About | Blog | Forums | People | Free Newsletter
Trailspace is a product review site for outdoor enthusiasts. Use it to find and share great gear.

Gore-Tex Necessary For Denali?

10:54 p.m. on March 22, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Is a three-layer gore-tex jacket/pant necessary for Denali, or will a lighter weight waterproof combo (eg marmot precip)suffice when coupled with a soft shell.

12:25 p.m. on March 23, 2004 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,234 reviewer rep
5,182 forum posts

I thought about taking my PreCip the last time I was on Denali. But trying it out on a few BC ski tours (at subzero temps) and thinking about my experiences on previous trips to the Alaska Range prompted me to eliminate that idea.

The short answer is - take your 3-layer jacket/pant combination or full-body suit.

I have some discussion of my experience with clothing on my website http://home.pacbell.net/wstraka, and click on the "Denali" link at the top of the 1st page, then on the gear link. A lot of people use full-body gtx suits, although I personally do not like them. I do not remember seeing anyone above 11,000 ft with something as light as Precip, or even some of the lighter 3-layer gtx parkas.

As for the soft shell, remember that the 3-layer is still just a shell, and you will need a lot of insulation up high. You probably will be hiking in just your light-weight long-johns going up the lower part of the Kahiltna (maybe with shorts for modesty, but make the long-johns white to keep heat absorption to a minimum). But by the time you get to 14,000, you will be layered with expedition-weight long johns and gtx shells for hiking, plus soft-shell or fleece jacket for standing around at 14k in the warmer weather, with the addition of heavy down parka and fleece or down pants for colder times at 14k and most of the time in camp at 17k. A soft shell is nice to throw on at rest stops, even along the Kahiltna (I will note that I found windstopper jackets to be inadequate, but the heavier Schoeller to work well for this). The gear list I have on my website has a few alternative choices for items, but my last couple of trips were with a much lighter pack than most people seem to carry as far as clothing was concerned. I was never cold, but a lot of people were.

Think about the wind chill factor. You will encounter 20-30 knot winds frequently, and 50 knot winds are not uncommon at 14,000 ft, while 70-80 knots are all too frequent at 17k and higher. Don't forget about your head, hands, and feet - far too many people get frostbite up there.

9:47 a.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
408 forum posts
I'll say no...

Quote:

Is a three-layer gore-tex jacket/pant necessary for Denali, or will a lighter weight waterproof combo (eg marmot precip)suffice when coupled with a soft shell.

I think the jackets/pants with the newer micro denier materials (Epic, Pertex, etc) work just fine and are much lighter than some of the very heavy goretex garmets out there.

My last trip to the AK range I didn't wear any goretex and we saw a ton of bad weather including high wind, rain, sleet, snow, etc etc. Didn't miss it.

If you're up high, you probably don't really need an absolutely waterproof garmet anyhow, since any precip will be snow.

As for outer garmets, I'm going further away from the heavy goretex every year.

Brian in SLC

12:46 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,234 reviewer rep
5,182 forum posts
Re: I'll say no...

I should have mentioned Epic, Pertex, and the other encapsulated microfibers. But Eric asked about 3 layer gtx vs Precip, so I figgered those were his choices and kinda forgot about the other possibilities.

I will agree with Brian on the Epic, having a jacket with it. It isn't completely waterproof and will let a little water through in a monsoon downpour. But as Brian says, you won't get that on Denali. I don't think I ever saw rain on any of my trips into the Alaska Range once I was on the glaciers and higher (above 6000 or 7000 ft), and even down in Talkeetna and Anchortown the rain was never enough to soak through. Lots of snow, yes, but that doesn't require full waterproof.

If your only choice is a gtx you already have vs spending for a Precip, and you don't want to spend a bunch on a microfiber, though, the gtx is what you want. I actually often get wetter with my Precip than with just a fleece jacket, since fully waterproof like the Precip holds all the sweat in to condense. Encapsulated microfiber like Epic breathes well and is still windproof. I find Schoeller sheds snow and light rain well, but isn't as windproof as I would like.

