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Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby sneakyracer » Thu Dec 23, 2010 2:43 am

Hi, Softshells are great for hikes or climbs in cold weather where there is ZERO chance of rain or for windy, dry weather in a wide range of temps. If there is any chance of rain you need to take a waterproof shell anyway.

So, I have to types of softshells. One for cold weather (skiing etc) that has a hood and I take instead of a shell. And another, a Marmot Catalyst (which is a driclime lined wind jacket, I would still call it a softshell) thats is light, and super comfy to hike in, stops the wind, vents very well, keeps you dry from sweat and stops a little drizzle and snow. Works in a wide range of temps. I take that but still take the shell.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby mambwe » Fri Dec 24, 2010 7:56 pm

Is a Marmot Precip jacket good enough for doing a Mt. Washington hike in January and also going to Rainier next spring? That is the shell that I currently have. I have never done any winter hiking above tree line, so I want to make sure I will not freeze. Should I get a better quality shell than the Precip? If so, can you recommend a decent quality hardshell? I always have my precip with me. I am just wondering if I should get a better quality jacket that breathes better.

I tend to get warm when I hike, so it doesn't seem like hiking in a hardshell will work for me. I'm thinking that I should go with a soft shell over my other layers. Can you guys recommend some softshell jackets at a max of ~$200?
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby Dow Williams » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:23 pm

mambwe wrote:Is a Marmot Precip jacket good enough for doing a Mt. Washington hike in January and also going to Rainier next spring? That is the shell that I currently have. I have never done any winter hiking above tree line, so I want to make sure I will not freeze. Should I get a better quality shell than the Precip? If so, can you recommend a decent quality hardshell? I always have my precip with me. I am just wondering if I should get a better quality jacket that breathes better.

I tend to get warm when I hike, so it doesn't seem like hiking in a hardshell will work for me. I'm thinking that I should go with a soft shell over my other layers. Can you guys recommend some softshell jackets at a max of ~$200?


The precip is all you need for those objectives or most any in the lower 48 really as your exterior layer. You are already on target in that avoiding sweat is the most critical aspect of whatever system you go with. Most of these overrated expensive "club" jackets are too heavy of a layer if you are going to get serious about moving fast and light over technical ground some day. A softshell certainly does not need to cost $200 either. Should be a relatively inexpensive part of the system if you are going to use one. The next two most important layers outside of a precip type jacket is what is next to your skin....does it wick and dry quickly without chaffing (i.e. smartwool) and a lightweight down product for when you stop or if temps get real cold, that you can easily place underneath the precip. We generally call these puffies and my favorite because of how light they make it, yet providing a big punch for warmth, is Mont-Bell 800 or 900. So a precip, puffy and smart under layer make for the most flexible lightweight system adding another inexpensive soft layer if you so desire.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:26 pm

I agree with Dow. I have worn a Precip on Rainier many times, as well as on Denali and other Alaskan peaks.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby MattGreene » Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:51 am

I can't speak about what you'll need for Rainier, because I've never been there. Since it sounds like you'll be doing most of your winter hikes in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and Whites, I'd stick with something cheap yet functional, like the Precip. Even on 20-degree windless days, you'll be hiking on tight trails, constantly brushing against and crawling over or under trees heavily laden with snow. The precip is probably nowhere near the best jacket out there, but it'll keep the snow from falling down your shirt, and you won't be too upset if it snags on a branch and rips!
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:53 pm

As far as the durability of Precip jackets, mine is eight or nine years old and has never been torn or damaged through hard use, including chimneying up rough granite. I had an Arc'Teryx jacket that lasted only a couple of years before it went to the Goodwill pile due to rips and a broken zipper.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby mambwe » Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:57 pm

I have plenty of base layers options. I have some Nike, Smartwool, patagonia capilene 3 baselayers and will be buying a R1 hoody. I also just got a North Face Thunder Jacket, which is an 800-fill down light insulating jacket that I will have with me. I think I will be fine with my layering. I'm just trying to figure which jacket to buy.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby ExcitableBoy » Sat Dec 25, 2010 4:03 pm

Marmot Precip and DryClime windshirts are both on sale at www.sierratradingpost.com for $69.00 each.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby DanTheMan » Sat Dec 25, 2010 5:25 pm

What is the big difference between a lightweight 7 oz waterproof-breathable shell and a 20 oz Goretex shell. I mean if they both block wind and rain and one is half the price and half the weight shouldn't it be a no-brainer?

Also, now there are hybrid and waterproof softshells too. What is the functional difference between a waterproof softshell and a waterproof hardshell? I'm looking at the OR Mithril here.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby runnerdanny » Tue Dec 28, 2010 9:13 am

DanTheMan wrote:What is the big difference between a lightweight 7 oz waterproof-breathable shell and a 20 oz Goretex shell. I mean if they both block wind and rain and one is half the price and half the weight shouldn't it be a no-brainer?


Honestly, very little. The Gore one might breathe better, but that is about it.

