I frequently look to backpacking and adventure gear providers for gear that can be repurposed as travel gear, and to my eye and in my experience, the Mountain Hardwear Offwidth is a fantastic cool/wet weather jacket that’s equally suited to chilly aircraft, sea excursions, or cool evenings spent sightseeing, as it is to hiking or climbing.

A couple of quick notes:  “offwidth” is a climbing term that refers to any crack or fissure that doesn’t fit a body part (now you know!).  Secondly, this model has been dropped from the Mountain Hardwear line, but it’s being closed out at Travel Country for $85; the original retail was $120.  More on this offer in a bit.

The Offwidth is a lightweight (1 lb., 4 oz.) shell made with a 58% nylon/31% polyester/11% elastane material called “Tufstretch.”  As the name implies, it’s both tough and stretchable:  although abrasion resistant, it has a fair amount of “give” which makes it perfect for hiking, cross country skiing, and climbing.

In actual practice, it’s super comfortable and remarkably warm.  The collar is lined with a “micro chamois” material that’s soft on your skin, and there are drawcords at the waist and neck which can be cinched tight with one hand.   Another important note:  like many Mountain Hardwear jackets, the Offwidth features an athletic cut, so if you’ve carefully cultivated a beer belly, you need not apply.  One other plus:  it packs down to a small package, and resists wrinkling.

The jacket features 4 pockets:  two handwarmer pockets, a zippered chest pocket, and a roomy interior pocket.  The zippered pockets feature YKK zippers with corded pulls.   The sleeves both sport adjustable Velcro closures.

I’ve worn this jacket on the golf course, and its stretchy nature allows a full swing without pulling.  In addition, it sheds water like a duck; I’ve worn it in light to moderate rain, and it’s kept me completely dry.

A few quick photos

Here’s a close up of the YKK zipper on one of the handwarmer pockets; as you’d imagine, the zippers operate smoothly and zip upward to close, protecting against anything inadvertently falling out:

The drawcords (one at the waist, one on the neck) can easily be cinched up with one hand:

The MH logo appears at the bottom of the right hand sleeve; both sleeves feature Velcro closures:  you can easily adjust them to your liking:

Here’s a shot of the drawcord at the collar; you can wear the shell with the collar up, or folded down.

No “Personal Area Network,” no 37 pockets

Unlike the heavily hyped ScotteVest hoodie ($70), you get just 4 pockets with this softshell, and there’s no “network” through which you can thread your earbuds’ cable.  Pity.

What you get instead is a great looking, distinctive jacket that has excellent zippers, is water resistant, and is built like a brick houseI own 3 Mountain Hardwear jackets, and this is my favorite, by far.

Closeout pricing

The Offwidth originally sold for $120, but is being closed out for $84.99 at TravelCountry.com   Sizes and colors are a bit limited, but all men’s sizes are still available as of this writing.  The (slightly different design and features) women’s version of the Offwidth is also on sale at Travel Country for $49.99

You can see the men’s model here:  Men’s Mountain Hardwear Offwidth @ TravelCountry, and the women’s version here:  Women’s Mountain Hardwear Offwidth @ TravelCountry (limited to one size, but several other men’s and women’s Mountain Hardwear jackets are available at closeout prices).

March 26, 2011 Update: almost everyone is selling the Offwidth for ~$120 at present. If you search the net, you can find a few online sellers offering lower prices on restricted sizes and colors (SM, XL, etc.)  I know this because I’m buying a second jacket today – it’s that great a jacket!!

If you want to see the current Mountain Hardwear line, see their website:  Mountain Hardwear

For the record, I have no connection with Travel Country or Mountain Hardwear.

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4 Comments on Mountain Hardwear Offwidth softshell: travel fleece alternative

  1. Michael W. says:

    I have a similar soft-shell piece from Marmot with 4 pockets. Unfortunately the two chest pockets are right on top of each other, so you can choose access from the outside or the interior, but you can’t really add extra stuff without that chest area quickly fattening up.

    Soft shells are neat because they breathe better than coated nylon or polyester jackets – the weave is tight enough to protect from wind and light rain, but open enough to “breathe.”

    Another light travel jacket I like is the Marmot Driclime line of “windshirts” which has evolved to include a “jacket” – distinguishable from their classic windshirts because it has a jacket style (as opposed to shirt style) hem, and zippered pockets in addition to a chest pocket. This $110 “Catalyst” is shown here:

    http://marmot.com/products/dri.....216,222,72

    The Driclime windshirt line (of which the Catalyst is a part)is made of very thin nylon, not coated but water repellent treated, with a thin (very thin) fleece type lining, about the weight of a baselayer tee shirt. Note that it is more resistant to wind and rain than most soft shells, but has that nylon “sheen.”

    If you like to start with a fleece then add a separate wind breaker (as opposed to the “all in one” approach, Marmot has a “3 pocket” (sleeve pocket, not chest) fleece jacket for $90 here:

    http://marmot.com/products/war.....216,222,72

    Finally, my favorite, although not as warm as the others, is the Patagonia Traverse, a thinner softshell more suitable to warmer climates. It does not have a vest pocket but does have a sleeve pocket.

    http://www.patagonia.com/us/pr.....4996-0-614

    I thought I paid more than the $99 for the current Traverse as listed above; maybe Patagonia is trimming its prices.

    All of these

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    Michael,

    Thanks for (as always) a thoughtful comment. What is the texture of the DriClime jacket like? It looks nylon-y… but the description seems to suggest otherwise. ?

    [Reply]

  2. Randy says:

    Just ordered it on sale at REI today. $79.99! Tried it on at the store, and then ordered it online for the color I wanted. Free shipping for REI members right now also!

    Thanks for the tip Kevin.

    [Reply]

    Kevin Reply:

    My favorite jacket, absolutely. Thanks for the comment, Randy – and for the tip on the sale.

    [Reply]

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