Made in Canada, and tough enough to stand up to the worst I could throw at it. Meet the Westcomb Vapor jacket.
I have a love-hate relationship with hard shell jackets.
Actually, I think it’s hate-hate.
Waterproof-breathable hard shell jackets tend to be pretty darn expensive. Back in the day, I had an Arc’teryx Alpha SV that was seriously expensive, but shrugged off several hundred days of abuse before giving up the ghost. But then jackets got lighter weight and membranes - in a quest to improve breathability, seemed to became more delicate.
All of a sudden I found my several hundred dollar jackets lasting only a couple of seasons before they started delaminating or my chest-mount camera bag wearing right through the front.
I ain’t rich enough to replace a $600 jacket every season.
When a Westcomb Vapor jacket showed up on my doorstep, by the time I’d gotten it out of it’s packaging, I though I might be finally looking at something with the sort of bomber durability of my old Arc’teryx Alpha SV.
It ain’t Vapor Light
but it ain’t light
Westcomb Vapor Jacket
Intended Use: Skiing
Advertised Weight: 658g
Measured Weight: 680g
Membrane: eVent XPD
Size tested: Small
Where to get it: Westcomb
It’s name might be ‘Vapor’, but it ain’t light. When you compare it to my go-to summer hard shell, the OR Helium II, which clocks in at a whopping 164g, it’s immediately apparent that we’re talking about an entirely different animal.
A more fair comparison would be to my normal ski touring jacket - the Arc’teryx Procline Comp - a hard shell/soft shell combo jacket that was my go-to jacket last season. That one clocks in at 403.5g which is still 275g lighter than the Westcomb Vapor.
Putting the Vapor through it’s paces
Reviews written after using a piece of gear for ten minutes drive me nuts - and that’s because how durable something is really matters to me. To that end, I’ve put the Vapor through several months of abuse. Couloir poaching up 93N, Rogers Pass pow missions, anything where I wanted a burly jacket, I grabbed the Vapor for a few months to see how it would hold up.
The answer is that it has held up just fine with regards to wear and tear, and has some design features I seriously appreciate. The collar comes up seriously high - in a storm you can retreat into the jacket. The chest pockets are big enough to stash my gloves, toque, or anything else that feels important.
Finally, there's no awkward seams or toggles that I could find - no pressure points when I was carrying a pack, the bungies and zippers stay out of your face, it's by and large a jacket you don't notice - which is a good thing.
The biggest downside in my book is that it's just too big. When the ski season shifts into mountaineering season, my desire for low profile gear increases. The burly material of the Westcomb Vapor can shrug off groveling up snice covered rock, but the baggy cut can be an annoyance.
SUPER burly. Still looks brand new after several months of hard use. I haven’t had a jacket hold up this well in ages.
eVent breathes really well and (in my anecdotal experience) holds up better than most other membranes I’ve tried out.
Sleeves are long enough for my freakishly Ape-Index positive arms.
The hood is giant and fits over ski helmets without issue.
The collar goes super high, zip it up and turtle down a bit and you’ve basically gotten out of whatever storm you’re facing.
It’s huge. Seriously, they could cut out 100g worth of extra material without issue. I’m 5’10 and 160lbs and I have boatloads of room in this thing. I hope Westcomb decides to either revise the fit on the Vapor, or come out with an extra-small (and a double-extra-small) - that maintains the sleeve length which is perfect. There’s really way more room through the body and sleeves than you need - this not only adds weight, but also makes it a pain when climbing - the material flapping around gets caught on things. I like low-profile jackets that don’t get in my way.
A powder skirt? Really? No back-country jacket should have a powder skirt. They add weight, potentially cause pressure points under your help belt and serve no purpose when you’re wearing a pack. I seriously hate these things.
It weighs a ton. If they fix my two prior concerns, the weight would be way more competitive, which is why I’m bringing this up again. I don’t mind extra weight for a purpose (durability), but I’d like it if Westcomb trimmed down the fit and ditched the non-essentials to bring the weight down a bit.
Compare it With:
So What’s the Verdict on the Westcomb Vapor?
I really like it. I really, really like it. I would love it if it was trimmer, and ditched the non-essential features like the powder skirt, because that would shave off some weight and simultaneously improve functionality by making it suitable for more general alpine usage. Despite those quibbles, overall this is my favourite tree-skiing jacket. Alpine climbing, the baggy fit, and portly weight are pretty tough to look past, but hey, I’ve got other tools for that stuff. For ski touring in harsh environments though - this jacket rocks. For the first time in ages, I have zero concerns crashing through branches or scrambling up a gully. The jacket also breathes well and has the best hood and collar I’ve ever used.
From one Canadian to another, give this jacket a shot.
Grumpy, cantankerous, wildly opinionated and so much more! Getting really tired on skis is what makes me happy.