Gorgeous, wonderful, life-giving spring can bring a little bit of everything from rain to snow to balmy summer-like conditions. Sometimes all in the same day if you’re in the mountains. Come April and May it’s usually time to put away bulky down jackets and reach for lightweight synthetics that breathe better and that can handle a little bit of wet weather. Our two favorite jackets for the spring feature adaptability, lightness, water-shedding, and packability. If only they could fend off spring allergies so well.
Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoodie
The Ascendant Hoodie ($199) is probably, technically, a winter jacket. It’s insulated with Polartech Alpha Direct, a fancy new synthetic material that sits right there against your skin. It’s so robust the jacket doesn’t have a liner, so it’s much lighter (14 ounces) and more breathable than comparably warm jackets. The shell is a 20D nylon ripstop stretch, so it’s flexible and comfortable when doing something athletic like nordic skiing or moving quickly on a trail. It sheds water very well for a jacket that isn’t meant to be an outer shell—I was caught in a passing, but heavy shower last week with this piece, and I had enough confidence to not reach for my hard shell. The Ascendant fended off the brief rain just fine. Being liner-free, the jacket packs down nicely, and can easily be wadded up into an outer pocket on most expedition backpacks. It features two handpockets, a zippered chest pocket, and thumb loops to help the elastic cuffs cover your hands. The hoodie is cinchable and looks as though it’ll fit around a climbing helmet. There’s also a drawstring hem to tighten or loosen the jacket around your waist. The Ascendant Hoodie is warm enough to allow me to wear shorts on a brisk spring overnight trip, and works great as a simple outerlayer over a t-shirt if it’s cool enough for pants. It’s the kind of jacket that you grab for light precip protection, to wear as a windbreaker, or as a layer when temps are just a little too low for a simple sweater. A near-perfect all-rounder.
– Justin Housman
As spring temperatures creep towards the high 60s in the sun and drop down to the high 40s in the shade and when the wind blows, I’ve found myself reaching for the Cotopaxi Paray jacket just about every time I leave the house. Whether I’m biking, running, hiking or climbing, the simple, streamlined design allows for easy movement but keeps things roomy enough for layering. It’s paper-thin but wind-proof, water-resistant, super breathable and durable, packing a much bigger punch than its weight might suggest. On that note, the super-lightweight (3.7 ounces) and packable construction is key for the kinds of pursuits that call for a light windbreaker. It fits in the back of my bike jersey or my tube bag, and I can tie it around my waist without noticing it when I’m on my feet. It even packs into its own chest pocket. Stretch cuffs and low-profile thumb loops keep the sleeves in place when moving around, and a similarly stretchy waistband protects my lower back from the dreaded gust of air when I’m bent over my handlebars or making a big move on the rock wall. Like most of Cotopaxi’s gear, it’s stylish too, if that’s the sort of thing that concerns you. I never hesitate to wear it around town, but I love it most when my goal is to go hard, light and fast.
– Abbie Barronian
More spring fling jackets
For warmer spring days when you just need something breathable and a little warmer than a t-shirt, the Helly Hansen Vertex Stretch Hoodie is darn near ideal. Light, comfy, begging for athletic wear, it’s on sale at Backcountry for $71.
Light, rain-shedding, and plenty breathable, the Arc’teryx Tenquille Hoodie ($175) is the perfect jacket to stash in a pack for any inclement weather trip.
The Patagonia Dirt Craft jacket has an unfortunate name, but a great combination of lightness, water resistance, and breathability for $129.
A bit warmer and more luxurious, the Stio Women’s Alpha Alpine ($289) is a great choice for spring days in high elevations.