DanTheMan wrote:Also, now there are hybrid and waterproof softshells too. What is the functional difference between a waterproof softshell and a waterproof hardshell? I'm looking at the OR Mithril here.


In my opinion, there is no reason to get a waterproof softshell. The whole idea around softshells is a piece that can breathe and is comfortable. Adding a waterproof membrane to it will only make the garment less apt to breathe when you start getting hot. As a lot of the other folks have said (and what I do): Have a hardshell for when things get really gnarly (high winds, rain) and use the softshell as your outer layer (if it is cold/windy). With that said, a good windproof down sweater (Patty's for instance) could replace your softshell as a go-to piece for everyday cold and dry conditions.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby bearbreeder » Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:11 am

DanTheMan wrote:What is the big difference between a lightweight 7 oz waterproof-breathable shell and a 20 oz Goretex shell. I mean if they both block wind and rain and one is half the price and half the weight shouldn't it be a no-brainer?

Also, now there are hybrid and waterproof softshells too. What is the functional difference between a waterproof softshell and a waterproof hardshell? I'm looking at the OR Mithril here.


durability IMO, all other things being equal .... that said, if youre going to wear yr hardshell only when things go south (bailing time), then it shouldnt matter too much

i have a dead bird 26 oz stingray wpb and a 6 oz OR helium wpb ... that saved 20 oz is only like 3 jetboil canisters , or a light belay jacket, or a pair of mitts + gloves, or a 30F down bag, or a full length sleeping pad, or a cute huggable teddy bear, etc ....

guess which one goes in the pack most of the time now :mrgreen:
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby hatidua » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:42 am

From the soft shells I've tried (TNF, Patagonia, Montbell, Cloudveil, MHW), those that are marketed as "water resistant" didn't breath much, if any. Those that were presented as "highly breathable" were a sponge as soon as the slightest mist occurred. As such, if I want breathable, I'll take an R1 hoody or similar synthetic top. If I want water resistant, I'll take a hardshell. For me, this is a classic case of "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

A soft shell that claims to be both highly water resistant and highly breathable? :lol: (I fell for the marketing early on but realized that simple physics gets in the way of such claims)
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby DudeThatMustHurt » Fri Dec 31, 2010 1:24 pm

$.02 while climbing last year in colorado wearing a Marmot Precip the wind kicked up along with the rain\snow, The jacket was damn near new and I ended up soaked to the core and freezing my sack off. while wearing a climbing pack somehow the rubbing against the shoulder pads seemed to "open the fabric" in a way that it let moisture through.. 2 days after that trip I went and bought the "Crem de la crem" Alpha SV Hard Shell.... Will never look back, multiple trips and crappy conditions and the Arcteryx HS is all but bullet proof.. Buy nice or buy twice
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby sneakyracer » Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:59 pm

hatidua wrote:From the soft shells I've tried (TNF, Patagonia, Montbell, Cloudveil, MHW), those that are marketed as "water resistant" didn't breath much, if any. Those that were presented as "highly breathable" were a sponge as soon as the slightest mist occurred. As such, if I want breathable, I'll take an R1 hoody or similar synthetic top. If I want water resistant, I'll take a hardshell. For me, this is a classic case of "there's no such thing as a free lunch".

A soft shell that claims to be both highly water resistant and highly breathable? :lol: (I fell for the marketing early on but realized that simple physics gets in the way of such claims)


The closest ive seen to that is the First Ascent Frontpoint jacket. It has a mix of hardshell and softshell material, its basically all hardshell except in the middle chest and middle back area where it has a very nice softshell material. The jacket breathes very well (the hardshell material is very nice so it breathes also) and since it only has a thin lining in some areas of the softshell area only so it packs small. The jacket has welded seams throughout and I have been in some very nasty weather (rain / wind) and water hasnt gotten through at all. It also has a great hood. BUT, those were day hikes. On a multi day trip I would take a hardshell unless it was a cold weather trip where there is zero chance of rain.

I also have an Outdoor Research Credo softshell jacket (no hood). It also has a thin lining and the outer softshell material is bombproof tough but stretchy and soft. Its a comfortable jacket and wicks sweat extremely well. I was caught in a rainstorm and the outer material got soaked a bit but water never got through. It also has fully welded/taped seams. This jacket is heavier than the front point and doesnt pack as small pus it has no hood so it has very limited backcountry use, you need to take a hardhsell anyway and there are lighter alternatives. So, I use it for urban situations only or car day trips.

So, I purchsed a Marmot Catalyst (Driclime Lined) wind jacket. Its an awesome piece. Windproof but wicks sweat instantly and vents very well. Very comfortable to hike in. It packs down small enough. This piece is very useful since it isnt meant to substitute a hardshell (you still need to take one) but its like a windproof fleece that breathes much better, repels moisture, wicks sweat and has underarm vents (mesh lining and different outer material in that area). It also keeps cold out better than a fleece while still venting if it gets warm. Very versatile. The outer fabric isnt as waterproof or tough as other softshells but it packs down much smaller and it is lighter. It works perfectly with just a baselayer under it.
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