Expert Review: Strafe Pyramid 3L Shell JacketPublished on 04/18/2023 · 8 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
All photos courtesy of Elias Lawson
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the jacket, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
The Strafe Pyramid 3L Shell Jacket is a perfect companion for both inbounds and backcountry pursuits. It offers an ideal balance of breathability and weatherproofing. This all-mountain shell is accessible to both novice resort riders and expert freeriders.
About the piece
- Model: 2023 Strafe Pyramid 3L Shell Jacket
- Size: Large
- Fit: True to Size
- Height: 6’3”
- Weight: 185lbs
- Experience: 8 years resort, 3 years backcountry
- When I bought this: December 2022
- Days tested: 6
- Where I’ve used it: Central Oregon Cascades backcountry
- Conditions I’ve used it in: Dry and light champagne powder, sunny spring corn, icy couloirs, white-out blizzard, and gale-force winds
How it performs
What I was looking for
I already have quite a few jacket options in my quiver, ranging from various light micro-puffers to a heavier 700 down jacket reserved for extreme winter storms and non-aerobic activities. I also own a myriad of mid-layers and an Arc’teryx Gore-Tex Pro hardshell, which I love for technical ski mountaineering and the harshest of conditions. But, I lacked a go-to midwinter shell for everyday, all-mountain conditions. Something that I could go to on days when there wasn’t heavy rain, I wasn’t summiting 14ers, and I wasn’t dealing with 50° spring temps. I spend 95% of my time in the backcountry, and I was looking for a reliable, highly durable option that kept me warm but also breathed well for touring.
Why I chose this gear
I’ve always been attracted to high-quality outerwear. Gear that stands the test of time and can take on extreme temperatures, high winds, and heavy snowfall (not to mention rain, sleet, hail, and other forms of precipitation). Out of all the brands I could’ve looked to meet these criteria, I chose Strafe as they not only have a pedigree for making high-performing gear but also for their sleek design aesthetics, true-to-fit sizing, and thoughtful features and additions. On the Pyramid 3L Shell, I found some rad innovations, such as oversized chest pockets with an interior mesh electronics sleeve, a microfleece-lined hood and chin guard for maximum comfort, and thumbhole cuffs to help keep snow out of my gloves. The Strafe Pyramid fit me well, was extremely comfortable, and struck the best balance of warmth, breathability, and weatherproofing. It felt like it combined the benefits of my favorite soft and hardshells. It’s hard to go back to any other jacket now.
What I love about it
- Fit: This is hands down the best-fitting jacket I own. I have fairly long arms and torso, and the large fits true-to-size for me and accommodates my lanky 6’3” frame very well. It has a slim, athletic fit but is not tight or constricting, which is a very hard balance to strike.
- Range of Motion: I highly value range of motion in my gear as I spend most of my time in the backcountry, and the Pyramid allows for smooth and efficient movement while not feeling baggy. Over the past few months, I’ve spent many long hours on the skintrack and have done a handful of steep boot packs up 50+° couloirs. I never feel restricted on my uphill performance with this shell and enjoy the fast descents even more. Perfecto.
- Design: This is a very functional jacket from Strafe. It accomplishes a simple goal without any obvious weak spots from a design standpoint. I love the integration of both comfort and performance features. I have no qualms here.
- Style: This jacket is the perfect style for me. It’s neither overly loose and baggy nor tight and form-fitting. It’s extremely sleek and low-profile compared to a lot of other shells but remains easy to layer with puffers, fleece jackets, and sweatshirts. The Dune color is amazing as well.
- Quality of Materials: The Pyramid matches and exceeds expectations for what I’d want from a premium brand like Strafe. Its thoughtful integration of technical and comfortable materials allows for all-day performance, unlike any other jacket I’ve seen. I own ultra-cozy fleece jackets that lack the chops to hold up to harsh conditions and technical apparel that doesn’t consider comfort. Strafe nailed it with this shell, keeping me both warm and satisfied with its performance in high-alpine environments.
- Durability: I have yet to encounter any durability issues with this jacket. I take care of my gear but expose it to nasty weather and harsh storms. As of yet, there are zero blemishes or signs of use on the shell. Pretty impressive to me.
