This paper-thin shell provides almost no insulation…
Fabric: Ripstop polyester
Price Paid: $65 (closeout sale)
This paper-thin shell provides almost no insulation but is quite windproof and breathable. It's also tough. I took a spill on my bike eight months ago, puncturing the sleeve in two places. Since then, the ripstop has held fast and the dime-sized holes have grown no bigger, despite almost daily use (I'll get around to sewing it one of these days).
The jacket will repel moisture in a light mist or brief drizzle, but in a downpour, you'll be soaked within 3 minutes. It's quite breathable and excellent for cardio workouts; I wear it on my daily bike commute, which is a hard 20-minute trek over the Seattle hills.
The vertical chest pocket is huge -- two feet across and one foot down (on my size L). I've stuffed a Sunday paper into it with no problem. When the pocket is zipped halfway or all the way down, it lets the breeze flow through the mesh to your chest. Nice. The only thing I don't like about the design is if you've got anything at all in the pocket -- wallet, credit-card receipt, gloves -- they'll tumble out when you open it for max ventilation.
The hood is big enough to cover a bicycle or rock climbing helmet, even when the jacket is zipped up, but has a cinch cord on the back to tighten it to your skull as you like. The hood moves naturally with your head when you turn left or right. This I love. What I really bought the jacket for, though, was the roll-down hood, which ties up into a lumpy collar. This is essential when you're on your bike and need to look over your shoulder; most hoods billow up in the breeze. One con: the hood is tricky to unroll when you're wearing the jacket; things get tangled back there.
Overall, it's been a great jacket, easily worth the $65. I don't know if I'd pay $130 retail (Patagonia stuff is so pricey!), but then I'm a skinflint. Oh, and the jacket is super packable, like gauze.
A great minimalist shell but be careful of the cutesy…
Fabric: Gore Activent
Price Paid: $130
A great minimalist shell but be careful of the cutesy pocket design. The shell is very breathable and durably waterproof. I have worn it in downpours for close to an hour and the seams hadn't even started to leak. Unlike the Marmot Mistral, the hood has a peripheral vision drawcords and the hood can be tied down to form a collar--very nice in windy weather. However, the large roomy pocket closes with the same zipper that closes the anorak. It is very easy to pull the zipper down for full ventilation and compromise the pocket security. To be fair, if the snaps are closed, even if the zipper is fully down, the pocket will safely hold big items, but don't put your keys in there like I did.
My wife and I have hiked in just about every climate…
Fabric: Gore Technologies fabric - not true Gore-Tex
Price Paid: $130
My wife and I have hiked in just about every climate in the U.S. with these lightweight wonders and are still amazed at how much we use them. I rarely have to get out my real Marmot Gore-Tex jacket these days. It is much! more breathable than Gore-Tex and has really decent water repellency -- even after two years and several machine washings. And it packs down to -- and weighs nothing. A great product.