The best winter hardshells can be stifling in summer storms, and the best summer shells are too wispy for mountaineering. Enter the Axiom, which excels at both extremes—and everything in between. Why? It features Gore-Tex Active Shell, which is lighter than other Gore membranes and, according to our testers, 20 to 30 percent more breathable without sacrificing weather protection. That makes the Axiom surprisingly comfortable in mild temps and on high-effort outings. “I can eliminate multiple layer changes and just leave it on throughout the day as a windshell,” notes one tester who took it on a three-week climb in Tibet.
And the stretchy, 20-denier nylon feels supple, not stiff. “It has the softness and freedom of movement of a softshell, but kept me totally dry through drenching downpours,” reports our Oregon tester. The cut also boosts versatility: It’s trim (so it doesn’t flap in high wind), yet allows for layering underneath, and the long hem shields hips and upper thighs—even when testers climbed and scrambled.
It’s not ultralight, but in return you get dialed details: Velcro tabs that cinch the cuffs tight, helmet-compatible hood, and harness-friendly pockets (three exterior and one interior) that hold a phone, sunscreen, even a water bottle. There are no pit zips, but opening the mesh-lined front pockets allows for some venting. “Only the steepest, longest climb (rainy and 40°F) steamed me up,” says a tester.
Ding: The waterproof zipper doesn’t run smoothly.
> Weight 14 oz. (L)
> Price $375
> Sizes S-XL
*Find Your Perfect Shell Download listings for 290 jackets—with complete specs for easy comparison—at backpacker.com/gearcharts2012.