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


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

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  • #3789264
    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member

    @scfhome

    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Dan, it’s the village of Twin Lakes on highway 82, just north of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and west of Route 24 running north/south.  82 continues west, over Independence Pass to Aspen.

    #3789266
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    Dan, it’s the village of Twin Lakes on highway 82, just north of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and west of Route 24 running north/south.  82 continues west, over Independence Pass to Aspen.

    Ohhh … That Twin Lakes.  :-)   I know the place, south of Leadville.

    [Just teasing, obviously, but it was funny to read your post because my wife and I were just recently joking about how whatever wilderness area we visit, we see Twin Lakes, Bear Lake, Blue Lake, etc.]

    #3789273
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Dan,

    Thanks for your input!

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

    Here’s Andrew Skurka describing the effect: https://andrewskurka.com/backpacking-clothing-rain-jacket-rain-pants/ (under the caption Why waterproof-breathable fabrics fail) Although the mechanism he describes is different than what I was suggesting. If he is correct, sweating profusely in fact mitigates water coming in ;)

    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.

    So I have noticed. But in terms of perspiration I’m quite similar to the people I hike with. And the performance of WP/B fabrics is also similar for them. This could of course be due to the similar circumstances we hike in, which might not be similar enough to what anybody here hikes in.

    But you seem to have found a solution that works for you, which is what we all strive for, so that’s what matters.

    True. But as said before, I fear that will come to an end soon with Columbia seemingly incapable to come up with a lightweight hiking option and general enthusiasm for Outdry seemingly quite low. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Columbia at one point decides to let it go and revert back to WP/B. And that’s probably the most important reason to start this thread: I’m slowly starting to look around for something new.

    #3789274
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Sam,

    The WP in WPB stands for WATERPROOF. The rest depends on quality of the garment, and how much you perspire.

    It’s exactly the WP part that I don’t agree with, and the Andrew Skurka link I referred Dan to seems to confirm it. I can live with non-breathable wetted out WP/B gear. But not with rain water being sucked or pushed in, which I think has happened to me repeatedly. Even with $600 Haglofs GTX pro jackets, which I assume are on the same level of quality as Arc’teryx.

    #3789281
    Eric Blanche
    BPL Member

    @eblanche

    Locale: Northeast US

    There is going to be (if not already) a push in the outdoor industry to focus on aftercare of rain products in order to maintain performance. With all DWRs being c0 based nowadays, the performance is not going to be like the past and re-treating will be more common until new tech advances and companies are willing to put money towards it. IMO.

    #3789282
    Bill Budney
    BPL Member

    @billb

    Locale: Central NYS

    There are Outdry boots at the local sports shoe store. You can feel it… yes, on the outside. It’s thicker than a jacket membrane.

    I’m just guessing, but I suspect that Columbia is on to something. Their heavier, thicker, membranes do appear to be more robust than ShakeDry. They don’t transmit as much moisture, but it’s a different sort of tradeoff. It might not be ultralight but you can count on them being waterproof as long as the membrane lasts.

    DWR: Maintenance may help, but my experience is that even fresh DWR is easily overwhelmed. (Which I personally find underwhelming.) ;)

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

    Roger Caffin regularly hikes the Pyrenees in his. It’s a variation with sleeves, so the front part is more like a jacket, which probably is better in heavy wind. It still goes over the pack, which creates that more-comfortable micro-climate that ponchos are famous for. It also attaches to his pack so that he can put it on or take it off without stopping. The closest commercial product is The Packa.

    #3789286
    David D
    BPL Member

    @ddf

    Michel, I sweat buckets so gave up on jackets.   I hike in high heat and very high humidity, with a lot of rain and what eventually what worked for me is the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Tarp Poncho.   No fancy membranes, just a well thought out poncho cut, with long enough drape that I don’t even bother with pants, all at only 6.5oz.  I just came off an 8 day trip with many exposed windy ridges and rain and flapping wasn’t an issue because I added a 0.7oz 3mm bungie belt.  Minor sweat buildup, and manageable.

    Something like this won’t work so well for warmth on its own near freezing but then I’d add a breathable base or light mid layer for that.

    It packs down to nothing and so I can wear it on my belt for day hikes or summit climbs where I might see rain but don’t want to bring a pack.

