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Mountain Hardwear Men's Icestone Jacket and Women's Limestone Jacket : Hard Core Soft Shells

For the past few years, my fall power walking uniform has consisted of my Mountain Hardwear Synchro jacket, Buff headwear, and my OR Vert pants. These items have kept me perfectly comfortable despite chilly winds, persistent drizzles, and even downpours. But it was time for a change.

I wanted a jacket with a bit more length, but the same level of weather protection. To be honest, I also wanted a change of color. With the women's jackets in Rhododendron, Black, Blue River and men's in Lava, Grill, and Navy I was starting to have jacket envy. Because I'm 5'11" I usually test men's jackets to get the length I want; this time I opted for the women's style.

In a size large, the back length measures almost 27.5 inches, just a half inch shy of the length of the men's jacket. That's an important feature for me; I like my jacket hem to hit somewhere below my waistband.

I also wanted the same type of rain and wind protection I got with my shark skin-like soft shell Synchro jacket. The Limestone is made out of Gore's Windstopper Grid Knit, a polyester material that looks and feels almost like corduroy. At first glance I could imagine how this jacket would breathe, but not how it would keep me dry and warm.

Walk after walk after hike, I benefited from the soft wicking lining and breathable shell (it just hasn't been cold here yet) because I keep wearing too much underneath the jacket. I've been lucky on the few chilly wind days to have my Limestone on. With just a wool t-shirt underneath, the jacket did a great job of breaking the wind. Still, one test remained...

Until today I hadn't had a chance to test this funky new fabric in the rain. I was so happy to start my hour-long urban hike in a drizzle, and even happier when the mist turned into serious, heavy rain. I slowed down, turned by baseball cap around so the brim could protect my face, and just sauntered along my route, waiting to see if the rain would soak through.

After half and hour I was plenty wet inside because I foolishly wore a cotton t-shirt as my base layer, but the inside of my jacket was completely dry. After an hour I was home, and the inside of the jacket was still dry. The shell was wet with beads of rain, but none of the moisture soaked into the lining. When I'm wearing my Limestone moisture only goes in one direction: out and away from me. Nice.

I love the longer length and being able to wear a women's cut for a more tapered and less boxy fit than if I'd chosen to test the men's jacket. If I need to snuggle up, I can adjust the elastic in the hem with the toggles. I also love the stretchy thumb loop inner cuffs. They're ideal for in between weather when it's just not cold enough for gloves but I want a little bit of coverage. With gloves, the cuff is great at keeping cold air out.

The jacket has the requisite zippered side pockets, plus a zippered chest pocket and another small zippered pocket on the bottom of the left sleeve. I wish it had one more pocket--in the lining--I'm a big fan of hidden pockets.

Available in men's (sm-xxl) and women's sizes (xs-xl).

Bottom Line : An all-around, all-purpose, three-season jacket. I'll definitely be wearing it this winter with a wool baselayer for hikes and snowshoeing.--E.D. (Nov 08)

Price : $170

Click to shop/purchase: ,

Manufacturer's Site:  www.mountainhardwear.com

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.