FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket Review
- Good breathability
- Four season utility
- Bomber weatherproofing
- Made in Canada
- No wrist adjustment
- Less packable than most summer shells
- No hand pockets
The FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell is a double duty jacket that is slightly heavier than most summer jackets and slightly less protective than some ski shells. With careful layering, the few ounces difference on this jacket makes it a great value for a multi-season jacket. Designed by an ex-Canadian national team snowboarder, this highly versatile jacket is made in Canada and comes with all the quality and attention to detail we expect from North American manufacturing.
The 40 Denier face fabric of the FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket matched with the eVent membrane is burlier than what most manufacturers would use for a three season shell. That’s because this is actually a four-season jacket. That means it’s more than ready for the rigors of spring and summer use with a large, easy adjust hood and a high chin guard for hunkering into gnarlier conditions.
The heavier face fabric restricts the breathability to a certain extent, but the FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket compensates with pit zips. The net result is average breathability compared to other spring and summer shells.
FA Designs paid careful attention to the little features on its FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket. Everything is easy to use with gloves on. For instance, the hem adjustment points are big and well marked. The two Napolean pockets sit outside the jacket, so rather than gobbling internal space, they are independent. It’s a small touch that makes a difference when the pockets are stuffed full. We missed hand pockets on this jacket and would have liked wrist adjustments as well. The jacket uses partial hand sleeves, which are great for cold weather, but are hot and limiting when its warmer or wet.
As mentioned above, the face fabric on the FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket doubles up the utility of what we normally see on summer shells. That translates into better wind protection but also more durability in the face of heavy use, grime and abrasion.
At almost a pound, the FA Design 3L Subsonic Hardshell Jacket is on the heavy side compared to other summer shells, and the 40 Denier fabric is nowhere near as packable. But as a four-season shell, it’s actually super lightweight.
How We Tested It
The shells in this test were used in the summer and fall of 2016 (one of the wettest falls in 36 years on Vancouver Island). Storm after storm hammered this already rainy area. At one point it rained for more than 30-days in a row. On the dry side of Vancouver Island almost two feet of rain fell just in the month of November. That’s all to say it was one of the best testing labs for three layer storm shells ever. With the help of a team of sea kayak guides, mountain bikers, trail runners, and climbers we rigorously tested this and the other shells in this test on day trips and multi-day expeditions, where staying dry is the key to staying safe.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our Best Active Insulation Jackets of 2017 and Best Hybrid Jackets of 2017, along with other storm shell tests, soft shell tests, and other related hiking and camping gear reviews.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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