All-weather, three-season shells.
By Ryan Stuart | Photograph by Dave Cox
The Essence weighs only six ounces and crushes down smaller than an orange. Unfurl it when the weather turns, and stay dry even when you’re charging uphill. Taped seams kept an hour-long downpour out, and Marmot’s NanoPro membrane breathed better than any other we’ve tried. Swami gripe: A Napoleon pocket is all you get. Swami like: Vent holes in the pits help dump still more heat. Waterproof/breathable; 6 oz; $200
Helly Hansen Loke
Value-wise, it’s hard to beat the Loke. A Benjamin buys you a fully waterproof and somewhat breathable 2.5 layer hard shell that weighs 10 ounces. With an adjustable hem, cuffs, and hood, it excels for walking the dog, commuting through town, and hiking in wet weather. Swami gripe: Even with the pit zips open it got steamy. Swami like: Add the matching pants for head to toe storm protection. Waterproof/breathable; 10 oz; $100; hellyhansen.com
To gram counters, the pit zips on this Gore-Tex Active shell are sins akin to packing a full-length sleeping pad or—gasp—a toothbrush. Leave furry teeth and cold feet to the zealots. In a rainstorm, the combined two ounces of zipper weight are priceless. Swami gripe: Treat with care. Playing with ice axes punched a couple holes in the sleeve. Swami like: Full coverage: no flesh left exposed, even on overhangs. Waterproof/breathable; 13 oz; $400
Black Diamond B.D.V. Jacket
While we wore the highly breathable and impressively water-resistant B.D.V. for hikes, trail runs, and ski tours, the jacket came into its own climbing. A trim fit reduces baggage under a harness or pack. Built-in stretch allows unrestricted movement. Swami gripe: For this price? Nada. Swami like: Stuffs to softball size in its own chest pocket and easily clips on a harness. Wind/water-resistant; 13.8 oz; $180
Clean lines, button cuffs, and man-of-power colors draw compliments. And it’s easy to cycle to dinner with stretchy Schoeller c–change fabric. The membrane blocks rain and wind, and heat dumping pores open wider as you warm up and shrink as you cool down. Swami gripe: Hefty price tag. Swami like: Hunker down behind the high, fleece-lined collar. Waterproof/breathable; 18 oz; $500; westcomb.com
Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid
This wind shell mixes the best of two breeds. In this case, there’s a smart blend of soft and hard shell fabrics. Stretchy and porous, yet wind resistant, the lightweight soft shell body sheds heat on trail runs and ascents. Meanwhile, the waterproof hood and shoulders, made of Pertex Shield, deflect a steady drizzle. Swami gripe: We’d add a strap for the floppy hood. Swami like: It stuffs into the chest pocket. Wind/water resistant; 5.7 oz; $125
From the Early Summer 2014 issue.