This all-season shell has everything we want for backpacking–low weight, highly breathable eVent fabric, pit zips–plus a feature that could save your life if you’re caught in an avalanche. The integrated RECCO technology works as a passive transponder, alerting search-and-rescue teams (using compatible beacons) of your location.
You never have to turn it on or worry about dead batteries, and there’s no learning curve; sewn into the sleeve, the transponder is barely bigger than a stick of gum. SAR teams at about 440 resorts, helicopter bases, and national parks worldwide use the system. Other details are dialed, like hipbelt-friendly chest pockets big enough for skins. Ditto the weatherproofing: The Essence didn’t leak a drop during a ridiculously rainy 14-day trek on Vermont’s Long Trail. $300; 15 oz.; men’s S-XXL, women’s XS-XL; groundwear.com