Q:

I’m looking for a breathable, do-everything jacket. Any advice?

My favorite jacket is nearing the end of its life, and I’d like to replace it with a similar do-anything version that’s comfortable in a range of temperatures. I’m looking for a highly breathable piece, and waterproofing isn’t that important. Andre San Francisco, California

Aug 16, 2007
Outside
Outside Magazine
REI Mistral Jacket

Mistral Jacket

A:

Maybe you’re due for a soft shell. They’re the closest thing I know of to a do-anything jacket—one that works well in cool temps, breathes well, and sheds most rain or snow.

For instance, this past winter I was wearing an REI Mistral ($139; rei.com) during winter mountain-biking rides. Temps were in the 30s and low 40s, with occasional light rain or even snow once or twice. I’d throw the Mistral over a wool T-shirt (short-sleeve for 35 and up, long-sleeve for 34 and below), and I was great for rides of up to two hours. Warm, dry, comfortable. The Mistral uses a light version of Polartec’s PowerShield fabric, a woven material that’s durable and has a bit of stretch to it. In the San Francisco climate, I’d say it might be nearly ideal.

There are other options. Mountain Hardwear’s Alchemy ($200; mountainhardwear.com) uses Gore WindStopper laminate, along with PowerShield under the arms and in side panels. It’s a little warmer than the Mistral because the Gore laminate actually has three layers – a light fleece outer, membrane middle layer, and brushed inner. It still offers good breathability, but is better for colder conditions. Or, there’s the Cloudveil Serendipity (available for $125 at backcountry.com), the piece that kind of launched the entire soft shell category. Made with Schoeller Dryskin Extreme, it’s going to offer lots of breathability in temps from 40 on down. It’s as close to a do-it-all winter jacket as you can find.

One possibility: Combine a soft shell with one of the new generation of inexpensive rain jackets. Get a Mistral and a Marmot PreCip Jacket ($99; marmot.com), and for $240 you have a nearly unbeatable weather shield.

You’ve seen our picks for 2007 Gear of the Year, and now the entire Outside Summer Buyer’s Guide is online. Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including soft shell jackets.

Filed To: Soft Shell

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