The 6 Best Lightweight Jackets for Spring

Barely-there shells for all kinds of conditions

A 2.5-layer shell like the Helium II does away with the interior protective layer of other waterproof jackets, instead using a textured coating to shield the membrane from body oils and abrasion. (Photo: Hannah McCaughey)
Outdoor Research Helium II Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie Dynafit Trail DST Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist Patagonia Storm Racer and The North Face BTN

Rain is a lame excuse to cut a run short. These six mighty shells are a lightweight insurance policy designed to keep you on the trails no matter the weather emergency. 

Outdoor Research Helium II ($159)

Outdoor Research Helium II
(Photo: Outdoor Research)

OR’s designers trimmed the fat from this waterproof shell by using moderately breathable 2.5-layer Pertex nylon and retaining a bare minimum of features (chest pocket, drawstring toggles). The result packs down to the size of a Clif Bar. 6.4 oz.

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie ($100)

Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie
(Photo: Salomon)

This is the lightest, most packable shell here. It won’t ensure you stay dry in a deluge, but it’ll keep you hammering, thanks to super-breathable, ultrathin nylon and four-inch pit vents. 3.2 oz.

The North Face BTN ($130)

The North Face BTN
(Photo: The North Face)

Crafted as a go-to training layer, the BTN is cut from quick-drying polyester that lets you sweat without clamming up. There’s no exterior coating or laminate, so we wouldn’t take it on an alpine climb, but as an everyday running shell it excels. 6.7 oz.

Dynafit Trail DST ($169)

(Photo: Dynafit)

DST stands for Durastretch, a four-way soft-shell fabric that offers superior range of motion. Bonus: perforated sections in the exterior and on the upper back and torso dump heat during high-intensity outings. 7.2 oz.

Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist ($220)

Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist
(Photo: Helly Hansen)

The Odin Minimalist is among the lightest, most breathable waterproof shells we’ve tested. The thin laminated nylon is surprisingly durable and packs easily into its own chest pocket. 5.6 oz.

Patagonia Storm Racer ($279)

Patagonia Storm Racer
(Photo: Patagonia)

Don’t be fooled by the hard-shell looks—the Storm Racer was crafted for mobility. Thanks to stretchy nylon, it moves with you. It was designed for alpine running, but a DWR coating beads moisture as well as a rain jacket. Bummer: it’s the heaviest shell here. 9.6 oz.

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From Outside Magazine, Mar 2014
Filed To: Gear ReviewHiking and BackpackingExplorationMidweightHard ShellSoft ShellWind ShellInsulated
Lead Photo: Hannah McCaughey
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