Simply put, this jacket just feels right when you put it on. The combination of fuzzy lining (a personal favorite), athletic fit, and just enough stretch to be comfortably mobile makes for a very wearable piece of fourth season gear. What surprised me, however, is the amount of warmth this jacket provided for its size. The trim fit is significantly slimmer than most winter shells I’m used to wearing, but that just helps ensure there’s no place for cold air to gather between the jacket and your body.
The winter-weight softshell is insulating in itself, but most of the heat is due to every square inch of the jacket’s lining being covered with high-loft fleece for maximum warmth. The only downside is that you want to make sure the weather’s cold enough to warrant such a heat-generating machine; even though the fabric breaths reasonably well, I would quickly become uncomfortably warm on sunny days in the lower fifties.
The outer shell is described as ‘highly water resistant,’ so I wouldn’t recommend taking this on an extended trip where precip is in the forecast (or even likely). However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for day hikes, regardless if the weatherman is predicting a deluge of snow. Even after enduring several hours of sleet and rain in the western Sierras, my layer underneath the jacket was perfectly dry. However, the Welder wet out after a couple hours, so drying out in the lodge was crucial to using it again the next day. The technical details are well thought out. The hood easily covers a climbing helmet, but it’s a bit of a stretch for some ski/snowboard lids.
The hood also cinches down nicely while still providing a wide field of vision for winter sports sans helmet; as a bonus, the fuzzy lining kept my ears as warm as most of the beanies I own (and felt twice as nice!). The pit zips are shorter than I’m used to, but there was still enough airflow to be effective. There’s also mesh over the zips to keep out any wayward snow, should you unexpectedly find yourself face first in some fresh powder. Speaking of which, there’s no integrated powder skirt, but the tail has enough coverage to ensure the bottom of the jacket stays well below your waistline.
What really puts this jacket over the top for me, however, is the daily use I get out of it. It’s the first backpacking jacket I’ve worn in a long time that got the thumbs up from the girlfriend as suitable for urban use (although that hasn’t stopped me in the past), and consequently it has become my go-to for everyday attire. I used to just leave it on the hook by the front door, but I had to start hiding it after some of my friends discovered why I liked it so much; I had trouble getting it back after ‘someone’ borrowed it for a week to run a quick afternoon errand.
Bottom Line: Whether you need an athletic top for aerobic winter endeavors or just have a penchant for fuzzy lining, this jacket will keep you toasty. Bummer: the price is a bit steep for a jacket that’s not fully waterproof.