Well, I see your point, Scott, but I sort of think youre approaching the problem from the wrong direction. When I buy a shell, I want it to be totally without any liner or anything else. Its a shell, its supposed to keep me dry or deflect the wind. What I wear under it is what keeps me warm. And because the jacket itself offers minimal insulation, I have much more freedom to accommodate different temperatures and weather conditions. Thats especially true in the relatively mild Pacific Northwest, where even in December it can be 50 degrees and raining.
So I think the estimable Arcteryx Theta AR ($450, which is a bit steep I admit; arcteryx.com) would still be an excellent choice, particularly because it now is made with Gores new Pro Shell material, which is lighter, tougher, and more breathable than Gore-Tex XCR.
The Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody ($350) is a very different creature. Its a soft shell jacket, meaning its designed to keep you pretty warm, pretty dry, and pretty comfortable in pretty near any kind of weather you come across. This is the kind of soft shell I like: one made with Polartec Powershield. Its absolutely great for hiking, climbing, even mountain-biking, in snotty weather. Its maybe a little less good for being outside all day in the rain when you might not be working at a high level. You know, yard chores, that sort of thing. So if the goal is to stay dry, then the Theta is the better choice.
Of course, if Im just outside in the rain and snow, as I was this past weekend putting up Christmas lights on the Gear Cave, then I go for the lowest common denominator: a PVC rainsuit such as Helly Hansens A Series jacket ($35; hellyhansen.com). I mean, TOTALLY waterproof. Breathable? Well, no. But sometimes thats a good thing.
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