Gear Guide 2012: Helly Hansen Odin Light Softshell

The Odin Light offers a unique design that focuses on versatility as well as comfort.

[next-to-skin comfort]

Any softshell worth the name delivers weather protection paired with breathability and durability—but how many are comfy enough to do double duty as an insulation piece? The Odin Light’s slim profile and supersoft lining had testers toting the jacket in place of a fleece, making it a legit part of a multiday layering system (when many softshells get left behind).

“The fabric felt cozy where most jackets get clammy,” says one fan. The Odin Light also scored praise for versatility, a key feature of any softshell. One tester reports it handled sleet in Colorado’s Gore Range just as well as windy, sunny days in Rocky Mountain National Park. The double-weave fabric easily repelled short-lived alpine storms, thanks to a DWR coating and waterproof zippers.

The jacket earned high marks for its excellent breathability: “I didn’t overheat while climbing Colorado’s 14,150-foot Mt. Sneffels, even though the class 3 scrambling had me working hard,” says another hiker. “Then it kept me toasty on the windy summit.” Also appreciated: backpacker-friendly details like a long hem that won’t ride up under a hipbelt, two high chest pockets that are easily accessible while wearing a pack, and sleeves that extend far enough to keep our long-limbed testers’ wrists warm and dry even with arms raised.

Dings: Testers got lost in the roomy hood without a helmet; one out of three samples showed wear in the small of the back and elbows after one season of hard use; curvy female testers found the slim cut of the women’s version too restrictive for comfort. $200; 1 lb. 4 oz.;