Can you suggest a few jackets that can multitask for snow sports, short hikes, and the commute to work? I like the hard-shell feel but don't need expensive Gore-Tex; I'd like adjustable cuffs and a removable hood; I would prefer something without a powder skirt but with a zip-out style that's not parka length; I like a simple jacket in solid colors without oodles of pockets and zippers. Hope I didn't overload you. Suggestions? Jim Ann Arbor, Michigan
Certainly, it's fairly easy to find a cleanly designed jacket that works well on the ski slopes or the trails, and even is presentable around town. Cloudveil's Drizzle ($200; www.cloudveil.com) is an excellent choice, using a proprietary waterproof-breathable fabric in a nice, simple, packable design that's all-mountain and all-town. OK, it does look like an outdoor jacket, but not egregiously so. Hood is fixed, but can be rolled up so it's inconspicuous. And it's jacket length, not the longer parka style. Color scheme is two-tone, with a dominant color (blue, red, or a nicely seasonal pumpkin hue) and gray trim.
Another good choice is Patagonia's Storm Jacket ($255; www.patagonia.com). This is the epitome of the do-anything jacket, using Patagonia's well-proven H2No coating. Good array of pockets inside and out (without littering the thing with them), drawcords to keep out snow, a hood that rolls up very neatly. Available in several colors, but I think the black is particularly stylish. It's heavier than the Drizzle—27 ounces versus about 13.
A third good choice: Marmot's new Typhoon Jacket ($230; www.marmot.com), which like the two mentioned above uses a proprietary material (Marmot's MemBrain) for its storm-shedding capabilities. Simple, clean design, with a zip-off hood. Good pocket selection. Solid colors (I like the red; you are of course welcome to disagree), with a few contrasting trim panels on arms and along the sides. Heavier than even the Storm (two pounds five ounces), but also very durable.
Read reviews of the year's best shells, parkas, and jackets in Outside's 2004 Buyer's Guide.