Soft, flexible materials
Spyder is a race-inspired ski wear company founded in the 1970s as a race-specific gear brand. The brand’s suits, jackets, and pants are still staples of the ski race scene and are known for their slimmer fits and clean lines. As the Boulder, Colorado-based company has grown over the last few decades, it’s expanded beyond its racer roots to offer jackets for more casual skiers with products available in Costco and other large retailers.
To see if their products’ reputation for performance holds up, we tested the Spyder Men’s Fanatic Ski Jacket during a Rocky Mountain winter. We assessed its performance over several weeks, evaluating factors such as warmth, breathability, style, wind resistance, and versatility
Style: Bright colors and sleek lines
Spyder shirks the simple solid colors of their ski-specific brand competitors, pairing two or more bright, electric colors in most of the colorways available for the Fanatic. Ski racers have never been shy about loud outfits and Spyder isn’t shy about catering to them with the styles here.
Everything on the fanatic comes in at an angle, from panel seams to zippers, giving the impression of speed and steeps, even in just the garment. The style will appeal to its core audience and inspire chuckles from others, though there are a couple of less garish options if you like the jacket but not the styling.
Also, this jacket screams skiing, so there are better choices if you’re hunting for one that can double as casual streetwear.
Comfort and Fit: Cozy and comfortable but arms fit awkwardly
The Fanatic is soft, if nothing else, and those looking for comfort will be pleased with the overall feel. Pockets are fleece-lined, the inside of the coat is smooth to the touch, and the chin guard area is fleeced as well, meaning the major touchpoints of the coat feel cozy and warm.
The cut overall is average and stops at hip length, meaning that the jacket is long enough without veering into thigh-length territory which can feel restrictive. One place the fit goes awry, however, is in the arms. The handy inner stretch sleeve is taut as soon as you put it on—for me personally, it bordered on cutting off circulation when I raised my arms overhead. (I’m 6 feet tall.) Even without using the inner sleeves, the outer sleeves felt short and often pulled away from my ski gloves when I moved my arms around.
The handy inner stretch sleeve is taut as soon as you put it on—for me personally, it bordered on cutting off circulation when I raised my arms overhead.
One could minimize the impact of this shortcoming by purchasing gauntlet-style ski gloves that go over the sleeves rather than under, but no matter how you slice it, the fit here feels like a mistake. However, the interior stretch cuffs loop over your thumbs and keep the somewhat short arms of the jacket from pulling away from your gloves and, with the help of the Velcro cuffs, prevent cold air incursions at the wrist.
Warmth: Almost too warm for use during heavy exertion
The Spyder Men’s Fanatic Ski Jacket is described as a shell, but it features a fairly substantial insulation layer that minimizes the layering required underneath on all but the coldest ski days. The 40g of ThermaWeb™ Thinsulate insulation is thin, keeping the jacket from feeling bulky or heavy, but it retains and reflects heat. The company’s technology guide claims this layer to be 1.5 times as warm as down without the bulk.
In fact, on a longer hike, I quickly discovered that the Fanatic is perhaps too warm and isn’t built to handle extended periods of heavy exertion. True to its race roots, the Fanatic is at its best keeping you warm going fast downhill and sitting on the chairlift. Don’t try making this double as a layer for winter hiking. This also might not be the right coat for you if you spend a lot of time backcountry skiing or Nordic skiing. Because of its non-removable insulation layer, it’s more of a single-purpose winter outer layer. Those looking for a more versatile jacket might consider an uninsulated technical shell.
Pockets are fleece-lined, the inside of the coat is smooth to the touch, and the chin guard area is fleeced as well, meaning the major touchpoints of the coat feel cozy and warm.
The helmet-compatible, attached hood goes up easily with or without a helmet on windy days and cinches down via two drawstrings to keep it snugly up. Note that the cinches require two hands to tighten or loosen and can be tedious to operate in the cold with gloved hands.
The built-in powder skirt is mainly there to keep snow out of your waistline, but it has the added benefit of keeping cold air out as well.
Waterproofing: Adequate but maybe not as durable
The Spyder Fanatic, like most modern ski jackets, beads water out of the box. It sports Spyder’s proprietary Spylon durable water repellent coating which is the company’s basic waterproof finish. While the jacket remained waterproof for the entirety of my testing period, it’s on the low end of waterproof ratings and falls short of some of Spyder’s own waterproofing options. The main difference between the Spylon coating and other waterproofing methods, such as Gore-Tex and Spyder’s own Splyon+ coating, is durability.
