Purchasing a hardshell for mixed use

12:39 p.m. on December 18, 2013 (EST)
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Looking to get a shell this week before xmas.

Will be used for mostly walking to work in the rain/snow, hiking on trails, snow shoeing, and possibly some running on trails.  As you can see nothing epic going on here.  That being said I am brutal on gear, and need something durable.  I hardly ever snowshoe on trail, am always working in trees, and hiking in various tight spots with trees and rocks.

Budge is $300.  With sales this week on amazon and other sites, I should be able to find a decent jacket I hope.

Priorities are that it is very waterproof, wont wet out on me, but also breathes.

Some of the jackets that have caught my eye, are

Mammut Marangun (cant find any reviews on this one!?  Sayd it has a 20k waterproof rating!?)

Westcomb Cruiser LT

OR Axiom

What would you steer me toward?

4:38 p.m. on December 18, 2013 (EST)
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If your truly brutal on gear, honestly, none of those.

They are nice jackets and all, but robust and extremely durable they are not.

IMO save yourself about $250 and buy yourself a mil surplus ECWCS goretex parka. THE toughest shell jacket on the face of the planet, breathes moderately well, has pit zips, has snaps and zipper majn closure, and is VERY waterproof. You could hardly tear a hole in this jacket if you tried. I found if your goig to be very active inbit then openbpit zips and use snap closure in the front vice the zipper for excellent venting.

I have had the same ecwcs parka for probably close to 15 years now and it is no worse the wear and still works as good as a brand bew one.

If your description is accurate then IMO save yourself a good bit of mkney and go this route.

The down side? it weighs a little bit more, but the durability is worth it IMO. And colors are camo. The woodland color/pattern is the cheapest. You can find used ones or sometimes even new ones for $40-100 But i often see them for 35-50. The pabts are awesome too. If your not a camo fan there is a black one but your gonna pay more due to them not bejng phased out yet.

Oh, and a 20k rating on a shell is kinda low. 28k is kjnda the standard IMO. the ecwcs shell for example has a 45.3k hh rating. most good shells are somewhere between 25-45k. If your not wearing a pack 20k is far beyond adequate, like 5k would do. The extra pressure from a pack etc demands a substantially higher rating.

2:39 a.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Boston...I think you are wanting a little too much out of your shell. You need to decide which characteristics are most important to you and which is least important in regards to durability + breathable + water-proof + cost + weight?

Rambler's suggestion of the ECWCS parka is a good one...I strongly agree that it is a steal at 50.00 (I got pants and a parka like-new for under 100.00!!!). However...the parka is more than a little heavier than other options (it can be 4 times heavier than comparable shells...the parka alone weighs 1/3 of my winter base-weight). With that said...the ECWCS is probably the most durable WPB shell available...and its waterproof rating of +45K is at the top end for WPB shells (it isn't going to wet-out). As with all WPB shells though...the high waterproof rating usually comes at a cost in the shells capacity to "breath". The ECWCS shell is breathable...but many of the newer WPB shells (ePTFE membrane) have breathable ratings nearly double that of the ECWCS (I should also note that even at twice the of the ECWCS rating you will still get damp inside the newer shells when being highly active). Unfortunately...these highly breathable shells can (if not properly used and cared for) wet-out on you much easier than a shell with a higher waterproof rating such as the ECWCS shell. This tendency to wet-out should not however be considered a deterrent (unless you want a piece of zero-maintenance gear)...because properly treating your shells with a DWR like Nikwax 1-2 times a year will prevent the shell from wetting-out and keep it highly breathable.

As I said then...you need to decide what characteristics are most important to you in terms of performance and cost. For me personally...I spend most of my time outdoors on so-called "maintained" trails...in temps ranging from 20-100 degrees...and when on the move exerting a lot of energy...so if I had to choose only one shell and had 300.00 to spend...I would choose a lightweight highly breathable shell (Mountain Hardwear Dry-Q Elite) because these two characteristics offer the most use-value to me. If however I found myself rarely on maintained trails and frequently in WPB shell-eating terrain...in temps mostly below freezing...rarely exerted a lot of energy while wearing my shell...and/or had only 100.00 to spend...I would get the ECWCS.

