Words and Pics: Rich Norman (The Reptile House)
In the past, I’d never considered buying a Crye softshell as I didn’t consider it to be their area of expertise. For companies like Outdoor Research, Arc’teryx, The North Face, Patagonia and Marmot, the softshell is their bread and butter. So what hope would an interloper like Crye have of aceing the top tier offerings of these giants of the outdoor world? The chances seemed slim.
In fairness I would not recommend the Field Shell 2 for hiking, the commute to the office or walking the dog.
Where it excels is toughness. The four-way stretch shell is next level stuff in this regard.
For any old hands who remember the original TAD Gear Stealth Hoodie, I’m talking about that level of robustness. TAD later referred to it as Rhino Hide and Crye’s stuff fits that moniker. However, unlike Rhino Hide, Crye’s choice of fabric has the aforementioned four-way stretch and is breathable, of which Crye claims:
Surpasses MIL-C-44187 for Waterproof Breathable Laminates in Moisture Vapor Transport Rate and Water Repellency
So, since owning the legacy TAD item in the mid-00s, this is the first softshell I’ve received where my immediate thought wasn’t, “This is going to rip under hard use.”
Notwithstanding, because it is more breathable, it’s more comfortable for high output use. This means I can use the Crye Field Shell 2 for my intended purpose.
The cut of this item is trim/athletic, as one would expect of Crye’s combat apparel and most softshells from the major outdoor brands.
Consulting Crye’s size chart, a large looked right for me. I’m a 43 chest and I would say the jacket is true to size compared with Crye’s other apparel and with mainstream brands like Arc’teryx.
The item is sized for a mid layer, but is cut so that it can be worn directly over a base without appearing baggy, or the wearer feeling swamped. So, I can wear an Atom LT underneath or just go with a T-shirt, depending on conditions.
As is true of most four-season softshells, the Field Shell 2 is not insulated, but does feature an interior wicking laminate. It’s like a bonded tricot lining and transports perspiration efficiently (unlike totally unlined softshells, which can feel a bit ‘boil in the bag’ as moisture builds up next to skin with nothing to transport it away).
The Field Shell 2 is a short-bodied jacket, which allows for a climbing harness to be worn at the same time. However, it also features a drop tail at the rear, which is great for taking a pew on cold or wet surfaces.
The full YKK zip is a nice feature because it’s a chunky, nylon Vislon-style one – which I prefer. It’s non-sticky and butter-smooth. Vislon zips are also extremely tough and I don’t think I’ve damaged one yet.
At the top of the zip is a soft-lined zip garage which is a godsend for beard users like myself.
The collar is similarly lined and is extremely comfortable.
Whilst not being raglan-cut, the shoulders dispense with seams over the apex, making the Field Shell 2 chafe-free and pack and PC compatible.
At the biceps, low profile zip pockets and Velcro.
Handwarmer pockets are also exhibited, lined with breathable mesh.
Aside from the jacket’s toughness, the bit I’m most excited about is the pit zips. Pit zips transform pretty much any outer layer into an air conditioning unit. But what’s great about Crye’s innovation is that the zips start above where a PC cummerbund would sit and extend almost to the arm cuffs.
Speaking of cuffs, there’s no mucking around with Velcro tabs. The cuffs contain stretch baffles. A more expensive way of doing things, which also makes the outside surface slick and snag-free.
Lastly, looking at the back of the jacket, Crye has also been really clever. Rather than constructing bi-swing shoulders or some other overbuilt structure for ease of movement, the company has instead adopted ergonomic patterning. You can see this by the way the shoulders fold in the following picture and there is absolutely no resistance at the back when moving through the full range of movement.