A:This requires some serious thought, as my guess is that you'll be using this jacket ... a lot.
You want something light with lots of weather-worthiness, as well as a decent supply of zips and vents so you can be comfortable on balmy but damp days. Fortunately, there are lots of good choices out there.
If price is a factor, an exceedingly good choice is Marmot's PreCip Jacket ($100; www.marmot.com), an astonishing buy in a well-made, versatile jacket. It has good pockets and pit zips, with the only real downside being it's not terribly durable—lots of grubbing around in mud and dirt will do it in. But it might be just fine for a stroll across the English countryside.
Next up, Patagonia's Supercell Jacket ($179; www.patagonia.com), which is a stylish, light jacket that's also very packable. Excellent for all-around hiking and trekking, and a bit more durable than the PreCip.
For a chunk of cash more, Mont-Bell's Storm Cruiser Jacket ($269; www.montbell.com) is a superb all-around rain shell. It's very light—only 16 ounces—but has top-of-the line Gore XCR material. It's also a well-designed piece, with a trim but not constricting fit, integrated hood, and chest and pit zips for extra ventilation. And, if you want something really rugged, check out Mountain Hardwear's Tenacity Parka ($395; www.mounatinhardwear.com), which uses reinforced face fabric over Gore XCR for a tough jacket that can take lots of abuse. But it's also a good all-around parka, with lots of pockets and zips for storage and ventilation.
Okay, that's four, but it never hurts to have a wildcard.
More jackets reviewed in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide .
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