7:05 a.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Great points!

I honestly sweat like you wouldn't believe, and have a very high tolerance to cold. Case in point, I wear shorts to races in winter when it is 15* out. I Snowshoe in any temperature with no baselayers, just soft-shell pants. Walk to work in Boston in a t shirt carrying my sweatshirt most days unless the wind is howling or its under 25*.

My ultimate goals are 1) budget of $300 2&3) it's a tie breathable and waterproof. 4) would be durability. 5) no camo

When I was working in the trees, I had a shell similar to what's describe here already. I hated it! I would be in 40* weather, with rain, and would sweat through it in an hour!

Open to any and all suggestions!

8:46 a.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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I went thru about 10 websites selling the ECWCS parka and none of them listed the weight, very weird considering you'll be wearing it while you are walking.  I'd be very wary of any item sold and used for hiking that does not list its weight.

When Joseph Renow says "it can be 4 times heavier than comparable shells..", well, there it is, at least for backpacking.  We try to get the lightest and most durable stuff, remember?

The best rain shell I have found has been made from Goretex Proshell, something to consider.

9:51 a.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Been a while since i weighed mine so decided to throw them on the scale.For those interested an XL brand new as is ECWCS parka is 2lbs 3 oz. I trimmed alot of things that arnt necessary off of one of mine and the weight is 1lbs 11oz. And the pants, trimmed are 15.6oz, new they are i guess 18 or 19oz.

Yes its heavy, no doubt about it. Sometimes when you need the strongest and most durable thing its worth the weight. Its my winter and off trail shell of choice. Otherwise i use a shell that weighs 14oz.

Many of the shells out there are somewhere between 14-20oz, with some being heavier or lighter.

Point being if you need a shell to take serious abuse on a routine basis, save yourself a few hundred bucks and get one of these. That or make a sad frowny face when you snag your expensive jacket on something and tear it. If you dont need extremely tough and durable then this isnt the shell for you.

12:41 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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This comes back to the old- cheap, durable, light. Pick two. Never gonna find all three at once or we'd all be wearing this magical jacket.

1:40 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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With the price of that she'll I think I can grab that one later and wear when I am going to be somewhere I'll make a frowns face if I rip the nice one.

What jackets come to mind besides the Marmot for my uses?

Should I be looking at some of the newer soft shells as well?

5:11 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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I don't think a soft shell is what your looking for, based on the information you have provided anyway.

Of the shells you listed I would get the OR Axiom. I have an OR goretex active shell jacket and I REALLY like it. The Axiom appears at first glance to be a version of the Transonic but with pockets. I posted a review for the review corps a few months back on the Transonic. I would highly recommend it or the Axiom(if its the same jacket just with pockets)

5:50 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Alan Arnette had a pic on the top of Manaslu wearing a Patagonia Troposphere. I bought one and have not had it out enough to review it myself yet.

 

Here is the Backpacker review of it.

 

I love the vents and the feel and the front pleats. The adjustable wrists and the hood adjustments. But as I said, need to get it out on the trail quite a bit more before I can give you any learned feedback of my own. Alan uses it a lot from what I see of his climb pics.

6:58 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Rambler...thanks for posting the weight of your shell...mine weighs just under 38 oz. (I have done some tailoring as well...but apparently not as much as you...I should get a list of things to trim from you!).

