If you're shopping for an outer shell combo for your freeride and touring adventures, there's no shortage of options. Ortovox is rather new to this scene, but their 3L Deep Shell Pants and Jacket combo should definitely on your list. In our review it proved to offer flawless protection against tough weather, with clever details and great comfort. Read on to find out whether this combo is the right choice for you.
The 3L Deep Shell jacket (€650) and Bib Pant (€580) from Ortovox.
Sometime in December, it felt like an early Christmas when a box from Ortovox arrived with the combo of 3L Deep Shell Jacket and 3L Deep Shell Bib Pants (there is a normal version of the pants, too, if you prefer that style). Of course, it was only a temporary present since I received the outfit just for testing, but I was still excited. What hasn’t been so exciting, though, is this winter. Here around my home—I’d call the eastern part of Upper Bavaria and Tyrol my home mountains—it took until the recent January snowfalls before you could really venture into the off-piste. So it took a while until I could finally put the Ortovox gear to the test.
I didn't get any really long or crazy deep days with the kit. But a few days of touring and resort freeriding, both on- and off-piste in different kinds of weather, leave me confident that my experiences are representative of the conditions that many skiers will put this gear through. Oh, and this review you'll have to live with the imagery provided by Ortovox, since I couldn’t create any nice photos by myself given the present conditions.
Let’s start with a closer look at the product. Both jacket and pants arrived immaculately as you would expect from this kind of kit. All the seams are perfect, no stray filaments or anything else that I could find. Both pieces are also very light: the jacket is just over 600 g and the pants just under 700 g in size L. They feel nice and flexible, nowhere near the suit-of-armor style that was typical for the hardshell of the past. As the name suggests, Ortovox uses a 3-layer style garment with a Dermizax EV membrane from Toray and an inner layer that is made in part from merino wool, which improves insulation according to Ortovox. I haven’t tested it head-to-head with another garment so I couldn't really tell the difference, but it does feel very nice, and it's especially comfy at the collar.
According to Ortovox, the whole combo is totally free of PFC (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals), so neither the membrane nor the coating use these biologically problematic substances. Of course, that's a huge plus. I couldn’t recognize any limitations from this omission in terms of performance compared to traditional gear, which often use PFCs both in their membrane and in the water-repellent coating. However, I wasn’t skiing in pouring rain, and I also can’t report on the longevity of the waterproofing or durability. Nevertheless, I am fairly confident that this outfit will keep up with your normal skiing habits for a very long time. By the way, water resistance in numbers is at least 20,000 mm water-column, the garment is 100% windproof and it breathes at up to 20,000 g per square meter. That said, if you are touring for longer periods of time with the full kit on, you will get sweaty. That's true for any kind of full shell. Again, I haven’t performed any head-to-head tests, but the Ortovox combo behaved very much as I would expect from a top-of-the-line hardshell outfit. No surprises here.
3L Deep Shell Bib Pant from Ortovox
Now let’s look at the specifics. After all, that’s what separates the top outfits from the top brands. You can definitely tell that the design process involved people who used this gear on the mountain a lot! Regarding the pants: the bib style may not be for everyone, but I really do prefer them to normal pants for touring and freeriding. The bib helps to keep out snow on the deep days—not that I had any—but any good snow guard can do the same. The big advantage for me is during touring, since the wind-proof bib will still shelter your core on the way up with your jacket off. On particularly warm days you can let the bib hang down, and a handy waist adjustment with Velcro flaps helps to keep the pants secure around your hips. When it comes to the fit, the size L fits nicely for me at 185 cm tall with a 89 cm inseam, but despite being labeled "loose fit" by Ortovox, the pants are still rather tight on the "freeski scale." Of course, it's still far from a traditional "tight fit" and is actually great for touring. However, if you like to wear some body protection like a back protector, you might consider opting for a bigger size than normal. While wearing a full softshield back protector vest, the Ortovox pants proved to be a bit tight for my liking. But with a slimmer back protector shirt that I use for mountain biking, it worked just fine.
