The 6 Best Lightweight Jackets for Spring

Barely-there shells for all kinds of conditions

Feb 17, 2015
Outside Magazine
Outdoor Research Helium II Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie Dynafit Trail DST Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist Patagonia Storm Racer and The North Face BTN

A 2.5-layer shell like the Helium II does away with the interior protective layer of other waterproof jackets, instead using a textured coating to shield the membrane from body oils and abrasion.    Photo: Hannah McCaughey

Rain is a lame excuse to cut a run short. These six mighty shells are a lightweight insurance policy designed to keep you on the trails no matter the weather emergency. 

Outdoor Research Helium II ($159)

Outdoor Research Helium II
  Photo: Outdoor Research

OR’s designers trimmed the fat from this waterproof shell by using moderately breathable 2.5-layer Pertex nylon and retaining a bare minimum of features (chest pocket, drawstring toggles). The result packs down to the size of a Clif Bar. 6.4 oz.

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie ($100)

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie
  Photo: Salomon

This is the lightest, most packable shell here. It won’t ensure you stay dry in a deluge, but it’ll keep you hammering, thanks to super-breathable, ultrathin nylon and four-inch pit vents. 3.2 oz.

The North Face BTN ($130)

The North Face BTN
  Photo: The North Face

Crafted as a go-to training layer, the BTN is cut from quick-drying polyester that lets you sweat without clamming up. There’s no exterior coating or laminate, so we wouldn’t take it on an alpine climb, but as an everyday running shell it excels. 6.7 oz.

Dynafit Trail DST ($169)

  Photo: Dynafit

DST stands for Durastretch, a four-way soft-shell fabric that offers superior range of motion. Bonus: perforated sections in the exterior and on the upper back and torso dump heat during high-intensity outings. 7.2 oz.

Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist ($220)

Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist
  Photo: Helly Hansen

The Odin Minimalist is among the lightest, most breathable waterproof shells we’ve tested. The thin laminated nylon is surprisingly durable and packs easily into its own chest pocket. 5.6 oz.

Patagonia Storm Racer ($279)

Patagonia Storm Racer
  Photo: Patagonia

Don’t be fooled by the hard-shell looks—the Storm Racer was crafted for mobility. Thanks to stretchy nylon, it moves with you. It was designed for alpine running, but a DWR coating beads moisture as well as a rain jacket. Bummer: it’s the heaviest shell here. 9.6 oz.

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