Topic

So what’s the deal with WP/B + DWR rain gear… is it all OK now?


Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) So what’s the deal with WP/B + DWR rain gear… is it all OK now?

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 58 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #3789179
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    When I set my first steps in lightweight backpacking, around 8 years ago, there seemed to be a consensus that WP/B rain gear (and specifically Gore-tex) didn’t live up to the promises. And that was exactly my experience. Even $600 Gore-tex pro jackets gave up way too fast by wetting out. Reapplying DWR hardly worked for more than a few days. So I started looking for other kind of materials and nowadays am happy with non breathable Antigravity Gear rainpants and Columbia Outdry jackets (that don’t have DWR). But it seems Columbia refuses to make a lightweight Outdry jacket that is also suitable for backpacking (and the similar Gore-tex Shakedry material is on its way out) so I feel I have to start looking for something else.

    But what strikes me when I look at gear reviews of rain gear, is that most of them are WP/B with DWR and reviewers are often really positive about them. Didn’t we all agree those didn’t work once the DWR fails? What happened? Is everybody settling for WP/B because even though it still doesn’t really work as promised, it’s the best we have? Or did something change with WP/B fabrics over the last few years?

    #3789182
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    I wasn’t part of that consensus. It works for my intended purposes.

    #3789187
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    In that case I think it would be helpful to mention my intended purpose. I often hike multi-day hikes with long days (13-15 hours) in Scotland and Scandinavia, where it might rain (sometimes forcefully) for multiple days in a row. I’ve never felt the need to stay in my tent for a day because I don’t mind hiking in the rain, even in Alpine rain storms. And my current rain gear allows me to do this. Do I stay 100% dry? From the outside yes, from the inside no. But if I have to choose between getting wet from the rain, or getting just a tiny bit clammy from sweat (which I wouldn’t even call ‘wet’), the choice is easy. Also, I don’t sweat much anyway, and I feel I know how to thermo-regulate properly.

    Even my most expensive Gore-tex gear never allowed me to hike more than 2-3 days in continuous rain. Even if the rain was moderate. No matter if it was new from the store or with freshly home-applied DWR. The gear would wet-out and the clothes underneath would get seriously wet. I’ve always heard that was from sweat (because the membrane is sealed off by the water on the outside), but it was waaaay more than in my current Columbia Outdry jacket (which people on this forum claim is bad in terms breathability), or even non-breathable rain gear I’ve tried. So I doubt that.

    #3789189
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I’ve concluded there’s no such thing as raingear that works for hiking (i.e., moving hard enough that you’re sweating at least lightly).  DWR is a joke for anything beyond very light and/or very short-lived rain.  Something unbreathable like silnylon gets you just as wet from sweat as the rain would have, but then so does breathable stuff once the DWR soaks through.  So I stick with breathable+DWR and live with it.

    #3789193
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    @ Todd T

    “I’ve concluded there’s no such thing as raingear that works for hiking” I guess I’m just lucky there. I can use my Outdry jacket with high hiking intensity for many hours and won’t sweat much in it. Heck, I even run in it. But like I said, my body handles heat very well, and I don’t sweat much anyway. But I fully understand that the performance of any rain jacket is very much dependent on the body of the wearer.

    Really sorry to hear you’ve given up! One of the reasons for this post is that I feel many in the lightweight community have just given up (and I’m getting closer and closer to doing the same as well).

    “DWR is a joke for anything beyond very light and/or very short-lived rain.” Exactly my thoughts. That’s why it drives me nuts that most new rain gear fabrics that companies come up with, depend on it. Montbell, North Face, Rab, Z-Packs, etc. They all mention DWR finish as an essential part of their rain gear, as if it just works. And then there are countless reviews (even here) that are positive, as if there is no elephant in the room. I really hope that someone chimes in to school me on DWR, because it seems there are fewer and fewer non-DWR alternatives.

