Key-Three Soft Shell

What’s the best technical soft shell?

What's the best technical soft shell? — Laura Baltimore, Maryland


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I hate to delay your soft shell-buying gratification any longer, but if you can hold out until next season you’ll have plenty of state-of-the-art shell options. After a few quiet years, there’s nothing short of a shell revolution taking place—at least ten companies have announced designs using brand-new technology from Polartec, Gore-Tex, eVent, and in-house fabrics in both the hard- and soft-shell variety. Here’s a brief look at two front-runners for next fall, but also pay close attention to brands from Adidas to The North Face to Marmot for their new releases.


Key-Three Key-Three Soft Shell

Columbia’s new Key-Three softshell ($160; uses the company’s new Omni-Heat thermal reflective technology, which is a 50 percent recycled material that uses a dot-matrix application of reflective material on a moisture-wicking baselayer. The key is that it regulates your body temperature by reflecting and retaining heat as needed while dissipating unwanted moisture. It’s also windproof and has an out-of-the-way hood.

Mountain Hardwear’s new Vertical Peak hard-shell jacket ($400; is a good resort-skiing pick. Using their brand-new DryQ Elite technology, the Vertical Peak instantly moves moisture away from you instead of waiting until you’re all sweaty. Or, if you’re looking for a soft shell for high-intensity, high-sweat activities, try Mountain Hardwear’s lightweight, stretch, breathable, waterproof Active DryQ technology, which uses a body mapping design to minimize bulk and maximize movement.

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