Obermeyer Kenai Shell Review
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Obermeyer is another one of our local companies based here in Colorado. With a corporate headquarters located in the beautiful mountain town of Aspen, the family-run, privately held Obermeyer knows first hand what it takes to protect outdoor enthusiasts from the sometimes harsh conditions of the Colorado Rockies, while also staying comfortable and looking great. They focus their efforts on winter outerwear, both for adults and children, and they love to push the boundaries of outer wear technologies. The Obermeyer designs do a nice job of integrating a variety of technical components in order to create exceptional high-performance gear.
I tested the Obermeyer Kenai high performance shell jacket on a recent snowboarding trip, and I must say…I really like this jacket. I wore this on a day with mid-morning temperatures in the teens, and high temperatures in the high 20s with some wind, and never had any problems with temperature management. It did a great job of keeping the cold out and the warm in. I layered it over a performance long-sleeved base layer shirt, a cotton long-sleeved t-shirt, and a medium-weight fleece vest, and wore a fleece neck gaiter to manage wind and powder around the collar. This jacket paired well with the Obermeyer Commando SS performance pants, which I also tested out that same day.
While the Kenai jacket keeps the bells and whistles to a minimum, it’s features are all well thought out and well designed. Storage is pretty good, with an inside secure storage pocket where I stored my phone all day, a zipper sleeve pocket on the left upper arm that is good for a snack, and Tricot-lined hand pockets that sit a little higher on the torso to keep them free if you are wearing a backpack or harness. The left pocket has a D-ring inside where you can clip a ski pass, and the right pocket has a nice little snap loop where you can secure a set of keys. There is also a nice inside mesh pocket where you can stash your goggles and/or gloves during pit stops.
The Kenai has an integrated hood with peripheral and vertical drawcord adjustment for a nice custom fit if the weather turns south. And the Control Zone Ventilation system offers 2-way ventilation zippers under each arm to help regulate your body temperature as the climate and your level of activity vary throughout the day. And another nice feature that we are seeing more and more on jackets and gear is the integration of a RECCO device, an Avalanche Rescue System that helps rescuers to find you if you were buried in an avalanche. Having a RECCO device is pretty much a no brainer for anyone doing even basic backcountry skiing or riding, and if the risk is high the day you are out, be sure to also carry an avalanche beacon.
One other feature that I like on these types of jackets is a removable powder skirt. A powder skirt is mentioned on the Obermeyer Kenai product page, but the version that I tested did not have one. It does have an adjustable interior hem drawcord, which seemed to be pretty effective for me, though I am not sure that would protect enough on a heavy powder day.
The outer shell of the Kenai is Cocona, a 100% Polyester fabric that is based on activated carbon derived from coconut shells. This blend creates a material with a waterproof rating of 20,000mm and a breathability rating of 35,000g, making it one of the most breathable technical fabrics in the industry. The shell has a solid durability, but it also hangs and flows well, without the stiffness of some of the heavier duty technical shells. The fabric blend also presents well, with an interesting striation look to it. The lining is a stretch mesh that is 100% brushed polyester.
The Kenai comes in four sizes – Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large, and is only available in one color, Black. This jacket retails for $399, which is pretty much in line with the higher performing jacket shells that are currently available on the market. Its comfort, durability, and efficient performance should definitely earn it some consideration if you are looking for a high performance technical shell.
For more info on the Kenai Shell and other Obermeyer products, visit www.rei.com.