    I don’t hike high mountains like the Rockies though so YMMV in those more extreme conditions.

    #3789318
    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member

    @ngatel

    Locale: Southern California

    My experience over the years with WPB is aligned with this article by Skukra, Why I’m hard on GORE-TEX, the King of Hype ™

    My solution over the years has always been a poncho. My current poncho is over 10 years old. A smallish zPacks Cuben Fiber piece.

    #3789365
    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member

    @lyrad1

    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth

    I haven’t mentioned, in this discussion, what does keep me warm when wet because I doubt that it would work for others.  But just for the record, I use a closed cell foam float coat (or a home made version of the same).

    I have a half dozen of them in my closet.  They were all bought on Ebay and typically are the ones made in the 1970s.  They are designed to keep you afloat if you fall out of a boat.

    Ponchos don’t work for me.  Too much air circulation on my sweat soaked body underneath them.  I couldn’t stay warm at 65F on a rainy Scottland trip.  Feared that I was on the verge of hypothermia.

    Float coats weigh a couple pounds but I also use it as 3/4 of my sleeping pad and I don’t need to carry a raincoat.

    #3789384
    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member

    @btolley

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I have hiked in Scotland and the North of England in rain that lasted 5 to 6 hours wearing (on different trips) 2.5 layer paclite jacket and pants or 3 layer goretex jacket with paclite pants.

    I stayed reasonably dry but then I had the pits open, and when the wind was not blowing in my face, I had the front zipper unzipped.  I was more comfortable in the 3 layer goretex. Only God knows why various manufacturers keep removing pit zips from $400 to 500 rain shells.

    I think a lot depends on 1) your metabolism (temperature, relative humidity under the shell) 2) the weather itself: temperature, relative humidity 3) how you manage venting and 4) whether you remembeed to remove a layer of insulation when you put on the rain shell, and 5 can you manage to live with some internal condensation.  I learned from earlier posts on this site that these membranes do not really breath.  They operate through osmosis. Water condenses on the inside surface of the membrame and moves through osmosis to the outside of the membrane.  This only works in certain conditions which have been described on BPL in depth.

    BTW There are walkers I have met in Ireland who in certain rainy conditions just chuck the rain shell and hike in wool….

    Bottom line, as stated above, the goal is to stay warm and avoid windchill.

    #3789411
    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member

    @scfhome

    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Am feeling bad now about how many who are not helped by WPB rain jackets.  Checked the Patagonia site and see the M-10 models are no longer being sold.  They do have one called a Storm 10 that weighs around 8 oz, about the same as my M-10.  There are a lot of reviews, almost all of which are good.  The hood is noted as being large, but since I wear a WPB bucket hat under the hood to see in storms, that is fine.  The price is around $329, but have found similarly priced M-10’s in rec outlets on sale for over a hundred less, from outlets in Lincoln and Littleton NH.  The Storm 10 is made in Vietnam, and I’ve always gotten better quality gear from there than from stuff made in east/central Asia or central America. They come in medium blue.  The Patagonia page is at:
    https://www.patagonia.com/product/mens-storm10-waterproof-jacket/85125.html?dwvar_85125_color=PIBL&cgid=collections-rainwear

    For what may be one of the most important pieces of gear we carry, it might be worth a look.  Can’t believe WPB has failed for so many trekkers, so as usual, am inclined to think there is a lot of junky gear out there.  Please note that I’ve no connection with Patagonia at all except the owner answered a letter years ago about X-C skiing gear.

    #3789427
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Sam,

    This is from one of the 4 star reviews of the $329 Storm 10: “A couple of times now I’ve been in serious downpours where the jacket just gives up, suddenly it is no longer waterproof. […] This is a great jacket for light rain protection, but for more serious wet weather use I would get something a little heavier duty.”

    Would you give such a jacket 4 stars? (or spend $329 on?) I always take reviews on manufacturer’s websites with a big pinch of salt. Even if hundreds of them are positive. Some of the reviewers might only use it in light rain for 10 minutes while they walk the dog.

    #3789428
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    Hi Bruce,

    I avoid jackets with pit zips. I think they’re just another point of failure. I’ve had water from my backpack straps come into my jacket via the pit zips once. But more importantly, I don’t feel pit zips seriously cool me.

