(Inga Hendrickson)

The Best Spring and Summer Jackets of 2020

Keep moving in all conditions

Inga Hendrickson

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Black Diamond HighLine Stretch ($299)

(Courtesy Black Diamond)

Waterproofing, breathability, durability, packability, ­comfort, ­­­sustain­ability­—you’re lucky if your jacket has a few of these attributes. The HighLine has them all. Most notable is the PFC- and palm-oil-free DWR treatment from Green Theme Technology. Unlike most DWRs, the process uses no water, and it’s applied at the fiber level, making it more permanent than topical coatings. It also firms up the jacket’s individual fibers. We tested the HighLine by bushwhacking uphill in the rain for three hours, followed by a hose-down. It came through without a scratch or a leak. That said, the jacket doesn’t feel like armor. Its durable three-layer construction is comfortable, with light, stretchy 30-denier nylon and a ­jersey-knit lining that feels like a well-worn tee. But what we noticed most was the breathability­. With the pit zips cracked we never overheated, even during a week of soggy, 70-degree hikes in Kauai. Weighing less than 13 ­ounces—light for such a bomber shell—and scrunching down to grapefruit size, it’s the whole package. 12.7 oz (men’s) / 10.7 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

Rab Phantom Pull-On ($200)

(Courtesy Rab)

Best Lightweight Rain Jacket

From wet hikes on the Olympic Peninsula to dry, windy mountain runs in the Canadian Rockies, we took the Phantom everywhere. This shell is too packable not to. Better: it protects far beyond its 3.2-ounce weight. We stayed dry in 30-minute downpours and all-day drizzles. Credit the impressively breathable and stretchy 2.5-layer waterproof fabric, taped seams, fitted hood, and extra-long sleeves. Of course, this weight class demands penance: no pockets, only a quarter zip, and no wrist or hem adjustments. But those are worthwhile trade-offs for one of the lightest rain shells we’ve tested. 3.2 oz

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Patagonia Torrentshell 3L ($149)

(Courtesy Patagonia)

Best Eco-Shell

Green-gear skeptics changed their tune after testing this waterproof jacket, which was re­­designed for 2020 to prove that sustainability needn’t compromise performance or affordability. Sewn in a Fair Trade–­certified factory, the Torrentshell is made from recy­cled nylon, with a waterproof-breathable mem­brane that’s 13 percent plant based. The three-layer construction is more durable than its 2.5-layer predecessor. Still, as with Torrentshells of old, it’s breathable (pit zips help), a high collar and brimmed hood seal out showers, and there are hand pockets for snacks. It’s heavier and less packable than the Rab, but it also costs less, and the 50-denier fabric is tougher. 13.9 oz (men’s) / 12.5 oz (women’s) 

Men's Women's

Elevenate Motion Down ($250)

(Courtesy Elevenate)

Best Summer Insulation

Sometimes you want a jacket that feels cuddly. Enter the Motion, which is stuffed with enough 750-fill down, plus synthetic loft at the shoulders, to keep our tester cozy on 40-degree mornings in Montana’s Beaverhead Mountains. Upping the snug factor is unusually soft nylon and a patch of microfleece to soften the zipper at the neck. Wavelike baffles and striped elastic on the hem and cuffs make it more stylish than your standard puffy. But it still has backcountry cred, with a PFC-free DWR coating that shields against drizzles and errant coffee splashes. 6.2 oz (men’s) / 5.8 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

Arc’teryx Gamma SL Hoody ($225)

(Courtesy Arc’teryx)

Best Soft Shell

Any soft shell worth its salt is stretchy, breathable, and comfortable. But precious few are as water- and wind-resistant as the Gamma. It’s made from double-woven fabric to yield a slick outer surface and a soft inner. The combination is durable enough to rub against rocks and equipped to deflect wind and light rain; it also wicks moisture and feels comfortable next to the skin. The fit is trim without being tight; gusseted underarms kept the hems in place whether we were reaching for a hold, a handlebar, or a hand. “I wore this jacket for everything from mountain biking to walking the dog,” said one tester. “It always seemed just right.” 10.4 oz (men’s) / 9.2 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Mountain Ops ($179)

(Courtesy Eddie Bauer)

Best for Foul Weather

When the forecast for a Vancouver ­Island coastal hike said three days of rain, our tester passed over lightweight layers for this burly, workwear-inspired jacket. Eddie Bauer designed it in the soggy Pacific ­Northwest with a tough ­waterproof-breathable membrane and 70-denier nylon. Over a week of rainforest backpacking, it handled relentless precipitation and plenty of bushwhacking. When rain turned to sleet, our tester found shelter in the high fleece-lined collar, large hand pockets, and roomy adjustable hood. “It’s bulky,” they said. “But it gave me confidence to push on as the weather worsened.” 1.1 lbs

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Icebreaker Men’s Cool-Lite Rush ($200)

(Courtesy Icebreaker)

Best Wind Shell

When raw, chilly days call for just a smidge of insulation, the Rush steps up. Its ­merino-Tencel lining has porous eyelets that move sweat fast, so you can log workouts without overheating or clamming up. The recycled-polyester shell features mesh vents on the back and sides that let heat escape. (The women’s version has scalloped cutouts on the upper back, which we loved.) The shell ­effectively buffers wind; even icy gusts at 11,000 feet didn’t shock us. Zippered hand pockets keep a phone or gel at the ready. 12.7 oz (men’s) / 9.5 oz (women’s)

Men's Women's

Corrections: (09/25/2023) We've deleted a claim made in the print version of the Buyer's Guide that the Highline Stretch's fibers reduce microplastic shedding, which Black Diamond says is not accurate. We also updated the story to reflect the nylon is 30-denier. From Summer 2020 Buyer’s Guide Lead Photo: Inga Hendrickson

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