Simplicity. That’s a key word for a lot of outdoor gear, especially stuff that you want to be light weight. There’s a fine line between gear that is functional, yet simple. Brooks-Range, a company specializing in technical backcountry gear, has recently starting to produce outerwear, and have definitely found the sweet spot with their Isto Soft Shell Jacket.
The Brooks-Range Isto Soft Shell is made from a flexible fabric that features 4-way stretch, protection from the elements, and is highly breathable during aerobic exertion. The inside is lined with lightweight fleece for added warmth on cold days. Plus, it only has the features you need like a moisture wicking collar, single chest pocket, zipper chin guard, Velcro adjustable cuffs, hem drawcord, and zipper hand warmer pockets.
Out in the field, I’ve been wearing the Brooks-Range Isto Jacket on fall backcountry ski tours, as well as casually around the house and yard. Up in the Wasatch, I notched several ski days on my backcountry belt while wearing the Isto, and I quickly fell in love with this no-frills piece. The 4-way stretch fabric really does allow an immense amount of movement and feels great under pack straps. Despite not being the warmest jacket, I found it perfect for skinning up when my body heat kept things plenty warm.
That leads to the next great thing about the Isto – breathability. I’m about to make a strong statement here, but I stand by it: the Brooks-Range Isto Jacket is probably the most breathable soft shell jacket I’ve ever tested. In my book, the best gear is the stuff you forget you’re wearing. On backcountry tours, I almost always have to strip down after a half-hour of touring, but with the Isto, I never got too hot or cold as the jacket wicked moisture away like a champ. In fact, sometimes it felt like I wasn’t wearing the jacket at all, which meant I could focus on the task at hand without worrying about body-temperature regulation.
I even like to ski down with the Isto jacket as its outer shell protects from moisture, and the Velcro wrist cuffs and adjustable hem keeps snow out. Paired with a micro-puff underneath, I was comfortable skinning and skiing all day in the Isto.
Despite all that, the simplicity of this Brooks-Range jacket is superb. Zipper pulls are just a small piece of webbing. Seams are smooth and comfortable. There are no superfluous attachments like extra panels, interior pockets or hoods. No, this piece is built for one thing – outdoor aerobic activity in cold weather – and it does it perfectly. Plus, the fact that this jacket isn’t all teched-out means it looks great when worn off the mountain as well.
If you’re not familiar with Brooks-Range’s outerwear line and you’re in the market for a soft shell jacket capable of ski touring, ice climbing or all around cold weather layering, give the Isto Jacket a look. It has everything you need, and nothing you don’t. Simple.
You can purchase the Isto Jacket at the Brooks-Range website.