Gear Review: Obermeyer Kenai Shell

There are generally two things I look for when shopping for a winter shell: light weight and breathability. And, for the most part, most products on the market these days meet my needs. Obermeyer’s Kenai shell adds the elusive third and fourth characteristics into the mix: fit and durability.

Featuring the company’s new Cocona fabric, the Kenai is designed for heavy weather, backcountry use that doesn’t skimp on the comfort factor. And Obermeyer’s claims about the Cocona polyester fabric’s breathability are the sort of thing Facebook marketing campaigns are made of. It’s something that needs to be seen and experienced to be believed. The polyester fabric itself has been treated with a 10,000mm/35,000g active microporous layer that, according to the company, features “active particles which react to body heat to increase body moisture evaporation.” That’s right, the jacket knows when you’re hot and adjusts to accommodate. It’s a bold claim, and it’s a new one for me, but the fact of the matter is the waterproof jacket features a very sharp and breathable brushed finish that stands up well to pointy trailside branches and wayward ski poles.

And, in the field, that’s pretty much all that matters.

Beyond the fabric and Obermeyer’s always-excellent construction, the Kenai features the usual assortment of taped and fused zippers, fully sealed seams and large, surprisingly useful interior pockets. I’m generally not looking for a place to stash my gloves or goggles when I’m out in the snow, but it’s nice to know that the Kenai has those areas covered should I need a spare pocket. The jacket also includes a RECCO passive avalanche rescue device, which is essentially a radar reflector attached high up on the jacket. I wouldn’t necessarily use it as an excuse to leave the beacon at home, but it’s a nice bonus feature and it never hurts to have an avalanche back up plan.

The jacket comes in four sizes and a wide range of colors, as long as the only color you want is black.

For more information on the Kenai jacket, visit

About the author


Tim Sprinkle

Tim Sprinkle is a Denver-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Outside, Backpacker and Wired.

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