These light, supple shells won over the staunchest of our staff softshell devotees. “For the last few years, I’ve viewed hardshells as a an occasional necessary evil, but these came along and deconstructed my softshell dogma brick by brick,” says one tester who used them while touring the Tetons and skinning and skiing the 45-degree Dead Dog Couloir on Colorado’s Torreys Peak. Made of light-as-a-feather (and just as soft) Gore-Tex Active Shell, the Storm Fighters are nothing like a conventional hardshell when it comes to feel and fit.
“The full-length, large-toothed side zippers are incredibly easy to adjust on the fly,” says our tester, “but thanks to the flexibility of the fabric, when you vent these shells, they fly wide open, unlike stiffer pants that only vent an inch or so. Blow these babies open from hip to boot, and it feels like you’re not wearing any pants at all.” One tester, a professional photographer, spent plenty of time sitting and kneeling in the snow, and the Active Shell never wetted out. The removable gaiters added even more versatility: Take them out for maximum airflow and to save two ounces, put them back in when you hit the deep stuff. “At the end of the day, these shells were lighter, more breathable, more waterproof, and every bit as comfortable as my favorite (dethroned) pair of softshells.” Case closed. $379; 1 lb. 2 oz.; men’s XS-XL; sportiva.com