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March 2008 Essentials Review: Shell Jackets

Best Buy
Outdoor Research Revel

Some shells crinkle so loudly you can’t carry on a conversation. Others seem to stiffen at the first sign of cold weather. No such problem with the Revel (Reflexa is the women’s version). “The Pertex fabric is buttery-soft and stretchy, but it’s no slacker in the rain,” said our gear editor. The full-length side zips, combined with better-than-average breathability, kept her from overheating during a long climb up the Sand Creek Trail in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range. The Revel has one of the best stashable hoods we’ve seen: Whereas many others are bulky, stiff, and ear-high when rolled away–creating a sort of Elvis-circa-1968 look–the Revel’s is unobtrusive, with a brushed liner that’s cozy on the chin. Fit is dialed: shaped enough to look good, but roomy enough for layering. Available in men’s S-XXL, women’s S-XL. $150; 11.8 oz. (women’s M); orgear.com

Bargain!
GoLite Virga

Things that weigh around 8 ounces: Two king-size Snickers. A pocket-size Leatherman. And the GoLite Virga, which also packs down smaller than an orange. How? A minimalistic design (just two big hand pockets and an elasticized hood) and a thin waterproof/breathable fabric (called Alchemy) that’s silkier than most hard shells. The Virga rebuffed Colorado hailstorms on multiday treks and kept us dry during drizzly trail runs, and it has a slim, efficient fit. The fabric isn’t as breathable as others in this review, and the non-adjustable hood tended to blow off in strong winds. But if you’re a die-hard ounce-counter on a budget, those are small sacrifices. Available in men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL. $80; 8 oz. (men’s M); golite.com

Most Breathable
Westcomb Specter LT Hoody

Listen up, sweathogs! This eVent jacket never got more than slightly damp on the inside, even during high-exertion outings, like a 24-mile snowy hike in the Sawtooths. “It’s so breathable I didn’t even miss pit zips,” wrote one editor. The design is ultra-minimalist, with just a single chest pocket and an iPod-size inner pouch, but the hood has both rear and side adjustments for a dynamic fit. The waterproof front and pocket zippers let Westcomb shave a few more ounces by eliminating zipper flaps. All testers loved the easy-to-layer-under fit. Available in men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL. $250; 10 oz. (men’s M); westcomb.com

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