The Shell Game

Mar 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

From left to right: Pearl Izumi Passage, Sierra Designs Tempest, Golite Flux Jacket, Marmot Liquid Steel

Used to be that biking hard through a storm required two jackets: a highly breathable windbreaker for the sweaty climbs and a PVC slicker for the frigid descents. Not anymore. The 11-ounce Pearl Izumi Passage uses three-layer eVent, a hydrophobic fabric that breathes almost as well as the low-tech ripstop nylon used in most biking shells. It works so well, in fact, that the Passage doesn't have any pit zips or vents. What it does have are details only a bike company could perfect, like a snug cut that keeps air drag to a minimum, a hoodless collar, subtle reflective trim that attracts attention only under a headlight's beam, and a watch window on the left sleeve—nice if you're a righty. Just as important, the tuckable butt cover lets you wear the jacket in town without looking like a Tour de France wannabe. $350; 800-328-8488,

On most summer backpacking trips, your top-drawer heavy-duty rain shell does little more than hog the bottom of your bag. Go without it, however, and you're playing Russian roulette with hypothermia. The solution: Sierra Designs Tempest. (Yes, another one. Next year perhaps "Maelstrom" will be hip.) At 13 ounces, it's lighter than most hiking jackets yet shares the same basic attributes, such as a roomy hood that cinches tight, adjustable cuffs, and a rain flap over the front zip. Cut from low-tech ripstop nylon coated in a polyurethane-and-silk-protein-based waterproofing agent called Equilibrium, it scrunches down to the size of a softball. It's also watertight and breathable—although not as breathable as more expensive jackets. But if you don't mind letting in a little rain, just open the vents running from biceps to wrist, as well as the mesh side pockets, and there's ample airflow to compensate—a worthy trade-off for a lighter load. $100; 800-635-0461,

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