Gear Guy

Ready Mix     Photo: courtesy, Patagonia

Q:

Can you help me choose my first soft shell?

I looking to buy Patagonia's Ready Mix as my first soft shell. What's your opinion on this shell? Will it repel light to moderate rain showers as advertised? Dan Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A:Patagonia's Ready Mix ($199; www.patagonia.com) seems to be positioned where much of the soft-shell market is collecting—as a light shell, one that's pretty waterproof and very windproof but breathes better and is lighter than the traditional bulletproof waterproof-breathable shells we all lug around but very rarely use. Put it over a light or medium layer of insulation for good performance when working hard in all but heavy downpours. The other camp views soft shells as a water-repellent, wind-resistant piece that keeps you warm and dry. Shells such as this are usually made with Polartec Power Shield, and include REI's very fine One Jacket (also $199; www.rei.com).

In the Ready Mix, Patagonia uses a material that's inherently very water-resistant—a fine-weave polyester—varying the thickness of it in areas most likely to get wet (shoulders, for instance), then coats it all with its proprietary Deluge finish, which repels water like rain off a goose. So, in short, it's just the ticket for what you want to do.

The beauty of a piece such as the Ready Mix is that you can just toss it over a super-light layer, such as Patagonia's Capilene Silkweight Crew ($34), and get some comfortable rain protection when it's not real cold. Much as I like pieces such as the One Jacket, they're best suited for cool-to-cold conditions, especially for aerobic activities. I mean, a One and a light synthetic tee and you can mountain-bike in the snow (I know, because I have).

Get the scoop on other soft-shell options in Outside's Gear Blog .

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