Hike New Hampshire
Trips in NH

Pacific Trails Shell

Review by Chris

1700 Westlake Ave. N., #200
Seattle, WA 98109-3012

The Pacific Trail Storm Tech Shell was an attempt to quell my yearnings for a high-performance shell that would offer me bulletproof protection from rain, snow, rocks, bears, aliens, and anything else I might run into out in the wilderness. You see, like many other hikers, I felt that the only place for me to go would be The North Face, or perhaps EMS to find a high-quality shell in which I could place a mountain of trust. After all, you don't want a seam to tear, or the waterproofing qualities of your jacket to fail when you're in the thick of a downpour, right?

So off I went, to check out the shell that I believed I could live with. I checked EMS, I checked online, I checked local outdoorsy stores, and I checked catalogs. The least expensive shell I could find [with the features I wanted] was $285. Ouch. And that was on clearance!

So in a strange twist of fate, I happened to be browsing through Golf & Ski Warehouse when I fell across a rack of shells. Ever curious, I checked them out. The Pacific Trail parkas caught my eye. Some of the features I was looking for that the Storm Tech offered -

  • 3/4 length with cinchable waist and tail
  • hooded
  • fully waterproof and breathable
  • taped seams
  • dual zipper flaps
  • venting zippers
  • wicking liner
  • lightweight
  • Non-camouflaged

An impressive list of features, to be sure. In fact, the EMS and North Face shells had nothing [significantly] on the Storm Tech. The price was $99, so Pamela bought it for me (a birthday gift!)

Shell A 100% Nylon
Shell B 100% Polyester
Shell C 65% Nylon 35% Polyester
Liner A 100% Polyester
Liner B 100% Nylon

The Pacific Trail Storm Tech shell has a few additional features that I have come to like. The waist is especially nice because it has an elasticized waist "vest" bottom that allows you to button the jacket around you while keeping the zipper undone (see below).

This feature is especially helpful when the rain is falling, but it is still warm out, or if you use your shell for skiing or other athletic activities.

Which brings me to my second favorite trait: breathability. In case you haven't checked out my profile in the "About Us" section, I'm a VERY hot hiker. I look at the trail and I start to perspire. With the Pacific Trails shell, moisture is whisked away using their "Storm Tech" technology, which is similar to GoreTex TM and a host of other "technologies". Simply stated, you sweat, it evaporates through this material.

Second only to breathability on my Top Ten Features is fit. Without the proper fit, a shell like this can become cumbersome, or worse, it can chafe! To ensure optimum comfort, the Storm Tech shell has wrist adjustments, a waist inch, a tail cinch, "pit-zips", a hood cinch, and hook and loop closures. The hood also has plenty of room for movement, a stiffened brow, and flannel on the skin-side of the hood to keep your face safe from nylon scratching. As long as you have the sense to get the appropriate size, there are enough adjustments to make this a very comfortable jacket.

Of course, any product you buy must also contain some storage space. Four exterior zippered pockets, one interior zippered pocket, and one unzippered interior pocket allow for storage of anything essential, small or large. To make things more comfy, the exterior "main" pockets are lined with flannel, to keep your hands warm and cozy.

To top things off, several convenient accessories have been added to the Storm Tech shell. The usual nylon-cord zipper pulls have been included on all zippers, and your standard glove/lift pass clip resides on the left waist, but Pacific Trials finishes this garment off nicely by adding D-rings to the sleeves to attach expedition quality gloves and one-handed cinch cords on the hem and waist draw cords.

Now my one gripe. Although this shell has bi-directional zippers (I think that means they work for men OR women), the main zipper is a P.I.T.A. to get zipped. Without using both hands (no gloves) and affording all your attention to the process, while standing still, you haven't a prayer of getting this thing zipped. The tab at the bottom of the zipper is too short to keep the lower tab from moving all over the place, making it possible for the teeth to join evenly. With this subtle change, Pacific Trails can make this $10 shell into every bit the performer that your $425 North Face Kitchatna jacket is billed to be.

Over the course of the year, I have submitted this shell to tortuous conditions. This jacket traveled across the country, fended off rain in the Whites, sat crumpled in a closet for a month, was thrown in the back of my car, suffered skiing wipe-outs, and was worn day after day in harsh weather conditions. To this day, I have yet to see a leak, a tear, or a scuff on this shell. My final word -- buy it.

Copyright © 1999-2008
Chris Oberg & Robert Havasy