    My strategy for thermo-regulation starts with picking the right layers for the day. I preferably don’t change clothes while hiking, except for putting on or taking off rain gear (which are accessible quickly in my main mesh pocket). So at the beginning of a day, I take a good look at the terrain and the expected weather. I then wear the minimum amount of clothes possible. I might be a little cold in the morning, but that can be mitigated by for instance hiking a bit faster.

    When it starts to rain, I decide whether I need to put on rain gear. Over the years, I feel I’ve gotten a reasonable understanding of how clouds develop and what cloud development delivers what kind of rain (if any). So right from the start of the day, I’m observing clouds constantly (and sometimes I combine what I see with cloud observations from 2-3 days before to estimate what might happen).

    On my last hike, I had a moment where it started to rain lightly, but based on how the clouds had developed in the hours before, the wind direction and the cloud situation at that specific location, I decided to not put on my rain gear, and just hike in the thin merino longsleeve I was wearing. It got a bit wet, but the rain stopped after 5 minutes, and the longsleeve dried quickly. Forward 30 minutes and it started to rain lightly again, but this time I knew it was time for the rain gear. And indeed, 5 minutes later it started pouring for an hour. Made me feel good.

    After the rain gear is on, I have three ways of thermo-regulating. My legs will be fine no matter what, so I wear non-breathable rain pants. But for my upper body, I focus on my head, my wrists and my neck. I believe you lose most heat through your head, so that’s where you can have most effect. I might be wrong, but I believe cooling wrists and neck works because there are big veins close to the surface, so it’s a way of lowering your body temperature (anybody here able to confirm/deny that?)

    So I take off the hood whenever I can. Wrists come after that, so I want cuffs that I can close and open widely (preferably with velcro). If just opening the cuffs is not enough, I might move them up, so most of my underarms are exposed. As for my neck, I open the front zip a little bit, and the jacket should really expose my neck when I do that. If the wind is right, I might open the front zip further.

    And finally, when everything has to be closed, I might hike a bit slower for awhile. But not often. As rain rarely falls in exactly the same way for prolonged periods of time (because of wind for instance), there is usually an opportunity to open one of the 3 ventilation possibilities. Even if it’s just for a minute.

    #3789429
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    I’m just guessing, but I suspect that Columbia is on to something. Their heavier, thicker, membranes do appear to be more robust than ShakeDry.

    It has been suggested on this site that Gore was quite scared when Outdry came out and rushed ShakeDry to market. But now Gore has no trouble putting Shakedry to bed, as Outdry and other membrane-on-the-outside fabrics have failed to make much impact.

    This frustrates me. Enormously. I can imagine that at Columbia HQ they know they have a superior product. But the whole world seems to be stuck in the WP/B + DWR paradigm. Reviewers, websites, hikers. All happy with their WP/B.

    But when you dig a bit deeper (as I’ve tried in this thread), it turns out that WP/B + DWR still doesn’t work as advertised. And it’s even worse than before for that matter, because DWR isn’t allowed to destroy the outdoors anymore. The lightweight community used to be really vocal about the shortcomings of WP/B + DWR, but that all seems to have died down. Why is nobody calling out companies that sell $329 rain jackets that can take only a little rain? (see my reply to Sam above)

    No wonder Columbia has little incentive to develop Outdry further. Or for other companies to look beyond WP/B + DWR.

    #3789432
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    If it works for me, I give it 5 stars. I don’t downgrade a bicycle because it isn’t a truck. At some point, it’s on us to either tough it up or get out of the rain. Regardless of the quality of the product, there’s limitations. It’s on us to learn how to use them.

    #3789435
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    At some point, it’s on us to either tough it up or get out of the rain. Regardless of the quality of the product, there’s limitations.

    Please be more specific, because I think this fatalistic reasoning is a big part of what is giving WP/B a free ride. What do you think should be the limitations of a good quality rain jacket?

    To give you my perspective: Even if it rains multiple hours a day, for days on end, I should stay dry from the outside. Is that unrealistic and can I simply not expect that from any rain jacket? No. Because that’s exactly what my current rain jacket has done for me multiple times. I never get out of the rain, and I don’t even care anymore if it rains or not (although it’s less fun in terms of views, rest stops, etc).

