Nov 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm #1282392
It's time. My 2-year-old Marmot Essence, acquired for something like half price is several months past the end of its "keeping me dry" stage. I've experimentally confirmed the wisdom that PU stuff like Precip or Membrain or YourFavorite AwesomeLight 2.5 Membrane just will not last. So, I've done a (tiringly) large amount of research on more durable (but heavier) shell options for the next round, so I'm familiar with much of the theory as discussed in many threads here and elsewhere, and resigned to the fact that my system will include Gore-Tex or eVent.
For low-impact or low-wetness 3-season trips, I will probably carry something in the vague poncho/DriDucks category (waiting for Dave's series to be complete to join and read up). However, more and more of my trips involve higher impact conditions where some of these options won't pass muster: glissading, brushbashing, occasional alpine abuse, etc. I'm mainly getting out in the Pacific Northwest in beautiful weather, rain, snow, and everything in between, backpacking on and off trail, scrambling, and occasionally doing some glacier/alpine travel. So I'm looking for a new shell system suitable for 4-season use, with an eye for long-term durability. I am willing to compromise a bit on weight to achieve that durability, but only as far as I need to. My hope is that I can still get something moderately light that will last. I do not go out in search of ways to abuse my shells, and when I do abuse them, I still try to be careful. so I hope I won't need to upgrade (downgrade?) all the way into territory where my jacket is as heavy as my 30-degree sleeping bag… On the other hand, I am somewhat skeptical of the durability of the latest hardshells in the 8oz range like the Montane Spektr Smock. (Also these seem to have slightl reduced coverage and lack of helmet-compatible hood.) Budget constraints exist as well, but we'll keep them out of the picture for now.
For each of the following shells, I would like to hear from those who have personally used them over an extended (ideally multi-year) period and in some high-impact situations. For those who have used more than one (or who have also used something like the Essence), comparisons and contrasts are most welcome! You can assume I am familiar with the features — but not real-world performance — of any shell I've listed. Of course I'll welcome other varieties of input and suggestions for other similar options since there's such a large amount of knowledge and opinions on tap here, but I'll probably only listen seriously if you have non-trivial personal experience using what you preach. :)
Westcomb Specter LT Hoody: 3-layer eVent, 11oz
Rab Demand Pull-on: 3-layer eVent, 10oz
Rab Momentum Jacket: 3-layer eVent, 13oz
Arc'teryx Alpha SL Pullover: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, 11.5oz
Arc'teryx Alpha SL Jacket: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, 12oz
Arc'teryx Alpha LT Jacket: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell, 13oz
Westcomb Cruiser LT Pant: 3-layer eVent, 13oz
Rab Bergen Pant: 3-layer eVent, 12oz
Rab Drillium Pant: 3-layer eVent, 10oz
Outdoor Research Mentor Jacket: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell, 17oz
Westcomb Cruiser LT Jacket: 3-layer eVent, 16oz
(Fewer examples here because I am less enthused about this category.)
How well do the fabric and waterproofness stand up to long-term wear under the friction of pack shoulder straps, hipbelt, or climbing harness? Does/will it last for several years of regular use?
How well do the fabric and waterproofness stand up to high impacts like glissading, brush-bashing, occasional scrapes on rock? Does/will it last for several years of occasional high-impact activity?
How strong does the fabric feel? (Will I always be worried about busting it?)
Does the design permit sufficient venting? (e.g., lack of pit zips on eVent jackets, suitability of pockets for venting in place of pit zips, reduced breathability from large kangaroo pockets) I believe breathability is mostly a farce, though I've only used PU jackets. If I can sweat enough to get and stay wet without a shell, I'm sure I can with a shell… any venting will help.
If the design depends largely on breathability for venting, does it remain breathable over several years? (Assume or define reasonable maintenance.)
More generally, is something from the 12oz category going to last me several years of regular use and moderate abuse, or will I need to swallow another 4oz or more for that kind of durability?
