Originally Posted by muah I have read a lot of discussions about how several traditionally good brands are starting to put out shoddy quality ski jackets and pants. Even brands that are ridiculously expensive can be bad... I'd hate to spend $600 on a jacket or $300 on some pants only to see them fall apart.
What brands do people consider well-built these days? I'd like to buy a jacket and pants that I can count on to stay together for years to come.
I haven't had too much of a problem with my North Face jacket, but the North Face Freedom insulated pants I have seem to rip around the ankles with the slightest little insult (near the front for some reason, not the back where the pant is reinforced).
Yeah, my horror story was learning the hard way that the once-vaunted Marmot brand can now make junk without even caring (you can read my post on how my jacket started to implode after only six uses). In fact every manufacturer (including Arc'Teryx and Cloudveil) now makes some or all of their items in S.E. Asia. Don't get me wrong, that could mean one of two things:
- You are getting good to great materials/construction for an incredible price.
- You are getting high-priced junk (my Marmot jacket for example).
Which of the above you will experience depends on how well and closely the company works with their S.E. Asian factory(s), their experience level in getting their products manufactured in this way, and how stringent their QC process is regarding the material selection, construction, etc. I think we are seeing some reckless companies that are picking a design out of some S.E. Asian factory's catalogue without knowing much more and letting yer rip. The question is how do you separate the wheat from the chaff, so....
This year I chose to buy my pants from TNF and jacket from Columbia figuring that they probably have this "S.E. Asian manufacturing" process better under control than most others (and this is coming from a guy that previously wouldn't be caught dead in a Columbia garment - though I finally realized that as an in-bounds skier I don't need mountaineering gear, and conditions in CO don't warrant an uber-waterproof garment).
My rationalization for this approach was that if I am wrong at least I didn't pay too much (TNF pants $150, Columbia Titanium jacket - $180). So far I'd say the Columbia jacket is pretty damn amazing for the price (while not perfect I love the design, and I may becoming a convert to Columbia stuff as long as it is from their "Titanium" line), while I am having similar questionable results with the TNF pants (the materials are a bit flimsy - I've had to add more cordura to the scuff guards since they were slicing real easily, the waterproof coating is peeling off of the snow cuffs, and I am already planning a step up to their Free Thinker pant which may be available in a small/short...but that's another story).
At the mid to high-end, while some here poo-poo Patagucci (OK - it isn't real mountaineering gear anymore), I do think their products show possibly the highest-degree of knowledge and control over the S.E. Asian manufacturing process. My wife bought one of their jackets this year and it is clearly superior to my Columbia in nearly every manner (though at double the price, with a few less features, and not enough better for me to change my plan). She has a very discerning eye for garment fit, materials and manufacturing and couldn't see any reason to spend even more on the real high-end stuff (see also is a purely in-bounds skier).
Until this whole "new economy" thing shakes out I doubt it will be easy for any of us to know in advance what we will be getting . For now I'd be leery of buying anything that isn't covered by a liberal return policy (i.e., avoid a 75% off close-out on some uber-brand). Sure most garments are also covered by a good warranty, but getting the garment repaired or replaced under this basis can be a big hassle, especially in the middle of ski season.