@slovhike Good article, still applies today. His definition of soft shell would be called "active insulated" nowadays. The Rab VR tricot/equilibrium combo would probably best fit his criteria of breathable/wicking and weather resistant. He's probably right that next to skin is the ideal, but I always use a light base (e.g. Rab Merino 120) under the alpha combos. There's been discussions on BPL about the utility of Alpha/shell combos and other active insulated pieces vs. separate windshirt/shells over raw active insulation. Basically it comes down to simplicity versus versatility. The idea is with the combos you have less layers to deal with, but your stuck with the face fabric choice paired with the insulation. Whereas the raw insulation piece allows you to wear stand alone for max breathability or pair with the ideal layer matching conditions/exertion level. Lightweight shells like the BD Alpine Start, Kor Preshell, and others have been discussed as potentially good over raw alpha and other layers. I posted some observations about the BD Start, Kor Preshell, and Tantrum II on BPL. Basically found that BD Alpine was most breathable, Kor very good, Tantrum not so much. Kor least precip resistant, BD and Tantrum about the same. Later sent Kor and Tantrum to fellow BPL member with testing expertise and equipment, results: Tantrum: Perm-1.5 CFM/Ft2, HH-323 Kor Preshell: Perm-23 CFM/Ft2, HH-231 Bottom line, alpha direct is a useful development in active insulation, but needs to be paired with a breathable and somewhat weather resistant shell fabric to gain the type of utility discussed in the article. That can be done via a combo piece or by pairing with a stand alone shell with those characteristics.