6:48 p.m. on March 24, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

Re: I'll say no...

Thanks for the info guys. Who makes Epic or Pertex shells, I would at least like to check them out.

Also, Bill on an unrelated item I checked out your Denali gear page and noticed you used William Ball Locking 'biners. I have never tried the Ball locks, are they really easy to use? I was looking to order a couple of william tri-acts. Have you used these?

 

Quote:

I should have mentioned Epic, Pertex, and the other

encapsulated microfibers. But Eric asked about 3 layer gtx vs Precip, so I figgered those were his choices and kinda forgot about the other possibilities.

Quote:

I will agree with Brian on the Epic, having a jacket with it. It isn't completely waterproof and will let a little water through in a monsoon downpour. But as Brian says, you won't get that on Denali. I don't think I ever saw rain on any of my trips into the Alaska Range once I was on the glaciers and higher (above 6000 or 7000 ft), and even down in Talkeetna and Anchortown the rain was never enough to soak through. Lots of snow, yes, but that doesn't require full waterproof.

If your only choice is a gtx you already have vs spending for a Precip, and you don't want to spend a bunch on a microfiber, though, the gtx is what you want. I actually often get wetter with my Precip than with just a fleece jacket, since fully waterproof like the Precip holds all the sweat in to condense. Encapsulated microfiber like Epic breathes well and is still windproof. I find Schoeller sheds snow and light rain well, but isn't as windproof as I would like.

9:26 a.m. on March 25, 2004 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
408 forum posts
Try Wild Things (Epic) or Integral Designs (Pertex)

Quote:

Also, Bill on an unrelated item I checked out your Denali gear page and noticed you used William Ball Locking 'biners. I have never tried the Ball locks, are they really easy to use? I was looking to order a couple of william tri-acts. Have you used these?

My opinion, if you can't open with gloves on (or mittens), then maybe give it a second thought. I personally don't care for the "ball" lock biners. I use a plastic twist lock gate discontinued by DMM (bought a bunch on closeout). So, for my money, I'd go with your tri-acts, but, I like auto lockers (usually only one for belaying). Also really like the large Petzl Attache lockers (and the Vertigo too). Takes a munter well, large threaded lock seems to resist snow and ice. Handles pulleys well.

BD makes some nice lockers too, and they're keylock as well.

Brian in SLC

12:09 p.m. on March 25, 2004 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,234 reviewer rep
5,182 forum posts
lockers

Quote:

Also, Bill on an unrelated item I checked out your Denali gear page and noticed you used William Ball Locking 'biners. I have never tried the Ball locks, are they really easy to use? I was looking to order a couple of william tri-acts. Have you used these?

I have no problem working the ball-locks with gloves, and only a little problem with mittens. I also have tri-acts. Hey, there's new stuff every week, so gotta get at least a few of each. I worried about the plastic sleeves durability, but a lot of semi-intentional banging then on rock convinced me that they are pretty durable. On Denali and most other places, you will only be using a couple lockers, so check them in your local store, if you can, and get what works for you. Working any locker, especially ball-locks or any autolocker, takes a little practice. But again, I have no problem with the balls or tri-acts with gloves of Denali thickness. Only lockers I really do not like are an old version of a BD oval that screws in the opposite direction of what is now standard and the screw lockers with hexagonal sleeves. You will need a large HMB-type anyway, which the Williams are.

4:50 p.m. on March 25, 2004 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,234 reviewer rep
5,182 forum posts
Re: lockers - forgot to say ...

I can work the two types of William ball-locks one-handed no problem with gloves. The Tri-Act seems awkward to me one-handed, even with no gloves. No problem working the gate with two hands, but I generally prefer to be able to work biners one-handed. But since on Denali, you would probably be using the locker to clip into your climbing rope at the start of the hike and unclip at your campsite, it wouldn't usually be a problem (unless your partner fell into a slot and you need to unclip in the process of setting up the extraction arrangement of the ropes). Overall, I do like the TriAct better than most other autolockers.