    “Something unbreathable like silnylon gets you just as wet from sweat as the rain would have, but then so does breathable stuff once the DWR soaks through.” If WP/B gear would just be non-breathable at the places the DWR failed, I would be able to live with it. But I’ve always had the feeling that when the DWR fails in a high abrasion/pressure area (like hips, shoulders and elbow pits), the water will be ‘pushed through’ to the inside. Because the water pressure becomes way higher than the hydrostatic head. Maybe I’m talking complete nonsense, but that’s what the wet spots on my clothes underneath told me. I would be surprised that my shoulders would get very wet from sweat (as happened one time with some WP/B gear when DWR failed), while my arm pits weren’t sweaty at all.

    #3789195
    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member

    @lyrad1

    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

    I gave up staying dry many years ago.  If I move I sweat, regardless of garments, venting,, coatings, etc.

    My only goal is to stay warm.

    #3789197
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    @Daryl and Daryl: I have the same ultimate goal, and I sweat as well, but it’s never remotely as bad as if I would get wet from the rain. It is often said you eventually always get wet with rain gear: Either from the outside, or from the inside. But it is always presented as if the 2 are just as wet. I can’t speak for others (but I’m curious about your experiences!), but I personally never experience sweat as getting me wet, at the very most it makes me feel a tiny bit moist/clammy.

    So for me there is a very clear difference between getting wet from the in- or outside, and I wouldn’t even call them the same. When you say you get wet from the inside, do you mean you get just as wet as you would if you were to take your jacket off in the rain?

    #3789203
    Todd T
    BPL Member

    @texasbb

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    When you say you get wet from the inside, do you mean you get just as wet as you would if you were to take your jacket off in the rain?

    For me the answer is yes.  Like Daryl and Daryl:

    If I move I sweat, regardless of garments, venting,, coatings, etc.

    But I’ll add temperature as well.  I sweat, and a long day of rainy hiking will leave my shirt wringable every time.  I could go without any raingear and be wet and cold, or with raingear and be wet and warm.  I generally opt for the latter.

    #3789221
    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member

    @lyrad1

    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

    Michel S,

    You said “but I personally never experience sweat as getting me wet, at the very most it makes me feel a tiny bit moist/clammy.”

    We are so different I doubt that my experience is going to be of much help to you. Viva la differance (sp)

    I can get soaked from rain or sweat.  Very little difference.  I can sweat at the rate of about 3 pints per hour.  Had a friend who said he sweated much more than that during a basketball game.  Look at the sweat pouring off of NBA basketball players and you’ll get an idea.  I’m talking soaking wet from thighs upward.  Sweat pouring off head, into eyes, dripping from nose. etc.

    There is a difference in warmth, however, between rain and sweat.  If I’m soaked with sweat I’m usually warmer than if I’m soaked with a cold rain.  The worst of the cold rains is around 33F when it is slushing.

    Hawaii was a good learning experience.  First time I backpacked there I brought a raincoat.  Soon learned keeping warm when wet from rain or sweat at 85F isn’t difficult.

    #3789224
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Todd,

    Thanks for your perspective on this, I had no idea it could be that bad for some people! I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most here know how to thermo-regulate while hiking, so I completely understand why you would stick with WP/B + DWR, which often offers at least some breathability.

    What temperatures do you hike in? I’d say that 90% of my hiking is done between 5 and 20 degrees Celsius (= between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit), primarily long and reasonably fast days. I also asked my girlfriend, who wears a slightly thicker Outdry jacket than I do, but even though she sweats more than I do when we hike, she says it’s never up to the point of leaving other layers wringable.

    #3789227
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Daryl,

    We seem to be very different indeed, thanks for your perspective as well! I can totally understand you’d prefer to stay warm if you get wet anyway.

    I’m really starting to wonder whether I’m the outlier here. Since Outdry appeared, I feel I’m very close to a jacket that can keep me dry (except for a tiny bit of clamminess), even in prolonged heavy rain (up to several days). But if the majority of hikers gets wet anyway, then I understand why there seems to be so little enthusiasm for a fabric that is less breathable than most WP/B fabrics.

    Anybody out there with rain gear experience closer to mine?

    #3789228
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    did something change with WP/B fabrics over the last few years?

    The technology isn’t really any better. If anything, DWR is worse now due to environmental concerns. Reviewers get free gear by saying nice stuff; caveat emptor.

