Hardshells And Weight

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DayTrip

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I'm doing my annual review of my winter gear and looking to upgrade some things, with a focus on lighter gear. At the top of my list is the hardshell I am currently using, which is quite heavy and has sleeves shorter than I'd like. I've been looking at a lot of shells and seeing quite a difference in their overall weights. So I'm wondering if a shell is GoreTex (or comparable weatherproofing product) and thus waterproof and windproof will it provide the same warmth if it is 10 oz or 24 oz?? Sometimes a thicker garment just feels like it is cutting the wind better and providing more comfort overall but maybe that is just perception on my part. I've never used a really light weight shell so I'm curious if anyone out there is and what they like or don't like about it.

So if this is the case why not just get a GoreTex rain shell that weighs next to nothing and just put that over a warm softshell, fleece or some combination of other garments? I realize a super lightweight shell may not have the durability for abrasions, etc. Curious to get some feedback on what others are using and whether they prefer lighter or heavier shells.
 
A timely thread, as I just purchased a new shell. There are alot of ways to go here, but from my standpoint, my shell is used year round. I go for 3 layer Gore-Tex. I like the thickness of the layers to aid in wind blockage and the complete bomberness of layers to keep me dry in all conditions. Also, the 3 layers add in durability. The jacket I went with, is the Patagonia Triolet. I'm a diehard Patagonia fan and this jacket will last me more then ten years easy. That being said, the price tag may scare some people away, hummm, 429.00:eek: Although, I did get ten percent off. In the summer you could go with something lighter as in 2 layers for sure, that is if you have jackets for each season, but that in th eend would cost me more, so I just go with one and deal with the overlapping features.
 
Yowza! :eek: I got a free rain jacket from the NY Blood Center and it's served me well for years! It's big and bulky, but it does the job in Winter.
 
Lately I've been relying more and more on my rain jacket - though after at least ten years, it's losing its waterproof lining. I'm curious to see whether the Patagonia lifetime warranty will get me a suitable replacement.
I have a heavier hardshell too, with a longer cut, that I still carry once in a while when I know I'm going to be fighting through spruce or other high-abrasion situations, or really wallowing in snow.

A lot of the weight of a shell is from pockets and zippers and other such stuff. Shaving ounces is good, but I like having pockets. The ones I'm looking at online seem to cluster around 13 oz weight and around $100 list price (though older models can be found for less). Ultralight ones get down around 6 oz, but cost hundreds and have maybe one postage-stamp sized pocket high on the chest.

Gore-Tex is way over-hyped. It's not going to keep you much drier than any other waterproof fabric.

In winter, rain isn't much of an issue anyway. Consider skipping the hard shell entirely. You can always wear a wind shirt. I've been very tempted by these, they're reasonably priced and very light and compact, though they're not a complete replacement for a rain shell.
 
I prefer to wear a lightweight windshell with no coating or laminate for most winter hiking over appropriate insulation. If rain is predicted, I'll bring a Rab Latok Alpine in my pack.
 
I prefer to wear a lightweight windshell with no coating or laminate for most winter hiking over appropriate insulation. If rain is predicted, I'll bring a Rab Latok Alpine in my pack.

Same here, my typical winter layering scheme is:
1) wool base layer
2a) insulation layer (if below 10* F)
2b) softshell layer
3) wind shirt

My hard shell stays in the pack for all but the very worst conditions, and I can see myself leaving it in the car a lot more often this year.
 
Gore-Tex is over-Hyped? It's the best waterproof fabric ever invented. I guess I'm the exception, I use my shell a lot year round, which is the reason I go for top shelf quality.
 
Interesting thoughts. I usually run on the cold side when I'm not doing steep climbing or brisk walking in the flats. The past two seasons I've tended to prefer wearing the hard shell right out of the car over just my base layer and then add other layers. I saw an article on Arc'Teryx site about how one of their hard shells layered seemlessly over their soft shell and I did a double take. I always thought you wore the hard shell or the soft shell, not both.

I'm finding that when I am starting out and when I wear a fleece or other layers in the trees/lower elevations, even in decent weather, that they build up a light layer of moisture from mist, wet branches, etc and this becomes an issue as I add layers. Seems like you really need a water resistant garment at all times in winter. If I had a nice light hard shell with vents I'm thinking I'd rather go that route. The hard shell I currently use is too heavy for that purpose. I'd be sweating bullets in it.

I'm sure if I keep hurling money at the issue buying new toys I'll find something that works. :)
 
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I prefer to just use my rain jacket over appropriate base/insulating layers. I tend to run on the warm side so if I put on my heavy North Face shell I am usually sweating within minutes.
 
I always thought you wore the hard shell or the soft shell, not both.
Why not? Putting a hard shell over a soft shell can work perfectly well.

I often carry both a breathable fleece, a wind-blocking fleece (ie a soft shell), and a (waterproof-breathable) hard shell. Depending on conditions, I wear any combination (including one or none), but always in the listed order (inside to outside).

Waterproof/water-resistant outer layers are often useful above temps of ~20F because any snow which gets on your clothing can melt and refreeze in your clothing. Back before waterproof-breathable fabrics became available, one might have two or three shells--a fully breathable one for temps below 20F (dry cold), a water resistant one for temps above 20F (wet cold), and/or a rain shell. And, of course, it can always rain in NE...

