My favorite jacket is nearing the end of its life, and Id like to replace it with a similar do-anything version thats comfortable in a range of temperatures. Im looking for a highly breathable piece, and waterproofing isnt that important. Andre San Francisco, California
Maybe youre due for a soft shell. Theyre the closest thing I know of to a do-anything jacketone that works well in cool temps, breathes well, and sheds most rain or snow.
REI Mistral Jacket
For instance, this past winter I was wearing an REI Mistral ($139; rei.com) during winter mountain-biking rides. Temps were in the 30s and low 40s, with occasional light rain or even snow once or twice. Id throw the Mistral over a wool T-shirt (short-sleeve for 35 and up, long-sleeve for 34 and below), and I was great for rides of up to two hours. Warm, dry, comfortable. The Mistral uses a light version of Polartecs PowerShield fabric, a woven material thats durable and has a bit of stretch to it. In the San Francisco climate, Id say it might be nearly ideal.
There are other options. Mountain Hardwears Alchemy ($200; mountainhardwear.com) uses Gore WindStopper laminate, along with PowerShield under the arms and in side panels. Its a little warmer than the Mistral because the Gore laminate actually has three layers a light fleece outer, membrane middle layer, and brushed inner. It still offers good breathability, but is better for colder conditions. Or, theres the Cloudveil Serendipity (available for $125 at backcountry.com), the piece that kind of launched the entire soft shell category. Made with Schoeller Dryskin Extreme, its going to offer lots of breathability in temps from 40 on down. Its as close to a do-it-all winter jacket as you can find.
One possibility: Combine a soft shell with one of the new generation of inexpensive rain jackets. Get a Mistral and a Marmot PreCip Jacket ($99; marmot.com), and for $240 you have a nearly unbeatable weather shield.