Piz Bernina Specifications

While Ortovox’s Piz Bernina jacket has the appearance of being ‘just another down jacket,’ hikers who try the product can’t help but be surprised. This German skiing and mountaineering company has engineered one of the first of its kind—a Swiss wool jacket shrouded in windproof, water-resistant micro ripstop nylon. Equipped with a hood, three pockets, wrist snow cuffs and two sizable merino/polyester back and pit vents, Ortovox is a staple for winter hikers who are interested in a coat that breathes just as much as it insulates.

Stuffed with spun virgin wool, treated to prevent clumping, the jacket features a ripstop nylon outer layer stitched into numerous insulation chambers that trap air and keep the wool spread out. One of the most innovative assets of the wool-filled jacket is that it offers an alternative to down jackets, which can be less-than-ideal for those living in wet or snowy climates. While admittedly down is an excellent insulator, it loses most of its insulating properties when wet.  Alternatively, the Swiss wool formula insulates even when wet, making this a go-to jacket for rain, sleet, snow and everything in between.

Piz Bernina: A Versatile Jacket

Because the makers of the Piz Bernina jacket claimed to have designed a versatile mountaineering coat, I decided to try it out for all—okay, most—of its intended uses.

©Photo courtesy of Ortovox

Summiting

The Piz Bernina jacket was a delight for winter mountain climbing, as the back vents prevented me from overheating during my ascent. The windproof/waterproof nylon shell kept me and warm during my glissade descent, keeping me dry without a raincoat. Because the sizable vents were made from a combination of merino and polyester, they prevented snow from entering the jacket and kept me relatively dry. The jacket’s tight fit and insulated hood kept me balmy on the mountain peaks.

Skiing

The Piz Bernina is notably a ski jacket, so I felt obligated to test it out on the slopes. For this test I wore the Piz Bernina between my wool base layer and snowboarding jacket. I found that the jacket’s back and pit vents line up with most conventional venting ski shells and rain coats, providing one of the most comfortably climate-controlled snowboarding experiences I’ve had. The wrist snow gaiters were a nice perk for some of my less-than-agile descents, and the inside pocket was a great asset for safely stowing my wallet and phone.

[Urban] Hiking

The jacket is a wonderful insulating asset for snowshoe trips, overnights and hikes. This lightweight (just 480 grams) and compactible jacket is easy to fit into a backpack, and its Swiss wool interior/nylon/polyester exterior allows it to dry relatively quickly for use day after day. From the trail to the city streets, the Piz Bernina’s zipper pockets are an excellent amenity, while the jacket’s chic appearance makes it accepted by business-casual aficionados (at least in Seattle).

The Review

While I absolutely loved the jacket’s windproof coating, ironically the polyester vents unsurprisingly allowed the chilling wind to pour in (when not are wearing a backpack). Although the jacket’s wrist snow gaiters are conceptually an exceptional asset for keeping the snow out of the jacket, it would have been great to have thumb holes to keep them from slipping upward during my less-than-coordinated snow-time ventures (note: integrated mitts may be available on newer models). While the jacket does have a built-in stuff sack, it is quite a struggle to actually fit it inside, which may result public embarrassment.

Pros:

-Swiss wool-stuffed

-Back/pit merino/polyester vents offer superior ventilation

-Windproof/waterproof-treated micro ripstop nylon shell

-Versatile: great for skiing, hiking, backpacking, cold office buildings

-Compactible, with built-in stuff sack

-1 stowaway pocket, 2 outside zipper pockets

-Tight-fitting hood and body for superior insulation

Cons:

-Stuff sack too small

-Wrist cuffs too short, lack thumb-holes

-Back/pit vents sometimes work too well

Final Thoughts:

The jacket’s versatility makes it a great asset to winter outdoor adventures. No matter what kind of trip you are planning, the Piz Bernina jacket is an asset to have along the way. With more than 30 years of experience manufacturing mountaineering equipment, Ortovox knows what they’re doing. So if you’re in the market for purchasing a ski jacket, a hiking jacket and a mountaineering jacket, why buy all three in one coat?

Jacket Specifications

Date Available=currently available

Manufacturer’s Website: Ortovox

Weight: 480 grams

Materials: Shell: Nylon. Insulation: 88% spun Swiss wool, 12% Polyactide (pressed corn oil). Vents: 27% Merino, 61% Polyester, 4% EA, Inside Collar: 80% Merino, 20% Polyester.

Comfort Range: (-25 F to 10 F)

Size Tested: Medium

Fitting: European Sizing (purchase one size larger than usual)

Availability: Women size XS-XL, Men size S-XXL

Colors: Women & Men (grey quartz, blue ocean, red wine, black raven)

©Melissa Farage

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