If you have comments about a particular shell you like/dislike, please mention how long you've had it and how much use it's gotten.
Thanks for any insights!Nov 25, 2011 at 1:50 pm #1805445
I have an Alpha LT, and just love it to death. It's not as breathable as eVent, but it's sure as hell a lot more durable. I've used and abused that thing and just keeps beading water.
Great shell for anything. I've used it skiing, backpacking, climbing and even around town (the lack of hand pockets makes this a bit odd though).
Incredibly durable for how light it is.
Here is a great video on it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLTR_su0Wb8Nov 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm #1805446
I've recently seen both Dave Chenault (sp?) and Hendrik (two proficient posters, bloggers and gear reviews) raving about the Haglofs Ozo. It's around 8oz and uses GoreTex paclite shell. Check it out at their blogs:Nov 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm #1805448
@rbeardLocale: ATL, Southern Appalachia
i have a marmot nano which i think is the lightest gortex piece at 9oz for XL. really liking it, but the fabric does have a little bit of stretch to it.
they are onsale today at rock creek….XL red is $149
no affiliation with rock creek or marmotNov 25, 2011 at 2:01 pm #1805449
had really good experiences with paclite and XCR, have a Proshell set now and expect it to not have any issues with it.
Proshell feels more breathable then the Micra, but eVent feels better then both.Nov 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm #1805459
Thanks for all the pointers. I'm most interested in relative long-term durability.
Babak: Good to hear the Alpha LT has held up to some use. How long have you had it?
Dan: I neglected to include the Ozo, even having read both Dave's and Hendrik's reviews. I do like the idea of it. I was skeptical about the lack of pit zips, but Dave's review at least seems to have covered at least a few months' time (though reviewing a bunch at the same time would give it less time to get beat up). As far as I can tell the hood is not helmet-compatible, but not sure? This is not a deal-breaker, but somewhat important. Also, I've had trouble finding where it might be available in the U.S.
Adam: I had seen the Nano (actually quite a while ago too), but was concerned about the lack of pit zips and had been a little turned off from Marmot w.r.t. my previous rain gear (probably unfair, since it was PU stuff). How long have you had the Nano? How much abuse has it taken?Nov 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm #1805461
Just about 2 years.Nov 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm #1805471
The Westcomb Specter LT has served me very well, I got it earlier this year (sorry, no multi-year experience yet). It has survived some intense off-trail bushwhacking, heavy pack rubbing, general town and travel use, and lots of wet weather. The jacket still looks like new. I like to think of Westcomb as Arcteryx in eVent: high quality construction with high breathability, two things the Specter delivers.
My other shell is a Marmot Mica (similar to the Essence) which has been going strong for about two years. Not nearly as durable or breathable, but nearly half the weight.Nov 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm #1805481
heres my view
a rain jacket should last longer than 2 years unless you are wearing it in the brush or against rock several days a week … if it should die, it should be because theres a big honking hole in it … anything else should be covered under warranty
i would contact marmot and see what they can do for you …
in the even marmot wont help you … i would personally never buy from them again … and i would buy my next jacket from someone with a no questions asked warranty … namely OR, EB, anything at REI , etc …
i decided not to buy a marmot rain jacket last year because ive heard issues of delamination and marmot not covering it … so i bought a OR helium instead … any jacket can delaminate, just buy from someone who will cover it should it happen
as to which particular model or fabric is up to you … it is instructive though to see that something like the 129$ stoic vaporshell outperform most other fancy new $$$$ jackets in the BPL test …Nov 25, 2011 at 3:43 pm #1805484
might peek at the M10, discontinued, but still available a few places- 3 layer, 10.9 oz and full pit zips
^ like eric I went w/ the OR Helium, it's light, it's waterproof and if it "goes", OR will replace it no questions askedNov 25, 2011 at 4:34 pm #1805497
Try either or both the Mammut Felsturm half zip or the Mammut Gipfelgrat.
