The Shell Game

Mar 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

From left to right: Mountain Hardwear Tempest SL Anorak, Patagonia Supercell, Cloudveil Drizzle, The North Face Flight Jacket

The 12-ounce Mountain Hardwear Tempest SL Anorak offers more than the obvious stylistic (and olfactory) improvements over an Inuit caribou-skin kayaking anorak. The house-brand rain-blocking material—Conduit, a hydrophobic membrane sandwiched between ripstop nylon and mesh—stands up to everything this side of a Northwest monsoon, but with untaped seams, the Tempest SL also breathes almost as well as fleece and compacts like a T-shirt. The large helmet-covering hood stows in the collar, and the Tempest's shoulders are roomy enough for unhindered movement. This shell can be worn year-round for almost anything outdoors, particularly running, day hiking, snowshoeing, and, yes, kayaking too. $155; 800-499-8696,

The Patagonia Supercell doesn't look, sound, or feel like other sub-$200 shells, those crinkly jackets that seem to beg for an iron every time you pull them out of the pack. The H2No laminate, a vapor-permeable foam beneath the nylon fabric, is as soft as cotton. The Supercell also weighs only 15 ounces—about five to ten ounces less than typical three-layer mountain shells—yet it's stacked with all the features you need for intense aerobic backcountry activities: a stowable hood that fits over a helmet, roomy mesh pockets, ventilation zips that run from the elbow to the hip, and a fleece snot-flap on the collar for...well, never mind. It's especially well suited for those spring skiing trips where you encounter wind, snow, sun, and showers—often on the same descent. $180; 800-638-6464,

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