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The Mountain Hardwear Aurora possesses the weight and simplicity of a ballpark giveaway windbreaker, but instead of being useless and free, it's waterproof and comes with a shocking price tag ($370; 800-953-8375). It's made of W. L. Gore's newest brainchild, Pac-Lite, which is a different formulation of Gore-Tex that obviates the need to protect the delicate membrane with a heavy fabric lining, opting instead to fuse sesame-seed-size rubbery dots directly to the barrier. Mountain Hardwear kept the 17-ounce Aurora's design simple so as not to defeat Pac-Lite's purpose: Zipper flaps are thin, the two pockets are backed by mesh, and the cuffs are elastic with only a small adjustment tab. Jackets that smush into a jersey pocket are nothing new, but when you can fit one into the little tennis-ball pocket on the back of your shorts, now that's high-tech.

With the Velocity Shell ($89; 800-638-6464), Patagonia has reduced bulk and increased breathability by encapsulating the polyester fibers in a silicone polymer, which, in addition to keeping them from loading up with water, fills in the little holes between the threads. The result? A weatherproof fabric as slippery smooth and thin as rice paper, minus the crinkle (though it can feel a little clingy against bare forearms).

Pearl Izumi's Vagabond Jacket ($110; 800-328-8488) hails from cycling couture, but thanks to a boxy cut it's still your friend far from the bike. The Zephrr fabric—extremely fine-fiber polyester—breathes incredibly well, but because it's so tightly woven it's also highly wind-resistant and water-repellent. Zip off the sleeves and you've got an equally useful vest. Bravo, Pearl, for finally installing zippers that don't jam: You can actually slip on this jacket while you're pedaling.


Don't let the off-putting name of The North Face ATV Pants ($110; 800-719-6678) color your view of these appealing trousers. Made of an incredibly tough combination of nylon and spandex from the innovative Swiss company Schoeller, they're virtually weather- and abrasion-proof. Take a digger on a scree-paved hike and they'll save your skin.

Every dedicated runner's dilemma: The best of rain jackets don't shield your legs, but rain pants and performance tend to be mutually exclusive. The solution: All-Weather Tights from Sierra Designs ($89; 800-635-0461), an innovative composite of stretch nylon and a waterproof-breathable membrane whipped into a trim design. They won't hang up your stride, but they will keep your gams dry in a deluge.
Marmot's DriClime Pants ($125; 707-544-4590) turn a dreary, damp day into the ideal occasion to hike. Outside, a nylon shell scotches wind; inside, a bicomponent polyester knit wicks like crazy. Side zippers allow easy egress when you've warmed up and want to thumb your nose at the fog. Think of them as a cozy kick in the pants to get you out the door.
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