I also agree with Rambler on staying away from soft-shells...I know it is blasphemy to talk poorly about soft-shells...but I find them a terrible choice for anything more than a short day-hike in cooler weather (an excellent town-jacket though!). I personally prefer to use a simple polyester wind-jacket (that I got at Walmart for 15.00) with a good DWR (wash in Nikwax that I did at home) and/or a proper lightweight "hard" shell (Golite Tumalo...but the new "active" membranes are a much better choice). Why?...a polyester wind-jacket breathes A LOT better than a soft-shell (though the DWR makes it a bit more stuffy)...and while you will get wet in the polyester wind-jacket faster than in a soft-shell...you get wet in a soft-shell quickly too in any rain lasting more than a few minutes and coming down with any vigor. Using the combination of the polyester wind-jacket and a lightweight hard-shell allows me a greater range of comfort and greater protection than a soft-shell...and to boot it the combination cost less and weighs only an ounce more than my soft-shell! For me then...soft-shells just do not make a lot of sense when it comes to multi-day backpacking.

I'll stop with a comment on your toss-up between water-proof and breathable...because it is a highly personal choice. Personally I am looking to get a more breathable "active" membrane rain-shell...but my reasons are very particular to me...and not generalizable to everyone. First...I am very diligent about monitoring and maintaining the DWR on my rain-shells (this amounts to faucet testing it before every trip and re-treating it with Nikwax once or twice a year). If I were not good about monitoring and maintaining the DWR than I would go for a more waterproof less-breathable rain-shell...because a highly breathable rain-shell with a poorly maintained DWR breathes worse and wets-out faster than a more waterproof less breathable rain-shell. Only if the DWR is well maintained do the highly breathable rain-shells perform better than the less breathable rain-shells. Secondly...and this is the big factor for most folks...when engaged in high levels of physical activity the perceptible difference between rain-shells is basically non-existent for nearly everyone (if I get damp under a polyester base-layer while engaging in intense physical activity...how can I expect better from a rain-shell?). When deciding if I need a more breathable rain-shell I would not let dampness while engaged in high levels of physical activity be the deciding factor (actually it is not a factor at all)...since ALL rain-shells fail miserably. IMO...how breathable a rain-shell is comes into consideration only for at-rest and low levels of physical activity. That is...if while at rest...or while tinkering around camp (cooking + gathering firewood) I find I get damp under my rain-shell (which I do)...then a more highly breathable rain-shell could eliminate or lessen this discomfort...the difference between rain-shells matters more when engaged in low levels of physical activity because the rain-shells actually have a chance at maintaining equilibrium between the outside and inside...so small differences in performance can have a perceptible difference. If however I found that my current rain-shell maintained equilibrium while at-rest and while engaged in low levels of physical activity then I would not be in the market for a new rain-shell...because it is highly unlikely that the small differences in membranes will have a perceptible difference while engaged in high levels of physical activity. Sure...manufacturers will come up with elaborate test to demonstrate that their new membranes allow greater movement of molecules (ideas of running in a rain-shell dancing in the minds of the hopeful)...but if I cannot actually tell the difference between the membranes in practice why pay more?

9:35 p.m. on December 19, 2013 (EST)
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Joseph Renow

You bring up some great, and interesting, points for me to consider!

That being said, what do you recommend within the budget?

5:04 a.m. on December 20, 2013 (EST)
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Hmm...1st...here's a great article on WPBs: http://www.ellis-brigham.com/advice-inspiration/guides-and-advice/buying-guides/waterproof-fabrics-buying-guide/ which provides some information on some of the latest membranes and fabrics...I think you find it helpful.

If you're not looking for shells that are highly breathable then the question is what weight and durability do you want? I will skip these suggestions for now and focus on highly breathable shells...if you are not looking for highly breathable shells just let me know and I'll make further suggestions.

For the most breathable shells it is probably safe to say that you are looking for the so-called "air-permeable" membranes (they are only somewhat air-permeable). In this category eVent + Neoshell + Dry-Q Elite are your membranes of choice. Shells made of these membranes can be on the expensive side (if you don't mind a pull-over...which I do on WPBs...then the Mountain Hardwear Quasar can be found in several places between 150.00-180.00 which is a steal for Dry-Q Elite). However...in addition to the added cost these membranes are somewhere between 2-3 times more breathable than other membranes (remember...this may sound like a lot...but this difference is only perceptible when not engaged in intense physical activity...you will not feel more comfortable running in one membrane than you would another...it is terrible to run in any WPB shell!).