One should also become obsessive-compulsive about brushing snow off one's clothing. On one trip, I was breaking trail through small spruce and was knocking "tons" of snow down on myself but always brushing it off before it could melt. At the end of the day, I was nice and dry while a beginner (who did little if any breaking) had badly iced clothing and mittens.

One can easily encounter a range of conditions on a single trip or collection of trips. Versatility of one's clothing system is often more important than having the ideal equipment for a single condition.

Doug
 
I prefer to just use my rain jacket over appropriate base/insulating layers. I tend to run on the warm side so if I put on my heavy North Face shell I am usually sweating within minutes.
Back in the "good old days" before waterproof-breathable shells, one generally carried separate rain and general purpose (ie everything but rain) shells. One only used the rain shell when necessary because moisture collected in one's clothing when one wore it.

Modern waterproof-breathable shells are better, but still generally retard moisture transport more than a fully breathable shell.

Doug
 
It's good to play around with non-conventional layering to see what works for you as an individual. For example - I've found that if it isn't dreadfully cold, using a minimalist shell over a base layer, but under a loose fitting (non-goretex) synthetic fill jacket can work really well above treeline if I am going hard - the shell keeps my profuse sweat from getting into the insulating layer, which can also now breathe much easier. Of course this loses heat quicker, but I stay much drier.
 
Gore-Tex is over-Hyped? It's the best waterproof fabric ever invented. I guess I'm the exception, I use my shell a lot year round, which is the reason I go for top shelf quality.
The Gore-Tex name is being/has been used for a variety of membrane (bonded to fabric) formulations. The microscopic hole formulation of the original Gore-Tex has been changed to include a thin PU layer with no holes. This requires that moisture condense on the inside of the layer, diffuse through the layer, and finally evaporate from the outside. The overall moisture transport rate is good at warmer temps, but slows down as temps drop.

In contrast, there are some fabrics, such as eVent, which return to the membrane with microscopic holes. This maintains the high moisture transport rate at both high and low temps.

If you sweat heavily, the difference may be important.

See, for instance, http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/rainwear+how+it+works.html (Worthwhile reading for anyone interested in choosing a waterproof-breathable garment..)


The same article also describes 2 and 3 layer fabrics. 2-layer (fabric + membrane) is lighter but 3-layer (fabric +membrane + fabric) is more durable.

Doug
 
It's good to play around with non-conventional layering to see what works for you as an individual. For example - I've found that if it isn't dreadfully cold, using a minimalist shell over a base layer, but under a loose fitting (non-goretex) synthetic fill jacket can work really well above treeline if I am going hard - the shell keeps my profuse sweat from getting into the insulating layer, which can also now breathe much easier. Of course this loses heat quicker, but I stay much drier.
The shell is probably acting as a (partial) vapor barrier.

Ice climbers sometimes put a polyester or down jacket over their climbing clothing (insulation+shell) at belays, more for speed than performance.

Doug
 
I'll stand by "over-hyped". The difference in breathability between GoreTex and an old-fashioned oilskin is measurable, but not significant. Basically, Gore-Tex hardly starts passing water vapor until you're good and swampy already. Testing shows that eVent is a bit better, possibly even enough better to notice.
 
I'll stand by "over-hyped". The difference in breathability between GoreTex and an old-fashioned oilskin is measurable, but not significant. Basically, Gore-Tex hardly starts passing water vapor until you're good and swampy already. Testing shows that eVent is a bit better, possibly even enough better to notice.

Agreed.

I recently got a MH shell that uses their DryQ Elite membrane (eVent membrane bonded to MH fabrics). I have only used it a handful of times, but it has significantly outperformed my Gore products, but I would still rather wear a soft shell given the choice (sometimes you just need to bunker down in your hard shell though).

One cautionary tale I will offer (for all membranes) is the following: Most major outdoor manufacturers use different levels of membrane on different price-point jackets. Although I'm not a big Gore fan, my old shells were standard "Gore-Tex". However; at (much) higher price points, there is Gore-Tex Performance Shell, and Gore-Tex Pro Shell, both of which supposedly offer higher performance at a lower weight (almost going back to the 2-layer vs 3-layer performance delta back when I first got into performance jackets). MH is no different, their regular DryQ fabric is not the same as their "elite" fabric.
 
Great technical info DougPaul. Very helpful. And indeed there are a lot of "flavors" to these fabrics as bignslow points out (which I had noticed and was one of the things that prompted the question). Thanks for the info guys.
 
Great technical info DougPaul. Very helpful. And indeed there are a lot of "flavors" to these fabrics as bignslow points out (which I had noticed and was one of the things that prompted the question). Thanks for the info guys.
And just to make it harder for the customer to compare brands and flavors, the manufacturers tend not to hand out much real info on their characteristics...

Sierra Trading post also has a useful article: http://www.sierratradingpost.com/lp..._medium=Catalog&utm_campaign=waterproof-guide

A few minutes with a search engine will find you a some more useful articles by researchers comparing the fabrics (including some of the references for the REI article).

Doug
 
Gore-Tex is over-Hyped? It's the best waterproof fabric ever invented. I guess I'm the exception, I use my shell a lot year round, which is the reason I go for top shelf quality.

Its an old debate, but the Army says Event is better. Hats off to Gore-Tex Marketing though.

Cite: http://www.verber.com/mark/outdoors/gear/breathability.pdf

Event has changed hands to GE, last I heard. Some friends tell me they have switched from Gore-Tex to Event for aircraft barometric equipment and pressure sensors.
 
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