A great hoody is like a great pet: You'll never forget the ones you've loved and lost, but you'll always be on the lookout for another to fall in love with. (If you rely on hoodies as much as I do, you might turn into the apparel version of a cat lady, hoarding hoodies and insisting that you "wear them all" when your friends try to stage an intervention).
I think I've found man's best friend in the GoLite Sarek Travel Hoody. As part of their new Spring 2010 "Adventure Travel" series of clothes, the Sarek strives to meld GoLite's notorious ultralight outdoor clothing philosophy with urban- and style-friendly designs fit for use both in town and on the trail. Ideally, the Sarek should be able to handle the style demands of hanging out in a Barcelona bar as easily as the technical demands of a dayhike into the Pyrenees. In a perfect world, you shouldn't even have to change clothes.
Among the first things you'll notice about the 100-percent polyester Sarek hoody is that it doesn't feel like it. The fabric stretches and breathes much like cotton, and it quickly feels lived-in and casual, unlike most stiff and stinky synthetics; the only giveaway is its slightly unnatural sheen, which actually looks pretty cool in a kind of futuristic way.
On the trail, the Sarek worked as a perfectly serviceable midlayer, shedding light rain and wicking away sweat the way you'd expect a technical softshell to do. At around 8,000 feet, when wind picked up and temperatures dropped, the Sarek kept me warm and deflected wind gusts. It's probably not weighty enough to serve as a true midlayer on serious multiday backpacking trips, but it'll get you through any day-long excursions, and could help keep you alive if you get caught in foul weather for extended periods.
The Sarek got an unexpected "adventure travel" test when I spent long weekend in a van with a band on tour. If you've never crammed into a van with a bunch of shower-free dudes for days on end, you can't really appreciate the unique funk that comes from a blend of boy, gasoline, and PBR. It ferments and gets worse by the hour. Around Kansas City, you'll get looks on the street when the door opens.
The Sarek miraculously failed to accrete any stink, and when the Midwest turned horrid, it shed first mist, then freezing rain, and finally snow. The wear and tear of loading hundreds of pounds of dirty gear in and out of crusty dive bars failed to damage or mar the aforementioned sheen. As for style? I didn't get kicked off the stage or out of the band—high praise, I think.
Lots of brands tout their gear as straddling the line between stylish and functional, but they usually occupy some sort of middle ground and don't belong in either place. The Sarek is the rare piece that is clearly at home in both worlds. You can rock it just about anywhere.