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OUR TAKE This su­per­stretchy jacket has the feel of a tra­di­tional soft­shell, but with all the weath­er­proof­ing chops of a hard­shell. Stan­dard three-layer Gore-Tex pro­vides pro­tec­tion, while a stretch-wo­ven face fab­ric and a soft knit backer give it a cushy feel. The Apex Flex’s sweet spot is cold, wet, or windy weather, as it’s too hefty and warm for ac­tive use above the mid-30s: We reached for it nearly daily for a win­ter’s worth of Cas­cade Range hikes and soggy Seat­tle bike com­mutes.

THE DE­TAILS An ex­tended hem, eas­ily ad­justable hood (but you’ll have to wear it un­der, not over, a hel­met), and a cut that lay­ers well over win­ter in­su­la­tion boost its pro­tec­tion against nasty weather. Breatha­bil­ity, aided by pit zips, is good but not ex­cep­tional, and you also get two hand pock­ets and a chest pocket (women’s ver­sion has a lower sleeve pocket in­stead). Trade­off: It's bulky to pack, but the Apex Flex is also the most af­ford­able jacket here.

TRAIL CRED “Given its feel, I was sur­prised at how weath­er­proof this jacket is,” says a tester. “I could hike through heavy rain in cool temps and still stay dry with­out get­ting su­per-sweaty.”

$199; 1 lb. 8 oz.; m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL; thenorth­

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