As Contributing Editor Dan Duane discovers in Range of Light, going fast-and-light today doesn't mean sacrificing comfort, thanks to a revolution in materials and design. This summer a slew of pack makers are introducing new super light day and weekend haulers that key in on hiker satisfaction, with innovative suspension systems and sweat-free technologies.
Apparel companies are following suit with a new generation of high-performance, ultralight shells that you'll look forward to wearing. After a month of trail testing, here is the best of whats new.
Packing more features than a shiny new Treo, the seven-ounce North Face DIAD is the lightest full-function waterproof shell we've found. The hood is smartly designed to move with your head, pit zips provide air-conditioning, and welded seams cut the compressed size and weight.
Waterproof like a hardshell, stretchy like a softshell, the GoLite Xirtam is the most comfortable weatherproof jacket available, period. A polyurethane membrane repels moisture, and a layer of soft tricot provides warmth and insulation. Its perfect for fall and unpredictable mountain weather.
Whats next, spray-on wind protection? At two ounces, the womens Helly Hansen Venus barely caresses the scales, yet it still has the fortitude to block wind completely. The full-zip, no-hood design is ideal for cool morning runs or bike rides, and the jacket crushes down to the size of an orange. Be advised, though: It performs better in a drizzle than in a downpour.
Gear geeks will argue the virtues of breathable and waterproof fabrics ad infinitum, but the Integral Designs eVent Rain Jacket defies debate. When I wore this shell on a hike in a moderate rainstorm and high humidity, it outperformed comparable jackets. Its the best way to combat the soupy conditions of the East, Midwest, or Northwest.