Mark Newcomb has had a long history of putting Marmot Gear through the ringer with several major expeditions and many years of guiding with Exum Mountain Guides. After deciding to return to school a few years ago, Mark is currently working on earning a PHD but that hasn’t stopped him from getting out there and testing out the newest Marmot gear. Learn more about Mark and his history with Marmot on marmotpro.com. The Kingpin rules the high-performance softshell category. This is the one, true softshell for athletes and professionals that need protection against wind and precipitation while on the move, whether mountaineering, ski touring or busting out for cold weather training. I’ve had a chance to put the Kingpin through its paces on sub-freezing bike rides to Exum Mtn. Guide board of director’s meetings, on long windy walks through the season’s first snow storms and finally just today on the year’s first ski tour. So far there’s not a single thing I don’t like about the jacket. When talking softshell, you’re largely talking fabric, for it’s a rare fabric that truly blocks wind (Schoeller doesn’t, by the way), repels precipitation and breathes. Marmot is closing in on a few perfect fabrics. For my money, the Polartec Windblock used in the Kingpin is ounce for ounce the finest softshell fabric Marmot’s come across to date. This wonder-fabric consists of a tight, stretchy weave, backed by a polyurethane barrier and lined with soft micro-fleece. The coated yarns deter the bulk of the weather. The barrier shuts out precip but lets water vapor (sweat) escape. The soft fleece adds warmth while wicking water vapor away from inner layers and towards the barrier. A high performance design backs up the high performance fabric. Two generous pockets, raised above harness/waistbelt height, easily accommodate a hat or gloves. An inside Napolean pocket keeps a digital camera, radio or other electronic device warm and readily accessible. The collar…..perfection! It zips up snug around the chin forming a tight seal against wind-driven snow and flying powder. The stretch fabric and finely crafted fit let’s you reach for that perfect hold or pick placement without pulling the jacket out of your harness. And the hood snugs down over a ski hat or stretches over a climbing helmet. Easy access chords quickly snug the hem or collar to seal in warmth. Right now I’m wearing the jacket everywhere, biking around town until there’s too much snow, hiking out for early-morning elk hunts, and soon on quests for backcountry powder. Depending on the temp, I wear either silk weight or silk weight plus the new wool half-zip or Power Stretch half-zip underneath. For insulation on the summit or during breaks I’ll bring along something like a Mountain Down Jacket, Ama Dablam or Four Seasons. You should choose an insulation layer according to the average temp and amount of precip in your preferred backcountry haunt. As for extreme conditions, the Kingpin is so solid I’m not going to bother taking anything more than a light shell such as the Essence or Storm Front. Guys and gals who worked on the Kingpin back at Marmot HQ: NICE WORK!