Gear Guide 2012: Millet LTK Active Shell

This shell is great for the fast-and-light climbing crowd offering excellent breathability and low weight.

[climbing champ]

In big-mountain terrain, going too light can backfire on you. But it sure hurts to carry more than you need. Enter the LTK, a well-balanced jacket that our testers packed on a three-week expedition in eastern Tibet. Excellent breathability, low weight, and alpine-friendly features make this shell a top pick for the fast-and-light climbing crowd.

The breathability comes from Gore-Tex Active Shell, which our testers have deemed about 20 percent more breathable than previous Gore-Tex iterations, but there’s no compromise when it comes to weatherproofing: “I wore this jacket the entire time on ridges where the always-windy weather went from sunny to snowy to rainy in minutes, and I never felt clammy or had moisture buildup inside,” says one Himalaya tester.

Hikers also welcomed the soft, supple feel, which made for a quiet jacket in driving wind when most “pop like firecrackers.” That suppleness helps the LTK shrink to grapefruit-size so testers could stash it in a pack lid or outer pocket. An anatomical shape hugs slim torsos and long arms but affords top mobility and won’t lift above the waist, making it ideal for reaching and ropework. (Caveat: The athletic design fits only a baselayer underneath, and it clung to some barrel-chested testers like Saran Wrap.) The hood is snug over a helmet, but the LTK’s thin-and-flexy fabric tucked under one comfortably.

Ding: The pocket vents* are a little too efficient: “It’s fine if you don’t have anything in them; otherwise, there’s a chance you’ll lose sunglasses when venting a ‘pocket.’” Note: Gore’s lightest membrane is designed to favor breathability and low weight over durability (as compared to the company’s heavier Pro Shell), and could wear down over time under big-load pack straps. Still, none of our five Active Shell samples (from five different brands) have showed any damage over a season or more of testing. $349/$329 (w’s); 13 oz.;