I was really keen to try out Lowe Alpine's Caldera jacket because its the lightest hooded softshell jacket that we stock, and weight means a lot to us! I took it for a spin on a Scottish backpack which saw variable conditions that were ideal for testing such a garment.
A Softshell is supposed to keep you dry and comfortable on a showery day rather than during a full downpour. Day One of the trek was a typical Scottish summers day - low cloud, mist and drizzle - I put on my hardshell jacket and pants thinking that even though it was only drizzle it looked like it was in for the day. However I quickly started overheating so switched to the Caldera Jacket and Softshell pants.
The difference was amazing and immediate, I felt so much more comfortable and the jacket seemed to be coping well with the rain. The hood makes a difference if you are going to use it in these conditions. During the day the rain came and went but there was never really a time when the cloud lifted - so the jacket could never dry out. Nevertheless at the end of the day I was pretty dry still.
The Caldera doesn't offer much insulation (which is a good thing for three season use), the weather was reasonably warm with little wind, in cold windy conditions I think the Hardshell would have had to come out again. But there's the key to this type of jacket - in a lot of conditions its so much better than a hardshell that it can be worth carrying the extra weight - I certainly appreciated it.
So, Lowe Alpine's Stormweave fabric has established its credentials, it isn't as water resistant as some other heavier softshell fabrics but its real appeal is its weight. We also like some of the design points - such as the thumb loops - it was useful to give my hands a bit more protection where the wind got up, and meant I didn't have to stop to get gloves out.
The hood is quite simple - but again the quality of the Stormweave material means my head was dry if I kept wearing it. The two large zipped hand pockets are lined with mesh. Its also worth mentioning the 'feel' of the jacket, its soft and comfortable to wear, so much so that I wore it over a baselayer even on clear days when a baselayer alone was too cold. The stretch qualities of the fabric also contribute to its wearability.