North Face Mountain LightIf you walked into a store and could choose whatever jacket you wanted, which one would you grab? That actually happened to me a few months back and I picked this Mountain Light shell with Gore-tex from North Face. Others were flashier or trendier, but this one lets me stomp out into the rain without an umbrella, so I went for the practical choice.

I don’t have a whole lot of North Face clothing in my wardrobe. I know this branch of the giant VF Corporation makes great products, but their jackets are kind of like iPods and Crocs—something everyone and their brother seems to have on them already. I do have one North Face windbreaker fleece though that I got years ago and I like it a lot. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and join the crowd.

This Mountain Light jacket is one finely tuned piece of technology. It is really and truly waterproof—a claim I’ve tried out a dozen times now—yet it is truly breathable too thanks to the Gore-tex liner. That alone doesn’t justify the $300 price tag, I’ll admit, so there’s a whole host of features that take this beyond your average shell. It’s got Velcro cuffs, a hood with cinch straps, covered pockets in and out, a place to put your music player, and armpit zips to let the sweaty heat out and regulate your temperature.

Then you’ve got a cinch strap adjustment at the waist, sealed zippers with a double flap, a zipper that will accommodate a zip-in liner, and an “internal stretch water bottle pocket.” (You say water bottle, I say flask…)

The jacket itself has a lifetime guarantee from North Face and then Gore-tex has a lifetime guarantee on top of that. So you can trust this thing will do what it’s supposed to do: keep you warm, dry, and comfortable. It’s listed as weighing 28 ounces, which is about half the weight of another shell I own from Marker. It would be a great choice for winter sports or just days of walking around in iffy weather. Proof I believe in this shell for travel: it’s the only coat I’m carrying to snowy Salt Lake City for the next few days.

Back to that nagging question you may have: How did I get to walk into a store and pick out any jacket? I could make up a story about winning a contest or my rich aunt coming to town, but really it’s because the Gore-tex people were feeling generous when I visited their offices and they made me feel like the Snoop Dogg of the travel gear world, just handing me clothes so I would try them out and talk about them. OK, I’m easy. Hey…nice jacket!

This Mountain Light jacket comes in several colors, available at

Search for men’s and women’s versions of the Mountain Light at or at Moosejaw. If you don’t mind last year’s model, that’s often on sale for $100 or so at Sun & Ski Sports.

Related post: 8 Things You Should Know About Gore-tex

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