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If you’re moving, you’re sweating. And if your layers don’t breathe, that sweat has nowhere to go. Whether you’re hiking, climbing, or skinning up a peak in the backcountry, a comfortable, versatile softshell should be part of everyone’s kit, and strides in materials and construction mean that the compromises of swapping out your hardshell are minimal. Grab one of these three jackets and get moving.
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Most Protective: Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell
When you want enough protection to shield you from the dreaded wintry mix, but don’t want to sacrifice breathability, go for a hybrid shell. This one strategically employs proprietary, three-layer waterproof/windproof material on the chest, shoulders, and hood. Buy the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell Now / Read the Full Review
Most Breathable: Arc’teryx Trino SL Hoody/Anorak
This lightweight softie nails the breathable-flexible-durable trifecta, earning it favorite status on trail runs, snowy hikes, and rock climbs across Colorado. Nylon/spandex sections under the arms and on the back kept the air moving, even on climbs in Clear Creek Canyon that saw temps inch into the 50s. Buy the Arc’teryx Trino SL Hoody/Anorak Now / Read the Full Review
Most Versatile: Maloja WangM / PunaM
Even during yo-yoing weather conditions, there’s no need to break stride for layering adjustments with this shell. “On a ski tour up Turnagain Pass I started at -22°F and, due to an extreme inversion, was soon skinning in sunlight at 25°F,” says an Alaska tester who wore the WangM (the men’s version) with a baselayer and midlayer underneath. Buy the Maloja WangM / PunaM Now / Read the Full Review