From the moment we put it on, the Mountain Hardwear Fairing Jacket became one of our favorite softshells for around town use. For just $120, you'll get a stylish softshell that is fairly mobile, weather resistant, cozy, and comfortable to wear around. The internal gaiters on the wrist cuffs look much cleaner than the Velcro found on most shells, and they worked well at keeping out drafts. This jacket fell behind in the areas of breathability and weight, but that is to be expected in a fleece lined softshell with a thick face fabric. While we loved using it as a casual softshell, we preferred the fleece lined Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody for most mountain uses because it's just $189 and is more mobile and more breathable. When it comes to casual softshells, the Fairing tops the Marmot Gravity (which was our favorite casual shell last year). When you want a warm softshell that you can wear around town, on a plane, or for catching the occasional powder turn, the Mountain Hardwear Fairing is a great choice.
Mountain Hardwear Fairing Jacket Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Looks great, inexpensive, mobile, water resistant, internal wrist gaiters are cozy, fleece lining is comfy
Cons: Bulky, not very breathable
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of this review, the Mountain Hardwear Fairing became our favorite jacket to use around town. It provides enough rain protection for those dreaded moments when you need to run out to your car amidst an unexpected downpour. Cozy, stylish, and mobile, we loved wearing this softshell day to day for work and for play.
Shy of jumping in a waterfall, this piece will take a beating for you before you feel the elements. The AirShield fabric performs as advertised and cuts through wind and precipitation. Had we tested the hooded version (which costs just $20 more!), we expect this piece would have been among the top water resistant jackets in our review. During our waterfall test, water didn't penetrate through the fabric but did start seeping through the un-taped seams. In this metric, we felt little difference between this jacket and the The North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket. When it comes to warmth, both of these jackets were cozy to wear around town, but were too warm for highly aerobic activities like backcountry skiing unless it was really cold.
If breathability is a priority for you, this jacket isn't going to be a winner in your book. When hiking uphill, we overheated quickly and felt wet for a while. This isn't particularly a surprise as great weather protection and poor breathability are tightly correlated. While the breathability might not be tops, this piece still breathes far better than a rain jacket making it a great addition to your wardrobe. If you want a similarly warm jacket that breathes a little better, the Patagonia Adze Hybrid Hoody is worth a look. Lightweight stretch fabric under the arms of the Adze increases breathability and mobility without significantly hurting weather performance.
Mobility & Fit
We were really surprised with the mobility of the Fairing. Compared with similar inexpensive pieces like the Marmot Gravity or Columbia Ascender Jacket, the Fairing blows them out of the water when it comes to mobility. Practically, this means the jacket is much more comfortable and wearable. If we wanted a fleece-backed jacket to wear around town or for a couple of downhill ski runs, this would be it. When reaching over your head, the cuffs barely fall and the hem barely rises. This jacket isn't too baggy or tight and the medium that we tested fit true-to-size.
Weight & Packed Size
This jacket just isn't designed to score well in the areas of weight and packed size. Jackets that score highly in these metrics usually don't have cozy fleece liners, aren't very weather resistant, and aren't durable. Meanwhile, the Fairing has a cozy liner, offers plenty of weather resistance, and seems to be quite durable. When compared with the lightweight performance-driven softshells in this review like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hoody, the Fairing seems heavy and impractical. But if you compare it with other jackets you might wear around town or down the slopes, the weight is a reasonable. Unless you're using this jacket for long, human powered days in the backcountry, the slight increase in weight will likely be offset by great increases in both warmth and comfort.
Featuresski gloves. If you don't mind wearing over-cuff gloves or will just use lightweight gloves, we expect that you'll love the wrist gaiters. Speaking of gloves, the internal stash pocket is especially nice as a place to keep your gloves warm. When working in the snow, there are many times when you need to set your gloves down, but doing so makes them cold and wet. Having a large pocket inside your jacket keeps the gloves warm and dry so that they can warm up your cold hands when needed. Overall, this jacket has relatively simple features that are implemented well.
The clean face and discreet logo make this jacket very wearable with many outfits. We appreciate that it doesn't stand out too much. In contrast, the logo on the Apex Bionic 2 is very bold and in your face.
This jacket is suited to any activity that requires a combination of warmth, weather resistance, and breathability. Things like chopping firewood outside your cabin, working outside, walking the dog on a brisk morning, and downhill skiing come to mind. When you want a jacket that will keep the wind and rain off your shoulders, but you don't necessarily want to look like you could survive a downpour, this one fits the bill.
At $120, this is definitely one of the more inexpensive jackets we tested. It was our favorite jacket to wear around town. The Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi is just $10 more, but these are two entirely different jackets for entirely different purposes. The Ferrosi is good for high aerobic activities like backcountry skiing or ice climbing. The Fairing is good for low output activities and is much more cozy. If you want a cozy softshell, the Fairing is a great value.
The Fairing is a very comfortable piece that embodies what many people first think of when they hear the word "softshell." However, when looking at this piece's performance for demanding uses in the mountains, this jacket scored poorly compared with others (most of which are significantly more expensive!). This is not a good jacket for aerobic activities. However, if you want a jacket that you can wear every day whether you're in the mountains or the city, this jacket is worthy of your consideration.
— Jeremy Bauman