How to dress while hiking in the shoulder season.
By Trent Jonas
When you hit the trail in the spring, there really is no telling what kind of conditions you might run into. Rain, cold, wind, hot sun, even snow are all possibilities in that shoulder season when winter hasn't quite given up and summer hasn’t committed. So, when you’re hiking in the spring, you need a light, packable jacket that will keep the weather on the outside while keeping you dry and comfortable on the inside. As you gear up for your springtime trek, consider one of these five breathable jackets.
If your carbon footprint is a major consideration when making an apparel purchase, then Patagonia’s Houdini is the jacket for you. It’s made from recycled nylon and sewn by workers from Fair Trade Certified suppliers. Importantly, though, it performs exactly as you would want a lightweight hiking jacket to: It’s water repellent, wind resistant, and breathable. Because it weighs less than four ounces and has a built-in stuff sack, you can take the Houdini pretty much everywhere, then stuff it and stow it when you don’t need it: Now you see it, now you don’t.
At almost 14 ounces, the Marmot Minimalist is one of the heavier jackets on this list—but it’s also a rugged lightweight outer layer that can take anything the trail throws at you this spring. The Minimalist features Gore-Tex Paclite technology, which is why you can get a waterproof, wind-proof, breathable, and compressible jacket in at less than a pound. An adjustable hood and arm pit zippers will help you to regulate airflow and breathability in just about any conditions.
Built with nylon ripstop fabric and Pertex Shield technology, the Helium II is, according to the manufacturer, “100% waterproof.” The jacket weighs in at only 6.4, breathable, wind-resistant ounces. The Helium is completely packable and compresses into its own pocket; sandwich-sized, you can drop it into your pack, clip it to your belt with the integrated carabiner loop, or stick it in your pants pocket. The hood is adjustable to shut out as much of the weather as you need to, and the zippered chest pocket is ideal for stowing a wallet, smartphone, or National Parks pass.
Another entry using GoreTex Paclite technology, Mountain Hardwear’s Exposure/2 Jacket packs a lot of performance into an 8.5-ounce package. Wind proof, waterproof, and breathable, the Exposure/2 stuffs down into one of its own side pockets for extreme portability and packability. The zippered side pockets are harness compatible, and the zippered chest pocket is perfect for keeping your device and/or wallet handy and safe from the weather. A full-length draft flap keeps the airflow moving without letting in the cold and damp.
The North Face’s Apex Flex DryVent Jacket weighs in at the heaviest—28 ounces—on this list, but its heavier weight does not mean that it lacks in performance. Quite the opposite, in fact. The fabric is 100 percent windproof and a storm flap prevents cold air from entering through the center front zip. The proprietary DryVent technology keeps moisture on the outside of the Apex Flex, while allowing air to circulate, so you stay absolutely dry on the inside.