Ironically, the most important layer of clothing I carry into the backcountry most often sits unused in the bottom of my pack. But when nasty weather sets in, nothing repels the elements better than a waterproof hardshell jacket.
Named for Mt. Yotei, an 1898-meter stratovolcano in Japan known for its deep powder riding, the Dynafit Yotei GTX Men’s Jacket is a light- or midweight jacket (depending on if you use the snow skirt) that is well suited for an alpinist as well as a skier. The Yotei is made with a 3-layered GORE-TEX shell with GORE C-KNIT Backer Technology. It weighs 361 grams, or 13 ounces without the snow skirt, and 542 grams, or 19 ounces with the skirt (as weighed by the author). Made with backcountry skiing and free-riding in mind, the Yotei can no doubt cross disciplines and serve well in the realm of alpinism.
The Yotei bridges the gap between two extremes in the waterproof shell industry: the super light, stuff-in-a-pocket, flap-in-the-wind type of waterproof shell you’d take to climb 5.11 on California’s Incredible Hulk (11,040′)…and the shell that takes up half your pack, has more zippers than Michael Jackson’s parachute pants, and requires a Sherpa to carry. At a mere 13 ounces (the lightest alpine shell jackets start at 10 ounces and the heaviest are around 18 ounces), the Yotei packs as small as a large grapefruit and performs in the wind and rain like a heavier shell. To shed weight, Dynafit omitted the commonly found set of elastic hood adjusters at the cheeks, half the length of the armpit zips, hand pockets, and they used YKK’s lightweight, durable and water-repellent Vislons for the full front zipper (and the classic, shiny, heavier YKK Concealed zippers for the pockets and pit zips).
Dynafit used GORE-TEX Products fabrics instead of using GORE-TEX Pro. Products fabrics are made for moderate-level activities and tend to be slightly thicker and slightly less breathable, while W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc. recommends Pro fabrics for extreme alpinism when minimizing weight is the priority. For comparison, around half of Arc’teryx’s waterproof shell jackets on the current market are made with GORE-TEX Pro, while the other half are made with GORE Products–the difference is reflected in the price, with Pro items being $100 or more expensive than their Product siblings. Arc’teryx’s lightest backcountry ski jacket uses GORE-TEX Pro and weighs 435 grams (15 ounces) with snow skirt. In the current outdoor gear trend, it is easy to think that lighter is better, but that’s not always true.
During my testing of the Yotei Jacket while guiding for one week in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, and two weeks of ski-mountaineering in Chile involving steep snow climbing, ski touring, and on- and off-piste skiing, I found that the Yotei offers standard features that anyone would hunt for in a durable, waterproof-breathable shell–an easily adjustable, roomy hood that fits over a helmet and covers the mouth and lower cheeks when fully zipped; armpit zips to expel heat when ascending; a reputable waterproofing system; chest pockets; a good fit that allows for a couple of under-layers (I usually wear a medium in most jackets, but a small in the Yotei was perfect for me); a cinch-able waist (I never use this feature and simply cut them out of my jackets); internal mesh glove/water bottle pockets; a shoulder pocket for ski passes or credit cards; and adjustable wrist cuffs. Beyond these standards, Dynafit raises the bar with a couple of creatively utile additions and innovative adjustments to the standard components.
Most notable of the new additions are the “inner cuffs”–mini-sleeves attached to the inside of the outer sleeve at the mid-forearm. When sliding the jacket on and pushing the hands through the sleeves, the hands encounter a soft, stretchy, slick base-layer-type sleeve with an optional thumbhole. This brilliant creation will keep the snow and wind out of the sleeves when swimming up a steep couloir through deep powder, as well as the melt-water from ice when swinging a tool into drippy early spring icefalls. This revolutionary feature is now in my standard criteria for any future shell purchase.
With the same idea of keeping snow and wind out, the Yotei comes with a removable snow skirt that attaches by a thin zipper at waist level inside the jacket. Added features near the waist, especially zippers, often concern me because of the potential for uncomfortable pressure points under a pack’s tightened waist belt. Surprisingly, the snow-skirt added no such discomfort whether attached or not. Four small snaps on the skirt couple with the Yotei’s ski-pant companion, the Yotei GTX Men’s Pant, making the duo into a pseudo one-piecer for those trying to stay dry in the bottomless powder in Hokkaido, Japan. Honestly, features like this are often too complex for me–I tend to cut them out of clothing and packs and keep things simple and light. I tried using the skirt and felt slightly annoyed by the elastic cinching around my waist, which felt like a pair of pants riding too high. With that said, I was climbing and skiing in compacted spring conditions, and I can definitely see the utility when I think back to times when I was chest-deep in powder and snow made its way into every underlayer, subsequently sending chills up and down my spine.
Dynafit stepped into the future with the Yotei’s armpit zips and chest pockets by answering these questions: What makes these features annoying and unusable, and what can we do about that? I avoid using my pit zips in most jackets due to the Yogic necessity of binding myself into a straight-jacket-like position just to reach the zipper pulls. The Yotei’s pit zipper is about 10 inches long and reaches from the elbow to slightly outside of the armpit, making them easy to reach. They vented well enough for me, but for the big sweaters out there who wear short-sleeve T-shirts while I’m wearing a puffy–you’ll probably miss the traditional rib-to-elbow zips.
By reaching across the chest and full front zipper, you’ll find chest pockets large enough to store ascension skins, avalanche field notebooks, gloves, or a water bottle, yet designed to flatten against the chest when unused. The pocket on the left breast has a smaller internal zippered pocket for lip balm and other small items.
Of all the potential ways a designer can blow it, I found only one small issue with the Yotei. When the front zipper is completely zipped, the material guard that keeps the hard metal zipper from rubbing directly against my mouth and nose was small enough that it easily folded back, exposing the zipper to my skin. On multiple occasions, I had to flip the guard behind the zipper purposely. I eventually adapted by paying more attention as I zipped up. Many jackets on the market have a stiffer and wider overlapping guard with a soft, fleece-like material to provide comfort and protection from the zipper.
Dynafit made a lightweight shell (if not using the snow skirt) that acts like a midweight in its durability, holding up well in harsh winds and snowy days, and in its many features that add functionality and comfort. The Yotei has definitely made its way into my line-up of top choices for ski touring, ski mountaineering, ice climbing, and mountaineering.
Mike Lewis, M.A. is an AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide living in Estes Park, CO. Mike has been guiding and instructing for 23 years throughout the U.S. and internationally. Learn more about Mike at LunchboxJackson.com.
Large chest pockets
Removable powder skirt
Internal glove/waterbottle pockets
Easy-to-reach pit zips
Small zipper-guard at chin