Rab Maverick Jacket
One jacket to rule them all? Not quite, but the Maverick came the closest. Worn over a base layer, testers were comfortable hiking in a 60-degree downpour and mountain biking with temps hovering around freezing. Credit goes to the new 2.5-layer eVent fabric Rab uses. Where most companies sandwich their fragile waterproof-breathable membranes between a face fabric and a liner designed to block body oils, eVent eliminated the liner, improving moisture transfer and cutting weight and bulk. The only catch: to maintain breathability, the jacket needs to be washed regularly. But that’s a minor concession for a jacket this versatile, affordable, and smartly featured (the Maverick’s big hood rolls up into the high, cozy collar). 13 oz
Arc’teryx Tecto FL
BEST FOR: Alpine pursuits.
THE TEST: Whether hiking or climbing, the ten-ounce Tecto never slowed our testers down. Despite the streamlined fit, the articulation in the shoulders is so well executed that even big reaches on the rock went unrestricted. Extend for that handhold and your wrists stay covered by the narrow, low-profile cuffs. Even when our heart rates spiked, the jacket’s high-end fabric—Gore-Tex Active, Gore’s most breathable material—impressed testers, dumping heat even without pit zips.
THE VERDICT: Some testers bemoaned the lack of pockets (there’s just one tiny one on the biceps), but no one questioned this jacket’s functionality. 10 oz
Patagonia Torrentshell Stretch
BEST FOR: Slow and steady activities.
THE TEST: During a soggy fall filled with backpacking and sea-kayaking trips in and around Vancouver Island, Patagonia’s proprietary membrane kept things completely dry despite several all-day drenchings. And when it came down sideways, our tester was grateful for the adjustable hood with good sight lines and full watertight zipper treatment—including pockets and pit zips. Overall, protection was excellent; the consensus is that Patagonia’s H2No membrane is comparable to Gore-Tex’s standard stuff.
THE VERDICT: The fabric is more durable than the Rab’s and the Mountain Hardwear’s but not quite as breathable. 12.3 oz; patagonia.com
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Capacitor
BEST FOR: Moving fast in wet climes.
THE TEST: One of our Vancouver-based testers spent three months biking around the city in
the Stretch Capacitor. He was impressed—a long fit in the torso and arms and stretchy fabric in the back and sides kept him totally dry, even when hunched over the handlebars with water coming from all directions. It performed equally well on hiking trails, where Mountain Hardwear’s new next-to-skin layer, Dry.Q Evap, let the sweat out, spreading body vapor around for faster dispersion.
THE VERDICT: Our biking tester said it best—“Functional fit, totally waterproof, good breathability.” 11 oz
Outdoor Research Enchainment
BEST FOR: Everyday cool-weather wear.
THE TEST: The Enchainment’s tightly woven soft-shell material lacks a membrane or water barrier, so while it deflected light rain, heavier showers soaked through. Even so, it’s the most water-resistant soft shell here. And thanks to panels of lightweight Schoeller soft-shell fabric under the arms and three venting, mesh-backed pockets, it breathes better than you’d expect. Which is why we ended up wearing it for everything from dog walks to fall hikes to an early-season ski tour.
THE VERDICT: Some deemed the style classic; others used the term “dated.” Either way, it’s a solid coat for the money. 1.1 lbs
WEATHER RESISTANCE: 4
The North Face Alpine Project Hybrid Hoodie
BEST FOR: Variable conditions.
THE TEST: A single multipitch climb in Squamish, British Columbia, was all it took for one tester to endorse this vertically inspired jacket. The pockets sit above the harness. The Gore Windstopper membrane in the torso and at the tops of the arms rebuffed cold gusts, while the more breathable stretch-woven panels under the arms kept the Velcro-free wrists in place when reaching overhead. But the most noteworthy feature was the stretchy hood, which fits neatly under a helmet and affords great peripheral vision.
THE VERDICT: Send it. 1 lb
WEATHER RESISTANCE: 4.5
Sherpa Adventure Gear Imja
BEST FOR: Light protection during aerobic pursuits.
THE TEST: It isn’t just a name. The company is owned by Sherpas, and like nearly all its jackets and other clothing, the Imja is made in Nepal. Which is cool, but we included it here because it’s our new favorite ultralight soft shell. When a surprise rainstorm hit during a trail run, one tester pulled out the 4.9-ounce Imja’s hood, tucked his fingers into the long sleeves—with thumb loops—and kept on hauling uphill. Other smart touches: perforated panels under the arms for breathability and reflective highlights for visibility at night.
THE VERDICT: Big protection in a tiny package. 4.9 oz
WEATHER RESISTANCE: 3
Mountain Khakis Granite Creek Windshirt
BEST FOR: Looking and feeling good.
THE TEST: Mountain Khakis took windproof nylon, gave it a DWR coating, and then did something novel: tailored it like a western shirt. Testers liked the look but gave it the nod ultimately because of its performance. It’s not as breathable as the other wind shells here, but its hanging soft mesh lining wicked away moisture on hikes, fly-fishing excursions, and just about everything in between. The cut of the arms is a bit odd: the upper sleeves are baggy and the cuffs snug.
THE VERDICT: Points for style; double points for solid performance. 9 oz
Columbia Trail Drier Windbreaker
BEST FOR: Lightweight, affordable protection.
THE TEST: Stuffed into its own chest pocket, this six-ounce shell virtually disappeared in testers’ packs. It’s bare-bones, but not in a bad way. Considering there are no adjustment points, the impressively snug hood stayed in place during a drizzly trail run in Toronto. That’s standard wind-shell stuff, of course; what separates it from the pack
is the moisture-wicking lining. The technology has a clunky name—Omni-Wick Evap—but it works well and kept clamminess to a minimum.
THE VERDICT: Solid, respectably light, and fully featured (with three pockets). 6 oz
BEST FOR: Chilly or windy trail running and mountain biking.
THE TEST: “Nano” refers to the weight—less than five ounces. As for the “wick,” Marmot took DriClime, its popular liner fabric, which mechanically pulls moisture away from the skin, and knit it into a superfine mesh in the jacket’s body. When the sweat started flowing on rides and trail runs, the shell didn’t stick to testers like plastic wrap; it remained soft and dry next to the skin. “It looks flimsy,” said one, “but it came out unscathed after I crashed into a blackberry bramble.”
THE VERDICT: The most comfortable sub-five-ounce shell we’ve tested. 4.5 oz