Springtime weather can be a tricky thing to figure out. Ever-changing forecasts bring with them new challenges for those of us who are outside for hours doing our thing. I always say being prepared is key. Wearing a pack to carry extra clothing items, fuel and hydration is a must if you plan on being out on a hike or run for any length of time. Packs can be cumbersome to get on and off though to change in and out of layers. Brooks has come up with a unique way of tackling this issue. The Cascadia Shell is a water and wind resistant jacket designed to be worn over a small pack. This was very exciting for me to hear as I am training for an ultra and am out on the trails getting my long training runs done in all sorts of weather. The less time I take fidgeting with my pack the better. Easy on / easy off…sounds like such a great idea, right? Let’s see..

The Cascadia Shell is a ½ zip hooded pullover made of 100% polyester fabric that is water and wind resistant. The fabric feels soft and is uniform in weight. There is a pocket on the front panel, right over the belly, that also doubles as a carry pouch. A unique feature is that theBrooks Cascade Shell Review | Gearist sides of the shell are completely open from under the arm all the way down to the waist for ventilation. These sides are held together by three, one inch stretchy tabs sewn about an inch apart down the opening.

The length of the jacket comes right to the waist. The back panel is pleated to allow for expansion when worn over a pack and an elastic hem helps keep the shell in place. Attached to the hem on the underside of the back panel is a very small ½” reflective tab. Unfortunately, this could easily tuck under and not be seen. The placement of such an important safety feature is questionable and I’d like to see a large reflective element on the shell since it is covering up any reflective surface you would have on your pack or clothing underneath.

Brooks has kept the design of the Cascadia Shell very simple. The hood is fitted (yet roomy enough for a brimmed hat) and offers great protection while allowing you to maintain solid peripheral vision. The ½ zip comes up high enough to add to the snug fit of the hood which is a good thing considering that there are no draw-strings to help tighten it down so it doesn’t blow off. For some perspective, it came all the way up to my bottom lip which worked well to seal out wind and cold.

The ½ zip and roomy fit (as well as the elastic tabs on the open sides) makes getting in and out of the shell easy. It’s also nice to have such a large opening for easy access to your hydration and storage on the front of your pack. Just unzip a bit and it’s all right there. Speaking of the ½ zip, I should mention that there is a small notch in the zip pull that is meant for an “unruly” earbud cord.

The pocket/pouch on the front is quite large taking up most of the front of the shell. It would be fine for storing something lightweight like gloves, but when I put anything heavier in it it pulls the entire jacket down. I had my keys and phone in it while on a bike ride, and it was not ideal. This pocket is meant to be a place to pack and stash the shell. I find it worth mentioning that, yes it does fit into this large pouch, however it can become much smaller. I ended up squishing it up and stowing it in my front pocket of my pack where I could easily access it.

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All-in-all, I have found the Brooks Cascadia Shell to be a great jacket to bring on my trail adventures. It does give me that extra peace of mind that I am prepared for a change in the weather. I find it very easy to get into and out of without having to mess with my pack. It’s a very soft and comfortable layer that is great to have along if the wind picks up or you encounter light rain/snow. I do, however, wish that it had more reflective features on it and I kind of wish it was truly water repellent.

With a $100 price tag (check the links below to see if we found it cheaper) it’s not the cheapest thing in the world for a simple, lightweight shell. However, the uniqueness of its ability to fit easily over a hydration pack may make it something worth the price for many people.

Please support Gearist by shopping for the Brooks Cascadia Shell at our partner links below!

(and click HERE to bookmark our Amazon link!)

Brandon Wood
Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

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