The Carnic jacket by Mountain Hardwear really performs…
Price Paid: $110 on GearTrade.com
The Carnic jacket by Mountain Hardwear really performs well at its stated goal - lightweight, breathable weather protection. I recently used mine on a quick, end-of-Winter camping and cross country skiing trip (having just purchased it) and it did its job with aplomb.
I used it over a technical shirt while skiing and although it was a little bit warm for the upper 20's conditions, the decent venting options and technical characteristics of the fabric did a good job and kept me from overheating. Since I tend to run pretty warm when I'm exercising, this performance becomes even more notable. The jacket also warmed me up quickly and effectively whenever I had a prolonged stop and needed to "batten up the hatches". Just closing the hand pockets had a profound effect on heat retention.
The Carnic was also a very effective top layer when the weather got cold. With temps in the low single digits (and one below zero night), it paired extremely well with a fleece jacket. Despite not having a powder skirt, it still kept my body heat where I needed it. There was no bellows effect, which really surprised me. Since it's such an overall lightweight product, this performance is really impressive.
I like the welded seams and the storm-proof zippers, and the fit is very efficient for me. The only drawback to the jacket is that the hood is so targeted for use with a helmet that it is not as fitted or comfortable when you're not wearing one (despite the amount of adjustment options built in). I never really got the hood to function as well as I would've liked, but I have had similar experiences with other helmet-engineered hoods, so this is not unique to the Carnic.
Overall, a great technical shell that is useful across a broad range of applications. It will cut down on the number of shells I need to bring on future outdoor adventures!