The Greatest Ultralight Mountain climbing and Backpacking Jackets of 2019


Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Pull-on.

Testing the Montane Minimus Stretch Extremely Pull-on mountaineering rim to rim within the Grand Canyon.

By Michael Lanza

You’re out on an all-day hike within the mountains, or an extended climb or path run, or backpacking. The climate forecast regarded fairly good earlier than you set out—however nobody shared that memo with the wind that simply began hammering your summit ridge, or the spitting rain and hail now pelting you as you ponder the sudden drop in temperature and the miles between you and shelter. The query now could be: What’s in your pack?

When you’re good, it’s an ultralight jacket that takes up little house, however is about to reward you with simply the correct amount of climate safety once you want it. Right here’s how to decide on one of the best ultralight shell on your wants, adopted by my freshly up to date picks for one of the best fashions available on the market at present, primarily based on real-life discipline testing and my 25 years of expertise reviewing out of doors gear and attire.


Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket 2

Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket.

Ultralight Jackets Defined

What’s an ultralight shell jacket? There’s no consensus definition, and appreciable variation amongst at present’s fashions. However principally, the time period “ultralight jacket” explains their main benefit: They weigh beneath 10 ounces (and a few lower than half that) and are very packable, usually stuffing right down to the scale of a fist—in different phrases, they are often half or much less the load and bulk of a typical waterproof-breathable jacket. Whereas just a few could also be partly and even totally waterproof, many are waterproof and windproof, offering a minimal degree of safety from the weather.

Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket.

Smartwool PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket.

Whereas these jackets, often known as ultralight wind shells, are marketed primarily to path runners, they’re usually a more sensible choice than a heavier, bulkier rain jacket for dayhikers, climbers, and light-weight/ultralight backpackers who don’t count on to come across heavy rain. I’ve used lots of the fashions reviewed right here for light-weight dayhikes, climbing, and even backpacking when the forecast threatened not more than passing showers or thunderstorms.

Though they definitely look very minimalist, they ship all of the safety you want from wind and lightweight rain—the situations many people usually encounter, much more usually than full-on storms. A few of them are partly or totally waterproof-breathable, and stored me dry in regular rain; however they lack the hood protection, options, and diploma of waterproofing {that a} heavier rain jacket offers, and I don’t suggest ultralight jackets for hours or days of sustained downpour.

The reality is, as a result of customary, heavier, waterproof-breathable shells are, by definition, not as breathable as shells which are merely waterproof, they don’t seem to be your best option for actions the place you sweat quite a bit, like operating or rigorous uphill mountaineering with a pack on, as a result of they usually trigger you to get soaked from perspiration. Waterproof-breathable shells have their place, for certain. (See my high picks for one of the best rain jackets for mountaineering, backpacking, and climbing.) However they’re heavier, bulkier, and dearer than an ultralight jacket, along with being usually much less helpful within the conditions we generally encounter within the backcountry.

The notion appears counterintuitive, nevertheless it’s potential to have an excessive amount of of a jacket. When you not often pull on a rain jacket as a result of it’s an excessive amount of for many circumstances, then you definately want an ultralight jacket.

Whether or not you’re a dayhiker, backpacker, climber, ultra-hiker or runner, once you select the precise ultralight shell on your exercise and local weather, it should most likely turn out to be the jacket you seize and truly put on most frequently—and probably essentially the most versatile piece of outerwear you personal, helpful in a layering system tailor-made to any season and a number of out of doors sports activities.


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Select an Ultralight Jacket

Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody

Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody.

Whereas many ultralight shells are comparable in look and weight, they’ll differ considerably in performance. Merely put, one of the best ultralight jackets for path operating could also be completely different from one of the best fashions for cool-weather mountaineering or ultralight backpacking, and your selection will even depend upon the everyday climate you encounter. Right here’s what to search for:

Breathability vs. climate resistance. Ultralight jackets usually commerce off totally waterproof safety for higher breathability. Nevertheless, fashions on this class can differ significantly in how every balances breathability and wind safety, and some have partially or utterly waterproof materials whereas remaining ultralight and packable. However “waterproof” in an ultralight jacket doesn’t usually equal the safety of a two-layer or three-layer, heavier waterproof-breathable jacket (like Gore-Tex); hours of arduous rain could cause it to moist by way of.

