The REI Co-op First Chair GTX shell is a good, waterproof ski jacket at a great price. It manages to give you the weather resistance of some more expensive jackets on the market at a fraction of the price. It's a good entry-level jacket for inclement weather and offers many standard resort-specific ski jacket features. We found fault with the fit and styling, though. Our testers prefer sleeker jackets with more flattering cuts. This shell gets it done, but we recommend hard-charging skiers to look for a more breathable and higher-performing shell.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the REI Co-op First Chair GTX on March 23, 2022, with a closer look at value and other suggestions for similar products.
REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's Review
Cons: Clunky, not breathable, not the most flattering
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op First Chair GTX - Women's
$299.00 at REI
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|Pros||Water resistant, inexpensive||Relatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilation||Warm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatile||Stylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensive||Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable|
|Cons||Clunky, not breathable, not the most flattering||Non-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiers||Slim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are worn||Feels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistance||Not very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together|
|Bottom Line||This inexpensive shell keeps you dry with its Gore-tex material and helmet-compatible hood||An excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountry||This jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable price||We got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopes||A decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op First Cha...||Outdoor Research Ca...||The North Face Ther...||Burton Jet Set||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Weather Resistance (20%)|
|Comfort and Fit (20%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op First Cha...||Outdoor Research Ca...||The North Face Ther...||Burton Jet Set||Columbia Whirlibird...|
|Main Fabric||Recycled polyester||100% Nylon||100% Nylon||Polyester, nylon||Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester.|
|Insulation||None||None||100% Postconsumer recycled polyester||80g Thermolite||Thermarator|
|Waterproofing||Gore-Tex||3-layer Pertex Shield||2-layer DryVent||DryRide 2L||Omni-Tech|
|Pockets||2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal||2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest||2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 1 internal goggle Liner: 2 zippered hand||2 zippered hand, 1 mesh, 1 media||Shell: 5, Liner: 3|
|Weight||1.5 lbs||1.2 lbs||2.0 lbs||1.6 lbs||2.4 lbs|
|Powder skirt?||Yes, snap away||Yes||Yes, behind insulating layer||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
We found that the First Chair GTX performed well in weather resistance for its price point. We find it lacking in the technical construction, breathability, and overall style. That said, we think it's a great value and a good option for someone wanting to try out a hardshell jacket for the first time.
The 2L Gore-tex shell of the First Chair GTX blocks wind and moisture and shows good beading on its DWR treated exterior. The two-layer construction feels a little less burly than the higher-end, triple-layered jackets, but it has the same waterproof rating. While the material is strong, the construction leads to some concerns about waterproofness. The flaps that cover the zippers are sewn to protect them from moisture, but these seams are not taped.
Comfort and Fit
The First Chair GTX has a spacious fit. It runs a little on the large side, which we liked to leave room for appropriate layering underneath. The hood is also fairly well designed, oversized to comfortably fit over a helmet and zip fully, protecting the chin and lower face with a fuzzy, tricot-lined zipper. An awkward little bulge remains on top of the hood where it does not lie flat against all helmets. The Gore-Tex material does feel a little stiff and crinkly at the outset, but it does not restrict movement. Additionally, the polyester lining slides smoothly over layers and doesn't feel clingy or sticky, which we found very comfortable for layering.
Like the other shells we've reviewed, this jacket does not score too well on warmth. The First Chair GTX does have a smooth polyester lining that slightly increases its warmth. Therefore, we did feel a little more comfortable when we tried this jacket with fewer layers. We noticed only a slight draft around the front zipper, but this jacket was adequately windproof with a layer underneath.
We ran into some resistance from the First Chair GTX when we began to work up a sweat in it. Unfortunately, we find that the silky polyester lining hinders the breathable qualities of the Gore-Tex shell and traps both heat and moisture inside the jacket. The First Chair GTX has open pit zips that can mitigate this a little, but if you often find yourself hiking or sweating on the downhill, this might not be the best option.
We like the flattering earth tones of this jacket and the contrasting zips. The First Chair GTX cut is not the most flattering of the bunch. It's a little boxy around the hips, and the powder skirt holds the hem of the jacket out from our frames. The flaps over all of the zippers feel a little clunky and outdated compared with many of the sleeker, taped-looking zips on the market.
The First Chair GTX has a pretty standard selection of features for a resort-specific jacket. These include a wrist pass pocket and two chest pockets so you can keep your phone, pass, and payment options separate. We also like the key clip inside the left-hand pocket, so you won't worry about having your keys fly out if you take a digger or forget to re-zipper after taking out a hand warmer. These hand pockets also have a nice tricot lining for a little bit of added comfort.
The powder skirt can be buttoned back when not in use. We like this feature's versatility but found that it makes the shell portion of the jacket hang a little awkwardly like it's riding up. You can also find an effective mesh drop pocket on the inside of the jacket that works well to keep your goggles safe when you are not wearing them.
Should You Buy the First Chair GTX?
The First Chair GTX is a good value for someone looking for the bare-bones benefits of a Gore-Tex shell layer. For its price point, the First Chair GTX provides excellent waterproof qualities of its Gore-Tex shell, and if this is your priority, its value is hard to beat. However, if you seek more technical performance and breathability in your ski jacket, this might not be the best choice. We think that this inexpensive option is a great entry-level jacket for someone who knows that they want a shell but aren't quite ready to push its functions to the extremes or are not yet willing to swallow the price.
What Other Women's Ski Jackets Should You Consider?
The REI Co-op First Chair GTX is a great value for its weatherproof qualities but lacks in some of its technical and functional construction. Suppose you live in a particularly wet climate. In that case, it is worth considering spending a bit more on a jacket like the Flylow Billie Coat or Patagonia Powder Bowl for improved weather resistance. If you plan to do much hiking in-bounds or any backcountry skiing, the Outdoor Research Carbide offers a significant improvement in ventilation, comfort, and fit.
— Jacqueline Kearney
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