Brooks Range Isto Jacket

Brooks-Range Isto lightweight softshell jacketAfter thirty or so years of living in coastal areas, I moved to the high desert. Of all the changes I have had to endure, perhaps not being able to spend all year outdoors in shorts and short sleeves has been the hardest. Previously, my “winter jacket” was either a light windbreaker, or maybe something thin and waterproof. Now I own a puffy down jacket for the coldest snowy days, but after some acclimation, it doesn’t get worn much each winter. For all but the coldest days, a lightweight jacket layered over a warm base is sufficient, as long as I am moving about. So when Brooks Range offered their Isto for review, I couldn’t say no.

Brooks-Range Isto lightweight softshell jacketThe Isto is a lightweight jacket comprised of a four way stretch outer shell which is very breathable, and a fleece lining. This combination of materials as well as the design allows for a jacket that moves with you through a variety of activities. That alone would have won me over, as it’s comfortable and never feels restrictive. But there are plenty of other little features that make it well worth the $100 price tag. At the end of each sleeve is a tab with some velcro so you can snug up the cuff around your gloves. If it fits loose around your waist, just use the drawstring on either side of the hem to adjust it for a better, draft-free fit. Being able to keep some heat in, or vent it when necessary, is pretty handy. The hem doesn’t drop in the back, which would be a nice feature for cycling, but provides enough coverage for upright mountain biking. It’s also got some toasty warm zippered pockets, plus a huge chest pocket. How big? I’m at a loss at to what to carry in there, but to give you an idea of the capacity, it will zip shut over a 24 ounce water bottle. Oh, the collar is also lined with the same moisture wicking material as the pockets, and it zips all the way up to become a chin guard. This is one feature I didn’t take advantage of, due to my facial hair.

Brooks-Range Isto lightweight softshell jacketAlthough I have had the jacket for a while now, it wasn’t until we saw the temperature drop that I got to really try it out. After wearing it for everything from after dinner dog walks to evening jogs, and even an early morning bicycle ride, it’s become one of my favorite pieces of gear. The price is reasonable, the performance has been better than expected so far, the weight and stretchiness allow it to move with you naturally, and I’m not gonna lie – the dark blue/cool blue with yellow logo matches my winter bike perfectly.  Nothing wrong with being fashionable, as long as it doesn’t come before function. It’s also available in black, butterscotch/gold, and wine red/positive red. If you’re looking for a jacket that performs well across a variety of activities and temperature ranges, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better option than the Isto. Find it as well as other apparel, camping stuff, and plenty of  backcountry, mountaineering, and snow gear at

– Brian


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