Gear Review: Westcomb Focus LT Hoody Hardshell

Breathability and ultralight combine in this hardshell from Westcomb.

[best all-around ultralight]

Some shells this light are “emergency-only” designs: great to pull out of your pack for occasional showers, but not much more. The Focus compresses to the size of a softball, like other ultralights, but you won’t mind wearing it all day. Indeed, one tester in Tasmania found the breathability so good that he kept the shell on after the rain stopped. “I threw it on in the morning when it started raining and hailing on the Tasman Peninsula,” he says, “but even after the clouds broke and the sun came out, I didn’t take it off as we climbed through a drippy rainforest. I worked up a sweat, but when I took off the jacket at lunch, the inside was 100-percent dry. Zero clamminess. I was initially concerned about the lack of pit zips, but it turned out to be a nonissue.”

The secret ingredient: the latest version of eVent (called DVL), which uses a printed “screen” to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane rather than a liner, which saves beaucoup weight. But it still has the air-permeable, moisture-moving performance that has made eVent one of our testers’ favorite shell fabrics. Features are few but effective: The hood cinches down to stymie blowing rain, but preserves enough visibility so you don’t feel like you’re looking out of a periscope; the cuffs seal well and the sleeves don’t ride up when you reach. Minor ding: In strong winds, testers wished for a cinchable hem. Fit is athletic; don’t get this shell for cold-weather layering. $279; 6.9 oz.;