There are, IIRC, 2 versions of the TriAct, one a large HMB-type and the other more of a slightly large oval shape. No difference in the locking mechanism, just size and shape of the carabiner. I have the HMB type. It's fine for setting anchors or having it clipped between your harness and the climbing rope all day.

I forgot Brian also mentioned the Petzl Attache. I have a number of these and used to use them a lot before I got the William ball-locks (the 2 types of William ball-locks are, one an autolock with the black plastic sleeve, the other you open the sleeve and it stays unlocked until you rotate it closed - yellow plastic sleeve. I use both for different things). Contrary to what Brian said, though, I have encountered situations where the screw sleeve on the Attache will freeze in position, and IIRC, that happened once when I was climbing Scruffy with Brian a couple years back. Holding your bare hand on the screw sleeve a minute or so will free it. Supposedly silicone spray on the threads will help prevent the problem, although I am leery of it picking up dirt when using it in a dusty area. The dirt can be cleaned out by rinsing with hot water while working the sleeve up and down.

2:58 p.m. on March 26, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

So you guys are saying...

...that an 8 oz, $90 jacket (WT Epic Windshirt) and appropriate pants offer enough protection as shells for Alaska at higher elevations?

1:15 p.m. on March 29, 2004 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
408 forum posts
Protection from what?

Quote:

...that an 8 oz, $90 jacket (WT Epic Windshirt) and appropriate pants offer enough protection as shells for Alaska at higher elevations?

If you are overheating and sweating profusely, I'd say, yep, way more protection against that.

If its cold, I have a parka on. Insulated.

Heavy three layer goretex shells are the worst of both worlds. They don't breath that well. They don't insulate that well. They are very bulky and heavy for what they do for you.

At the higher elevations in AK its colder. No need for three layer goretex. You need insulation and something to cut the wind (not talkin' 'bout eatin' freeze dried food, here).

I summitted Denali with a single layer goretex jacket and a exp weight capilene top, with a farmer john stretch capilene suit. I'd have been just as fine with a pertex or epic layer on. Wasn't cold enough, but, I had a down parka in my summit pack, just in case.

I skied in very windy/blustery conditions on Saturday with a lightweight Wild Things shell. No problemo. It breaths better, cuts the wind well enough, sheds snow just fine.

If I'm moving, I want breathable. If I'm static, I'm wearing an insulated parka.

I sold my last three layer parka at a swap several years ago. Haven't looked back.

YMMV...

Brian in SLC

11:44 a.m. on March 30, 2004 (EST)
(Guest)

So why all the hype?

Since goretex is heavy, doesn't breath well, bulky, and expensive, why is it so popular and seen by many as a "must have?"

 

Quote:

Quote:

...that an 8 oz, $90 jacket (WT Epic Windshirt) and appropriate pants offer enough protection as shells for Alaska at higher elevations?

If you are overheating and sweating profusely, I'd say, yep, way more protection against that.

If its cold, I have a parka on. Insulated.

Heavy three layer goretex shells are the worst of both worlds. They don't breath that well. They don't insulate that well. They are very bulky and heavy for what they do for you.

At the higher elevations in AK its colder. No need for three layer goretex. You need insulation and something to cut the wind (not talkin' 'bout eatin' freeze dried food, here).

I summitted Denali with a single layer goretex jacket and a exp weight capilene top, with a farmer john stretch capilene suit. I'd have been just as fine with a pertex or epic layer on. Wasn't cold enough, but, I had a down parka in my summit pack, just in case.

I skied in very windy/blustery conditions on Saturday with a lightweight Wild Things shell. No problemo. It breaths better, cuts the wind well enough, sheds snow just fine.

If I'm moving, I want breathable. If I'm static, I'm wearing an insulated parka.

I sold my last three layer parka at a swap several years ago. Haven't looked back.

