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Hard shell (skiing + mountaineering)

10:22 a.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Hello,
Firstly - thank you all for your help last year. Thanks to you, I have climbed Kilimanjaro and came back - without problems and in perfect comfort! (special thanks go to Bill!)

Now my plans are taking me skiing this winter, and to an mountaineering course in Chamonix next summer.

I currently have:
->Base Layer: Ice breaker 200, Capilene 1 et al.
->Patagonia R1 Pullover
->Arc'Teryx Atom LT (beautiful piece of gear)

What I am missing, obviously, is the hard shell jacket and trousers, which could serve me well both while skiing and mountaineering.

From the numerous reviews I have read it seems like Arc'teryx Alpha SV is the leader here. Unfortunately, their S size is a bit too big and they don't do XS for men... Also, I am not sure if paying 1000 GBP for a set makes sense, especially given that I am an intermediater skiier and a beginner in alpinism - thus it is likely I will destroy it relatively quickly. I can technically afford it, but I cannot justify the expense to myself.

Thus... what would you recommend? What are the other hard-shells worth looking at?

While surfing the net I have discovered RAB Latok - any thoughts? (also as regards the difference RAB Latok Alpine vs RAB Latok)

Also - what would be the best option: salopettes/bibs or trousers, given that I want to use them both for skiing and mountaineering?

Thank you all for your kind help!

5:28 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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My little research has resulted in the following suggestions:
----Mountain Equipment Tupilak (Gore Tex Pro Shell)
----RAB Latok (eVent)
----Montane Endurance (eVent)
----Rab Stretch Neo (Polartec NeoShell)

Do you know anything about them? How do they compare?

8:00 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Theriel,

The gear available to you in Europe is a bit different than what we have available in the US. Rab and Arcteryx are about the only brands in common readily available. But some comments:

I would choose bibs (or salopette) over pants for the skiing and climbing you will be doing in the Alps (just got back from Austria a couple days ago). My son has a Rab salopette, which has worked well for skiing in Utah in powder. You might also look at Marmot (Goretex), Patagonia (Goretex), or Wild Things (eVent), if you can find them. I have hard shell jackets from all 3 which work quite well. Wild Things is located in North Conway, New Hampshire, and you might have to order direct from them. My wife has a Patagonia with their H2NO that has worked quite well.

I have an older Montane eVent hardshell. But I find the Montane gear to be cut a bit tight in the shoulders and arm holes. While I am more or less "athletic" build, I do have wider shoulders and larger chest than the Large Montane hard shell and wind jacket I have, whereas the Large in my Marmot, Patagonia, and Wild Things fit just fine (I use Large for purposes of layering for places like Antarctica and the higher Andes - if I bought for "town" use, I would get Medium).

I have a couple of old (one pretty well worn out) Marmot Alpinist 3 GTX bibs (they use a different name now) which worked very well in Antarctica, Denali, and skiing in Utah's Wasatch, the Tetons, and the Sierra, though I use mostly my newer Wild Things eVent bibs these days for climbing and skiing. The Marmot and Wild Things hard shells and bibs are less expensive than the Patagonia equivalents, and a lot less expensive than Arcteryx. On the other hand, I can get the Patagonia clothes really cheap from their outlet stores on the 2 or 3 times a year sales. The outlets are mostly mail order, though they have a half-dozen "brick and mortar" stores around the US. I don't know how that would work for Europe.

9:09 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Hey theriel,

I just sold my pair of RAB latok salopettes. I found the cut of them off. For reference I am six foot and 160 lbs and bought the large, they were too tight almost everywhere except the lower leg. They are cut quite wide at the bottom to allow for ski boots. Another thing to note is they do not have any internal gaiter. Things I did like about them, top breathable soft shells with pockets and the event fabric preformed as you'd expect.

Bill- as you may or may not know, wild things has closed their retail location in North Conway, opting to sell directly out of their factory in rhode island. Still excellent gear, not a fan of this approach though.

9:55 p.m. on October 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, Jake. I missed the move, though I knew that WT has been making some major changes in their business. Makes me even more worried that an old line quality specialty company is morphing into something quite different.

5:25 p.m. on October 14, 2013 (EDT)
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Hi,

Thank you all for the responses.

Trousers-wise I think I will go for Patagonia Alpine Guide - from what I have read, they are very durable and waterproof enough for skiing and quite good for mountaineering (except maybe for lower altitudes in hot summer, as they are quite thick), to the extent that hard shell pants might be unnecessary (well, I don't tend to ski in rain and I doubt I will have crazy and long rains in Alpine summer/late spring) . Thus, they seem to be a pretty versatile investment. Would you agree? Obviously, in the future (if I end up climbing 7,000m+) I might consider adding hard shell pants.

