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Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

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Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby sciencedude288 » Thu Feb 14, 2013 11:04 pm

I am in the market for my first softshell. After extensive research, I think I've narrowed it down to 4 or 5. Beyond looking at price and some basic metrics like whether it has a DWR coating, I am pretty lost.

The Marmot Super Gravity, Outdoor Research Transfer, EMS Cloudsplitter and the Columbia Triteca are my first choices.

If I can't find them in stock, my backups will be the Marmot ROM, the Brooks Range Black Mountain, North Face Apex Android, and the Stoic Lo Welder.

I was wondering if anyone had personal experiences with any of these and was willing to share them and/or could fill me in on what I should be looking for.

PS. I am planning on using the jacket during winter ascents (and during ice climbs and cold belays) atop a base layer, so warmth is important (all of my first choices have some fleece liner or other sort of insulation), as is wind and water resistance. Since the latter two criteria are pretty much given in a softshell, I would also like it to be fairly compactable so that I can throw them in my pack for cold starts in Spring and Fall.

Thanks.

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby MuchosPixels » Fri Feb 15, 2013 6:24 am

Honestly the term softshell has an extremely broad definition in the industry and therefore there is a very wide range of products labeled to be softshells.

Some are lined with light fleece and heavier, others are light and stretchy. Some have laminates like Gore windstopper others have non and are very air permeable.

I personally have several softshell products and like them but for some uses. My OR Credo jacket is durable and strechy, fleece lined but its a ta don the heavy side and not that great for winter but its super weather resistant (yes, even rain). I dont use it much. I prefer the lighter Marmot driclime windshirt in conditions similar to what I would use the Credo. So the Credo is relegated to more city use.

My main winter shell is a soft-shell. Kinda. The Arcteryx Vento MX. Awesome jacket. It is somewhat stretchy but it is burly and has gore windstopper and an awesome hood. I see it basically as a durable shell with some stretch. Awesome piece. Great outer layer for all conditions.

I also have some OR softshell pants with their vento fabric they are really nice. Not a lot of stretch but breathe great and stops the wind nicely. Perfect outer layer for all conditions.

I also have some Mountain Hardwear navigation pants. These pants have a very stretchy but not to thin softshell material with is very comfortable in a wide range of weather but gets wet pretty easily in the rain so its my good weather pant or for winter when rain is not an issue.

So the choice depends on what you want your softshell layer to be ad you really have to try them on and see them in detail to really make a choice.

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby Johnson » Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:14 am

Bean?

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby Qualls » Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:42 am

I would be more concerned with what the jacket is made out of since they all have different pros and cons. Example read on Polartec's website about the difference with Powershield vs Powershield Pro (which I love) and Neoshell....actually download the pdfs to read the specs on each fabric. You will learn a lot of how windproof in cfm yet breathable things are. Then go read about stuff like Pertex and their products which Rab uses a lot of in their jackets.

Then decide on which material you think best suits your needs and find out who makes something with it. I migrated away from most mainstream US brands as a result of this way of thinking. I now own quite a few pieces from Rab, Norrona, Mountain Equipment (England)....but still have a TNF Kishtwar (Powershield Pro shell), some Arcteryx (Squamish hoody), and sold my Mammut stuff recently. Patagonia comes and goes, but right now they make a Powershield Pro pullover that is bomber when you layer it right. I still own an Arctertyx Gamma SV although I think the regular Powershield is crap and not windproof enough.

Same thing for synthetic insulation and CLO factor/rating. Huge difference between Primaloft ONE and Primaloft ECO (which is crap) for instance. You need to understand weights on the stuff too....100 g vs 60 g or the heavier stuff for belay parkas like 140g, 170g, and 220g.

Cold Thistle blog is a good place to find reviews as well on this sort of thing.

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby SurfNTurf » Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:23 am

sciencedude288 wrote:
PS. I am planning on using the jacket during winter ascents (and during ice climbs and cold belays) atop a base layer, so warmth is important (all of my first choices have some fleece liner or other sort of insulation), as is wind and water resistance. Since the latter two criteria are pretty much given in a softshell, I would also like it to be fairly compactable so that I can throw them in my pack for cold starts in Spring and Fall.

Thanks.


I don't have experience with any of the jackets you mentioned so I won't comment on them, but I'd strongly suggest separating these layers. A stand-alone fleece and a stand-alone uninsulated softshell is a much more versatile system than a fleece-lined softshell. I wear a fleece midlayer by itself, or a softshell by itself, about as often as I pair the two. It's not that much more expensive, either. You can get the First Ascent Cloudlayer fleeces for $20-30 if you wait until they're on sale or hit the Colorado Mills outlet.
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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby Dave B » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:01 am

Warm, compactable and breathable don't exist in soft shells, really. You can have two, but probably not all three.

I think it would be better to have a layering system with different base and mid-layers that can be topped with a thinner/lighter/stretchier (i.e. comfortable) softshell than just one burly insulated softshell.

For example, when I'm in the alpine or ice cragging I wear a l/s tee, a thick fleece mid layer (like Pat. r1 hoody) and then my Marmot Tempo Hoody. This system has got me through just about everything. If I'm cold in that, I've got a down belay jacket to go over everything.

Baselayers are cheaper, easier to switch up the system and more versatile than one "do it all" shell.

The tempo can be had for $60-90 on sale right now plus it's useful in all four seasons whereas a burlier softshell is relegated to the coldest times.
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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby PaliKona » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:27 am

How does the Tempo do resort skiing with the layers you mentioned? That's a killer price.

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby Dave B » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:38 am

PaliKona wrote:How does the Tempo do resort skiing with the layers you mentioned? That's a killer price.


I don't think this would work all that well at the resort unless it was pretty warm.

This system excels in active use, but I think you'd want something burlier for those cold and windy days sitting on the chair.
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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby PaliKona » Fri Feb 15, 2013 9:51 am

that's what I was thinking..thanks

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby randalmartin » Fri Feb 15, 2013 11:49 am

I would just get a softSHELL not lined with fleece. I also would strongly suggest you get a hoodie. For winter activities, blocking wind is just as important for your head and it simplifies your system to have a hoodie and not fiddle with separate pieces.

The shell I use (and happy to report that Bean is a recent convert to this model :wink:) is the Mammut Ultimate Hoodie http://www.campsaver.com/ultimate-hoody-men-s

FWIW, I am wearing that shell in my profile picture.

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby dsunwall » Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:24 pm

I suggest you hire a mountaineering clothing consultant, a pro who knows all the latest fabrics and brands. That way you will get all the right stuff tailored to your needs and you won't have paid too much for something you will wear only once but spent 3 months researching for just the right jacket only to find out something better is now on the market. :faint:

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Re: Help Choosing Softshell Jacket

Postby d_baker » Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:35 pm

dsunwall wrote:I suggest you hire a mountaineering clothing consultant, a pro who knows all the latest fabrics and brands.


Johnson wrote:Bean?

That seems about right...

Surf, you might want to lay off those snowflakes. Your lips are getting chapped.

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