May 23, 20183167 views

Interest Check: Outdoors & Ultralight Jackets

Hey guys,
We want to hear what Outdoors & Ultralight jackets all of you are into. More specifically, what brands, types, and styles.
What type of qualities do you look for in a jacket? ▶ Are there certain materials or designs that make most sense for you? ▶ What companies do you think make the best products?
We’re always looking at posts and polls for suggestions, and we take them into account when we’re looking for products to put on the site. It doesn’t mean we can secure relationships with every brand or company of course, but we do try, and it gives us a better sense of the interests of the community.
We thought the easiest way to round up and talk about what jackets everyone likes is to make a Talk Post so let us know what you think and what suggestions you might have in the discussion. Myself and the buying team will be here to take everything into consideration.
See our other Interest Checks here: · Backpacks:
· Shoes:

We’ll be posting other Interest Checks for other categories (shoes, tents, canisters, etc.) soon so stay tuned. And feel free to share any polls you’ve created here so we can help more people see them.
Cgossard427, Jeff Lawton, and 25 others

I'm going to echo a lot of what others have said here, but for outdoors and ultralight jackets, what I'm usually looking at is the quality of the material, the design, and the weight. There are many types of jackets that get used outside for the myriad of activities that we're all interested in, and each one needs to be slightly different. For hardshell jackets, I look for Goretex Pro and at least a 40D Nylon Face Fabric. Some of the newer 3L membranes are looking appealing, but Goretex Pro is still the best for overall protection. NeoShell and AscentShell are good examples of newer membranes that trade a little protection for more breathability. For my uses, Hardshells are an emergency piece to be used if the weather turns really foul and you're miles from any permanent shelter, so they should be light! Pockets that are climbing harness/backpack compatible and a helmet compatible hood that seals up well are a must. I use softshell jackets as my shell layer most of the time in the backcountry of CO because it's relatively dry and I need something breathable that still provides some protection. All of the design features, pockets and good hood, mirror the hardshell above, but I generally go for some kind of 3-way stretch fabric. Schoeler is a good example. Breathable insulation that vents well, but still keeps you warm, is a must for active use in the backcountry. Hybrid garments that use materials like PrimaLoft Gold, Polartech Alpha, or Polartech Alpha Direct, usually supplemented by lighter fleece under the arms, are great for this. Most of the time, a hood is a must for these as well. For none active use in dry environments, down is king! I look for 800+ fillpower ethically sourced goose down housed in a lightweight shell fabric, usually something like 10D Pertex. Hoods are a must, as are insulated pockets for giving your digits a little extra warmth. These should really take advantage of the properties of down and be super light while still providing enough warmth. A high fill weight to jacket weight ratio is usually good, as long as you don't sacrifice too much in durability or features. As far as makers go, my general preferences are: Arc'Teryx, Rab, Montane, Montbell, Mammut, Outdoor Research Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, and the North Face Summit Series also have some good pieces. La Sportiva and Salewa are relatively unknown for apparel here in the states, but I like some of their new stuff as well.
Like a few others have said, there's not one jacket for every activity. I like running and hiking jackets as I'm on the trails often. But I also need a lightweight insulation layer in case I have to stop, get hurt, or can't keep running to keep myself warm. So, 1. waterproof/breathable 2. warm insulative but light 3. all with hoods, taped seams, venting. I like Patagonia, North Face, ArcTeryx, and OR, but also like what Ultimate Direction is doing with their jackets.
i have several, but my go to is always Rab. Seems the warmest and has held up for years.
Thats what I got..., Mix and Match according to activity and weather...
I am mostly into Rab, Mountain Equipment, Mammut, Black Diamond, and some pieces by OR and Patagonia... sadly Arcteryx is a too narrow fit for me on some items... I am always looking for freedom of movement and comfort on the stuff I bought (been already covered the technical aspects the garments ). I love technical stretch panels on some garments that allow confort and movement not restricting your body on the go.
