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2021 Summer Buyer’s Guide

The Best Spring and Summer Jackets of 2021

Barriers for whatever the atmosphere dishes out

(Photo: Inga Hendrickson)
buyer's guide

Black Diamond TreeLine Rain Shell ($129)

buyer's guide
(Photo: Courtesy Black Diamond)

Making a cheap waterproof jacket is easy—after all, any trash bag can keep you dry. What’s hard is engineering one that’s also breathable and doesn’t cost more than a month’s groceries. The TreeLine achieves all that at a backpacking-friendly weight. It’s simply the shell most of us need. The proprietary waterproof membrane and PFC-free Bluesign-approved DWR repelled precipitation just as well as spendier shells. Meanwhile, a sweat-dissipating slit across the upper back and two hand pockets (plus a chest pocket on the men’s version) that double as vents boost airflow above most budget options. One tester “barely felt damp after 2,500 feet of uphill.” We also love the fit, which is comfortably trim yet retains enough range of motion for testers to freely extend their arms. It even has a helmet-compatible hood. And, the whole thing packs into its own pocket, yielding a five-by-six-inch parcel. The caveat: Black Diamond used a 2.5-layer construction, which saves dollars but sacrifices some waterproof durability. That matters for those who routinely experience extended exposure to torrential rain. For the rest of us—that is, mostoutdoorists—the TreeLine is brilliant. 10 oz (men’s) / 9 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s


Fjällräven Abisko Lite Trekking ($235)

jackets
(Photo: Courtesy Fjällräven)

Best for Adventure Travel

Here’s the jacket you need for trips that toggle between city and trail. The fabric, a blend of recycled polyester and cotton treated with a wax-based water repellent, feels more like performance denim than plasticky tech material. That comfort hides under a clean, urban design. But in testing, the Abisko Lite also blocked 40-mile-per-hour wind and rain—surprising storm chops for a non-waterproof shell. Zippered side vents and thin stretch panels under the arms and across the back dump enough heat to avoid clamminess, while a drawcord hem, an adjustable hood, and backpack-compatible pockets round out the hike-ready feature set. Still, at about a pound, it’s light enough to stow in your carry-on luggage. 1.09 lbs (men’s) / 15 oz (women’s) 

Men’s Women’s


Patagonia Storm10 ($300)

jackets
(Photo: Courtesy Patagonia)

Best for Packing Light

Even at $300, the Storm10 makes an impressive value proposition: sustainable ultralight construction with a durable three-layer design. For starters, its nylon fabric is 100 percent recycled and sewn in a Fair Trade–certified factory. Second, and most important, it performs. Our Canadian tester deemed the shell “totally stormproof” after staying dry through sideways rain on Vancouver Island’s west coast. “The hood fit well without blocking visibility, and it kept droplets off my face effectively,” he said. A thin seven-denier liner yields incredible breathability, perfect for strenuous backpacking, climbing, and even running, which is something few three-layer shells can claim. Plus, it’s packable enough to please the gram-obsessed. 8 oz (men’s) / 7 oz (women’s) 

Men’s Women’s


Arc’teryx Atom SL Anorak ($209)

jackets
(Photo: Courtesy Arc‘teryx)

Best for Summer Nights

Arc’teryx’s Atom jackets are as much a part of the outdoor uniform as Blundstones and flannel, but they’ve always been a bit too warm for summer. So in 2016, the brand launched the SL, a lightweight version that boasts 40-gram fill instead of 60 (none at all in the hood), with thin, stretchy, fleece side panels that boost breathability. It’s just insulated enough to cut the chill of a 45-degree morning and retains the weather-deflecting, nylon exterior the Atom is so well loved for. This year’s new anorak silhouette weighs less than ten ounces and provides the same technical benefit of its predecessor but with the feel of a pullover sweatshirt and a deep front zip for dumping tons of heat fast. It’s the midlayer we’re taking on every summer camping trip. 8.6 oz (men’s) / 8.1 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s


Backcountry Mad Creek ($110)

fitness
(Photo: Courtesy Backcountry)

Best for Mixed Conditions

More breathable than a wind shell and lighter than most soft shells, the Mad Creek is just right for moving fast in changing weather. The secret is Pertex Quantum Air fabric, a half-recycled open-weave nylon that’s stretchy, lightweight, highlyair permeable, and treated with DWR. Perforated underarm vents bolster the material’s inherent breathability. The result all but blocked an icy wind and kept a tester comfy in steady drizzle in temperatures ranging from 30 to 55 degrees, even when worn over nothing more than a long-sleeve tee. Bonus: the quiet fabric suits trail running, and the hood stows in the collar. The whole thing also packs into its pocket and clips to a climbing harness. 5.5 oz (men’s) / 5.1 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s


Norrøna Falketind Gore-Tex ($469)

jackets
(Photo: Courtesy Norrøna)

Best for Long Downpours

In truly wet conditions, be it a choppy boat ride or a three-day trip with four inches of deluge, we reach for the Falketind jacket over all others. The recycled Gore-Tex membrane is bomber, but this shell’s true superiority is its fit. The pockets sit high, out of the way of pack straps, and the cuffs extend halfway down over the backs of the hands, which helps keep your mitts warm and dry. We also love the hip-length cut that sheds water away from the midriff, the extra-high collar, and the adjustable hood. “Cinched up, I had everything but my eyes covered,” noted one tester. The 30-denier fabric perfectly straddles the line between summertime lightness and burly enough for year-round use. 14.5 oz (men’s) / 13 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s


The North Face Flight Lightriser Futurelight ($300)

jackets
(Photo: Courtesy The North Face)

Best for Wet Aerobic Pursuits

The Lightriser is made for endurance athletes who get out on the trail no matter the forecast. It starts with the North Face’s electro-spun Futurelight membrane, which we’ve found better than Gore-Tex for breathability and nearly as good for water resistance. “An hour of running in sideways rain and I’m just a little sweaty,” reported an incredulous tester. It’s impressive for a shell that’s just over six ounces, since weight savings often sacrifice ventilation. The cut— cropped in front and longer in back—is not ideal for hiking, but we love it for trail running, mountain biking, and fitness paddling. It’s an aerobic junkie’s foul-weather bestie. 7 oz (men’s) / 6.3 oz (women’s)

Men’s Women’s

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Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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