Gack, not another soft shell review! We've tried virtually every permutation of this category since it first emerged in 1986 and are as tired of the hoopla as anybody. But the new Mountain Hardwear Synchro Jacket caught our attention since it claims to be â€œextremely durable, stretchy, windproof and completely waterproof.â€ Wait a minute -- a waterproof soft shell? That is different, but does it work?
The Synchro is made of a laminate fabric that has a soft outer face and fleece inner. In between is Mountain Hardwear's Conduit waterproof/breathable membrane. The package has a somewhat rubbery feel but is comfortable to wear.
Unlike all other soft shells, the seams of the Synchro are taped on the outside with neoprene to prevent leakage. The chest pocket, sleeve pocket and two ventilating handwarmer pockets feature watertight zippers, and the main zipper is backed by a neoprene flap. Fleece wrist seals and a well-designed neck drawcord help block out drafts.
After a half dozen days of resort and backcountry skiing, plus two weeks on the Colorado river, this has become a favored piece for one of our SNEWS testers in his oversized gear closet. The Synchro does indeed keep you dry in wet conditions, assuming you wear a wide-brimmed hat (there is no hood). When soaked after a big wave, it was warm and dried fairly quickly.
The breathability of the fabric is adequate for light to moderate aerobic activity. But, as with most laminates, it can't handle intense output such as aggressive uphill hiking or skiing. It really needs pit zippers because the pockets don't ventilate when stuffed with gloves and hat.
Suggested Retail: $210
SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands possible, with 5 hands representing design and functional perfection)
For more information:www.mountainhardwear.com