GoLite introduced their improved Wisp HP fabric in the spring 2005 Wisp wind shirt. Wisp HP is quite different from the previous Wisp fabric, which was a 15 x 40 denier ripstop nylon with DWR on the outside and an acrylic coating on the inside. The new fabric is a 22-denier ripstop polyester taffeta with DWR on the outside and no acrylic coating on the inside. GoLite claims the new fabric is 30% more breathable than the previous Wisp fabric.
At 2.8 ounces measured weight (size large), the Wisp is definitely light. It saves weight with its short 7-inch neck zipper and simple elasticized cuffs and hem. Other than a stand-up collar, the Wisp lacks extra features like pockets. Sizing is adequate to fit over an insulating jacket when extra warmth is needed. It has raglan sleeves with good length and articulation. It’s simple, light, and functional.
When garments get down to this weight, differentiating products is not so much in miniscule weight differences but in performance differences. We gave the Wisp a thorough test over an eight-month period while winter camping, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, and desert and mountain backpacking.
In the Southern Rockies, Will found the Wisp was most comfortable in harsh weather (overcast, really cool and windy), where heat buildup inside the shirt was not a problem. Variable conditions were too much for the Wisp, where it was comfortable in overcast/cool/windy conditions but too hot in intermittent sunny/calm/cool conditions. In high exertion activities, the Wisp simply did not have enough ventilation to exhaust the heat and moisture. The short neck zipper was little help. Bottom-line, the Wisp is not a wind shirt that you can put on and leave on. It was always put it on, take it off, put it on, take it off.
We found the Wisp comfortable only in really cool and windy conditions. The short zipper and Wisp HP fabric do not provide enough ventilation to maintain comfort during active outdoor activities.
Ryan’s experience with the Wisp in Wyoming and Montana was similar to Will’s. Lack of a deep neck zipper limits the Wisp’s utility to very cold and windy conditions when hiking. However, it served well for warm weather mosquito protection, breathable enough for performing camp chores in afternoon mountain sun without causing overheating. In addition, The Wisp, like most windshirts, is a fantastic semi-permeable vapor barrier. Its ability to limit evaporative cooling increases comfort at night, preventing chills at temperatures near a sleeping bag’s low temperature rating.
Ryan was also intrigued by Demetrious “Coup” Coupounas’ use of the Wisp as a next-to-skin hiking layer in Coup’s unsupported thru-hike of the Colorado Trail in 2004. When Ryan received the wind shirt, he noted its most unusual feature: very soft fabric that was quite pleasant next to skin. So, Ryan spent extensive time hiking in just the wind shirt in a variety of conditions this summer, and found the concept to be totally absurd. Even in the coolest of conditions, the Wisp fails to transport moisture away from the skin and clamminess is the normal perception in all but inactive conditions. The result of this: severe stink, sticky skin, and evaporative cooling at rest in cold conditions that sent shudders through the body’s core measurable on a Richter scale.
Ryan notes that such clamminess was least noticed in torso areas devoid of body hair, which may act as a moisture buffer between the skin and the wind shirt. Perhaps Ryan will follow up with Coup to find out whether or not body hair played a role in Coup experiencing success with the fabric. But then again, perhaps not. The lesson to learn: wearing the Wisp next to skin may not be the best choice for women or competitive swimmers.
The Wisp’s DWR treatment initially worked fine to shed a light shower, but after a few washings its water repellency was mostly gone and the shirt easily wet through.
Overall, we give the Wisp good marks on its light weight and fit, but it earns only an average rating for comfort due to poor ventilation. The new HP fabric and short zipper are not enough. The Wisp has a limited comfort range and simply does not provide enough ventilation to maintain comfort during active outdoor activities.
Specifications and Features
- Manufacturer: GoLite
- Water repellent
- 7 inch (18 cm) front zipper
- Stand up collar
- Elastic cuffs and hem
- Hidden stow pocket
- Raglan sleeves
- Weight size large: manufacturer 2.5 ounces; BPL 2.8 ounces
- MSRP: $70