The Felsturm is Gore's new Active shell and weighs in at a whopping 10.5 oz's
I ordered one from Backcountry and was very sad to return it. It was soooooo nice!! It did not have a helmet compatible hood and at $350 it had to go back as i need helmet compatible hoods on all my shells. Such a sweet jacket though!!
As far as lastability i have no idea but it is "GoreTex" and i trust Goretex anything to last as far as waterproof goes. The Active shell reminds me of Paclight so it might not be the most abrasion resistant material in the world if that is what you need.
The Gipfelgrat in Polartech Neoshell is as bomb proof and waterproof a shell you can get. It weighs in at 779 grams though. Add to the coat that Neoshell breathes far better than Event and is just as waterproof as Goretex and you have one sweet sweet coat!! I ordered one of these and kept it as i t was just so well built and purpose driven.
Might be hard to find now as they sold out many places very quick as they got great reviews.Nov 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm #1805498
The M-10 is another sweet coat. If i had the option i would go with the Active shell though at this point as it is just as fragile as the M-10.
However until this Active Shell hit the market i would and did take the M-10 over Event any day of the week as it is soooo light! A bit fragile for day in day out ice screws and the such. Perfect for anything else!! The green is a sweet color also. It can be had for like $250 i thin?Nov 25, 2011 at 5:04 pm #1805505
@gabe_joyesLocale: Lander, WY
I have an M10 and it has been more reliable than any other gore-tex paclite or proshell that I have ever used. Its durability has been pretty good as well. Given the chance, I would choose it again.Nov 25, 2011 at 8:24 pm #1805577
Thanks for more thoughts.
Ryan, your thread on the Specter got me interested in it. Glad to hear it lasted through intense use.
Eric and Mike, I did get the Marmot Essence at REI, so I'm covered. The OR Helium is appealing in its lightness and the Infinite Guarantee in its… infiniteness and good reputation. I take it I would have to go heftier (>= Revel) to get their clever TorsoFlo. Has either of you put the Helium through extended rain or or used it extensively enough to comment on wear under pack straps? Maybe I'm gunshy from the Essence, but I can't help but wonder if I would be worried about it failing in the field. I liked my Essence and got comfortable with it, but then the one time that it really mattered (nasty 2-3 day shoulder season wind/rain/snow storm) it started to fail under persistent nasty conditions. This does sound suspiciously like I'm suckering myself into using extra weight for "peace of mind," though.
Eric: Agreed about the Stoic Vaporshell. Unfortunately, I can't find any available anymore (at least direct from Backcountry).
M10 is interesting too, but at the price, I would probably defer to a similar weight eVent. Any direct durability comparison experiences between M10 and comparable weight eVent shells (see above)?Nov 26, 2011 at 2:49 am #1805615
you need to go at least revel for torsion flo
if you think youll be using it more often in the rain torsion flo is worth the weight and expense (not that much more on sale) … i think the revel should handle backpacking just fine with the caveat you refresh the dwr every now and then like any other jacket
i actually carry my helium more than i use it … its my just in case of rain gear … that said when i had to use it in the pouring rain it worked fine … for constant pack carrying over time it may not be as suitable, Mike would know better as would david chenault who did jacket tests for BPL
they are both 2.5L pertex shield though … not 3L
an interesting question is would a 3L be less prone to failure than a 2.5L … should the DWR wear off, will it then become a waterproof but non breathable jacket … or would there be leakage
regardless all brands of jackets can fail … though i havent hear of that many failures with OR
if you want to go eVent … westcomb is made in vancouver,bc … all the westcomb gear i have is pricey, but the build quality is top notch, and REI carries em
that said i personally use my <100$ revel with torsion flo over the more breathable event/gorepro any day in the PNW, despite having had the opportunity to buy westcomb and dead bird jackets for > 30-60% off … only used either one for about a a year+ now so well see what happens … my view is to not spend too much, find something that works and seems less likely to fail, and make sure you can trade it in should something go wrong
IMO for constant everyday (not occasional) abrasion against rock and bushes … none of the UL options will work that well, the DWR will wear off or youll put a hole in it eventually … for that "bomber" jackets … or a non breathable one … is likely the best … or consider not wearing the rainshell until absolutely needed, wind/softshell instead (what i do)Nov 26, 2011 at 6:58 am #1805629
I've used in mine in some prolonged rains- no problem w/ wetting through (yet), like all hard shells if your exertion is high enough you're going to get some wetness from within- pit zips would help, but certainly not prevent this (a quick drying base layer is a given under any rain wear).