Jackets, irrespective of brand, that incorporate Goretex Pro (or an equivalent) or Primaloft Gold. Examples would be Arc'teryx and Patagonia. As someone else mentioned, a hood is a must on all jackets, pitzips a must on shells.
Brooks range Alpini
I'm an outerwear junkie who understands that there is no one jacket that is a universal solution to all conditions. Starting with lightest: I own Patagonia Houdinis, a Massdrop Wind Veil, and an Arc'teryx Squamish. These are all great in windy dry conditions when you don't want the wind cutting straight through to your skin. The Houdini is my favorite but I would highly recommend the Wind Veil if they can improve the bad zipper set and sewing. When the weather is cooler I wear beneath the wind jacket either a Patagonia fleece, a down or synthetic vest, or, in cooler weather, a Patagonia Nano Air (or hoody) or Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Hoody (or my ancient MH Zeus or any number of heavier down jackets I own). If it is not too cold my Rab Xenon X is a great ultralight one layer solution to windy and cool with a minor chance of light and variable precip. If it is going to be rainy and cold, for an outer layer I go with an Arc'teryx Alpha FL (great shell but no pockets or pit zips), an OR Helium II (great ultralight but no pit zip or hand pockets) or my goto OR Foray, which has incredible pit zips and hand pockets. If there is bushwhacking involved I use a Marmot Precip as a shell since I can replace them on sale for only slightly more that the cost (and pain) of having to patch and renew dwr finish on a more expensive jacket. If it is very cold and snowy I use something like my Rab Neutrino Endurance with a Patagonia fleece beneath (I own all the R1 variations as well as the R2 and R3). The Neutrino is super warm and allows you several options to dump heat if you need to and the fleece underneath pulls any perspiration away from your skin.
Patagonia, particularly the R series.
Two jackets: Arcteryx Sabre--But the discount needs to be more than 25% plus 10% cashback. That we can get a number of times per year. STIO Hometown Jacket. Does not go on sale as much.
For an ultralight jacket I think Arcteryx Atom LT/AR or Patagonia Micro puff are the best of the bunch - at least from the big brands...
Any belay jacket that's over 120g synthetic insulation, dual zipper, mesh internal pockets, insulated external pockets... Arcteryx Dually would be great as its impossible to find a good deal on it and its way too expensive :(
Agreeeeed. Also, super light and packable down jackets too (for winter mountaineering)
North Face Ventrix Hoody (black or charcoal)
North Face Thermoball Hoodie, please!
Rab, Brooks Range & Sierra Designs make super stuff. Hydrophic (treated, water resistant down) is a must! These are boutique companies, not the big guys, but very high quality.
Light (280gr for a down one is my goal) Usable around -5 celsius Breathable would be a must
Definitely something hooded, Gore-Tex or similar with Pit Zips! Outdoor Research Foray comes to mind first.
Waterproof, breathable, packable, 3+season, durable, lightweight 😊 Mid-range price. Either down or high-quality synthetic.
A good-looking, wind and (light) rain resistant down jacket for all-purpose use from 15 to 40 degrees. .. not for climbing or expeditions or layering. Closest I've come across so far is Mountain Hardwear Packdown jacket. Uniqlo won't do and Arctyerx and the like are above my pay grade.
Would be amazing to see Feathered Friends or Western Mountaineering
Mountain Hardware Stretch Down, please.
Patagonia Nano Puff jacket Windproof, light, long sleeves with internal cuff.
Patagonia Nano Puff or Micro Puff hoodies
Rab, montane and mountain equipment. Can't go wrong with their products.
Load 3 more comments
Hi Kim, Thank you for the enquiry. I am a little turned off by the lack of adjustment on the sleeve and am not sure of the fit. I have broad shoulders and although a medium rab boreas fits me quite well I am not sure about the kinetic. I did see one in a local store, not in my size - the weight and stretch are fantastic I have to say. i am not sure why massdrop customers aren't snapping it up. I also recently bought a lightweight shell so the kinetic, as good as a proposition as it looks, is probably overkill. Sweet bit of kit, though.
