Loki did it again! The aptly-named All-in-One Light Shell lives up to my expectations as a bomber hardshell jacket. It’s durable, light, versatile, affordable and best of all, effective at keeping me warm and dry amidst fickle Colorado weather conditions.
By now, you may be wondering if it’s possible for me to write a review of a Loki product and merely deem it average. The first jacket of theirs that I reviewed was the superb Tech Hoodie, a groundbreaking midlayer that has been my constant companion for the past eight months. If I gave out percentage grades, the Tech Hoodie would get a 98%, with the two points only withheld for philosophical resents. Then I checked out the Shadow Shirt baselayer, which also got high marks (94%) after holding up to relentless weather exposure in Mexico and Utah.
I was a bit skeptical about trying the Light Shell, mostly because I doubted anything could supplant my favorite rain jacket, the ultralight and insanely packable Outdoor Research Helium 2. As good as that jacket is, the tiny pack weight and size came at a price: durability. So I hoped that the Light Shell — weighing in at a solid eight ounces more — would last longer than the three Heliums that I’ve worn through and warrantied over the past six years.
First things first: like almost all Loki Jackets, this one has all the legacy features that make the brand unique. There are integrated mitts built into the cuffs (no more lost or dropped gloves). The hood features a built-in face mask that vacuum-seals your neck and face into a warm cocoon. And finally, instead of having to painstakingly cram the jacket into a pocket too small for it, the Light Shell quickly stuffs into a hand warmer pocket and features straps that allow it to be worn as a backpack.
These versatile features make for great value-adds to an already good jacket. The mitts feature a rubber palm, which makes it easier to hold onto ropes. There’s enough dexterity within the mitt to accomplish basic ropehandling tasks. They also are durable enough to serve as ad-hoc Hand Jammies, as long as you’re not jamming them into cheese-grater granite like Cochise. In sandstone and polished granite, the fabric held up well, although I wouldn’t want to make a habit of using it in this way.
The multi-faceted mask functions extraordinarily well. It can be worn as a neck gaiter without the hood, or as a full-on ninja-style balaclava. For those poor unfortunate (male) souls who are beardless, I would imagine this component of the Light Shell to be absolutely clutch. Even with my chin-mounted shag carpet, I noticed a big difference in wind protection and warmth.
Backpack mode is a real gem. Two lightweight straps pop out and allow the jacket to be worn as a satchel or a backpack. There’s even a fair amount of room in the finished product to allow for a few snacks or a headlamp — whatever you can fit in the handwarmer pockets will also fit in backpack mode.
I put the Light Shell through the wringer and was very pleased with its durability. It stayed on me the entire chilly day that Glasscock and I climbed the Castle Valley Triple Nipple (North Face, Ministry and Honeymoon), including the offwidth pitches on Castleton and the chimneys on the Priest. I was expecting to see some wear and tear emerge after that long day, but the jacket came out looking just like new.
Lately I’ve been getting into ropesoloing with the Wild Country Revo, and brought the jacket up Midsummer Night’s Dream (5.11-, 1000′) and Musical Partners (5.10-, 1000′). The latter had two abrasive squeeze chimneys that I was certain would eviscerate the jacket, but it once again emerged unscathed. It was cold and drizzly enough to warrant keeping the jacket on, and I was pleased with its breathability during the violent thrutching that ensued.
When Tim and I got rained on suddenly on Buzz Cut (5.10 600′), I was quite happy to be able to deploy the Light Shell quickly. The jacket is not without its faults, the most prominent of which is weight. Tipping the scales at sixteen ounces (that’s right, one pound for a rain jacket), this is not a piece that you’d want to haul up to climb Pervertical Sanctuary or some other long alpine trip where toothbrushes are straight up left behind (not drilled out). On normal missions, the weight isn’t noticeable, and its durability makes it an excellent daily driver.
I’m not a huge fan of the snaps on the front flap — velcro would be better and lighter — and there are plenty of toggles and tags that a true weight weenie would snip off straightaway. It’s worth noting that a new version of the Light Shell is being released soon and it will feature pit zips, which puts the jacket into another category entirely compared to tiny ultralight shells like the Helium 2. This jacket would be excellent for backcountry skiing or splitboarding through trees that would otherwise shred an ultralight shell.
As with most combinations of Loki gear, if you end up having three layers’ worth of integrated mitts, things are going to get crowded really fast. I also noticed while sport climbing that if you slide the sleeves up to your forearms, the fabric is thick enough to constrict blood flow and create an early-onset pump.
All things considered, the Light Shell is a great jacket and a bargain to boot. While it won’t replace my tiny little Helium 2 on ultralight missions, I definitely find myself reaching for it on a regular basis whenever there’s a high chance of abrasion or when I need a hardshell that will also help keep me warm.
Pros: Durable, affordable, local
Cons: Heavy, redundant features when combined with Tech Hoodie