Freeride | Dec 10, 2021

Freeride jackets for maximum off-piste fun

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You want to take up freeriding and think that your usual outerwear will do just fine? Think again! Hiking through powder or skinning up a mountain face quite literally is no walk in the park. This means that you will probably get hotter than usual and sweat more profusely. In turn, this means that you might feel a lot colder than usual on your way down.

That’s why freeride jackets need to be extremely waterproof and breathable. Additional features such as zip ventilation against overheating will also make your backcountry adventures a lot more pleasant. With longer cuts and more relaxed fits, freeride jackets are generally more durable and sturdier than regular ski jackets.

But let’s start at the beginning: What makes a jacket suitable for freeriding? What are the properties and features you should look out for?

Together with the experts of Helly Hansen, INTERSPORT Rent has compiled a list of things to keep in mind when buying a freeride ski jacket. Let’s dive right in!

What types of freeride jackets are there?

Hardshells: Shell jackets usually feature a layer of waterproof fabric, lined with a breathable membrane. However, they don’t have any insulation. Hardshells are usually combined with any number of midlayers to keep you warm. This makes them very versatile and suitable for all weather conditions. Also, backcountry-goers love shell jackets for their improved technical features.

Insulated jackets: Insulated jackets are a popular type of freeride jacket. Due to insulation in the outer layer, they offer warmth and protection from the weather. The downside: On warm spring days and for intense activity like hiking, insulated jackets may be too warm. By the way: Synthetic insulation like LIFALOFTTM makes your jacket easier to care for!

Looking for some extra warmth? Down jackets are especially suitable in very cold weather. They are filled with goose or duck feathers or synthetic stuffing to keep you warm even when it’s freezing. As they are less breathable than other materials, down jackets are not suitable for warm days and less frequently used by freeskiers. 

© Helly Hansen / Cam McLeod
© Helly Hansen / Cam McLeod

What properties should a freeride jacket have?

 A good freeride jacket should be …

  • … waterproof. Obviously, a good freeride jacket needs to offer maximum protection from the weather. Whether it’s a light rain or snow, you want a jacket that keeps you all dry and toasty. Because of the unrivalled weather protection, most freeriders swear by hardshell jackets. It’s also a good idea to choose a jacket with a higher collar to protect you against face shots.
  • … breathable. As mentioned above, freeriding is an intense sport. During the hiking parts, it’s easy to overheat. That’s why you should make sure that your ski jacket allows for quick moisture transport to the outside.
  • … lightweight. Although most backcountry-goers are looking for maximum weather protection, they don’t want their ski jacket to weigh them down. That’s why a good freeride jacket should be lightweight – a quality that usually also affects packability. Talking about a compact design, hardshell jackets are usually lighter and easier to pack than softshells.
  • … durable. Whether you go for a hardshell or a softshell jacket, you should make sure that it is made from robust materials designed for heavy use. After all, you don’t want to buy a new freeride jacket every other season!
  • … comfortable. Backcountry jackets should offer a relaxed fit and freedom of movement. What’s more, they should be made from stretchy, soft materials.

What features are useful?

Apart from the obvious such as waterproofness and breathability, there is a number of additional features that some freeride jackets offer. There’s no need to go looking for a jacket that has all of them, but some of them are nice to have – and might just make the difference between a good and a great freeride jacket for you.

Additional freeride jacket features include …

  • underarm ventilation and pit zips
  • fusion modular systems connecting your jacket to your pants
  • articulated sleeves for optimal mobility
  • powder skirts
  • helmet-compatible hoods with adjustment
  • pockets (hand-warmer pockets, chest pockets with goggle shammy, …)
  • wrist gaiters with thumb holes
  • internal pockets for goggles and electronics
  • ski pass pockets
  • safety features (hi vis hood brims, RECCO® Advanced Rescue system, …)


One jacket for everything? Unlikely. You may have found a great snow jacket that is suitable for 90 per cent of your freeride adventures. However, there will be days when your jacket simply is too warm, too cold or unsuitable for the challenge ahead. And that’s where INTERSPORT Rent comes into play!

At the INTERSPORT Rent shops, you can find a vast selection of outdoor jackets, including great products by Helly Hansen. Simply drop by and ask the RENTertainers for their top picks!

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