I haven't had mine long enough to comment on durability under shoulder straps-if it does wear enough where it impacts performance, I'll simply ask for a new one :)
MikeNov 26, 2011 at 7:43 am #1805639
I have only owned two OR products one being a soft shell pant and the other being a hybrid jacket. Both got returned to Rei as the waterproof DWR coating lasted all of a matter of weeks to a couple months at most.
They do gloves right imop and that is about it. I do hear good things about this years line though..Nov 26, 2011 at 11:09 am #1805691
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
Look at the REI Kimtah parka (if it's still available).
16 oz. and quite a bit more breathable than my GTX PacLite Cabela's parka at the same weight.Nov 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm #1805727
you need to renew the DWR with softshells … my dead birds had the same issue … after a few trips i needed to renew my gamma sv with some grangers and a dryerNov 26, 2011 at 1:26 pm #1805732
My OR Zeolot had great DWR from the factory, although after several wears I reapplied anyway.
My Arcteryx Theta had poor DWR from the factory but after reapplying, it has lasted over three winters without issue.
Maybe DWR degrades over time even if not being actively wet / used?
I am an OR fanboy, however.Nov 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm #1805739
no idea on that one …
i will say that using those nasty fluro-whatyamacallit DWR (grangers) lasts longer than nikwax or the other alternatives … just treat the spray on as you would painting (open space, well ventilated)
ive had dead bird DWR on my old stingray start to wear off after about 3 hikes/climbs … a quick spray of grangers and some dryer time solved the issue … my MH softshell needs a good DWR renewal though after one season and many pitches
i suspect alot of complaints about jacket wetting out and condensation issues are because the DWR aint renewed on a semi-regular basis .. though im sure most BPLers are more informed about this and do it more than the general publicNov 26, 2011 at 1:58 pm #1805749
I was using NikWax products to renew the DWR on those pants so maybe that's the problem. With that said wearing a waterproof or resistant piece of gear 1-3 times and having to apply a product like Grangers or NikWax is pretty lame imop.
My Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants dont do that to me nor do my Marmot Rock Stars.
Guess those two items left a bad taste in my mouth for OR? I did love the fit of the pants though!!Nov 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm #1805784
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Ben, I've been using the Ozo since May, so not an enormous amount of use. Part of that was during the Wilderness Classic, where I wore it for about 55 hours straight (including napping in it). I can say that by that time I was not being at all careful, did some rather nasty bushwacking, and it came out fine. The hood is generous, but probably not quite big enough to comfortably go over a larger climbing helmet.
You are correct that if you want good durability and venting you'll need to spend more oz. I had an Alpha SL pullover before the Ozo, and I don't think the fabric on one is more durable than the other. The extra 3-4 oz is mainly in the side zips.Nov 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm #1805840
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
Mike Moore already mentioned the OR Helium, and I'll say that my experience this year matches what he said. What I can add is something about the durability of this jacket — I've been quite impressed.
I thru-hiked the CDT this year, starting in a lot of snow in Montana in June, and I wore the jacket most days for at least part of the day. It served for me both as rain jacket and wind shirt. I was on occasion pushing through some thorny stuff towards the end (ocotillo cactus branches, that sort of thing), particularly when doing some night hiking the last couple of days and some bushwhacking + scrambling up to South Peak in the Florida hills, and I expected to find this light shell to be somewhat cut up or something as a result, but in fact it still looks quite good.
