The Barisian Soft Shell
The Barisian Soft Shell (courtesy, Mountain Hardwear)
Gear Guy

What’s the best windproof/breathable soft shell jacket for women?

What is your recommendation for a windproof soft shell woman's jacket with good breathability and water resistance? I will be operating Zodiacs in 20- to 40-degree weather in the Russian Far East and need a good range of movement. Thank you.LaurieGaylord, MI

The Barisian Soft Shell
Doug Gantenbein

Kind of depends on your budget, Laurie. The Arc’teryx Firee Hoody soft shell designed is really nice, and is designed for cold/damp conditions. It uses Polartec Powershield, which I think qualifies the best high-end soft shell material out there; it’s tough, highly water- and wind-resistant, and offers good warmth. The Firee has a longish cut and full hood, so it provides a lot of coverage. Alas, at $400 it’s kind of steep, price-wise. You might also try Mountain Hardwear‘s Barisian Jacket ($175), which uses a good proprietary material with some stretch, along with good breathability and wind resistance.

The Barisian Soft Shell

The Barisian Soft Shell The Barisian Soft Shell

Or, just go for a regular rain shell. Outdoor Research‘s Aspire Jacket ($200) is made from light Gore PacLite material, for a waterproof and breathable piece.

But really, I’m not sure a soft shell or even a regular outdoor jacket is a good choice for you. In an open boat? In 20- to 40-degree weather? I’d go with something much more…well…nautical. Something like Helly Hansen‘s Coastal Jacket III ($150), which has a waterproof/breathable (but mainly waterproof) outer shell with a full hood. You’d need to layer up under it, but it’s really designed for the use you have I mind in a way that most soft shells are not. Or wear what commercial fishers wear: the Helly Hansen PVC Rain Jacket ($85). Totally bombproof heavyweight 0.45mm PVC, extremely durable, resistant to salt spray, chemicals, you name it. On a cold day, with water splashing over the bow of the Zodiac, you’ll thank me.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, Mountain Hardwear