I have a few recently purchased "lightish" shells that I have been using for mountain biking, XC ski touring, and splitboarding in the Tahoe area---and I thought that I would throw a few more jacket options into the mix.
Mountain Equipment Firelite: This jacket may be discontinued/upgraded in the near future---I bought it as closeout on mgear.com about 9 months ago. This is a Gore Activeshell jacket with a claimed weight of 9.5 ounces. This is a minimalist jacket with one chest pocket and an athletic/slim fit. Breathability is good to very good but certainly not in the same league as a softshell. The jacket has been waterproof in the few rainstorms that I have ridden in. I run hot and prefer soft shells for touring---and this is a really nice jacket to have in the pack if the precipitation turns from snow to rain. This jacket does fit over my Smith Variant helmet---but just barely. This has become my primary foul weather mountain biking jacket due to its light weight, compressibility, and performance. Durability appears to be OK but I am pretty sure the lightweight fabric would tear if I had any serious encounters with tree branches. So far, so good.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Jacket. This is a fall 2013 jacket. I bought the jacket primarily because I was intrigued by the softshell/hard shell fabrics. This jacket uses Schoeller c-change hard shell (front and shoulders) and Schoeller softshell (back). This jacket also has a slim fit----but it has 4 pockets and a ski helmet friendly hood. Claimed weight is 17 ounces. I bought this jacket to be my "go to" touring jacket in nasty weather. I have only had a few extended tours with this jacket but I was inspired enough to write this post. The jacket is quite comfortable due to the stretch of the softshell fabric. Weather resistance seems to be quite good but my favorite feature is the breathability. I usually tour with a very light softshell (and this isn't going to change) but I wanted something burlier for foul weather that could still breath well. This jacket seems to fit the bill quite well. Even when wearing my pack, the breathability of the softshell material in the back almost had me convinced that I was still wearing a light softshell. In most 100% hardshells (Gore XCR, Gore Proshell, Cloudveil fabrics, etc--I haven't tried Neoshell), I tend to overheat and sweat quickly when pushing hard. That hasn't happened on my few tours with this jacket. At least for me, this jacket seems to have a pretty ideal balance of weather resistance and breathability. In any case, this jacket is worth a look.
Burton AK 3L (Goretex Pro Shell). I have a "Hover" jacket that is a couple years old now that I love. FYI designed and all Goretex Pro Shell. I got it on a bro form, so I didn't have to break the bank. But all the top of the line jackets/fabrics seem to be about the same price point.
Joined: Thu Jan 13, 2005 3:08 pm Posts: 237 Location: 109-blocks-of-watch-yo-f'n-back, CA
Neoshell and Gore Active Shell is the future but $$. The Arcteryx Alpha and Beta series have some with long enough tails for your needs. Montbell Versalite is a great budget option @ 6.7 oz MEC has some surprisingly good pieces in the pipeline if you can wait a season. Dane's coldthistle blog has some *exhaustive* treatise on the subject.
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 11:15 am Posts: 61 Location: sofoco
+1 on the EMS Helix anorak. I was planning to try the Flylow neoshell offering, but the Helix is too good of a deal. Buy one for half off and get a gear bucks card for $25, then get a backup for under $100.
Joined: Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:11 pm Posts: 34 Location: Seattle, WA
I have not tried the gore active shell products, but was always far from happy with the pro-shell for breathability.
I have been extremely happy with Helly Hansens "hellytech professional" membranes. I have used the odin mountain and guiding light shells extensively. Snowmobile access from a low elevation where we start in full on rain with slush spraying off the track I have not been wet ever. I actually rank the breathability higher then event items I have tried (a stoic shell and REI shuksan pants). I've had both event items fail and wet out also.
I have not tried it out yet but HH does have the odin "fastpack" jacket which comes in at a scant ounces. No bells and whistles, pockets are vents (which I find work better then pit zips). Only downside off their other jackets is that it doesn't have any stretch.
All that being said most people could really evaluate whether they even NEED a hardshell jacket most of their days touring. If it's not raining or snowing heavy with air temps in the low 30s (ie you don't live in the pacific northwest) then you need a good DWR, not the membrane below it, you're not wetting out the shell fabric. Consider wind shirts most days, pack a hardshell when the weather forecast is bad enough that you're having a hard time finding riding partners.