I liked this enough that I just bought one for my wife. I certainly don't guarantee that it would be as durable for you, and note that there's not *that* much true bushwhacking through brush or major scrambling on the CDT (at least not if you can read a map …), but still, for such a light shell I think that it did quite well.Nov 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm #1805862
Thanks to all for the various input and suggestions, it's been interesting to consider. A few specific responses and some general notes:
Dave, I appreciate the comparison on the Ozo vs Alpha SL Pullover weight. After revisiting these two, I began to suspect a large part of the difference is zippers. Your Ozo durability use case is also really good info! I'm also looking forward to the rest of the installments in the SOTMR (esp. <8oz shells) soon. If there's durability beta on those shells that will not appear in the articles, I'd also love to hear that.
Brian, this is great durability beta on the OR Helium! And it's still waterproof after all that pack wear? Awesome.
I would love to hear more durability anecdotes like Dave's, Brian's, or (from farther back in the thread) Ryan's, about any shell, covering intensive use over short intervals or normal wear over moderate or longer intervals. (It feels weird to call a CDT thruhike a "moderate" interval, but I am hoping for a piece to last me years.) Anecdotes of good and bad durability are equally useful! I should point out that in addition to jackets, I'm interested in rain shell pants, which likely will take more intensive abuse [glissading, wading through brush] — but perhaps less intense normal wear [no pack strap friction] — than jackets. I do realize that they are probably less commonly used here than the shell tops.
I've somewhat overstated the abuse I expect my shell (top) to see, mainly because I've found my previous shells' durability so pathetic just under normal wear conditions. I would define "normal wear" as abrasion and stress due to packing and storage, contact with me, my clothing, and my worn gear (backpack, harness, helmet, etc.), but not pokes from sticks and brush, crampon bites, rock scrapes, etc. In fact, the large majority of the latter that I've experienced have not occurred while wearing a rain shell. My Essence only brushed through some mild branches a few limited times that I can remember. It has seen use in rain on trips on trail (or in alpine conditions with no scrapage) as well as covering me on my daily commutes by foot or bike. My Houdini, on the other hand, has withstood slide alder, slips of multiple yards down rough slopes, prickers, rough spruce boughs, etc. surprisingly (even shockingly) well. I do not even see any scrapes on the fabric.
I've been shopping under the pessimistic hypothesis that no ultralight shell is going to last years under normal wear. (My experience does not contradict this hypothesis.) However, I really hope it's false, hence my search here for counterexamples!
An ultralight shell that could withstand normal wear for multiple years would get me really excited.
A non-ultralight, but still reasonably light shell that could withstand normal wear for multiple years would still make me happy.
An ultralight shell that could withstand bushwhacking and occasional alpine stress for years would have me beside myself with delight.
A non-ultralight, but still reasonably light shell that could withstand normal wear for multiple years would make me very happy.
(Largely re: no pit zips on Helium, Ozo, etc.) As long as there's at least moderate breathable/ventable and it's actually keeping water out, I will be fine, as I have managed OK with the breathability of the pit zip-less Essence. (From Will Rietveld's Field Testing report, it would appear most options are likely better than the Essence, though the membrane has changed since my version.) I have on occasion really missed pit zips from my older shell, but mostly been OK. As long as my shell is actually keeping water out, I can manage the condensation with other methods.
The light and well-warrantied options are attractive, as Eric and Mike have pointed out, but without reasonable evidence that it's going to last, I still get skittish. From a token environmental standpoint, one of the reasons I'm looking for something to last years is to minimize my impact. I would rather buy a piece that's a little heavier, more expensive, or more intensive to manufacture and have it last me five years than buy one that's less expensive and lighter, but have to replace it (even if for free) annually. Brian's beta about his level of use of the Helium on the CDT gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe even some light options would last the distance.
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