A soft shell so sweet it’s not even available – yet | AspenTimes.com

A soft shell so sweet it’s not even available – yet

Catherine Lutz
Aspen Times Business Manager Hilary Burgess wishes she could keep this soft-shell jacket. (Paul Conrad/Aspen Times Weekly)

I have this bright blue, hand-me-down Gore-Tex parka that my dad bought in the early ’80s. It’s the most reliable piece of outdoor clothing I’ve ever owned, having withstood Patagonian winds, driving rain and sudden snow squalls, all the while keeping me warm (with appropriate layering) and relatively dry. Except for a couple of flaws – like the seams, which attract moisture and leave a ring of cold and wet around my hips and neck. And then there’s the fact that the first generation of Gore-Tex was hideously unbreathable. The jacket’s also butt-ugly.

Outerwear technology has come a long way since then – building on that reliable technology and sealing those gaps that left us cold and wet. Plus the stuff looks good now – no more large bulky, stiff jackets that make you look like a frozen cadaver on Everest. The Marmot Super Hero Jacket is the latest, greatest soft shell – a good-looking, minimalist, windproof, water-resistant and breathable jacket. It uses Gore Windstopper technology and four different fabrics, strategically placed, depending on what kind of protection you need where. For example, a breathable knit fabric is used for the underarm.Researchers actually used a technique called “body mapping” to determine where you need more breathability, more insulation (near the heart), or more articulation (shoulders and elbows). The idea is that you can use this jacket for 80 to 85 percent of outdoor activities, and in all types of weather (with proper layering), said Marmot spokesman John Cooley.

“The concept is to make gear disappear, to take away the feeling of discomfort,” said Cooley. “And body mapping is the future of outerwear. We’re developing strategic fabrics for greater comfort.”In the past couple of weeks, I’ve worn the Super Hero in cold, rain, fog, snow and nearly summerlike conditions on the mountain, and it’s held up really well each time – I was never too hot or too chilled. Even in gale-force winds hiking up to the Wall at Snowmass, this relatively thin jacket blocked out almost everything (meanwhile the wind nearly knocked me over).Yes, this jacket is so cool, so advanced technologically, that … you can’t even buy it. A prototype test model sent out by Marmot, the Super Hero will only be available in stores starting in August. The Ute Mountaineer, Bristlecone Mountain Sports and Summit Canyon Mountaineering will all likely stock it; it’ll retail for $260.

In the meantime, I have a reliable blue Gore-Tex jacket to loan out.Catherine Lutz’s e-mail address is cathlutz@aspentimes.com.

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