Marmot Castle Peak jacket Polartec Alpha Direct

Marmot Castle Peak Jacket Review: Fend Off Moisture Inside and Out

Marmot employs the latest tech from Polartec to create a full-featured backcountry ski jacket. With it, the brand hopes to raise the level of comfort and mobility to match the Castle Peak’s warmth and waterproofing.

Backcountry skiing forces opposing demands on apparel: air permeability for the uphills and wind resistance and insulating capacity for the downhills. Marmot combined Polartec’s stretchy NeoShell and Alpha insulation in its new Castle Peak (men’s) and Cirel (women’s) jackets.

The Castle Peak launched last month on Marmot’s website in a single color and will hit retailers in December in four different colors. Additionally, the women’s Cirel will also go live at retailers in December. We’ve been testing the $550 (MSRP) jacket for the past month, sans snow, for a first look review.

Marmot Castle Peak Jacket Review

Let’s be clear, this is a $550 jacket. Depending on where you live, that could be the better part of a month’s rent. But the Castle Peak Jacket bristles with technical features. Take a look:

Marmot Castle Peak Jacket

  • Polartec NeoShell, waterproof-breathable stretch, two-layer, seam taped
  • Polartec Alpha insulation, no liner fabric (nylon inner lining on sleeves and hood)
  • Recco avalanche reflector
  • Pit zips
  • YKK water-resistant zippers
  • ‘Angel-Wing Movement’ — prevents jacket from riding up with arms overhead
  • Sleeve lift pass pocket
  • Zipped internal pocket / internal mesh dump pocket
  • Powder skirt
  • Elastic drawcord hem with dual toggles
  • Moisture-wicking DriClime chin guard
  • Helmet-compatible hood with dual cord adjustments
  • Exterior zipped pockets: two hand warmers, one torso, one chest
  • Velcro wrist adjustment tabs

Castle Peak Jacket Fit

Marmot Castle Peak jacket with Polartec Alpha Direct

The Marmot Castle Peak Jacket fit is generously cut for lofty layers. I’m 6 feet tall and weigh 167 pounds, and the cut on a size medium allowed a midweight down parka to fit underneath without compressing the loft — even in the sleeves. Despite the parka’s bulk, the cut and the elasticity of the NeoShell allowed uncompromised movement.

Meanwhile, the 30-inch center back length offered mid-hip coverage, which wasn’t enough when sitting in the snow. The sleeves were long enough to cover my wrists (I have a 34.5-inch sleeve length) in skiing-specific arm positions. But even with Marmot’s Angel Wing design, which prevents the jacket from bunching up when the arms are lifted, the sleeves still rode up enough to expose about 3 inches of forearm when I put my hands overhead.

Still, both the lower hem and snow skirt adjusted tightly to prevent cold updrafts.

Marmot Castle Peak jacket snow skirt

Marmot Castle Peak Jacket Review

Based on experience testing other Polartec NeoShell and Alpha garments in alpine environments, the Marmot Castle Peak Jacket performed as I expected. Compared to all other NeoShell-equipped jackets I’ve tested, the Castle Peak was perceptibly more air permeable than traditional hardshell, waterproof-breathable laminates.

Marmot Castle Peak jacket Polartec NeoShellDespite its protection, the fabric felt soft and quiet. It draped well over layers, and the stretch offered a welcome bonus from a waterproof shell material. On the inside, the Alpha Direct felt comfortable and resisted shedding fibers.

This jacket was not without a downside, however. The NeoShell didn’t feel as wind-resistant as classic hardshell waterproof-breathable laminates. And although I have yet to really damage this jacket, it seemed more prone to abrasion and punctures.

To date, Polartec Alpha insulation is the most air-permeable insulation I have tested. It’s also amongst the quickest drying, especially in the Direct configuration used in the Castle Peak Jacket. The Direct’s lack of inner liner not only sped drying but also wicked moisture from skin and base layers better than insulations with a liner.

That said, in all the garments I have tested with Alpha insulation, the outer shell fabric always proves a bottleneck for vapor transfer. And the Castle Peak was no different despite it being more air permeable than other hardshell materials.

The Nitty-Gritty

Our medium sample’s verified weight is 1 pound 9 ounces. That’s plenty light, but the Alpha resisted sliding against certain layers, which occasionally gave it a “heavy” feel when twisting. However, the sleeves had a nylon liner that prevented the same sensation in the arms and shoulders.

The feature set within the jacket bodes well for the snowbound. I fit a pair of gloves in the internal mesh pocket to dry, and the array of other pockets provided plenty of storage options for beacons, satellite messengers, snacks, beanies, and the like.

The full-length pit zips enhanced vapor and heat dumping, especially with any wind about. The Castle Peak hood fit over both helmet and over-the-helmet hoody, and the dual cord locks adjusted well to maintain vision with head movement. And though I didn’t need to make use of the Recco reflector, it’s a forward-thinking feature that could save a life.


With the Castle Peak Jacket, Marmot successfully combines a protective shell layer with a breathable insulating layer into a single, generously cut garment for backcountry skiing. The jacket offers a rich feature set, both technically and practically: the NeoShell and Alpha provide a potent combination of materials from Polartec to create a waterproof-breathable insulated shell that’s reasonably light and comfortable.

Seiji Ishii

Seiji Ishii is the climbing and cycling editor at Gear Junkie and has enjoyed a lifetime of outdoor adventure and sports, from participant and competitor to coach and trainer, and finally as an editorial contributor. His interests have spanned cycling, climbing, motorcycling, backpacking, and training for all of it. He has also designed outdoor and off-road motorcycling gear. He lives in Wimberley, TX, with his daughter and a small herd of pets. Read more of his musings at