The Shell Game

Mar 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

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

Yeah, your image-conscious friends might look down their noses at the simple lines and the humble price of your GoLite Flux jacket. But when they're huffing along the trail behind you (way behind you) on a raw, misty day, swimming in sweat inside their stuffy $400 shells, you can throw that superior attitude right back at them. The Flux is made from Epic by Nextec, a lightweight material woven from polyester fibers coated in silicone. With pores large enough to let perspiration vapor pass through but small enough to keep water droplets out—except in extreme downpours—this hoodless jacket isn't completely weather-tight. But it ventilates so effectively that you'll stay drier during an afternoon's hike, a cross-country ski, or a mountain trail run than you would with any fully waterproof shell. Better yet, you'll barely notice it's on—it weighs a scant nine ounces. $150; 888-546-5483,

Because Marmot sweated the small stuff in designing the 19-ounce Liquid Steel, you'll sweat less wearing it, regardless of whether you're a Georgia-to-Maine Appalachian Trail through-hiker or a Teton light-and-fast mountaineer. A wafer-thin DriClime lining wraps around the neck and chin to remove perspiration and prevent chafing. The angled chest pockets (big enough to stuff your climbing skins into) are out of the way of backpack straps, and they tuck closed beneath tiny flaps to seal out sneaky storm-driven raindrops. A taut elastic cord sewn an inch from the brim of the hood conforms snugly to head or helmet. The jacket also uses high-end three-layer Gore-Tex XCR, a premier synthetic laminate that's noticeably more breathable than traditional Gore-Tex (the company claims 25 percent). Our choice for savage conditions, the Liquid Steel is as capable as its macho name implies. $375; 707-544-4590,

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