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Mountain Hardwear Asteria Jacket

I’ve had lots of jackets over the years that promised to be breathable and keep me dry outdoors in the snow or rain, but none have impressed me as much as Mountain Hardwear’s Asteria jacket. It’s a rock-solid mountaineering shell that truly protects me from the elements and breathes like a dream.

I first wore this trim, attractive shell for a four-hour outing of tailgating and college football on a chilly, rainy, 40-degree Oregon afternoon. Because I was sitting for most of that time it felt much colder than it actually was. The Asteria jacket was the perfect outer layer because it did an excellent job of shedding the rain and drizzle.

Made out of Mountain Hardwear’s DryQ™ Elite waterproof and breathable fabric, the Asteria is designed for serious alpine pursuits. The three-layer material is quite effective at keeping water out and at quickly transferring body moisture through its surface into the air. So, I stay dry, which is especially important in freezing temperatures. I’ve worn the Asteria jacket on several rigorous lowland hikes in constant rain, working up a sweat but staying dry inside and out. I really appreciate the Asteria’s pit zips, too; they give me much needed ventilation when I’m working hard. 

I’ve also worn Mountain Hardwear’s Asteria jacket for some hard skiing in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. On a bluebird day, cold but clear, I threw on the Asteria shell as the finishing layer over a Merino wool turtleneck, a fleece vest, and a synthetic pile jacket. With a foot of fresh snow, hiking to find fresh tracks in the backcountry was definitely part of the agenda. When hiking uphill, I worked up a sweat but just opened the pit zips a bit and let it off some steam. When skiing downhill, the shell was impervious to the cold wind and kept me comfortably insulated.

Riding up the lifts, I appreciated the soft inner collar lining against my chin when I zipped up the shell all the way.  I was also glad that the hem of the jacket could be cinched tighter with draw cords on each side to keep the weather out. I usually don’t wear the hood, which is designed to accommodate a helmet and has an easy, one-pull adjustment cord, but it’s easy to get out of my way. I just roll it down, then fix it in place with a wraparound strap that starts at the inside of the collar and attaches to the back of the jacket with a Velcro-like seal.

The Asteria jacket has two zippered side pockets and two zippered chest pockets for stashing all my essentials; all the zippers are waterproof. There’s also a small zippered pocket inside the jacket, as well as a small pouch-style pocket.

The Women’s Asteria Jacket comes in sizes XS through XL, in Iris Glow, Hot Rod, and Black. Mountain Hardwear makes the similarly styled Victorio jacket for men.

Bottom Line: The Asteria sets the new gold standard for mountaineering shells; it’s the most breathable, protective jacket I’ve had the pleasure of wearing.—J.I. (December 2011)

BUY ONLINE: $500, click to shop at Altrec. Click to shop at Summit Hut.

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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.