Thanks! Ya I wasn't sure either, so just trying to get some insight. I was also bummed to see no adjustment on the cuff as I always pull mine pretty tight. That and the hand pockets are why I was not purchasing but I understand the fact that it reduces weight for the UL crowd, which was the intent of the Product Manager before me.
What type of qualities do you look for in a jacket? - Quality, weight, durability, cost, and efficiency. ▶ Are there certain materials or designs that make most sense for you? - See answer above. Also ability to layer/multi-use, simple, and good fit. With regard to water-proof gear, it should be water-proof without relying on a temporary DWR coating that can wet out and inevitably will need refreshing. ▶ What companies do you think make the best products? I like the Summit L3 (down insulation) from North Face, the Ferrosi (soft shell) from Outdoor Research, and Columbia's Caldorado (rain shell).
Arc'teryx makes the best overall products.
Montbell... storm cruiser
Technical layers, Goretex shells and high end ski jackets. Also ultralight insulated jackets.
In terms of a hard shell, would like to see the Mountain Equipment Zeno jacket on here.
I would like to see (and buy) a set of technical layers that are designed from the get go to work together and fit together (no bunching) Top: 1. Merino/synthetic short and long sleeve baselayer 2. Insulation mid layers - a lightweight down/synthetic jacket with a high performing shell (pertex diamond fuse or quantum) 3. Shell - 2.5/3 layers with multiple venting options (OR foray style) Also, have same options for bottom.
Cool ideas! Would love to be able to offer Massdrop Made options in each of your suggestions! Some are in the works!
Fascinating questions. Many times have I pondered the subject of rain gear, hard shells, "breathable" hard shells, soft shells, the question of Gore-Tex vs Polartek Neoshell vs eVent vs cuben fiber, use conditions, weight vs durability, and further down, down the rabbit hole.  It basically comes down to this; IMO for fully bomb proof, completely nuking conditions, Gore-Tex still makes the most waterproof and durable product in the market (something like Arc'teryx Alpha SV), but at the expense of weight. That said, the only time that's really going to be useful to you is on top of a mountain in the middle of a blizzard. Less water proof, but more "breathable"--and keep in mind breathable is a relative term here because no waterproof fabric is going to be very breathable, you're going to be pretty dependent on pit zips for ventilation, and to that point, no fabric is going to be completely waterproof (perhaps with the exception of cuben), eventually they all wet out given enough exposure--are the eVent and Neoshell products (a current favorite of mine right now is made by Bight Gear). Another option, and one I've seriously considered in the past is the HMG "The Shell" due to the weight, but use conditions are very specific for this jacket--I would really only want to use it for hiking/backpacking with little introduction to durability issues (e.g. not bushwacking, not hard physical climbing, not ice climbing, not skiing, avoiding sharp objects, etc.). 
Load 1 more comment
I am writing from S.E. Australia, where our needs are for durable shells in thick harsh scrub and extended rain. We get snow as well so our needs centre around high output activities in predominately mild and humid winter conditions - probably similar to UK or US pacific NW conditions but milder. New Zealand has similar conditions but their rain and snow is a magnitude greater. Schoeller fabrics would have a market here, I think, especially in softshells which have a rather dire reputation in Australia for breathability. In true hard shells , hood design (for heads not helmets) with 2 or three points of adjustment, plenty of venting (i.e.the OR torsoflow) and longer hems are usually a winner in australian conditions. Event is well regarded here but rare due to gtex market dominance. Not sure how much market you have down under but prices and postage prices from massdrop are starting to pick up interest in the Australian internet forums. The Dan Durston tent made a lot of impact here (in fact i ordered one) his willingness to engage on local forums was a massive deal. Massdrop collaborations are a natural fit.
Sounds great about needs and feature set! I'll take a deeper look at the OR Torsoflow. All the points definitely sound like the direction I'm hoping to go towards. Interesting about eVent! Maybe I should sample in their fabric as well too. And glad to hear there's more excitement in Australia for Massdrop products. It sounds like shipping can be pricey in most cases? I'm trying to work on more projects similar to the Durston tent and that level of design and innovation. It was 100% Dan that made that project so successful though!