Hybrid vs. uniform shell. “Hybrid” on this context refers back to the shell mixing some totally waterproof-breathable material—normally within the shoulders, torso, and hood—with extra breathable, non-waterproof material within the sides and underarms, permitting the jacket to launch physique warmth and moisture in areas not prone to obtain a lot direct precipitation. These jackets are versatile for a variety of situations and exercise ranges. By “uniform” shell, I imply both a waterproof soft-shell material or a waterproof-breathable material—however one or the opposite, not a hybrid mixture of each.

Insulated or not. Whereas it’s not normally the case, ultralight jackets often characteristic a light-weight quantity of strategically positioned insulation—usually within the torso—making them extra of a cool-weather, shoulder-season garment, but additionally versatile for every little thing from climbing larger mountains in summer time to cardio actions like operating, Nordic snowboarding, and even mountaineering and snowshoeing in winter.

Hood or no hood. For essentially the most half, I discover a easy, uninsulated shell hood virtually important in an ultralight jacket—it offers a noticeable enhance in heat and climate safety at little or no price when it comes to weight, bulk, or {dollars}. Many ultralight shells, however not all, have a hood, and this comes down to private desire in addition to typical utilization: When you want a shell merely for native runs of an hour or two in wind or cool temps, with an opportunity of a light-weight bathe, you could not want a hood. When you’re heading into the mountains for hours or days, you most likely desire a hood.


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The Greatest Ultralight Jackets

The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket.

The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket.

I’ve listed the next jackets roughly so as of most breathable and lightest—with the least wind and climate safety and heat—to most weather-resistant and warmest. However it’s a considerably subjective order as a result of I’ve chosen to rank shells which are partly or fully waterproof as having extra climate safety than non-waterproof shells which are hotter. As an example, the positions on this listing of the Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket and Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody may very well be interchangeable.

My recommendation: Take a look at every of the opinions under to slim your selections to the 2 or three that sound finest on your wants, after which go to the entire opinions of these jackets that can assist you make your decide. You’ll help my work on this weblog by buying any of those jackets by way of the hyperlinks offered right here or within the full opinions. Thanks for doing that.

I encourage you to share your ideas and experiences with any of those jackets, or one other ultralight shell that you simply like, within the feedback part on the backside of this story.


Smartwool Men’s PhD Ultra Light Sport Jacket.

Smartwool Males’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket.

Smartwool Males’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket
$115, 4.5 oz. (males’s medium)
Smartwool Ladies’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket (hooded)
$120, 5 oz.

From a cold and really windy October dayhike of 11,749-foot Mount Timpanogos in Utah’s Wasatch Vary, to quite a few fall and winter path runs and rides, in cool temps and situations all around the meteorological map, Smartwool’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket distinguished itself for its breathability. The important thing to that may be a mix of Merino wool and stretchy polyester mesh beneath the arms and between the shoulder blades, which creates good air flow with out exposing you to a lot wind or precipitation. Once I sweated arduous on path runs in temps within the 40s and 50s, the jacket protected me from chilly wind and breathed properly sufficient that it by no means obtained greater than barely damp on the within when my base layer was fairly moist.

The jacket additionally options Smartwool’s thinner-than-a-wafer PhD Extremely Mild nylon shell material by way of a lot of the torso and sleeves, with small vent holes (coated to maintain rain out) on the entrance of the shoulders. A DWR (sturdy, water-repellant therapy) on the material fends off gentle rain, though it wets by way of in a gradual rain. The excessive breathability additionally means restricted wind and climate safety, making it higher for brief, cardio outings that, say, an all-day hike within the mountains.

See my full assessment of the Smartwool Males’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket and the hooded Smartwool Ladies’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking any of those hyperlinks to buy a Smartwool Males’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket at, or a Smartwool Ladies’s PhD Extremely Mild Sport Jacket at, or the ladies’s anorak model at


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Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody

Black Diamond Alpine Begin Hoody.

Black Diamond Alpine Begin Hoody
$149, 7.5 oz. (males’s medium)

The vary of makes use of to which I’ve put my Alpine Begin Hoody speaks volumes about its versatility. I’ve worn it in sturdy wind, gentle rain, and funky temps on a 17-mile dayhike by way of New Hampshire’s Northern Presidential Vary; on a 25-mile dayhike in gentle rain within the Grand Canyon; path operating within the hills of central Massachusetts and standing on the blustery summit of New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock in spring; whereas climbing in February in Joshua Tree Nationwide Park; throughout a November in a single day hike of The Narrows in Zion Nationwide Park; on a cold, October hike and scramble up 9,820-foot McGown Peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains; and on quite a few native path runs and rides and bike commuting.

