SHELLS

Backpacker|March - April 2020

SHELLS
From featherweight hardshells to do-it-all softshells, here are the best products for staying dry on the move in the backcountry.
Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

BEST FOR TRAIL RUNNING

THE NORTH FACE SUMMIT L5 VRT FUTURE LIGHT PULLOVER

OUR TAKE

Making a shell for trail running in foul weather is a delicate balance: It has to be light and breathable enough not to swamp out, but protective enough to shed precip. The L5 VRT nails the combo, thanks to The North Face’s FUTURE LIGHT fabric, an electrospun nylon textile that has millions of tiny, air-permeable pores. (It’s one of the most breathable fabrics on the market, about on par with Gore-Tex Shakedry.) “I unzipped on the uphills, but never took it off,” says one tester, who wore it trail running in 40°F weather on Colorado’s Front Range. The L5 VRT also cuts down on gear you need for longer runs: A supersize kangaroo pocket—big enough for a soft flask of water, a snack, and a pair of gloves, with an internal mesh pocket for phone and keys—let us ditch our waist pack.

THE DETAILS

The hood and brim cinch down tightly over a bare head. (Ding: We could have used a cinch on the jacket’s hem, too.) The L5 VRT packs down to the size of a baseball in the included stuff sack. $350; 7 oz.; m’s XS-XL, w’s XS-XL

BEST MAKEOVER

MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT IMPELLOR SHAKEDRY

OUR TAKE

We’ve been big fans of Gore-Tex Shakedry since its debut in 2016. The two-layer fabric places the membrane on the exterior, resulting in excellent breathability (one less layer of fabric for your body heat to push through) and permanent water beading. The only bummer: It used to be so dainty, you couldn’t wear it under a pack without wrecking the membrane. But the Impellor uses a new version of the material with a stronger membrane and a heavier backer that’s meant to handle more wear and tear. The new fabric makes the Impellor a great choice for hikers who want just-in-case weather insurance that can withstand the rigors of the trail. We pushed those limits—including thwacking through brush and hauling an overnight pack in Alaska’s Chugach National Forest—and even high-wear areas, like the shoulder and back, haven’t faltered.

THE DETAILS

The Impellor kept us dry during all-day rain in Alaska, and we found it breathable up into the 50s. Features are minimal, with elastic cuffs and a single-pull adjustable hood. The hem is adjustable, and the chest pocket fits a small smartphone. $300; 6.7 oz (m’s L).; m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL

BEST SOFTSHELL

ARC’TERYX GAMMA SL HOODY

OUR TAKE

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March - April 2020