I have more shells than I can count on both hands in my closet. It’s a problem, I know. But in my mind, every shell has a time and place for use. What do I turn to when I need a lightweight shell with pit zips and hand pockets? Lately, it’s been the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Jacket.
Flipping through my closet the other day I realized I have a ton of shells. Specifically of the hardshell variety, but lately in inclement weather, I’ve been reaching for the Outdoor Research Aspire. The Outdoor Research Aspire Jacket is the affordable bombproof shell that I’ve been looking for all my life.
Toren Apparel is a pretty neat technical-meets-street startup for adventure clothing. Their online-only presence sets them apart from other brands, allowing them to focus on providing high quality, outdoor apparel at affordable price points.
They offered to send me their new Fundamental Shell to test out, and I couldn’t say no.
The Fundamental Shell is basically combination of the Arc’teryx Alpha SL hardshell and the Outdoor Research Valhalla softshell in terms of form and function. Made of Toray 3-layer mini ripstop polyester with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, it has the waterproof protection of a hardshell, and the movability, breathability, and swishiness of a softshell.
The sizing runs fairly large. As a 5 feet tall, 100ish pound person, the XS shell is very roomy. I highly recommend sizing down.
This jacket is all about the little details that make it street-wearable and trail friendly. First and foremost, the pit zips! The jacket has pit zips, but they are covered in little flaps of fabric to conceal the zipper. This prevents the zipper teeth from scraping the fabric and pilling it, while concealing the technical details. The zipper pulls are fairly small, and are difficult to grasp. Keep this in mind if you’re considering this jacket for alpine activities.
The jacket has two standard hip pockets, situated above a pack hip belt or harness for easy access to items. The Fundamental Shell also has a left-hand sleeve pocket, though it is well concealed in the seam of the sleeve. One inner left chest pocket allows for easy access to your smartphone without needing to remove it from your pocket. The idea is cool, but I am not sure about the implementation. I’m not too inclined to open up my jacket in inclement weather and have a little waterproof bag case for my phone.
The hood is roomy and helmet-compatible with three cinches to make it fully adjustable.
All in all, this is a solid first piece for the Toren Apparel line. If you’re looking for something that’s technical and street wearable, this is for you. If you’ve already got a softshell and a hardshell and you love both, this is something you can pass on. If you’re a hoarder who likes all the latest and greatest, you’ll probably want it.
Pre-order the Fundamental Shell now for $195. The jacket is set to arrive in Fall 2014.