Gear Guide 2012: More Tester Picks - Softshells

Lightweight and durable, these softshells provide solid weather resistance.

Feathered Friends Jackorak

“If money is no object, this is the windshirt you want,” says one Colorado tester of this hooded, über-light Pertex Endurance UL shell, which is waterproof enough to weather prolonged drizzles and passing showers (even without fully taped seams). A full zip enhances breathability, and the minimalist, climber-friendly cut keeps weight down without sacrificing features like chest pockets and a hood brim. Gripe: noisy fabric. $144; 3.7 oz.; featheredfriends.com



Marmot Ether DriClime Jacket


One Colorado tester declared this the most breathable wind layer she’d ever worn. Mesh panels behind the arms and in the pits make it ideal for gusty summit hikes and high-output winter activities such as skate-skiing. The two-layer DriClime knit lining wicks sweat away from the skin by pushing it to an outer layer where it can dissipate. A DWR coating also sheds light rain. $100; 8 oz. (w’s M); marmot.com

Mountain Hardwear Shadowland

This featherweight softshell’s brushed tricot lining adds warmth like an extra layer, making it perfect for wearing over a baselayer in chilly shoulder-season weather, reports one Mt. Whitney tester. The lining adds weight and reduces breathability a bit, but the Conduit laminate stops wind dead and repels precip (but seams aren’t taped; it’s not waterproof). Ding: Loose elastic cuffs let wind creep in. $130; 14.2 oz.; mountainhardwear.com

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Windshirt

Dry-weather warriors who place a premium on packability will dig this windshirt. “It balls up like an orange,” says one tester. Clamminess was never a problem: Long side zips and mesh underarms allowed for excellent venting, but the shell was substantial enough to keep hikers toasty in strong winds on exposed ridges. Testers gave high marks for fit and range of motion, but a single Napoleon pocket only holds “a doubled-over trail map or an iPod, and not much else.” It’s also heavy for its category. $85; 10.1 oz.; outdoorresearch.com

Patagonia Nine Trails

Sweat-prone testers loved this ultralight hoodless windshirt, thanks to the combo of ripstop nylon in the front and sleeves with stretchy, breathable polyester in the back and pits. “My back gets sweaty when I’m wearing a pack, so at rest stops I get chilled quickly,” says a tester who wore it in California’s Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. “But I stayed drier in this shell.” Ding: It wets out fast. $99; 5 oz.; patagonia.com

Rab Boreas/Aurora

Pull-On Our gear editor declared this quick-drying jacket the first softshell she’d take backpacking, thanks to its extremely high breathability, light weight, and solid weather resistance. During a daylong storm of wet snowflakes in Capitol Reef National Park, it never wetted out. The fuzzy lining and snug fit make it wearable as a baselayer and softshell in one. Testers also praised its four-way stretch, long cuffs, and deep-venting chest zipper. $80; 8 oz. (w’s M); us.rab.uk.com