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Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Zach White.

With every piece of gear that I carry with me on the mountain bike, my first question is: “how packable is it?” Consequently, I’ve been carrying ultra lightweight rain jackets lately instead of full-featured, thick jackets. The only problem with most ultra-lightweight jackets? They eliminate the hood in order to reduce weight and volume.

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Enter the Gore Rescue Windstopper Active Shell Jacket. With a wispy weight and extremely packable fabric (occupying about 2/3 of a standard jersey pocket when rolled tightly), it definitely fits the ultra-lightweight, ultra-packable goal, but it comes with the all-important hood, which can be critical for keeping dry and warm in a true mountain survival situation.

The jacket comes with a half-zip closure, a zippered breast pocket large enough to stow a smartphone or map, an elastic lower hem, reflective print on the sleeves, and a close-fitting hood. According to Gore, “fused seams make this jacket absolutely windproof and water resistant, without sacrificing breathability.”

Out on the Trail

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With the name “Windstopper,” this jacket from Gore isn’t advertised or touted to be an actual rain jacket, yet that’s the primary use that I put it to. Despite not being billed as fully waterproof, I found it more than capable of combatting moderate rain and wet conditions with soaked trailside plants. However, water will definitely start to penetrate if it’s driven hard enough or long enough—at 45mph on a four wheeler, rain was beginning to soak the fabric instead of beading and rolling off. On a hike in a heavy, soaking rain, the jacket began to absorb some moisture after enough exposure. But despite some soaking, it still resisted full water penetration.

When it comes to stopping the wind, I found the jacket to more than live up to its name. The imperviousness to wind is impressive when considering how wispy-thin the membrane of this jacket is. Could a thicker jacket hold off the wind better? Yes. Would it be this light and packable? No way.

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The Windstopper’s major test for windproofness came while summiting 13,667-foot Mount White in Colorado. With a combination of a lot of riding and a little hiking, I summited this brutal peak, and spent time traversing the ridge top to take in some of the incredible views. But the entire time I was on the mountain, the wind was whipping out of the West—hard. I have no data, but based on previous experiences in the mountains I would estimate that I was riding and hiking in about 30-40mph winds, with some gusts exceeding. While the air temperature was low and the wind was strong, I felt little penetration through the jacket, and pairing a base layer with this jacket would have made for a bombproof setup.

On top of Mount White

On top of Mount White

GORE BIKE WEAR Men's RESCUE WINDSTOPPER Active Shell Jacket, size XXL, black
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Speaking of warmth, when I began my ride before sunrise, the temperatures were hovering around freezing. I anticipated warmer temperatures later once the sun hit me, so I decided against packing a base layer in an attempt to go as ultra-light as possible, wearing just the jacket and a standard jersey. In retrospect, this wasn’t a great choice, as I didn’t take my jacket off until an hour from the end of the ride, about 6 hours after I left my truck.

Yet despite what could have turned into a poor choice, this ultra-lightweight jacket did a fantastic job of conserving body heat as I toiled up over a vertical mile of climbing. Despite air temps in the 30s, I was comfortable while moving, wearing SOLELY this little jacket!

Truly impressive.

Downsides

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The only potential downside to this jacket is that it’s a half-zip. While this probably saves a few grams and a few dollars, the trim fit, which is great to keep the jacket from flapping in the wind (consistent with its intended use), makes it a little difficult to take on and off, and difficult to manage body temp if the weather heats up. I would have much rather preferred a full zip. However, I did find that the half-zip provided enough space to pull this jacket on without removing my helmet—barely.

Bottom Line

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Looking for an ultra-lightweight, ultra-packable emergency jacket for when the weather turns bad that includes a hood? The Windstopper could be an excellent choice! However, you need to be okay without having full waterproofness, which makes this jacket untenable for true backcountry expeditions, like bikepacking, where you aren’t guaranteed to have access to shelter. You also need to be ok with the difficulties posed by a half-zip.

But if you can handle those two issues, you’ll find good durability, excellent performance, and an extremely minimalistic solution for mountain travel.

MSRP: $200

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