make adjustments—it seems like the zips are placed slightly too far toward the back. On the other hand, I loved the jacket’s elastic wrist gaiter / monkey paw thingambobs. Normally I feel like these just get in the way, but the Bombshell’s are so clean and unobtrusive that I slipped into the thumb hole and slid into my gloves more often than not, and they definitely kept my hands warmer and drier; when I wasn’t using the gaiters, they seemed to vanish. Thumbs up! (Or is that thumbs in?) Note that I have fairly small hands; guys with bigger mitts might find these cuffs constricting.
After a winter of fairly hard use, including several days of multiple close encounters with the pines on nearby ski hills, my final observation is that the jacket still looks like it just came out of the box. I suspect the Bombshell will last for years, and that makes the quite reasonable $259 retail price look even better. Plus, right now you can get the jacket in most sizes and colors for $181.30 (30 percent off) at Backcountry.com. That’s a steal.