[ultralight wind layer]
Why we like it This tiny-packing shell serves up impressive wind and weather protection in tough conditions—while weighing less than an apple.
Packability The lightest softshell in the test squishes down to baseball size and packs into its own pocket. “It’s small enough to put in a daypack for emergencies and not feel like I’m wasting any space,” a tester says. Despite its barely-there feel, the Stow features a rollaway, helmet-compatible hood, two hipbelt-friendly hand pockets, and an adjustable hem that locks out gusts.
Protection The Stow’s tightly woven, DWR-treated, 15-denier nylon fabric is coated with a light layer of polyurethane on the inside, fortifying the featherweight shell against drizzle and strong breezes—and testers reported it felt comfortable against bare skin. “I didn’t hesitate to wear it in the alpine zone of the White Mountains when I wasn’t expecting rain but would still be moving through wind, clouds, and mist,” says a New Hampshire tester. And the windblocking-to-weight factor is tops: The shell fended off gusts approaching 55 mph on the high peaks of the Presidential Range. (But it lacks taped seams and wets out quickly in hard rain.)
Breathability Testers gave the shell moderate scores for breathability when they were working hard on steep trails; a full-length zipper provides the only venting.
Fit The relaxed cut lets you pile a light fleece or puffy underneath without restricting motion.
$99; 5 oz.; m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL; sierradesigns.com