Arc'teryx Macai Jacket Review

Arc'teryx Macai jacket

Intro:There's no shortage of expensive ski or winter jackets available for consumers to buy and the Macai jacket from Arc'teryx certainly fits into this category at a MSRP of $925. There's no doubt in my mind that Arc'teryx makes some of the finest outerwear available to buy, but the Macai has to prove to the consumer that it's worth the expensive price.

Construction/Material:
The Macai jacket uses a standard 3L Gore-Tex membrane with a 40D plain weave nylon face fabric. The Gore-Tex makes the Macai waterproof while the 40D outer face fabric makes it durable, yet supple. There are 6 pockets in total: 4 exterior pockets and 2 interior pockets. Of the four exterior pockets, two are hand pockets leaving the other pockets being on the arm sleeve and the other being on the chest.
Sleeve pocket on the left shoulder
The chest pocket is beautifully hidden with a snap closure flap that hides the zipper pocket. The chest pocket is very small, not much larger than a credit card. While beautiful, it's not very practical and mostly useless. 
Hidden chest pocket under a snap closure flap. Zipper pull tab can be seen barely showing.

The interior pockets include one standard mesh dump pocket and one interior zippered chest pocket.
The interior construction of the jacket are breathtakingly beautiful - from the lush down baffles to the silky interior face fabric. The Macai uses 90 grams of 750 fill down which is roughly equivalent to Arc'teryx's Thorium AR down jacket which uses 100 grams of the the same fill power.

You're probably thinking the Macai is simply a Thorium AR down jacket with a hardshell on the outside. In some ways you're right... and in some ways you're wrong. A Thorium AR down jacket ($300) + an Arc'teryx ski hardshell (~550) would be close to 900$, roughly a price of the Macai. Construction wise, they are vastly different.

Top cut away view (looking from the exterior of the jacket) onto the down contour construction which is how the Macai is manufactured.
The Macai uses Arc'teryx's down contour construction (DCC) which cleverly keeps the down drier while minimizing cold spots within the jacket.  Let's take another look of this construction but from the opposite side.
Another cut away view of the DCC but from the interior of the jacket
The grid on the bottom of the elliptical tubes is the Gore-Tex membrane. Between the Gore-Tex fabric and the down exists a layer of Coreloft (synthetic insulation). Synthetic insulation handles moisture vastly better than down, but at a cost of not being thermally efficient as down. The benefit of this construction is that any moisture that hasn't diffused though the Gore-Tex fabric will contact the synthetic insulation which minimizes the down's exposure to moisture.

The hand pockets on the Macai are lined with a thin micro-fiber material which in all honesty is a little disappointing considering the price of the jacket. For $925 bucks I better have faux fur or something like that in the hand pockets, even thick fleece would have worked, the thin micro-fiber simply doesn't cut it.

The Macai also features a zip-off powder skirt for turning the Macai into a more casually orientated around the town jacket or for those skiing in areas where powder is more of an exception than a norm.

How it Fits:

The Macai is an athletic fitting insulated jacket. Considering how warm the ski jacket is, it's surprisingly sleek. The underarms leave room for a medium weight mid-layer jacket (Arc'teryx Fortrez or Patagonia Nano-air) if you want to be exceptionally warm.

When skiing, the fit is completely dialed on the Macai, I never felt once that the jacket was too baggy or tight. Skiing steep to easy groomers were no problem for the Macai. The diameter of the cuffs are perfect, they aren't excessively large without gloves nor too small with gloves on. They work flawlessly with either under-cuff or over-cuff style mittens and gloves. Small details like these add up because excessively large cuffs don't work well without gloves and loose a lot of body heat.

The Hood is meant to have a ski helmet it underneath. You can certainly can use the hood without a helmet but expect it to be pretty roomy. With a ski helmet the hood is fantastic, the hood moves with your helmet and never impedes your vision.


Macai jacket on a cold winter day in Seattle
Performance:
If you are planning on using the Macai more as an around town jacket you may find that it's not as warm as it could be. I think having elastic baffles to pull interior of the jacket closer towards the body would have significantly improved the warmth. While it may cost more to manufacture, it's $925... I think that should cover it. Other Arc'teryx jackets use a different approach, like the Fission SV,  which uses a waist drawcord to pull the jackets inwards to minimize dead air space and prevent drafts when walking. On paper the Macai jacket is supposedly warmer than the Fission SV, I think the Fission SV is actually as warm or even slightly warmer for static uses because of the longer length and the thermally efficient waist drawcord.

 
Macai jacket skiing cold December powder at Crystal Mountain Resort - WA . 
That said, when skiing and your body is generating heat, the Macai jacket is one hot jacket. Once you get some heat inside the jacket, the down really captures the warmth. So for skiing the Macai is warmer than the Fission SV.

Temperature ranges for jackets are incredibly difficult to estimate. If you're skiing a blue vs a double black run your energy output will be vastly different. Skiing blue runs with the Macai with temperatures around mid 20's the Macai was warm but not overly hot. Skiing double blacks I was a little to hot even with the pit zips fully open. I think the upper temperature range for the jacket is 20F and an estimated lower temperature range of -10F. This is assuming just using a mid-weight base layer without bibs. For the most part it's too warm of an everyday ski jacket for the PNW but it would be great for people sensitive to the cold or if you live in the Rockies or East coast.

Too see how well the down stays dry, I hiked in the Macai with skis on my back to some powder stashes and got the interior back very damp. Within an hour or so the jacket was dry again and still kept me plenty warm without showing any signs of down clumping or loosing loft. The down contour construction does a great job keeping the down dry.

The pit zips work incredibly well for regulating your temperature when skiing but I noticed that the zipper tabs are pretty small and hard to grab with gloves on.  These zipper tabs make sense for a non insulated jacket, but for a down insulated ski jacket I think they should be larger because they would be impossible to operate with mittens or really bulky insulated gloves.
Pit zips with mesh backer
Summary:
If there ever was a phrase more suited for the Macai it would be, "it's complicated". There are many things that the Macai gets perfect - the construction and craftsmanship are phenomenal. Although in the pursuit for a flawless, cold weather, on-piste ski jacket, some features were overlooked or not very functional. If you're skiing somewhere cold and want an insulated ski jacket that works equally well on the slopes and off, then the Macai is worth taking a look at. Whether the prices is worth it, I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Pros:
  • Beautiful exterior shell
  • Very warm ski jacket - no cold spots
  • Athletic fit and cut is dialed.
  • Down composite construction works well
  • Perfect cuff diameter for under or over cuff gloves/mittens
  • Large pit-zips dump heat when needed
  • Superb insulated hood built for ski helmets

  • Cons:
  • Very, very expensive
  • Chest pocket is basically useless
  • Hand pocket fleece is underwhelming
  • Doesn't use the newer Cohaesive hood adjustments
  • Zipper pulls on the pit-zips are too small
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