“A softshell for backpackers,” raves our gear editor. Before trying Rab’s Boreas (women’s model is the Aurora), she says, “It was hard for this New Englander, who doesn’t feel safe without a hardshell, to justify pack space for a heavy, slow-drying softshell.” But the featherweight Boreas offers packable, fast-drying protection thanks to the blend of 86 percent polyester and 14 percent Lycra.
First, the materials are twisted together and then woven into a fabric that is both breathable and weather-resistant. (But no treatment or coating is used, which keeps breathability extremely high.) During a daylong storm of big, wet snowflakes in Capitol Reef, one editor paired it with just a baselayer and was amazed that it never wetted out. She was also grateful for the streamlined hood, which she pulled over a hat to block out neck drafts. While Rab promotes this top as a baselayer and softshell in one, testers split on the next-to-skin performance.
One loved the soft, snug fit and versatility: “I lived in it for two weeks in New Zealand.” Others preferred wearing it over a lightweight baselayer or T-shirt. Additional features like four-way stretch, a deep venting chest zipper, and long, rollable cuffs are welcome on every trip, and make the Boreas a great layer for highly aerobic activities like biking and trail running. Bummer: Like a lot of synthetics, it develops a funk after several days of constant (sweaty) wear. $75; 8 oz. (w’s M); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL; rab.uk.com