16 lightweight shells and mid-layers for your spring adventures
Spring weather is arguably the most unpredictable of any season. You can be enjoying the warm sunshine one minute and then stuck in a frigid whiteout the next. Having the correct garments in your pack, whether you’re skiing, hiking, camping, climbing or mountain biking, can do wonders toward keeping you safe, warm and dry in the elements. To aid you in your quest toward a happy spring and early summer, we’ve rounded up 16 lightweight shells and mid-layers to keep with you at all times.
The North Face Desolation Thermoball Jacket
The body of this jacket is filled with down-like PrimaLoft Thermoball synthetic fibers. These fibers expertly trap heat and, according to an independent test conducted at Kansas State University, provide insulation equivalent to 600-fill goose down. That means this jacket contains the wet-weather insulation power of synthetic materials while retaining down’s incredible warmth. The jacket is also incredibly lightweight and can pack down into its own pocket. There’s much more to love; you can read our extended review, here.
Strafe Scout Jacket
The sun won’t always be shining during the spring. Be prepared for foul conditions with the Scout Jacket from Strafe. It’s constructed with a 2.5-layer eVent face fabric that is both lightweight (only 160 grams in size medium) and stretchy to promote ease of mobility. On top of that it boasts a 20K waterproofing rating to battle spring rain and snow and a 15K breathability rating, ensuring you won’t overheat out there. A scuba-style hood (read: snug fit) protects your dome and small underarm vents help dump heat. We’ve tested the Scout out on two of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks (Huron Peak and Challenger Point). On Huron, it provided a bit of lightweight shelter from wind and relatively cold conditions (for August), while on Challenger, it shed moisture like a champ when a Labor Day graupel storm invaded the area.
Strafe Women’s Alpha Mid-Jacket
Modeled after the popular men’s edition, the women’s-specific Alpha Mid-Jacket can be relied upon as a mid-layer on cold days and as a standalone jacket on warmer ones or when lounging around in town. It’s built with 100 grams of Polartec Alpha insulation—it’s lightweight, warm and breathable, ensuring you’re toasty when you need to be—as well as a four-way stretch woven nylon micro ripstop fabric (say that ten times fast!) that provides ease-of-movement and plenty of durability. It also boasts 35 CFM breathability, meaning it is highly air permeable to help keep your temperature levels calm, cool and collected during high-stress activities or simply when the weather is warm.
Under Armour ColdGear Reactor Hooded Jacket
We’ve relied on this mid-layer all season long—from super cold days in Canada to warm-weather laps at our ski test at Snowbird, Utah. It’s continuing to crush it into the spring, too. In cold weather, its ColdGear Reactor “intelligent” insulation keeps you warm, even when all you layered on top of it is a shell. In warm weather, when worn with just a baselayer, it serves as a solid spring jacket with plenty of breathability. And no matter what type of precipitation is falling, the jacket repels water and wind to keep you dry and comfortable. It’s also lightweight and packs into its own inside chest pocket for easy stowage.
Under Armour Women’s UA Surge Jacket
Whether you’re hitting the resort for spring skiing, touring in the backcountry or hiking for some off-season fitness, the Women’s UA Surge Jacket is a piece you can keep on you during all spring activities. Don’t let the flattering profile fool you, this jacket means business and is ready to handle the elements. It’s 100-percent waterproof and windproof with 2.5-layer construction, fully-taped seams and a 10K/10k waterproof/breathability rating. The hood is roomy to help protect from rain or snow without constriction and underarm vents help you dump heat when the mercury rises.
686 GLCR GORE-TEX Paclite Multi Jacket
686’s GLCR GORE-TEX Paclite Multi Jacket has been creating quite the buzz among the outdoor community this spring and we know exactly why. Most recently, we tested its performance during a mega-wet cat-skiing trip in Retallack, British Columbia. The garment was incredibly impressive; not a drop of moisture penetrated this bad boy. It’s completely waterproof, has water-resistant zippers, micro-mesh chest pockets that double as vents, an internal media pocket, an antimicrobial wool collar and removable/adjustable straps that make for easy on-and-off while out in the mountains. Perhaps best of all, it’s wildly lightweight and packs itself into a mini stuff sack in one of those aforementioned chest pockets, so you can take it anywhere without worries. Whether you’re skiing, hiking, biking, camping or doing anything else outdoors, this shell will get the job done.
lululemon Surge Light Jacket
The Surge Light Jacket is a lightweight, moisture-wicking and easily packable garment you can keep on you whether you’re ski-touring on a warm day, trail running or hiking. We wore this while running and it was so lightweight, it felt like running in your birthday suit, but with added water and wind-resistance. Its Swift Ultra Light fabric promotes increased airflow, wicks sweat and boasts a four-way stretch to move naturally without constricting you. When things heat up, this piece utilizes strategically placed mesh fabric in the underarms to keep you in the “fresh” zone. If you’re looking to de-layer, you can fold it into its pocket and keep it handy with an attached carrying strap. A media pocket and reflective details round out this simple yet technical light jacket.