YMMV...

Brian in SLC

12:19 p.m. on March 30, 2004 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
408 forum posts
Marketing...methinks...

Quote:

Since goretex is heavy, doesn't breath well, bulky, and expensive, why is it so popular and seen by many as a "must have?"

Three layer goretex...heavy...etc...

Anyhoo, I dunno. But, you're startin' to see a bunch of lightweight garmets compete for the same niche. The big companies have to move stock that they've invested a ton of time and money. But, look closely at any high end alpinist out there (Alpinist mag, or one of the other climbing rags). See what the fast and light guys are wearing (House, Blanchard, Twight, Rolo). It ain't heavy three layer goretex jackets.

The heavy stuff looks nice on a ski lift, though...

Ha ha.

Brian in SLC

7:48 p.m. on March 30, 2004 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,234 reviewer rep
5,182 forum posts
history

Quote:

Since goretex is heavy, doesn't breath well, bulky, and expensive, why is it so popular and seen by many as a "must have?"

There were many attempts to make a waterproof breathable fabric before Goretex, and will continue to be. Years ago there was Reeve-aire, a nylon coated with a rubber flashing that had tiny pinholes. Worked ok for the first couple of days, but then your sweat and body oils caused the rubber to delaminate, covering you with red dandruff (for some reason, all the Reeve-aire garments were a deep red color). There were versions with polyethylene flashings, also with microholes, but same problem. Goretex was the first really successful wpb, something like 25-30 years ago IIRC. First generation had some problems with delaminating, but nothing like the predecessors. If you are standing around in fairly cool weather with fairly low humidity in the surrounding air, gtx works pretty well. But it can't pass the vapor fast enough when you are exercising hard, and it can wet out, which blocks the water vapor inside in rainstorms (that's why all the pitzips and such). Gtx has gone through a bunch of generations and versions (Driloft and Paclite are basically the same thing - ptfe laminate on nylon with microholes). It isn't too bad in a Denali type situation, except that it is heavy, noisy, doesn't pack well, and doesn't breathe well enough when you are exercising hard. As I said before, if you already have a reasonably good gtx parka, go ahead and use it. Precip is ok for light use and very light exercise, but you will fill it with condensation quickly on Denali.

The microfiber fabrics, especially the encapsulated ones, are much more recent, coming on the general market mostly within the past 5 or so years. There were microfiber fabrics 10 years ago, but not encapsulated. If you are going to spend money on a new shell, go with Epic or Pertex at this point. But be aware that there are newer, potentially improved fabrics coming down the pike. Same with insulation - some of the fluff insulation that is coming out this year is very very close to down in weight to loft, weight to warmth, compressability, durability, but doesn't suffer when wet like down and costs a whole lot less. I still use down in cold weather, though, partly cuz I have it already and partly cuz the artificial stuff isn't quite there (95 percent, though).

And, about Twight, House, et al using them, remember that these guys get stuff in development to test, so they are a couple years at least ahead of what's available on the market. It isn't as bad as electronics (remember the basic rule of electronic widgets? By the time the cashier processes your credit card and you head for the door, that nice new widget is obsolete.). At least with outdoor gear, the next miracle fabric doesn't hit the market until you are halfway out of the parking lot.

There is still a lot of gtx in the pipeline, so you will still see it in the stores and on the slopes for a few years.

2:23 p.m. on August 31, 2004 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Marketing...methinks...

Rockies=pretty warm in the winter, and very dry, so no need for the goretex.
Denali=pretty cold, often dry, or you're in the tent.
Northeast US/Quebec=really freaking cold, and WET. Typical Lake Willoughby conditions are 5 degrees farenheight, windy, and the route is often gushing with water. Goretex might stay in the pack a lot, BUT YOU STILL NEED IT.

April 18, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Arc'Teryx roll top.....anyone have one? Newer: Mountaineering Schools
All forums: Older: Australian gear. Newer: for sale: tnf mountain bib xcr