Westcomb Switch LT Hoody

Four-Season Jacket
Westcomb Switch LT Hoody
$430, 15 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL
westcomb.com

A more breathable waterproof shell seems to be the holy grail of apparel manufacturers these days, and I’m all for that. Polartec says its NeoShell polyurethane membrane has the durability, ability to block wind, and waterproofing of a hard shell, and the breathability, stretch, and supple feel of a soft shell—while coming in lighter than competing technologies in both categories. If the Switch LT Hoody is an indication of where apparel makers can go with NeoShell, I think we’ll be seeing more and more jackets that can legitimately be called a four-season shell.

I wore this sub-one-pound jacket in spring-like conditions, backpacking and dayhiking in warm sunshine and cool, strong gusts in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park; and in wintry conditions—cold wind, blowing snow—on days of backcountry skiing from Idaho’s Boise Mountains to the Sawtooth Mountains. In all of those situations, it excelled at repelling wind and snow—in part thanks to a very protective, helmet-compatible hood with three adjustment points to customize fit and an extended brim that keeps precipitation off your face. So it makes the grade for winter or spring in the mountains.

But its low weight and super breathability make it a bona fide summer rain shell, too. Whether I was sweating from chugging hard uphill on skis or hiking under a desert sun with a heavy pack, the jacket moved moisture from the inside to the outside fast enough that my base layer never got more than damp, and I’d dry out within minutes after lowering my exertion level. With two chest pockets deep enough to fit climbing skins, a small bicep pocket, pit zippers, a soft velour chin guard, hook-and-loop cuffs, and even a neat little internal pocket to keep your electronic media dry, it’s surprisingly well featured for such a light piece. It’s armored even for drenching rain and the pit zips allow for better venting in warm temperatures. And it really does have a soft, supple feel and comfortable, athletic fit. I’d recommend it for everything from serious backcountry skiing, mountaineering, or nasty-wet Alaska adventures to summer backpacking trips.

—Michael Lanza