The extremely breathable Schoeller stretch-woven, soft-shell material blocks most wind, sheds gentle rain, and dries inside minutes from physique warmth in temperatures starting from the 30s to the 60s. The athletic match leaves room for a midweight base layer and a light-weight vest beneath, and the gusseted underarm panels let me attain excessive overhead with out the jacket mountaineering up. The adjustable hood closes round your face to remain put in wind and when turning your head aspect to aspect, and suits over a helmet.

Together with the OR Helium Hybrid (under), the BD Alpine Begin Hoody would be the most versatile piece on this assessment; nevertheless it’s not as heat because the Arc’teryx Atom SL or as weather-resistant because the Montane Minimal 777.

See my full assessment of the Black Diamond Alpine Begin Hoody.

BUY IT NOW: You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking any of those hyperlinks to buy a males’s or ladies’s Black Diamond Alpine Begin Hoody at,, or


What touches your pores and skin issues. See my picks for one of the best base layers for any season.


Outdoor Research Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket

Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket.

Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket
$145, eight oz. (males’s medium)

Within the small discipline of hybrid ultralight jackets, OR’s Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket stands out for each distinctive breathability and climate safety in a variety of situations. It stored me comfy by way of climate occasions starting from a violent, 20-minute thunderstorm with torrential rain and hail—I obtained residence with my base layers solely damp from sweat—to a moist April snowstorm, and funky, windy days of mountaineering and mountain biking.

The Helium Hybrid blends waterproof-breathable Pertex Defend material and taped seams all through a lot of the jacket with OR’s extremely breathable, water- and wind-resistant, stretchy soft-shell material within the aspect panels and undersides of the sleeves. The result’s strong safety from precipitation the place it tends to hit you—on the entrance, again, and head—with superior breathability the place your physique must dump it: within the core, underarms, and forearms. A number of occasions, I sweated arduous whereas path operating or using, and the material moved moisture so properly that my base layer obtained solely considerably damp and dried out beneath the jacket when my exertion degree dropped. It options an adjustable hood that stays put in wind, a zippered chest pocket and two mesh-lined hand pockets, and light-weight, fairly sturdy 30-denier ripstop nylon material.

Whereas one of many heaviest items reviewed right here, it’s arguably essentially the most versatile—and probably the most inexpensive.

See my full assessment of the Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Hooded Jacket.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking any of those hyperlinks to buy a males’s or ladies’s Outside Analysis Helium Hybrid Jacket at,,, or


Want a brand new rain shell? See my picks for “The 5 Greatest Rain Jackets For the Backcountry.”


Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody

Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody.

Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody
$229, 9 oz. (males’s medium)

The warmest and solely insulated shell on this assessment, the Atom SL Hoody has been a go-to piece for me in conditions as different as backpacking in August in Canada’s Kootenay Nationwide Park and in October in Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains; scrambling a 10,000-foot peak in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains and mountaineering to the very windy summit of 10,243-foot Mount Washburn in Yellowstone Nationwide Park in September; and quite a few occasions Nordic skate-skiing in temps within the 20s and 30s.

Basically an ultralight wind shell with some strategically positioned insulation, it delivers simply sufficient heat for being energetic in cool temps with out inflicting you to overheat. Credit score the fleece beneath the arms and 40 grams of insulation within the torso, however no insulation within the hood or on the skin of the sleeves, the place there’s simply windproof shell material that breathes fairly properly. Arc’teryx’s Coreloft artificial insulation could be very compressible, retains warmth when moist, and dries rapidly. The adjustable hood stays put in your head, with or with out a helmet. Whether or not I used to be standing on a windblown 10,000-footer, carrying a backpack by way of the mountains in situations that shifted ceaselessly between heat sunshine and overcast with chilly wind, or perspiring profusely whereas skate-skiing, the Atom SL hold me heat however didn’t make me too scorching. It’s ideally suited for cool to chilly temps or anybody who will get chilly simply in reasonable temperatures.

See my full assessment of the Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking any of those hyperlinks to buy a males’s or ladies’s Arc’teryx Atom SL Hoody at,,, or


Which puffy must you purchase? See my “Assessment: The 10 Greatest Down Jackets” and
“Ask Me: How Can You Inform How Heat a Down Jacket Is?”


The Flylow Rainbreaker

The Flylow Rainbreaker

Flylow Rainbreaker
$140, 4.5 oz.