- Pockets: The pockets on this jacket are both efficient and plentiful. Ample storage for phone, GoPro, pocket bacon, picky bars, headlamp, spare batteries, and some voile straps. The oversized chest pockets specifically stand out to me and are very handy for stuffing excess gear in.
- Breathability: I am extremely impressed here. For how cozy this jacket was, I expected a decent amount of overheating and stuffiness. But for its weight, it’s one of the most breathable options I’ve tested. I still tour only with a mid-layer most of the time on the skintrack, but for out-of-treeline traverses and bootpacks, I have no issues with donning this shell for the final push to the summit.
- Weight: Solid weight for its application. I have both lighter and heavier jackets, but this is a near-perfect in-between option for most days. It doesn’t feel like I’m in a heavy Arctic parka, nor a weak one-layer shell.
- Features: The built-in sleeve liners with thumbholes are fantastic. Warm, comfy, and keeps the snow out. Solid powder skirt. I live for the steep and deep, so that feature appeals very much to me.
- Other: This shell utilizes a different material than GORE-TEX Pro hardshells, resulting in a more conformed, snug (but not tight) fit due to Strafe’s four-way stretch fabric. In addition to this, the aforementioned GORE-TEX tends to be noisy and sounds like a plastic bag blowing in the wind. On the other hand, the Pyramid is extremely quiet and leaves my ears open for the whoops and hollers down my favorite run.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Waterproofing: While I haven’t yet encountered overly heavy rain or drenched conditions, I have experienced my fair share of mild precipitation with this shell. Living in the PNW, rain is to be expected, and a quality hardshell will repel every single water droplet and leave no opportunity to get cold-soaked. I gave this jacket 3 stars in this category. It’s not the worst I’ve seen and keeps me dry in most conditions. But I’d prefer a true GORE-TEX Pro hardshell with a rigid water-repellent exterior for the worst of rainy days. Again, this jacket satisfies my waterproofing criteria for most mid-winter days, though.
- Warmth: Not necessarily a complaint here, but more of an asterisk, depending on one’s purposes. This jacket is very warm for a shell but is best paired with a base and mid-layer for most resort days. Spending most of my time in the backcountry, I am more than content with its warmth on ascents. But once at the summit on single-digit temp days, I quickly throw a puffy under it to provide some added insulation. Unfortunately, this isn’t a one-stop shop fully insulated jacket. It shines best as a shell to be appropriately layered to maximize performance.
Favorite moment with this gear
Hands down, my favorite moment with the Strafe Pyramid came earlier this year in February. We had just received a foot of new snow in the upper cascades, and conditions aligned for some epic line choices on nearby Broken Top. We first approached the majestic peak via a 9-mile snowmobile ride and then broke out the skins for another 2-mile approach to the bowl. From there, we swapped our skins for crampons and boot-packed up a handful of steep couloirs before topping out above our line. The skies were bluebird and the temperature was perfect, but winds were extremely volatile and harsh given our exposure at 9,000 feet. Nevertheless, my new shell kept me dialed in and confident for our technical descents that followed, and I enjoyed one of my best days of the season.
Value for the money vs. other options
There are cheaper options on the market, and I wouldn’t classify the Strafe Pyramid under the “budget-friendly” category. But when comparing this shell to other high-end options from Arc’teryx, Helly Hansen, Norrona, etc., its approximate $590 price tag doesn’t seem so dramatic. If someone desires an everyday, high-performance shell that will last for decades, I would give the Pyramid a strong look. In my opinion, the jacket is one of the most underrated pieces of gear. Keeping one’s core temperature balanced can really make or break a ski day. The Pyramid is a worthwhile investment that will keep delivering season after season.
As a ski expert, I’m constantly bombarded with gear that claims to have the best technology on the market or will solve all skiing problems. More often than not, these claims don’t ring true and are nothing more than marketing ploys designed to attract buyers. The Strafe Pyramid has many rad features that set it apart from the competition, but what stands out to me is not its technology highlights or design. This jacket is a simple, user-friendly shell that compliments a wide variety of skiers. It’s well suited for the backcountry skier desiring something breathable and with a great range of motion and the resort skier who seeks superior warmth and weatherproofing. It’s extremely durable and made with thoughtfulness and intent. Strafe is already known for its premium quality, and the Pyramid still impressed me.