Gear Review: Westcomb Crest Hoody Softshell

For cold weather activities, check out this softshell from Westcomb, a minimalist in price and weight.

[minimalist bargain]

Don’t be fooled by this jacket’s low weight and price. It’s a true shoulder-season piece that excels during cold-weather dayhiking, backpacking, and trail-running pursuits. “This is my go-to jacket for cool mornings, and a handy safety net for unexpected rain in the mountains,” says one tester who used the Crest while crushing 20-plus-mile trail runs on the PCT and Olympic National Park’s High Divide Loop, climbing Mt. Stuart, and bike commuting all fall in soggy Seattle. The jacket’s rain-repelling properties impressed: “For something so wispy and thin, I couldn’t believe how mist, mizzle, and even fat drops just fell away,” says one tester who clocked an hour in a downpour before his Crest wet out. “And even then, it was only just starting to seep in on the shoulders and at my pack straps.”

In addition to superior water repellency, the Pertex Equilibrium’s double-filament weave wicks well—coarse inner yarn transports moisture to the finer face fabric for evaporation. Overall, testers deemed the breathability good but not great; they stayed cool and dry at medium-pace trail runs, but steamed up on full-tilt uphill sprints. Despite its soft, barely-there feel, the jacket shut out high-altitude Cascade gusts. Features are spare: one large Napoleon pocket, a “sort of formless” nonadjustable hood, and an elastic hem. Testers fit a baselayer and even an ultralight midlayer underneath, and one says, “It’s an athletic cut; it wasn’t flapping in the breeze above treeline.” Compressibility? It packs down to orange size. Biggest gripe: Multiple testers reported that the main zip is “nearly impossible to zip all the way up without snagging on the chin guard.” But no one called it a deal breaker for the overall performance-to-price ratio. $129; 5 oz.;