Field Tested: La Sportiva Macnas Softshell
A windproof, water resistant, stretchy softshell with light insulation that excels in cold, wet, and windy alpine conditions.
Windproof // Water resistant // Hood fits snugly for good wind protection // Excellent combination of warmth, comfort, and performance
Hood is not big enough to fit over a climbing or ski helmet // The elasticized bottom hem can grab uncomfortably low for people with shorter torsos // The cuffs are a little restrictive when slid up the arm to allow for jamming off-hands cracks, especially for people with larger forearms.
It would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to overstate how much I like this jacket. After being tested in a variety of winter conditions (warm and wet, cold and windy) and activities (mountaineering, ski touring, alpine climbing, and running), it has proven incredibly versatile.
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I’m just going to be straight with you: I don’t think I can overstate how much I like this jacket. I logged more than thirty days in the Macnas Softshell this winter. It was mostly ski touring and ski mountaineering, but I managed to slip a few good rock and ice days in between the snow storms.
The Macnas performed extremely well in a variety of winter conditions. On warmer winter days (temps in the 20-35° F range), I wear it as my outermost layer while being active; the windproofing keeps you warm (but not too hot) in windy conditions, and the water resistance keeps you dry in deep damp snow. On colder days (5-20° F), I wear it as my outermost layer (with a single, very lightweight base layer underneath) when climbing and moving uphill on skis or with crampons, but then supplement with a synthetic down jacket when idle or descending.
Hem / waist. When wearing a pack or harness, the elastic bottom hem allows the jacket to comfortably hug your lower waist and upper glutes, which prevents wind and snow from blowing up into the lower portions of the jacket below your pack. This same feature can be uncomfortable for people with shorter torsos, but for me, when worn without a pack or harness, the bottom hem was not a problem, though if it hung even an inch lower it would have been annoying.
Hood. The hood fits snugly over hats and under the chin for excellent wind protection. I rarely needed a buff, even in 30-35 mph gusts. One downside is that the hood is not big enough to fit over a climbing or ski helmet—which is a bummer when ice climbing and skiing in spindrifty conditions. And because of the way the hood’s drawstrings work, it’s uncomfortable to wear some helmets over the hood: my climbing helmet (a Black Diamond Vector) is comfortable that way, but my ski helmet crushes the draw string’s plastic closure system into your scalp.
Cuffs. The elastic, adjustable sleeve cuffs work exceptionally well and are easy to manipulate even with large gloves. (Tightening cuffs did wonders for keeping my wrists warm on cold windy days.) That said, the elastic does feel a little restrictive when slid up the arm towards the elbows–something I do for both temperature regulation and when jamming in deeper off-hands cracks.
Elasticity: The macnas’s elasticity minimizes restrictiveness to the arms and shoulders when tucked into a harness.
Windproofing: The windproofing works incredibly well: I tested it in 40-45 mph gusts with an air temperature in the low teens and felt perfectly insulated from the wind-chill.
Water resistance: The jacket’s water resistance is excellent. I’ve always been really annoyed when snow gathers between my shoulders and the brain of my pack and then melts from my body heat and runs down my back. With the Macnas, I did not get wet at all.
One of the major downsides of the Macnas is that its fit is body-shape-dependent. I’m just under 6 foot and 160 pounds, and for me the US medium fit perfectly. But my friend—who at 5’8” and 155 pounds was initially actually supposed to test the jacket—refused to wear it because the elastic lower hem fell too low on his legs and unfashionably (and uncomfortably) cupped his butt. He might have fared better with a small instead of a medium, but the jacket fit his shoulder width and arm-length quite well. Moral of the story? The jacket comes rather long. If you’re on the shorter side or have a short torso, you may need to experiment with sizes.
For someone with my build, there are essentially no real downsides to the Macnas. This jacket has been, and will remain, my most worn layer for winter mountain travel; it’s the layer that I adjust other layers around. Come spring, the jacket will probably spend more time in my pack, but will definitely be my go-to outer layer for summer belays and cool evening walks back from the crag. If I’m on technical terrain and it’s cold, or there is snow or ice involved, or if the conditions are windy or wet, the Macnas is what I’ll be wearing.