Throughout this long, cold, dark, snowy winter, spring has felt like some fantastical concoction living in some distant realm like Jim Henson’s imagination. That place is one filled with sunshine dreams, vibrant wildflowers in full bloom and massive trees sprouting umbrella-sized leaves. But as our bodies get used to daylight savings, spring will start to feel like more of a reality.
Soon, the impending season will deliver warmer days, inspiring us all to step out into the world’s open roads. But don’t forget that spring also brings cooler temps in the evenings, mornings and night, as well as an unpredictable onslaught of sudden rain showers. To travel without worry in spring, you need a jacket that can do it all. Here are seven of the best.
1. Arc’Teryx A2B Commuter Jacket for Men and Women; $225. 2. Men’s Nau Vice II Blazer; $280. 3. Woman’s Aether Amelia Jacket; $345. 4. Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket for Men and Women; $129. 5. Men’s Lululemon Shift Jacket; $128. 6. 1st-FuseForm_Explore">The North Face Fuseform; starting at $199. 7. Women’s Helly Hansen Naiad Jacket; $129.
Nathan Borchelt is a gear-obsessed travel writer and adventurer whose collection of shoes, backpacks, jackets, bags, and other “essential” detritus has long-outgrown his one-bedroom apartment (and his wife’s patience).
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Just out this season, the Fuseform line of jackets employs The North Face's new weaving process, which blends thicker, more durable threads with lighter fabrics to offer serious weather protection without the weight—an essential advantage for ounce-counting travelers. The 70-denier fabric, positioned at the high-impact parts of the jacket like the shoulders and upper chest, transition seamlessly into the 40-denier lightweight fabric, reducing seam construction and boosting performance and comfort. Of the three models in the line, most will likely gravitate to the mid-priced Originator, a more aesthetically traditional design that's made for both men and women. Feel the urge to express yourself? Go with the more sci-fi-inspired Dot Matrix model.
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Of all the jackets on the list, this one looks arguably the most tech-oriented. And it's also one of the most affordable high-end waterproof shells on the market. The 2.5-layer nylon jacket provides serious weather protection thanks to its waterproof/breathable laminate. And it packs small—collapsing into its own pocket—so you can stash it and forget about it until the squalls descend.
Despite its modest price, the Torrentshell loads up on the tech features, including a two-way adjustable, stowable hood with a laminated visor, venting pit zips with storm flaps, a microfleece-lined neck, and two zipper hand-warmer pockets. The slightly roomy fit lets you layer underneath, with longer sleeves and Velcro-adjustable cuffs typical to most hard shells on the market that go for twice the price.
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Fitting somewhere between the sartorial perfection of a bespoke, tailor-made blazer and a military-inspired performance piece, the Vice II will likely become your go-to spring/fall jacket even when you're not traveling. The heathered-cotton fabric obscures its more tech-oriented nature, with full DWR water repellency, two-way stretch for mobility and a half-lined poly crepe interior for added warmth and comfort. You get the expected pocket configuration as well as a zippered rear pocket and adjustable button cuffs.
When the weather gets foul, the button-over tab collar provides neck protection, and when the weather passes, the jacket sports a casual, confident profile. Go for the more versatile caviar-heather color option; the fit also lets you layer comfortably underneath as the weather conditions demands.
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One of performance apparel's better-kept secrets? The yoga-inspired brand Lululemon makes men's clothes—and they're pretty damn good at it. Witness the Shift Jacket. It boasts sweat-wicking, four-way stretch fabric, with two zippered pockets at the chest and two hand pockets to keep your fingers warm. Two stealthy thumb loops at the sleeves offer a bit more coverage, and reflective details help you stand out in bright light. This one won't offer serious weather protection, but it'll pair nicely with an outer layer, and perform admirably on its one in more forgiving climes.
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The Naiad echoes Helly Hansen's nautical heritage by incorporating sailing-inspired black and white vertical lines into the jacket interior. Except when you decide to make the graphic interior the outside of the jacket. Yep, the Naiad is reversible, making it a fantastic two-in-one travel option; go big and bold when on the coast, and then swap to the more subdued exterior for the urban jungle. The hooded jacket is made of wind- and water-resistant polyester, with elastic cuffs, Velcro-closed hand pockets, and a flattering, regular-fit profile.
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Soft shell jackets—that heady mixture of tech fabrics that offers weather protection without making you look like you're sailing through a typhoon—are the ideal spring season apparel. And while the A2B was crafted with cycle commuters in mind, the load of features in this soft shell easily benefit travelers. The medium-weight polyester will protect you from the rain and wind in all but the most unforgiving of downpours, with a fit that's trim without being confining. The minimalist approach includes two zippered hand pockets and a zippered back pocket, with small stretches of reflective fabric at one cuff and under the collar for when visibility on a dark road becomes a practical necessity (read: the urban environs of pretty much any country). The men's design plays it conservative, with a traditional collar configuration, while the woman's jacket (pictured) has an angled central zip and a stylish high-neck collar with a storm flap.
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Born in Aether's L.A. design HQ and inspired by a legacy of military apparel, the Amelia targets femme adventurers who yearn for the open road. The densely woven cotton fabric traces back to apparel that was originally developed for British fighter pilots during World War II, and is both water-resistant and soft to the touch. Princess seams afford a distinctive female profile, with reinforced snaps down the center, four big drop pockets on the outside and an internal drawstring at the waist. And the left sleeve pocket provides a sly way to keep a few essentials within reach—but away from prying pickpockets.