    WP/B fails miserably in my use case. But people seem to have been convinced that they shouldn’t expect too much from WP/B in reality. In your words: People get sold a truck (“GTX: Guaranteed to keep you dry TM”), but they are fine with it when it turns out to be just a bicycle.

    The use case for WP/B seems to be: Hike in 2-3 hours of moderate rain at most, and then if you want to stay dry from the outside after that, it’s really best to seek shelter. That’s not acceptable to me, and not a limitation that I think I should just learn to work with.

    #3789439
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    Then wear a garbage bag. Your Outdry keeps you dry, but you complain that it’s too heavy. We have to deal with the laws of physics. So do the manufacturers. I don’t buy a bike expecting a truck. I don’t care what the ad says. I buy a raincoat knowing that the hydrostatic pressure of the fabric has been tested 24 hours, not days on end in heavy downpour.
    Technology is advancing. Products are limited by cost, weight, and physics. If you want the latest and greatest, you’re going to pay a high premium. Chances are that it won’t work any better than yesterdays version.
    If you find it clammy, perhaps you need to address your inner layers?

    #3789440
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    I would kindly request you to read my posts better if you are to tell me what I say and think. My Outdry jacket is not too heavy and I hardly get clammy in it (definitely not up to a point where it becomes a nuisance). And I got it for $90 in a sale. Not really ‘high premium’.

    I only wish it was a bit more durable, for instance by reinforcing high abrasion areas. And I feel Columbia would do it, if their products were a little more prominently on the radar of the lightweight community. But alas. People seem to think that what WP/B offers is the best possible, and have settled for that.

    I buy a raincoat knowing that the hydrostatic pressure of the fabric has been tested 24 hours, not days on end.

    I had to look it up, but I’m pretty sure the 24 hour period is not used for hydrostatic head measurements. Hydrostatic head is just the height of a water column before droplets seep through the material, it isn’t measured over a period (how could it?). The 24 hour period is used to measure MVTR (breathability).

    So the hydrostatic head says nothing about the duration of the rain that a jacket will withstand. If you never exceed the hydrostatic head (water pressure), in theory you could walk in rain for days on end with a WP/B jacket. But at least we agree about one thing: You can’t.

    #3789443
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    You’re right about the 24 hours.

    Still it’s common sense. If you stand in the rain long enough, you’ll get wet. However that isn’t determined by over zealous reviews. While we would all like to wish it away, simply complaining doesn’t help.
    I’m sure most of those people you speak of are sure of it’s limitations. There’s not really much of a market for those who push those limitations. That leaves you, like with many other things, to DIY. If you come up with what you feel to be a better product, be like Durston. Bring it to market.

     

    #3789445
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    So just after I tell you I can be dry in prolonged rain, and that your understanding of HH was flawed (which you accepted, thanks), it still common sense that it’s not possible. Sorry, but you make me feel like as if it doesn’t matter what I say. Then you try to make it seem as if I’m simply an outlier, so my experience is not valid in general. But if hiking in prolonged rain is pushing limits, than that’s great news. It means I will have the trails of Scotland all for myself!

    Durston invented a new shape. That’s all. You can do that DIY. I’m not interested in inventing a new shape (like some of the ponchos we saw before). The only problem I need solved is the durability of a membrane-on-the-outside material (and a manufacturer who will be around for a foreseeable time). Developing a new waterproof fabric is not within the realm of DIY.

    I hope discussions like these help break the complacent attitude towards WP/B + DWR. If more people speak up (especially in the lightweight community), then hopefully manufacturers will invest more in developing new fabrics that go beyond WP/B + DWR. Somebody remarked that the degraded quality of DWR might help to bring this about, and I really hope so.

    And just to make clear: I’m not here to promote Outdry (that happens to work for me), I’m here so that we all have more choice than just WP/B and and then some fringe fabrics.

    #3789456
    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member

    @btolley

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I seem to recall that we have had this debate in previous threads.  I cannot recall all the details but folks are welcome to use the search engine on the past articles.

    My conclusions at the time were 1) Many but not all reported failures of WP/B gear were due to internal condensation, not external condensation penetrating the fabric. 2) the WP/B gear is only relatively waterproof and relatively breathable, depending on weather conditions, extertion & metabolism of the hiker, quality, design, etc of the jacket.

