Everything about the Recon Jacket and Pants is oriented toward breathability. The fabric has no membrane, the jacket literally has holes in the back and underarms, and the pants have 10” hamstring vents.
And yes, these things breathe. Really well.
I spent most of my time in the Recon kit touring in the spring and summer in Colorado, with temperatures ranging from 20 to 70° F. My previous approach during this time would be to wear just a short sleeve baselayer on top and the Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants for bottoms. This setup worked alright, but my legs would overheat later in the day, and I’d get cold if the wind picked up at all.
For spring and summer in Colorado, the Recon kit is just about ideal. With a light baselayer, I could wear the jacket and pants all day, across a wide range of temperatures. My upper body would sweat on the way up, but not much more than when I only wore a baselayer, and the fabric breathes and wicks so well that the jacket would usually be completely dry by the time I had transitioned at the top of a line. I’d attribute this to not only the fabrics air permeability, but also it’s ability to wick sweat much better than other softshells.
The thin fabric of the Recon barely holds any moisture, so any sweat I did produce was able to evaporate quickly, and I could actually feel the cooling effect. So, unlike shells with membranes or those with thicker, more absorbent materials, the fabric on the Recon kit actually lets your sweat do its job.
One slight drawback to being able to wear this kit all day during high-exertion activities is that you’ll probably want to wash it a lot more than your other shells. Since I only wear my other shells when absolutely necessary (e.g. high winds or precipitation), I don’t have to wash them very often (although I make sure to do so at least once a season to clean the membrane). Since I can wear the Recon Jacket all day and don’t mind sweating in it since it wicks moisture so well, it get’s stinky, often. I honestly can’t say if the Recon Jacket accumulates a stench faster than other shells since I spend as little time as possible in my other shells once I start sweating. All that being said, After about 8 washes, the DWR, fabric, trims, and everything else on the Recon Jacket and Pants is still working great, so it’s held up to laundering well so far.
In summary, I was blown away by the breathability of the Recon Jacket and Pants. This is great, but only if they actually offer some protection in addition to their breathability, which takes us to the next section:
Pretty much all the features that make the Recon kit so breathable also work against it in terms of water and wind resistance. However, I still came away impressed given that the fabric has no membrane and the jacket literally has holes in it.
I haven’t worn the Recon kit in a downpour, but I’ve been caught in a few short showers with it, and Cy has worn it in some light rain. The DWR does a good job of repelling a bit of water, but will fail during extended time in the rain, or when subjected to pressure (e.g., sitting in the snow). Also, the perforated section on the back panel of the jacket obviously lets in water, but this is less of an issue when wearing a pack.
So while this kit isn’t waterproof, this is another area where the quick-drying properties of the Recon kit come in handy — after you get out of the rain or off the snow, the fabric dries rapidly.
Given its great breathability, the Recon kit’s wind resistance surprised me. It definitely lets some air through during faster gusts, but it blocks significantly more wind than a fleece or more stretchy softshells like the old Patagonia Simple Guide Hoody.
I think spring and summer in Colorado is where the Recon kit shines. You won’t want to bring it on days when there’s a lot of rain or extremely high winds in the forecast, but for the typical day when you can expect it to be cool in the morning, warm and sunny later on, and with a chance of a brief thunderstorm, the Recon kit makes sense.
However, Strafe says these are 4-season products, so I’m eager to see how the Recon Jacket and Pants perform in colder and wetter conditions. I think that, combined with a windproof, insulated midlayer for transitions and heavier baselayers, the Recon Jacket and Pants could be great options for high-output, fair weather days in the winter. I am eager to get them out this coming ski season, and will update the review accordingly.
The Recon Jacket and Pants have held up very well during my time in them. The fabric shrugs off branches and rocks much better than the other softshells I’ve used, and the only tears in the fabric are a couple tiny cuts by the pant cuffs and a pinhead-sized hole in the thigh courtesy of me being inattentive by a campfire. Cy did put a crampon through the fabric above the cuff on his pair of the Recon Pants, but we wouldn’t expect any pants to shrug that off.
As I stated previously, the two areas where I’m at all concerned about durability are the zippers on the pant cuffs and the fabric on the cuffs themselves. I did have some fraying around the center zipper of the jacket where the fabric’s raw edge was exposed, but trimming the threads and running a flame over the edge quickly fixed that issue.
After many washes, the DWR on both the jacket and pants is still holding up well, and I’ve only noticed a slight decrease in water resistance along the shoulders of the jacket where my pack sits.
Strafe’s Recon Jacket and Pants are unique. Their fabric feels like a stretchy hardshell, but breathes and wicks like a softshell. The kit’s breathability and rapid drying allow you to keep it on much longer than a typical shell, and yet, it still offers a useful degree of wind and water resistance. The slim fit of the Recon Jacket and Pants should be noted; this isn’t some freeride resort kit. But for long, relatively dry days spent touring across a wide range of temperatures, we’d urge you to take a look at the Recon Jacket and Pants.