In the Store: There are as many jackets as cereal choices these daysyou need a plan. What are the conditions you're dressing for? If you're heading to Utah for some canyoneering, a breathable and stretchy soft shell might be the perfect all-conditions jacket for you. Climbing Mount Rainier? You'll need a full-featured hard shell. » Make sure the fit's rightwhether you're looking for an athletically cut jacket for aerobic pursuits or something roomy enough to slide over an insulating layer.
In the Field: We see a lot of overdressed guys out theredon't be one of them. Bring extra layers, yes, but treat them like tax forms: Use only when needed. Start your hike, bike, or run slightly chilled. Crack chest vents and pit zips early, before you overheat.
At Home: Wash your shell when necessary, but use a residue-free cleaner made for today's high-tech fabrics (from McNett, Nikwax, and Granger's). » Most jackets come with a water-resistant coating (called a DWR, or durable water-repellent, coating). All of them eventually lose effectiveness. When your jacket starts to wet out (water saturates the fabric), restore the DWR with an aftermarket treatment from one of the companies above.