Probably the lightest waterproof-breathable shell available on the market at present, the hooded Rainbreaker protected me by way of three hours of rain on a 27-mile, one-day traverse of Maine’s Mahoosuc Vary in August; on a cool, windy morning camped at 5,000 toes within the Grand Canyon in Might; and on chilly, windy spring days of climbing at Idaho’s Metropolis of Rocks and path runs within the Boise Foothills.

The design is straightforward. The light-weight, 20-denier, proprietary waterproof-breathable material has a DWR therapy, seam taping in crucial zones, a hood that adjusts utilizing one hand, and one zippered chest pocket that it stuffs inside. Though some moisture accumulates inside once I’m sweating arduous, it breathes properly sufficient to by no means get uncomfortably clammy. Whereas it lacks the technical hood and options of the jackets under, the inexpensive Rainbreaker delivers good efficiency for an ultralight shell, however solely is available in males’s sizes.

Look ahead to my upcoming full assessment of the Flylow Rainbreaker.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking this hyperlink to buy a Flylow Rainbreaker at


The Montane Minimus Stretch Ultra Pull-on in the Grand Canyon.

The Montane Minimus Stretch Extremely Pull-on.

Montane Minimus Stretch Extremely Pull-on and Jacket
$185 (Pull-on)/$205 (Jacket), 6 oz. (males’s medium pull-on)

Whereas any ultralight wind shell or rain jacket affords versatility, the Minimus Stretch Extremely—which is available in pull-on and full-zip jacket variations—pushes the acute low finish in weight for waterproof-breathable outerwear. It’s one of many lightest rain jackets on the market, interesting to hikers, ultralight backpackers, path runners, and climbers who head out in cool, damp climate. I pulled on this six-ounce shell for bone-rattling chilly wind on a dayhike in Glacier Nationwide Park and back-to-back, rim-to-rim dayhikes throughout the Grand Canyon, and in chilly wind and rain whereas scrambling peaks in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, amongst different outings.

The waterproof-breathable Pertex Defend material repelled regular, gentle rain for just a few hours within the Sawtooths and breathed properly sufficient when mountaineering and scrambling steeply uphill off-trail in cool temps within the Sawtooths. The jacket hood has two-point adjustability, and the pull-on hood is just not adjustable; nonetheless, I discovered the pull-on hood, which is elasticized in front and back, didn’t blow off in wind, stayed put once I turned my head, and suits easily beneath a climbing helmet. The small, versatile brim retains gentle rain off your face, and the jacket and pull-on each stuff right into a zippered pocket, packing right down to the scale of a giant orange.

Waterproof however not as breathable as different ultralight shells, the Minimus Stretch Extremely is healthier suited to damp, cool dayhikes, backpacking journeys, climbs, and lengthy path runs.

See my full assessment of the Montane Minimus Stretch Extremely Pull-on and Jacket.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking any of those hyperlinks to buy a males’s Montane Minimus Stretch Extremely Jacket at, or the ladies’s jacket at


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The North Face Flight Series Fuse Jacket.

The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket.

The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket
$250, 5 oz. (males’s medium)

From a 20-mile, 4,500-vertical-foot, mid-September path run-hike of the Alice-Toxaway Loop in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, together with a 1,400-foot, third-class scramble up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak in chilly winds and temps that ranged from the low 40s to round 50° F, to mountaineering within the western North Carolina mountains in gentle rain and temps within the 50s in October, the 5-ounce Fuse Jacket shielded me from the weather whereas remaining one of many lightest, most packable ultralight shells you will see.

Distinctive to the Fuse Jacket’s design are perforated strips constructed into the two.5-layer membrane, operating down the again, sides, and underarms. These will not be holes within the jacket material itself—so that you don’t have wind whipping by way of it. Maintain the jacket as much as gentle and you’ll see the material is thinner the place perforated. Whereas TNF’s DryVent material breathes reasonably properly, sheds gentle rain, and cuts wind in addition to any ultralight wind shell, the perforation permits air to move by way of the material extra simply. The Fuse obtained solely a little bit clammy once I began heating up.

With superb climate resistance and simply reasonable breathability for an ultralight shell, The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket is finest for cool-weather dayhiking, climbing, and operating in moist climates, the place you want safety from wind and lightweight rain.

See my full assessment of The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket.

BUY IT NOW You possibly can help my work on this weblog by clicking both of those hyperlinks to buy a males’s The North Face Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket at or a ladies’s Flight Sequence Fuse Jacket at


Inform me what you suppose.

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See all of my opinions of ultralight wind shells and ultralight rain jackets, trail-running attire, and mountaineering attire that I like, and all of my out of doors attire opinions at The Massive Exterior.


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