Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, breathable, unrestrictive fit, great cuffs.
Cons: Best for high output activities- not for standing around.
Best Uses: Nordic skiing, winter running, snowshoeing, rock climbing.
The Marmot Leadville is our top rated non-hooded softshell. Its design is lightweight (17 oz.), highly breathable, and offers an unrestricted and comfortable fit. Of the 16 softshells we tested, the Leadville takes fifth place overall and is our favorite from Marmot of the three tested.
The Leadville is made for high output aerobic activities in dry and cold conditions. Marmot uses a skillful combination of Gore Windstopper for the front, back, and arms, and a lighter, more stretchy and more breathable material runs from the sides up the underside of the arms and behind to the scapula. The result is a free flowing, unrestricted, and flexible layer perfect for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and cold weather running. Concealed pockets add storage options and the small adjustable cuffs are well designed and comfortable.
The Leadvilleís lightweight and highly breathable shell is superb for high output adventures, but less than ideal for alpine skiing and ice climbing. For these we recommend either the Arcteryx Venta SV ($375) that is warm, highly water-resistant, and perfectly featured, or the Beyond Clothing Cold Fusion Shock ($325) that is warm, a very good fit, and with unrestricted movement, or the lighter weight Mountain Hardwear Dragon ($270). While these are our top choices for hooded jackets, the North Face Apex Bionic (no hood) is $20 cheaper, warmer, and better looking, but less breathable and more restrictive than the Leadville. For a warmer non-hooded performance softshell consider the Mountain Hardwear Alchemy. This is more water resistant but less breathable, heavier, and more expensive. The Alchemy is good for activities that require a hip belt because the pockets are higher, but otherwise we prefer the Leadville.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Marmot Leadville is our top-rated non-hooded softshell. Its design is simple and effective. Gore Windstopper covers the front, back, and arms, while a lighter, more stretchy, and more breathable material runs from the waist up the sides of the body, under the arms, and behind to the scapula. This combination of fabrics creates an excellent balance between wind resistance and breathability. The jacket has an excellent slim fit and the arms are long enough to provide protection even when swinging your arms around. The expansive stretch panels makes this is the least restrictive and most mobile softshell we tested. Itís very comfortable.
The Leadville has several good features, too. Simple and small hook and loop closures make the adjustable cuffs nearly perfect. The collar is very soft and just snug enough to keep warm air in but not too snug as to be suffocating. There are two hand pockets and a chest pocket, all of which are equipped with small hidden zippers that save weight and contribute to the jacketís good appearance. The Leadville is available in six different color combinations.
The Leadville is the only softshell with which we have no complaints. Itís well designed, minimalist, and highly functional. Most importantly, the Leadville is a high output jacket designed for cold weather aerobic activities where you sweat a lot. Itís not a warm jacket for around town. Use this for cross-country skiing, cold weather running, and snowshoeing. The Leadvilleís unrestricted movement and lightweight, compressible package also make it our favorite softshell for multi-pitch rock climbing. Several testers climbed over 75 pitches in this jacket. While it is the best softshell for rock climbing, we donít necessarily believe softshells are good for rock climbing (you rarely need the breathability). A hooded windbreaker, either lined or unlined, is superior for rock climbing because it offers greater protection, weighs less, and is significantly more compressible. Despite this, the Leadvilleís tremendous versatility can be a great asset for cold weather activities of all types.
The Leadville offers tremendous performance for a reasonable price.
— Max Neale
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: March 26, 2011
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