Montane Ajax Shell Jacket

Most versatile

Brand: Montane

Model: Ajax

Our take Call it the jacket of all trades: The Ajax proved itself worthy for all sorts of winter pursuits, thanks to its balance of weight, durability, and breathability. Rugged 70-denier nylon patches on the shoulders and hips make it tough enough for us to haul heavy packs on long ski tours, while 40-denier nylon everywhere else enhances breathability on trail runs and keeps weight down. (We even thwacked through branches and patches of devil’s club without damaging the thin material.) Three-layer Gore-Tex breathed well on heart-pumping Nordic ski trips and rainy hikes into the 50s, and the Ajax dried within 20 minutes after an accidental creek dunking on a warm, sunny hike.

The details The Ajax packs in the features—like a roll-up, three-way adjustable hood that fits over ski helmets, an extended collar, and large hand pockets for maps or gloves—without a lot of bulk (it packs down to the size of a 1-liter water bottle). The cut is long and trim, working best with just a baselayer or thin midlayer. Drawback: Some testers reported the cut restricted their reach.

Trail cred “The hood fits a helmet, but doesn’t sag in your eyes or let water drip into your face when you’re not wearing one,” says an Alaska tester. “It’s one of the best hoods I’ve ever tried.”

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