Kev tests out the Kichatna Jacket from The North Face on some classic off piste ski descents in the Alps.
The North Face say that their Kichatna Jacket, “is a technical, helmet compatible ski mountaineering shell in Gore-Tex Pro Shell for backcountry missions.” Paired with the Kichatna Bibs (review here ), it is designed to deliver top notch weather protection and performance to ski mountaineers.
So, firstly, it is important to say that whilst being part of The North Face’s Summit Series, the Kichatna Jacket is not an out and out climbing shell. It is aimed at skiers who may need to climb technical snow, ice or rock, or maybe just do a bit of strenuous skinning uphill, to reach their off-piste ski objective. Then they will snap on their skis and descend. This means the jacket needs to be flexible, allowing freedom of movement, breathability and durability on the up, before protecting you from the elements, such as wind and deep powder snow, on the way down. Does the Kichatna Jacket manage this and if so, how?
Well, the Kichatna Jacket is fully featured. It has an enormous helmet compatible hood which fits easily over both my climbing and skiing helmets, and the adjusters and laminated brim work well to fasten it securely, whether it is up or down and also make sure it does not interfere with peripheral vision. I was really pleased to see such a good hood on this jacket, as a poor hood is the one thing that let’s many technical shells down.
TNF have added “tough grip-zones” on the shoulders of the Kichatna Jacket, apparently to help “keep your pack in place”. I’ve never really had an issue with this and I did think it was perhaps a little bit overkill. It does add an extra bit of durability particularly on the shoulders though, an area that is prone to abrasion and nicks when carrying skis or shouldering ice tools.
I personally found the Kichatna to be quite a roomy fit in the body. Not huge, but definitely not as trim as some other climbing shells I have worn. However as this is not an out and out climbing jacket, this is perhaps to be expected. I am 5 feet 9 inches tall, weigh 65kg and tested a size Small. This was perfect for me I think, but if I was any slimmer, it may have felt a little too big around the middle. So the cut of the jacket was a compromise. Roomy enough in the body for skiing and accommodating extra layer layers underneath and also other items such as an avalanche transceiver. With a baselayer, midlayer, light down jacket and my transceiver underneath, it still fitted comfortably and allowed my body and arms to move freely but did feel slightly bulky. Sleeve length was perfect and the jacket didn’t ride up when I was climbing and had my hands above my head though.
The Kichatna sits just below the hip and is slightly longer at the back, covering my bum. This length worked well with a climbing harness and the pocket configuration didn’t interfere here either. I did find that the internal removable powder skirt provided a little too much extra bulk for my liking but I just rectified this by taking it out when I was using the jacket with a harness and leaving the powder skirt at home, this way it didn’t obscure my vision when looking down or wearing my harness. It was nice to have a powder skirt on those days when I was skiing powder off lifts on none glaciated terrain though and it just kept me that little bit more comfortable.
Going back to the pockets and the Kichatna Jacket has many! Probably too many for my liking really, even on a fully featured jacket like this. I’d be happy with 2 handwarmer pockets or 2 chest pockets, but the Kichatna offers both! Others may like this feature though, but I feel fewer pockets would still offer sufficient storage, whilst giving the Kichatna a slicker feel.
The hem drawcord is adjusted via toggles situated in the handwarmer pockets, and this works really nicely, adding a clean uncluttered element to the outside of the jacket. I also like the way the hood drawcords are secured as there is much less chance of one whipping you in the face in a gale!
Looking more closely at the fabric, the Kichatna Jacket is manufactured using 40D 105 g/m² 100% nylon GORE-TEX® Pro Shell ripstop with a micro grid ripstop woven backer in the body and a 80D 150 g/m² 100% nylon GORE-TEX® Pro Shell plain weave with a micro grid ripstop woven backer, in the shoulder and underarm area.
This 3 layer construction is tough and durable in terms of it’s protection from the rain and wind, but there is a slight compromise in terms of breathability. This is the case with any fully waterproof shell though. I didn’t have a problem with the breathability of the jacket, particularly in cold dry environments such as the European Alps. And on warm days or when doing strenuous activities like skinning uphill, I would layer accordingly or use the pit zips. It also kept me perfectly dry in the wet winter weather we’ve had in the UK of late. The construction of the jacket with all 3 layers being bonded together as one, means less wear and tear, and also less bulk.
So, to conclude, the Kichatna Jacket does what it says on the tin. It would be a great choice for the all round UK mountaineer, is a brilliant ski jacket and when paired with the Kichatna bibs, provides full on storm protection for skiers and climbers. The hood is awesome. The only downsides for me are the slightly bulky cut in the midriff and maybe it could lose a pocket or two. A great all round mountaineering shell.
The North Face Kichatna Jacket can be paired with the Kichatna Bibs, a review of which is available here.
- RRP: £350
- Find out more on The North Face website.