The Spylon coating is rated to retain 80 percent waterproofing through 20 washes while the Spylon+ is rated for the same after 50 wash cycles. A more expensive Gore-Tex jacket should remain waterproof for even longer, as the waterproofing is built into the fabric rather than an added coating, which can fall victim to washing and wear.
Windproofing: Could be much better
The Fanatic is labeled wind-resistant, which doesn’t mean much considering pretty much any garment could be labeled as such. Despite the company’s race pedigree, you can really feel it when you’re pushing speeds in this soft, almost flimsy-feeling jacket. And when riding the chairlift exposed to high winds, the soft fabric doesn’t provide much resistance.
Thanks to the layer of insulation, the wind doesn’t really penetrate, but just feeling the garment pressed up against you makes it feel like it’s not putting up much of a fight. Spyder seems to have sacrificed wind-blocking for comfort here and it probably isn’t a great choice for skiers who spend a lot of time at particularly windy resorts or above treeline.
Breathability: Good enough
The offers middle-of-the-road breathability—and for its intended purpose of skiing lift-served terrain, that’s probably enough. Skiers who like to hike to sidecountry terrain and plan on sweating for extended periods of time should look elsewhere, but the average skier should be satisfied.
Durability: Fine for occasional skiers
As mentioned above, this jacket’s weatherproofing isn’t built to last like more expensive coats and coatings. If you need a jacket for one or two ski trips a year, the Fanatic will hold up fine. But for more regular skiers, you might want to look at spending a bit more to avoid having to make another ski jacket purchase in a couple of years when the weatherproofing on the Fanatic starts to fade.
Features: Some helpful, some frustrating
The Fanatic has several features you’d expect in a ski jacket. The integrated snow skirt is one of those features and does what any good snow skirt does: clip securely around the waist with a rubberized elastic that won’t budge. I found that the tiny snap buttons were nearly impossible to snap in place with gloves on, so you’ll want to get the skirt in place in the lodge before you head out.
The jacket’s chest pocket holds a clipped-on and tethered goggle wipe which is one of those ski-specific features you don’t realize you want to have until you really, really need it.
While it isn’t a complete dud of a ski jacket, the Fanatic doesn’t deliver what its race-oriented customers expect in terms of performance.
Unfortunately, this pocket and most of the rest of the zippers on the coat are maddeningly resistant to both opening and closing. This type of zipper is often found on stiffer shells, but in those cases, the fabric provides more resistance when pulling on zippers. With the very soft, thin and almost silk-like outer layer on the Fanatic, you feel like you might tear the fabric when zipping and you’re forced to hold it with one hand and pull the zipper tab with the other.
There’s also a ski-pass pocket placed conveniently on the left forearm which, thankfully, features a looser zipper. The soft fabric still presents little resistance when tugging, but you can usually manage it with a glove on so you’re not the person fumbling to reach their pass in the lift line. However, unlike most competitors’ jackets, there’s no dedicated media pocket with a headphone cable outlet.
There are also pit zips that allow you to vent when you realize you’re steaming up your jacket. However, the zips are not very long and the underlying mesh layer really keeps them from opening in a significant way, exacerbating the issues with overheating you can experience in this coat.
Quality and Warranty: Good quality with a limited lifetime warranty
As referenced before, durability is one of the issues more hardcore skiers might face with this jacket. However, the seams are taped and the zippers are very tight and water-resistant. If things go wrong, the company offers a fairly standard limited lifetime warranty that distinguishes between normal wear and tear and defects. For example, if you burn a hole in your jacket with molten ski wax, the warranty won’t cover you, but if a zipper fails two years after your purchase, Spyder is likely to repair or replace.
The weak link on this jacket is its weather-proofing—which, if it fails, is unlikely to be covered under warranty. Aftermarket waterproofing solutions could extend the jacket’s life at that point.
Price: Can find it from outlets for less
Few true ski jackets are cheap, but the Fanatic definitely falls on the low end of the spectrum, with several online outlets offering it for around $140—and you may be able to find it even cheaper in stores.
Competition: Could get more for similarly-priced competition
Still, the price point feels a bit high when you look around and see what else you could get for the same money or less. The North Face Arrowood is a good example, offering more robust weather-proofing and the ability to zip out the insulation layer for a similar price with fewer annoying drawbacks.
Check out more of the best men’s ski jackets available now.
- Product Name Fanatic Men’s Ski Jacket
- Product Brand Spyder
- Price $400.00
- Back length 29.5 inches
- Materials Polyester Stretch Plainweave with 10k/10k HydroWEB™ 2.0 Laminate