    Stephen Seeber tested Columbia Outdry Extreme Mesh at 2720  MVTR which is pretty good. See Table 2 of his By the Numbers: the Search for a High-MVTR Waterproof Breathable Shell Jacket for comparison. It looks like one of the best membrane-on-the-outside jackets still available.

    I have noticed that people who love their WPB stuff tend to live in drier climates, where membranes have a better chance of working. Humid weather is challenging for membranes; ventilation works better there.

    I haven’t found a single solution for all rain. I use a wind shell for light rain, a poncho or umbrella for warm rain, WPB for around-town and drying out in camp, and sometimes a backup jacket/pants for storms. Luckily none of it is heavy. :)

    If you’re happy with Outdry, at least you can be comfortable knowing that you’re not missing anything great.

     

    #3789230
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for your input, so it seems DWR indeed hasn’t become magic all of a sudden. It’s not just reviewers though that are enthusiastic about WP/B. Just look at Ryan’s Publisher’s Gear Guide. All rain gear is WP/B. For pants, I think you might get away with it, as there are fewer pressure/abrasion spots. (On some trips, I take WP/B pants myself.) But the rain jacket is Montbell Versalite, 2 layer goretex with DWR. I’m pretty sure Ryan didn’t pick it because he got free gear. This really seems to work for him and based on some of his trip reports, I assume it gets used in pretty rainy conditions as well. Which makes me wonder, because my (potentially wrong) idea is it wouldn’t keep me dry for longer than 2-3 days of rain. Am I missing something?

    I’m happy with Outdry, but I feel Columbia completely overlooks the lightweight hiking community. And at some point they might even give up on Outdry. I have 5 of their Nanolites (snatched up during blow out sale), but it’s simply not durable enough to withstand backpacking use (I hate to use a new jacket every year). I think I’ve tried the Mesh you mentioned, but it’s quite a bit heavier (365g/12oz instead of 225g/7,5oz), and the hood fit was terrible. (One could probably wear 2 helmets under it.)

    Every season I write to Columbia, begging them to please make a Nanolite with reinforced hips and shoulders. They always tell me they appreciate me as a customer and that they will forward it to marketing and design. Which makes me feel all warm inside.

    #3789231
    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member

    @lyrad1

    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

    “Which makes me feel all warm inside.”

    Use this to stay warm when it’s raining?

    #3789233
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    I cannot speak for Ryan but he does live in a dry climate.

    Too bad that Nanolite and ShakeDry are gone.

    Zoned fabrics have potential. Outdoor Vitals has one, but they put the less breathable fabric on the back, which seems backwards. That is where I want the most breathable fabric.

    #3789236
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    @Daryl :) Any packlist that has ‘writing love letters to outdoor companies’ as a strategy to stay warm, has my interest.

    #3789237
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    I cannot speak for Ryan but he does live in a dry climate.

    That could be, but his last 2 trips seems to have been pretty rainy IIRC. Maybe somebody who mostly hikes in wetter climates in the States (or something like Scotland) cares to chime in?

    As for zoned rain jackets, I have a feeling the shoulders are more of a problem than the back in terms of abrasion/pressure from a pack. So making the whole back more durable seems overkill. (although it of course also depends on the pack)

    #3789239
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    I was referring to my previous observation that people who love their WPBs tend to live in drier climates. Air humidity is different than whether or not it is raining.

    Membranes need a vapor pressure differential in order to shed vapor from sweat. That is difficult to achieve when relative humidity is high.

    Colder weather helps, as well.

    #3789241
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    True. But for me the point of failure of WP/B jackets is not whether the humidity or temperature gradient is enough to make them as breathable as advertised. It’s that they all rely on DWR. Which always wears off. Which makes WP/Bs wet out. At which point it seems to me water can be ‘pushed in’ in high pressure/abrasion areas (like shoulders) because the (water)pressure is higher than the maximum hydrostatic head the jacket can handle. I’m still not sure of my reasoning here, but if it is valid, it also works like that in drier climates. (though you might not see as much prolonged rain)

    #3789242
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    DWR gets overwhelmed in heavy rain even when it is fresh. Agreed that it is a problem. The only real solution is membrane-on-the-outside. As you say, the downside is lack of durability.

    On the other hand, most WPBS remain waterproof when wet out, so they are still better than straight waterproofs.