Jacket is a bit more complicated.

In case somebody finds it useful:
->Arc'teryx Alpha SV and Patagonia Super Alpine are both similar in fit - quite baggy in the stomach/back area, wide cuffs (mind you, I am the rare breed of 30'' waist and 46cm arms, making their S size a bit too big)
->Arc'teryx Beta AR is a bit slimmer than the above
->ME Tupilak and RAB Stretch Neo have the closest fit (almost perfect, I would say)

I haven't had a chance to see RAB Latok, but I hope it has a similar fit to RAB Stretch Neo.

I guess what is "too tight" for Jake W is going to be "perfect" for me! :-).

Alas, even though I prefer Arc'teryx and Patagonia in general, I think having a proper fit is more important than the branding... And in Alpha SV I look like wearing a bag of potatoes...

Ultimately I think I will choose Tupilak or Latok, depending on the fit. My preference goes to Tupilak, as it is based on Gore Tex Pro Shell. Rab Stretch Neo fits great, but I am not so convinced about the new fabric. I probably should also have a look at Marmot Alpinist.

Just to clarify - as we are discussing all these jackets (Arc'teryx, Patagonia, Rab, Marmot, Montane, Mountain Equipment) - do you think that they all will do the job, or should I avoid some of these firms? I have assumed (maybe incorrectly) that as long as I get a good fit, a hard shell from either of these brands should be fine.

Please let me know if you have any further thoughts or suggestions! All thoughts/experiences highly appreciated!

3:47 p.m. on October 17, 2013 (EDT)
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i used Patagonia's alpine guide pants last winter.  they are a soft shell - water resistant, reasonably resistant to wind, and a nice heavy fabric that stretches well.  the cuffs will fit over mountaineering boots.  they are not waterproof, however, and they will bleed some cold air in high winds or if you are skiing at a reasonable rate.  i agree, a soft shell will be fine in most conditions.  because weather in the alps can change very quickly, you might want to carry a very inexpensive and light rain shell pant to pull on over the soft shell.  just in case. 

the Rab Latok and Rab Latok Alpine are kind of different.  the Latok Alpine is a lighter jacket with less features - no armpit zips, less pockets, and a somewhat more athletic cut, with lighter-weight fabric throughout.  the Rab Latok is more of a bomb shelter.  the shoulders and forearms are made of heavier nylon, four good-sized pockets up front, a more generous cut to allow for more layering, generous armpit zips.  weighs about 6 ounces more than the Latok Alpine and feels heavier and more bulky due to the thicker fabric across the shoulders.  both of these are fully waterproof, outer shell bonded to eVent membrane.

I looked at both and opted for the Latok a few years ago.  the Latok is my hard shell for winter mountaineering, though i use it year round, sometimes, in the rain.  It runs small.  I usually wear XL but needed an XXL in the Latok.       

The Rab Stretch Neo is a lot different.  the cut is more like the Latok Alpine, and the fabric is quite light in some areas.  though it is a hard shell, the fabric has a little bit of stretch to it and is bonded to polartec neoshell.  I tried it on, really liked it, but opted for a Marmot Zion neoshell jacket last fall/winter/spring - which is really more of a soft shell.  my sense of the neoshell membrane:

-truly waterproof - i hiked full rainy days without getting soaked from the outside;

-does a nice job venting moisture, as well as or better than the comparable gore tex or eVent shells.  if you hike or climb or ski hard in any of these, though, you may sweat some.  really liked hiking in it so long as it wasn't too warm outside.   

-because neoshell is so good at venting moisture and allow a little bit of air to penetrate, it is slightly less wind-resistant than some other options....though keep in mind that i was wearing a soft shell, and the stretch neo is more of a hard shell.  that might make a difference.

Bottom line for a jacket, my opinion? You can't go wrong with gore tex pro shell or eVent, or with arcteryx, rab, marmot, patagonia.  the high-end gore tex pro shell mountain shells (marmot alpinist, arcteryx alpha, Patagonia super alpine) are top notch - but they are very costly, and i had trouble finding them at any meaningful discount.  i would go with whatever combination of fit, features, and price suits you best. 

Neoshell is very nice and works really well - a waterproof solution that will not leave you drenched from the inside, and the fact is has a little stretch or 'give' is a real plus if you are very active.  it is sufficiently new that it's hard to assess whether it is durable over the long haul, and bonded to a soft shell, it would not be my choice on a really windy cold day (but it might be fine in how Rab used it with the stretch neo, which has gotten some very strong reviews). 

April 23, 2014
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