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When the skies open up and hammer us with rain and snow, many folks would head for the comfort of their homes. But we’ve got gear to test, so when Mother Nature delivers, we head straight into the storm. This winter, our testers are hard at work putting next season’s new gear through the wringer by ski touring, mountain biking, trail running, hiking, and snowshoeing, rain or shine. Here’s a sneak peak at the upcoming Fall 2022 shells that have kept us dry this season.
Black Diamond Recon Stretch LT Shell
A slimmed down version of the rugged and durable Recon Stretch, the new Recon Stretch LT has proved to be a reliable companion on long days in the mountains thanks to its burly design in a lightweight package. The shell is built with Black Diamond’s BD.dry waterproof/breathable stretch fabric, which kept us dry when snow turned to rain on a ski tour near Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass. Pocket configuration is minimal, with two oversized hand pockets that proved to be an easy access spot to stash an extra pair of gloves and a gaiter while storm skiing in sub-zero temps in Grand Teton National Park. $385
La Sportiva Firestar
It’s easy to find a shell that fights off weather, but it’s harder to find one that’s easy to move in. That’s where the Firestar comes in. A minimalist hardshell for high-output days in the mountains, we’re loving the Firestar for everything from after work night tours to full-day adventures on Cascadian volcanoes. The Firestar is impressively protective for its packable, 12.2-ounce design (the lightest shell in our testing group so far), with a fully waterproof three-layer construction and helmet-compatible hood. It fits slim, so we opted to leave the shell on most of the day, and layered up with a puffy on the outside when we stopped for snack breaks. $300
Patagonia Dirt Roamer Storm Jacket
Although it was built for protection while mountain biking in soggy conditions, we found the Dirt Roamer Storm Jacket to be a versatile winter shell for getting out on foot, bike, or skis. The pullover design is ideal for riding with a hip pack since there’s no zipper to interfere with waist straps, but was also comfortable while hiking Mt. Si in Washington on a rainy January afternoon, and the full length side zippers make it easy to slide this jacket overhead, while providing optimal venting while gunning it uphill. The roomy hood fits neatly over a bike, ski, or climbing helmet, making the Dirt Roamer a favorite among testers for its multi-sport capabilities. $319
Outdoor Research Hemispheres II Jacket
Outdoor Research introduced the Hemispheres II kit in 2018, but some welcome updates caught our attention this year. A slightly longer cut ups the protection in harsh storms, while Gore-Tex Stretch panels in the center of the back and hood promote some of the best articulation we’ve found in a hardshell this season. The added mobility in the back panels allowed for a natural feel that never felt restrictive while we transitioned, skied, or climbed uphill. We’re also big fans of the full-length vents that run the length of each side of the jacket, which are easy to reach for to dump some heat on a bootpack or while skinning in a storm. $629