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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 bearbreeder » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:07 am

i think that the term "softshell" is overused ... these days its for whatever the marketing folks think will sell

the original softshell was just pile and pertex designed to be worn next to the skin ... it was to simulate the fur our cavemen ancestors used to wear ... your body heat pushes the moisture out through the pile and pertex ... as long as you stayed active you stayed warm if a bit damp ... the driclime is the bet current example of this ... keep moving and yr fine

then someone got the bright idea that a softshell should keep you somewhat dry in a static situations ... now thats all fine but the problem was the pertex/pile and weave softshells dont provide enough DWR for that so they decided to sandwich membranes inside ... we all know about how well membranes work from goretex ;)

as im sure many have found out the polartec powershield jackets are great for sitting around in belays, but youll often need to take it off on approaches unless its effing cold out there as youll sweat it out, ive had the same issue with windstopper ... either will soak out in enough rain, so you still need to pack a rain jacket in poor weather

the latest mixing of more waterproof or more water resistant membranes with breathable panels look promising ... but you often still pay the weight penalty ... they arent waterproof yet ... so you might have issues in poor weather

consider that a lot of these "softshells" or hybrids weight from 17-26 oz ... a decent windshirt 5 oz, light fleece 10 oz, and light rain jacket 6 oz is 21 oz total and way more flexibility as well as offering full water protection when needed ... seems quite a few "top" climbers use windshirts or very light softshells

of course the softshells are more durable ... but then it might be cheaper to destroy that cheap windshirt than damage that $$$$ membrane softshell

i personally only wear windshirts or weave softshells anymore ... on the other hand if im expecting the mother of all storms .. you bet im wearing the old 20+oz wpb hardshell

i love how in all the yuppie mags TNF kishwar $275 jacket "gear of the year" with polartec powershield pro is gushed over as "very breathable" ... when polartec themselves admit that powershield pro breathes LESS than normal powershield ... wonders of marketing

i do have 2 medium black dead bird gamma powershield and 1 medium black dead bird windstopper jackets in excellent condition if anyone is interested :P
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby Nitrox » Sun Jan 02, 2011 7:40 pm

bearbreeder wrote:i think that the term "softshell" is overused ... these days its for whatever the marketing folks think will sell

the original softshell was just pile and pertex designed to be worn next to the skin ... it was to simulate the fur our cavemen ancestors used to wear ... your body heat pushes the moisture out through the pile and pertex ... as long as you stayed active you stayed warm if a bit damp ... the driclime is the bet current example of this ... keep moving and yr fine

then someone got the bright idea that a softshell should keep you somewhat dry in a static situations ... now thats all fine but the problem was the pertex/pile and weave softshells dont provide enough DWR for that so they decided to sandwich membranes inside ... we all know about how well membranes work from goretex ;)

as im sure many have found out the polartec powershield jackets are great for sitting around in belays, but youll often need to take it off on approaches unless its effing cold out there as youll sweat it out, ive had the same issue with windstopper ... either will soak out in enough rain, so you still need to pack a rain jacket in poor weather

the latest mixing of more waterproof or more water resistant membranes with breathable panels look promising ... but you often still pay the weight penalty ... they arent waterproof yet ... so you might have issues in poor weather

consider that a lot of these "softshells" or hybrids weight from 17-26 oz ... a decent windshirt 5 oz, light fleece 10 oz, and light rain jacket 6 oz is 21 oz total and way more flexibility as well as offering full water protection when needed ... seems quite a few "top" climbers use windshirts or very light softshells

of course the softshells are more durable ... but then it might be cheaper to destroy that cheap windshirt than damage that $$$$ membrane softshell

i personally only wear windshirts or weave softshells anymore ... on the other hand if im expecting the mother of all storms .. you bet im wearing the old 20+oz wpb hardshell

i love how in all the yuppie mags TNF kishwar $275 jacket "gear of the year" with polartec powershield pro is gushed over as "very breathable" ... when polartec themselves admit that powershield pro breathes LESS than normal powershield ... wonders of marketing

i do have 2 medium black dead bird gamma powershield and 1 medium black dead bird windstopper jackets in excellent condition if anyone is interested :P


You make an excellent point. I've had all the fancy big dollar softshells and short of looking stylish in Portland or Seattle they mostly suck. I've been moving further to very lightweight and stretchy and away from water proof and feature laden. I carry a lightweight rain jacket (10oz) in my pack in case of heavy rain or big wind.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby minimalistix » Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:05 pm

Can't speak to Rainier , but given the choice between a hardshell and soft shell I'd probably go with hardshell and just layering if necessary.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby Norris » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:56 am

Didn't see any mention of Event fabric in the discussion of hard shells. That fabric really rocks in my opinion. It breathes much better than GoreTex, so much so that most hardshell jackets made from Event don't have pit zips, they don't need them.
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Re: Can someone help me with Hard Shells vs. Soft shells?

Postby asmrz » Fri Jan 07, 2011 4:13 am

About a year ago, I was looking for a replacement for my 15 year old Montbell Gore-tex parka and having all kinds of problems with all the (so called) great names in the business. Fellow SP member Kai mentioned RAB Event jackets. I bought their Latok Alpine. Over a year later, the jacket works extremely well as a hardshell in alpine terrain. The Event fabric does what it says it will do, I usually return most jackets because they don't breathe enough. This Rab Event fabric breathes well enough for me. I'm very happy with the jacket. It is minimalistic, light, breathes well and has a good fitting hood. Check RAB out.
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