    In my experience, the worst weather for WP/B gear is to be winter snow camping below tree line in the rather wet Sierra Nevada.  If I suspect chance of serious rain, I will pack a truly WP poncho or cancel the trip itself.

    BTW Outdoor Research, LL Bean, and other manufacturers used to have at least one plain old water proof rain jacket in their line ups. Now they have all gone completely to WP/B materials.

    #3789457
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    I agree with both your conclusions, although I feel I would pick different percentages than you for WP/B failure due to internal or external condensation. All my WP/Bs have failed due to the latter, and so have my girlfriend’s. But it might be something contagious ;)

    Your last observation makes me sad sad sad. I feel we have dropped the ball. With the critical voices of ol’ like Andrew Skurka becoming middle aged and milder, and with most new outdoor influencers being usually little more than salespeople, in it for the clickas, there seems to be little hope for a critical pushback against the claims of WP/B so that alternatives might bloom.

    #3789458
    HkNewman
    BPL Member

    @hknewman

    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Just to preface, for the mountains of the western US I typically use very ultralight windproof (Montbell Tachyon ‘23 model) before reaching for the waterproofs (rarely).  There’s a time and place where an actual waterproof is needed though.

    2-3 days

    That’s probably the answer you are looking for as most backcountry users hike on the weekend due to work (an actual job, etc..).  Then there’s climate but ..

    Most long term reviewers will likely hiking the PCT area in summer-ish or the AZT towards winter.  As the WPB will stay in their packs, it’s probably good enough.   On the much more humid, rainy AT, .. more long-distance hikers look at non-breathable alternatives.  Heck the military still issues non-breathable plastic rain suits (jacket and pants) in addition to the 7-layer cold weather system last I checked.  Even some PCTers go with department store ponchos … though I’ve noticed on their social media if they get hit with regular cold/wet weather they go into the city (mostly REI) for more “serious” raingear.  The design of jackets (and parkas) will be warmer and cozier.

    Just to add design wise, if dedicated to low altitude (desert, deciduous forest) or the more humid U.S. east coast my waterproof layer would probably be a poncho, poncho-tarp, etc..

    #3789459
    Terran Terran
    BPL Member

    @terran

    If you hike in solid rain in Scotland, expect to get wet.Use fabric less permeable than Goretex.
    We can’t expect technology to work at our pace. What we say doesn’t matter. Only what we buy.
    Anyhoots. Like your last discussion, I’m sorry, this one’s getting silly. What is your solution? Invent a breathable fabric that doesn’t breath? I don’t understand your point. I try to work with what I have in the here and now. I make no demands of others. If I don’t like their products, I do without.

    I think Light Hearted Gear make a non permeable rain coat. It gets good reviews.

    #3789460
    Michel S
    BPL Member

    @mossie23

    My last discussion got silly because I didn’t understand that my preferred kind of humor doesn’t work here. Lesson learned. I think this one is better, with many valuable contributions as far as I’m concerned. Calling this one silly too, sounds like a cheap shot to me.

    As for the rest of you comment, you again make me feel as if it doesn’t matter what I say. I tell you multiple times I stay dry in prolonged rain. You tell me it’s common sense it’s impossible. And now you say that hiking in Scotland in solid rain means you should expect to get wet. Really? I hiked on Skye for 6 days in 2019. 6 days of rain. Scottish rain. Guess what? I was dry from the outside, and just a tiny bit clammy on the inside. Good times!

    My point here is, and it has been since the first post: “The lightweight community used to be really critical of WP/B, but not anymore. What happened?” If you don’t understand my point, then I don’t think that’s my fault. I don’t believe that you can only influence manufacturers with your wallet. A critical community can keep manufacturers on their toes as well. And with regards to WP/B, I feel that used to happen more that it does now. If you feel you are not in a position to tell manufacturers like it is, and prefer to dogmatically claim what is possible and what is not, than this is probably not the discussion for you.

    BTW: I have the Lightheart jacket. It didn’t work for me because of the non-waterresistant zips, the non-taped seems and the fit. But that was the old version, maybe the new version is better.

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