    #3789245
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    DWR gets overwhelmed in heavy rain even when it is fresh.

    Is that your experience? From what I remember, DWR usually worked well for 2-3 days on new jackets (and a bit shorter on home-applied DWR), before it got rubbed off or degraded by dirt and oils. And that’s when part 2 of the WP/B story started.

    On the other hand, most WPBS remain waterproof when wet out.

    I’m claiming exactly the opposite. In theory, when a WP/B wets out, it should only stop being breathable in that spot. That would be no problem for me. But what has happened to me multiple times, is that the wet-out spot becomes a place where water can be pushed in if there is enough pressure (> max hydrostatic head). Think hips and shoulders, where the wet straps of your pack are constantly pushing water on the jacket. I’ve had soaked shoulders and virtually dry arm pits while hiking with a 28000mm rated WP/B in prolonged rain. So either a WP/B is not waterproof once it wets out, or there is something terribly wrong with my body… :)

    Anybody here can confirm or deny that water can enter a WP/B in this manner?

    #3789252
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    “Overwhelmed” is a different thing than “worn or degraded”. Two different effects.

    There are certainly many reports of “wet through” rather than wet out. I use a poncho when I want serious heavy rain defense.

    As others said, you will never be completely dry. But you can be safe.

    #3789255
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    “Overwhelmed” is a different thing than “worn or degraded”. Two different effects.

    Ah, you could be right. Do you mean that overwhelming can also cause wet out?

    There are certainly many reports of “wet through” rather than wet out. I use a poncho when I want serious heavy rain defense.

    Most of the places I hike are not only quite wet, but also quite windy. So a poncho wouldn’t work.

    As others said, you will never be completely dry. But you can be safe.

    But that’s the thing. I am close to completely dry with something like Outdry (please see my earlier comments if needed). But not with WP/B. The others who have commented turned out to get just as wet from rain as from sweat. This is a perspective I didn’t know existed (but am grateful for having learned about), so I hope others with experiences more similar to mine will also chime in. “You will get wet anyway in rain gear” doesn’t apply to me for some reason.

    #3789260
    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member

    @scfhome

    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Re: WPB and DWR.  The R in the latter stands for water REPELLENT.  If that’s all you’ve got, you’ll get rain soaked, whether you get sweat soaked or not.  The WP in WPB stands for WATERPROOF.  The rest depends on quality of the garment, and how much you perspire.

    Daryl has set forth his awesome perspiration issues once more.  His posts may have inspired Moderator Roger Caffin to post all about his modified shorty waterproof ponchos that are the last resort for the sweaty folk.  The threads should be easy enough to search out, but you may have to make your own.

    This one is fortunate enough to be not so sweaty, especially at heights in Colorado; so when taking it easy in the high country, it is the  WPB Patagonia M-10 products that have worked fine and have lasted decades.  Understand that Arcteryx (called ‘Dead Bird’ on BPL), are pretty good also; but have never found anything else that worked.

    And beware of PFAS, in the DWR treatments that are said to be lethal.  Roger advised throwing out all my spray cans, and don’t know if even a gas mask can block a micro sized spray – kind of like Covid, with no vaccine.

    One day, tromping around the Twin Lakes in a drizzle, I happened upon a hiker leading a large crew who informed me, “I AM GORETEX.”  An overdone version of group think?  And informed her, “I yam Sam,” a phrase out of Dr Seuss.  Have never had any GTX that kept me dry in daylong downpours, and never expect to.  YMMV.

    #3789261
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    But what has happened to me multiple times, is that the wet-out spot becomes a place where water can be pushed in if there is enough pressure (> max hydrostatic head).

    I’ve never experienced this. My experience is that a wetted-out WPB membrane loses breathability, but does not become significantly permeable.

    In reading this thread, it seems to me that your experience is dramatically at odds with most of the other contributors, both in terms of the effects of perspiration and the performance of WPB garments. But you seem to have found a solution that works for you, which is what we all strive for, so that’s what matters.

    One day, tromping around the Twin Lakes in a drizzle…

    Haha, you need to be more specific, there must be dozens of Twin Lakes in Colorado. :-)

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 58 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools


Loading...