The Shell Game

Stay on the winning end of the high-stakes outerwear gamble

Mar 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

YOU MAY ALREADY be familiar with the routine: First you research, shop, and, uh, shell out a frightening amount of your nest egg for the cutting-edge climate-control performance jacket. Then, on its first venture into the backcountry, your spiffy new outerwear either soaks up rain like a roll of cheesecloth or fogs up with more sweat than a plastic jumpsuit. Soaked and disheartened, you head back and bet on a new poncho...only to get taken once again in this adventure-sports shell game. Tired of feeling like a sucker? Thanks to a number of fabric-tech innovations, the odds of staying dry are tilting in your favor.

Today's shells feature a new generation of proprietary fabrics that feel comfortable in a wide range of situations, no matter what their intended use. Cyclists, for instance, can keep warm in the rain, because biking tops, traditionally little more than wind shirts, now block water without choking off airflow. Mountaineers can don outerwear that offers near-total protection from the elements without sacrificing ventilation. And load-conscious backpackers can opt for light raingear that still combats hypo-thermia. Sure, none of these jackets breathes as well as human skin, but that doesn't mean you have to sweat it. We tested eight stellar models designed to cure you of the soggy-bottom blues. Get ready to zip.

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