Dakine Brightwood Down Vest
The Brightwood is a stylish, versatile vest that you can keep handy for all of your adventures. Insulated with 650-fill, responsibly-sourced down and finished with a DWR micro ripstop shell, it provides warmth and water resistance when heading outdoors on chillier spring days or at night by the campfire. It’s also ideal for when you’re on the move, be it by plane or on your next roadtrip, as it packs down into a neck pillow. Warm and functional—what more could you ask for?
Mountain Standard — Standard Issue Insulator
The Standard Issue Insulator can serve as your go-to campfire jacket or a mid-layer for when spring storms march into the mountains and temperatures plummet. It features a nylon ripstop outer construction which keeps it durable, while a DWR treatment repels moisture. The 60 grams of Primaloft Gold insulation will retain heat like a champ, ensuring you’re warm and toasty no matter the situation.
Montbell U.L. Stretch Wind Parka Men’s
No matter the season, when traveling through the mountains, the threat of wind is always a factor. Protection against gusts strong enough to knock you off your feet is key. An effective “wind layer” should be able to shield you from the wind, have a moderate degree of breathability and pack down nice and small in your pack, attributes that the Stretch Wind Parka carries. The garment is built with tightly woven, ultra-thin nylon fibers that result in a thin, lightweight body that’ll also safeguard you from the elements. The piece packs down into its left breast pocket for easy storage and has a DWR coating to shed light moisture.
Eddie Bauer Men’s Sandstone Thermal Jacket
This softshell jacket is ideal for spring activities. The lightweight, polyester/spandex construction is ultra-breathable and allows for great stretch and increased mobility. A DWR finish on the exterior sheds moisture and, for the colder spring days, its fleece-lined interior is both warm and plush. Whether backcountry skiing, camping or hiking, the Sandstone Thermal is great for a bit of added warmth before true summertime weather hits.
Voormi Access Vest
Pagosa Springs, Colorado-based Voormi sources all of its merino wool from sheep in its own backyard: the Rocky Mountains. It also sews all of its garments at home in the United States. Voormi’s Access Vest is a versatile piece that’s ideal for spring. It’s constructed with Voormi’s Surface Hardened Thermal Wool—durable 21.5 micron wool that’s reinforced with outward facing nylon. The result is both comfortable and warm. Voormi also threw in mesh side panels for added breathability. The Access Vest is at home on the trail, skin track or campsite.
Stio Modis Hooded Jacket
The Modis Hooded Jacket is the signature three-season storm shell of Jackson Hole, WY-based Stio. Complete with Pertex Shield 2.5-layer waterproof/breathable fabric, a DWR coating and fully taped seams, this garment is well-equipped to battle spring showers, snow squalls while late-season skiing, or full-fledged summertime downpours on the hiking trail, etc. Additional features including an adjustable fixed hood, underarm venting for temperature control and cord locks at the hem to keep the nasty weather outside—where it belongs. This protection comes in a super-light, 12-ounce package that’s highly stash-able for all of your on-the-go needs. Not to mention, this piece is gosh-darn beautiful. We’ve been loving the green, earthy colorway. Blue and gray are options, as well. Stio categorizes this piece as “medium cut, roomier than trim but designed with athletic performance and comfort in mind.”
Smartwool Men’s Propulsion 60 Hybrid Half Zip
Comfortable, functional and stylish, Smartwool’s Propulsion 60 Hybrid Half Zip is one darn-impressive mid-layer. We put it to use among wildly-varying conditions while cat-skiing at Retallack, British Columbia. Sometimes it was raining, sometimes, snowing, sometimes sunny, sometimes hot, sometimes cold—and it thrived through and through. Going along the grain of Smartwool’s dedication to wool, the piece utilizes merino wool throughout its entirety, which helps regulate body temperature remarkably well whether you’re on the skin track or at the bar. Body mapping tech allowed designers to place more burly insulation in the chest and exterior of the arms to keep you warm, while a thin layer of merino keeps your hotter parts comfortable as can be. To top it off, the whole piece is DWR-treated to further that moisture-fighting goal.
Picture Organic Clothing Surface Jacket
From the streets to the slopes, this spring jacket from France-based Picture rocks premium functionality and style. Function-wise, it’s constructed with waterproof and durable polyester—50-percent standard, 50-percent recycled—and outfitted with a chest pocket and hand pockets for your belongings. Style-wise, the jacket has a sleek lifestyle fit and sports patches that are made of fake leather, staying true to the brand’s dedication to the environment. All in all, this is a solid go-to jacket for spring adventures both big and small.
Helly Hansen Vanir Logr Jacket
Fun fact about the naming of this piece: It’s inspired by the the Logr rune (letter) in the ancient alphabet of Norse Mythology. It represents “mountain water,” and is a fitting name for the Vanir Logr Jacket that is built to combat a wide range of mountain conditions. The jacket has a 10K/10K waterproof/breathability rating, which will block moisture from permeating from the outside while wicking it away from your body to keep you ultra-comfortable, no matter the weather. Brushed tricot on the inner neck collar and chin guard provide soft comfort when the jacket is zipped up. Elastane material complements the polyester build to promote ease-of-mobility while underarm vents allow you the convenience of a cool breeze when the pits heat up.