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

It's not surprising that Cloudveil, the small maker of high-quality, high-end apparel, decided to create a nearly indestructible all-weather shell. What's remarkable is that the 16.5-ounce Drizzle isn't constructed from the thicker three-layer fabrics that most mountaineering-worthy shells employ. Instead, it uses a featherweight "2.5-layer" waterproof material named Cloudburst, comparable to Patagonia's H2No. Steam and sweat escape the laminate through microscopic pores that expand with body heat—the harder you exert yourself, the more it breathes. To ensure the same durability as heavier shells, the Drizzle is reinforced with more seams and tighter stitching. The water-resistant zippers, plastic clasps on the cinch straps, and other hardware are also brawnier. Upshot: The Drizzle would probably survive an avalanche, a long fall, or a stroll around the Arctic Circle—which is more than can be said for you. $235; 888-763-5969,

Perhaps the most versatile shell we tested, the 11-ounce Flight Jacket by The North Face is cut low in the tail to cover your behind for snowboarding. Torso vents allow for ample air-conditioning while cross-country skiing, and the sturdy construction makes it a trusty backpacking option. Lest we forget the importance of backcountry evening wear, the stowable stretch hood and subtle styling make it presentable on the après-ski circuit. HyVent, TNF's proprietary three-layer water-stopping polyurethane laminate, allows warm air inside the jacket to drive vapor to the outer fabric, where it evaporates quickly. Although the Flight breathes slightly less than other shells we tried, it is admirably durable—a bonus, considering how often you'll wear it. $200; 800-719-6678,

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Need a Gear Fix?

Open email. Get latest gear. Repeat.

Thank you!