If you want highly breathable...but you want to steer clear of the higher prices of the air-permeable membranes...then Rambler (as well as others) has had a lot of good things to say about the new Goretex "active" shells. They are (technically speaking) less breathable (this may or may not be perceptible given the difference in users...some users stay dry when not active in PU coated shells!)...but despite being less breathable than air-permeable membranes Goretex "active" shells are certainly at the very top of the list in terms of highly breathable membranes. In general...the Goretex "active" shells appear to be a fair bit cheaper than the air-permeable shells...SunnySports has the OR Axiom for 199.00 in all but the large size (if I was not going to get a shell that is air-permeable then the OR Axiom is a shell I would give serious consideration).

I'll end by saying that I have been looking at the Mountain Hardwear Spinoza Dry. Q Elite Jacket...regularly priced it is outside of your budget...but if you look online there are some available in a light green color for 299.00 (I always take the color discount if I can). If I bought a rain-shell today this is the one I would buy...it has full front-zip and pit-zips (which I would not own a WPB shell without...as I find the added ventilation absolutely necessary on WPBs). The Dry-Q Elite membrane leads the industry with a breathable rating of 40,000...and the shell only weighs around 16 oz. I would ditch the extra chest-pocket if I could...but the mid-level hand-warmer pockets more than off-set that annoyance by providing excellent access while wearing a pack. There are a few other features I also like on the Spinoza...but they are very minor in the larger scheme of things.

Hope this helps!

12:59 p.m. on December 20, 2013 (EST)
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I wish I had this thread back when I was getting shells for Everest. I did not make great choices for some things back then and needed to know more!

9:02 p.m. on December 20, 2013 (EST)
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Very interesting!

So nothing going to work well while running or snow shoeing.

That new knowledge makes me think I should be looking at what will not wet out, and at will keep me comfortable while hiking or walking.

So....within my budget, what's my best option to achieve he above 2 goals. Looking good while doing it wouldn't hurt either!

9:29 p.m. on December 20, 2013 (EST)
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To answer your questions.....

Weight isn't a huge concern, but I also don't want a boat anchor. As I said knowing what you just taught me, I don't think air permeable is necessarily the must have option. I would rather have to unzip the pits, than sweat through my layers and have a bad situation of wetting inside out.

I would not do a pull over

Pit zips are a must

Funny you mention the Axiom, I was considering that one already.

Don't necessarily need pockets high enough for a pack, but absolutely need hand pockets.

11:07 p.m. on December 22, 2013 (EST)
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Want to add the North Face Point 5 to the mix here. I can get it over seas right now for about 300usd shipped.

Thoughts?

9:27 p.m. on December 23, 2013 (EST)
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1. Gore tex pro shell is a great recommendation. Regard!ess of brand. Great combination of durability and reasonable weight. 

2. Look for discontinued models to save money. Marmot speed light is a recent example. I have an older marmot pro shell jacket that is my 'likely to be abused' jacket. 

3. I have a RAB jacket, the Latok, that isn't very light (24 ounces for size xxl) but is highly durable, vents well,has great pit zips. A brand worth considering. EVent rather than gore TeX. 

4. Arcteryx gtx pro shell jackets are great quality. Probably outside your price range. 

9:39 p.m. on December 23, 2013 (EST)
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BostonBull said:

Want to add the North Face Point 5 to the mix here. I can get it over seas right now for about 300usd shipped.

Thoughts?

 Great price for that jacket   there is a healthy overseas market for counterfeit products with the north face emblem, be careful. 

9:43 p.m. on January 1, 2014 (EST)
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Ended up grabbing the OR Axiom, on sale for $240....hard to pass up!

Thank you to everyone who helped, and all the knowledge I picked up from this thread.

September 2, 2014
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