Brand: Ultimate Direction
Model: Ultra Hardshell Jacket
Instead of a membrane, the Ultra relies on a silicone coating for waterproofing. But while “coating” usually spells “sweat factory” for shells, this one maintains breathability through an electrostatic application process that preserves tiny pores on a molecular level. Testers called the breathability good, not great, while backpacking into the 60s in Idaho’s Smoky Mountains, but extra venting options help. Mesh pit vents let body heat escape without the extra weight and cost of zippers (an overhanging flap of fabric keeps drips out). A mesh “tunnel” from the brim to the back of the head helped channel air across the hood and dump steam.
The semi-elastic cuffs sport unique waterproof “mitts” that completely cover the hands, then tuck away cleanly when not in use. “Warm, dry hands in a chilly storm—very nice,” says a tester.
The slim cut is best with just a baselayer. Female testers appreciated how the women’s version gathers a bit at the waist thanks to a short elastic band on the back.
One tester stayed dry during five hours of bushwhacking in nonstop rain. But the ultralight fabric feels a little flimsy. Our samples didn’t suffer any tears, but we were careful to avoid catching the fabric on brush or rocks.