Trail runners, cross-country skiers, and other high-output testers often prefer softshells. They’re willing to swap hardshell waterproofing for better breathability, which is a good deal unless you get caught in a soaker. Enter the Storm Racer, which offers a simple solution. Since even the best waterproof/breathable membranes have trouble keeping up with hardworking bodies, Patagonia designers used affordable, 2.5-layer fabric and looked to mechanical airflow for cooling. They gave the Storm Racer two zippered vents on the biceps and two vertical back vents. With vents open, steam escapes and cool air flows through the jacket. Result: You never get swamped in your own sweat. The back vents keep air flowing even when you’re wearing a daypack, though a large pack blocks them.
We deployed the Storm Racer against sharp wind in Olympic National Park, drizzle on Washington’s Tiger Mountain, and a high-altitude hailstorm in the central Cascades, and, with the vents zipped, not a drop seeped in. (A little rain sneaks in with vents open.) Cuffs that extend over the backs of the hands, a high, wind-deflecting collar, and an adjustable, rollaway hood enhance protection.
The athletic cut fits best over just a baselayer.
Despite its wispy weight, the 30-denier nylon stood up to a season of long-distance runs and off-trail bushwhacking without a scratch.
The cozy, knit collar lining and reflective patches (nice for urban night running) get a thumbs up. But the minimalist zipper is prone to snagging.