Editors' Choice 2011 Green Award: The North Face Venture Jacket

Get total weather protection for half the gas.

If you tried to run a backpacking stove on beans instead of fuel, you’d be eating cold meals in camp. Better idea: The North Face subbed in bean-derived castor oil for petroleum-produced products in the HyVent DT EC membrane on its Venture rain jacket. Result: a shell that works and eliminated the use of an estimated 50,000 pounds of petro-pollutants this year (no small beans there).

After backpacking in the Pacific Northwest with 40°F temps, 10-plus-mph winds, and plenty of rain, our tester posted this score: Venture Jacket 1, Pineapple Express 0. “It’s as waterproof as other shells,” he says, “but the textured interior doesn’t get slimy or clammy.” Testers praised the breathability, which is enhanced by two long pit zips and mesh-lined chest pockets.

The forearms admitted a few drops when one tester was bike commuting in driving rain, and the jacket wetted out—but didn’t leak—under pack straps. Functionally, the castor-oil blend works just like a standard waterproof/breathable: Tiny pores pass perspiration vapor, but don’t admit water. Best part? The price. This is a no-brainer shell, not an eco-niche showpiece. $99; 12.4 oz. (m’s M); m’s S-3XL, w’s XS-XL; thenorthface.com