Gear Guy

What soft shell will perform best in the Himalayas?

I've been looking into soft shells to take on a NOLS [National Outdoor Leadership School] expedition to the Himalayas and have narrowed the selection down to Patagonia's Mixmaster or Beyond Fleece's Cold Fusion. I was hoping you could help me choose one based on durability, performance, and warmth. Kevin Mahopac, New York

A: Well, for one thing, those two pieces are essentially two different beasts. Patagonia's Mixmaster ($295; is one of the more exotic soft shells around. It's a full-featured, hooded jacket and has two kinds of insulation (thicker around the torso, thinner on the arms) laminated to a water-repellent Polartec shell. It's very nicely designed, very warm, and suitable for pretty severe alpine conditions.

Cold Fusion

The Cold Fusion, from an interesting company called Beyond Fleece, is a more typical soft shell—a basic jacket made with Schoeller's excellent WB-400 fabric. In its basic configuration ($159;, it's a simple, snug-fitting jacket with a full zip. You can add all sorts of extras—pit zips, attached or zip-off hood, arm pockets, and more. And you can customize the size. Of course, all that also jacks up the price to $250 or more when all's said and done.

Choosing between the two is tough, and I'd say they match up on durability. I like the Mixmaster, but the Cold Fusion is probably a better multi-purpose garment. That's because you'll likely still want to throw a full shell made from Gore-Tex or similar material over it as the Himalayan weather worsens or cools. And when you line them up, the Mixmaster is a heavier jacket (26 ounces, compared to the 21-ounce Cold Fusion) and is really meant to be a garment for severe conditions. So the basic Cold Fusion will be better at filling that "layering or alone" niche than the Mixmaster, and saves you a few ounces into the bargain.

Hope you have a good trip!

To see a selection of soft shells compared and rated across a range of temps and activities, read "The Soft-Shell Game" from the February 2003 issue of Outside.

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.
Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Soft Shell
Lead Photo: courtesy, Beyond Fleece
More Gear