Generally, the cut of the pants is great. The knees are articulated and the material is as stretchy as hardshells get, so nothing ever got in my way while skiing. There are three pockets, two of which are at the front of the thigh—which I consider the ideal placement, since they don’t get in the way with other parts of your gear, are easily accessible and don’t bother much while skiing. The pockets are quite roomy and even offer some extra shelter for the top of your thighs, which is nice on chairlifts. One of the pockets has a sleeve for your mobile phone, but this might be a bit tight if you have an XL phone or like to bring your phone in a cushioned pocket for skiing, like I do. The pocket does have a little carabiner, though, so I could secure my extra phone pocket from falling out. Finally, there is a smaller third pocket in a more traditional spot, which can be handy for carrying a key or small change.
The bib has a long front zipper that works two-way, as do all major zippers on both the pants and the jacket do. That is a nice detail, especially for the boys. Furthermore, the bib pant has two long zippers at the back, one on the left and one on the right side. So if an "emergency situation" occurs on the skin track, you can always drop your seat quickly. I'm not sure how important this feature is for pants meant mainly for freeriding, but maybe I will find out one day. The side zippers also function as ventilation zippers. While this works work okay, it has to be said that they don’t reach as far down as traditional ventilation designs, and they're more exposed than ventilation zips on the inside of the thigh. That may be good or bad, depending on personal preference and the conditions. Personally, this might be my only point for criticism for the Ortovox bib pants. It might just take a bit more getting used to compared to other pants that I have.
Let’s take a look at the jacket now. Regarding the materials, there is no difference to the pants and also the whole style of design is very similar, so it's easy to see that they're intended as a kit. The jacket sports the same general attention to detail as the pants, with a design philosophy that specifically caters to the hardcore freerider. For example, the jacket is clearly intended to be worn together with a backpack. There are only two pockets, positioned high enough so that they will never get in the way of the backpack’s waist belt. They are roomy enough, and one of them features the same sleeve for a mobile phone as the pants, with the same sizing. However, the jacket is curiously missing that neat carabiner feature for the phone sleeve that the pant pocket has.
The jacket has a removable snow guard at the waist which works just fine. Considering the design philosophy, which clearly points to a backpack as a standard piece of kit, it may be a bit superfluous—at least when worn together with the bib pants—but you can always take it out if you don't want it. Interestingly, there are no snow guards at the sleeves, which some wearers may miss. That's a design choice that I appreciate, though, particularly since some underwear or insulation jackets have these type of sleeves these days, and multiple layers usually just get in the way of each other. The ventilation is the traditional armpit-style and works as it should. Finally, the hood of the jacket is really nice, and big enough to fit over a regular ski helmet without problem when it gets really stormy. It can also be trimmed down to fit nicely without a helmet on the uphill with a good system of elastic bands—which isn't the easiest, but also not the worse, to handle with your gloves on. Without gloves or with slim gloves on, the system works perfectly, which cannot be said of all jackets that I own.
The fit of the jacket is in the same ballpark as the pants. Described as "loose fit" by Ortovox, it probably ranks as such on the "ski-touring" scale, but definitely isn't in the freeski world. It works fine, particularly when worn together with the Ortovox pants; however, in case you choose a bigger size pant in order to fit some protective gear, you probably should do the same with the jacket. Also, if you happen to be a judge, photographer or anyone else who stands around a mountain for long periods of time waiting for something to happen, and like to wear an extra-comfy down jacket underneath your shell, you might want to upsize to make room. But of course, these are special-use cases; for normal everyday ski touring and freeriding, I find the Ortovox sizing alright. By the way, both the jacket and the bib pants are also available in women’s versions. They look about the same on the Ortovox website, but I guess that at least the cuts will be different, and the ladies out there should definitely check for any differences before trusting on my findings for this outfit.
So should you treat yourself to the Ortovox 3L Deep Shell Jacket and Bib Pants combo? If you are, like me, into both ski touring and resort-based freeriding and appreciate highly technical, functional and light gear that's still comfortable and easy to use, you can't go wrong with this kid. It also looks good, but that's a highly subjective opinion. I had the combo in pine green, but it's also available in clay orange if you prefer a brighter look. There is a blue version of the jacket that doesn’t go by a fancy color name, and should be combined with the orange pants, I guess. The only thing that might dissuade you is the rather hefty price tag. On the other hand, in addition to being PFC-free, Ortovox also guarantees that this kit is "climate neutral"(the ins and outs of compensating CO2 are a topic for another article), and Ortovox is both a member of the "Fair Wear" initiative and hands out its "Ortovox Wool Promise," which should ensure that both people and animals were treated fairly during the production process. Therefore, if you can afford it and want to do something good to yourself and for the planet, go for it!