waterproof/breathable options: what remains?

1:16 p.m. on October 16, 2018 (EDT)
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seems like the overwhelming majority of options (in US retail, anyway) are various flavors of gore tex. 

eVent, a capable and durable alternative to gore tex, is being used by a number of brands. My RAB shell jacket with eVent is several years old and is excellent at both keeping water out and allowing moisture to escape.  

Polartec's neoshell is still out there. Westcomb, Mountain Hardwear, Montane and other brands are still offering shells with it. RAB, once a proponent, no longer does. I have a neoshell soft shell from Marmot that is excellent after a number of years. this membrane might be better than others at allowing moisture to escape, though the soft shell fabric no doubt contributes to that.  likewise, it's hard to assess 'ventilation' when so much may depend on design, like generous armpit zips.  

there are plenty of polyurethane coatings the provide a waterproof and somewhat breathable solution; I tend to put most of those options in the 'less desirable' bucket because I don't think they function quite as well or are as durable as the membrane options above, but coated jackets tend to be a fair bit less expensive.

observations?  

9:05 p.m. on October 16, 2018 (EDT)
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I have not tried all of the new fabrics, but they tend to not breathe very well with exertion. 

6:34 a.m. on October 17, 2018 (EDT)
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I agree with your observations. There are other options, mostly brands with in house laminates- Patagonias H2No, Outdoor Research has Ascent shell, North Face has their HyVent series, etc- but those are all mostly the same as something like Gore without having to pay the Gore-tex prices, and follow the insane amount of limitations that Gore-tex puts on the manufactors. 

The other big players not mentioned is Pertex Shield (and Pertex Shield+) which a lot of companies seems to using more these days. Not nearly as durable but the breathability is quite good (probably comparable to something like Neoshell).

7:23 a.m. on October 17, 2018 (EDT)
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I've gone full circle...early days not being able to afford Goretex jackets I used cheapies, then went through a decade or so of using expensive Goretex and event stuff that still wouldnt breathe that well during exertion or heavy rain, then a few years of Dri Ducks disposable rain wear. Now I am back to cheaper stuff...Marmot Precip with their own named waterproof breathable layer (can't recall it right now). It's not great but under $100 and keeps me damp and warm but dries me out quickly once the rain stops.

7:37 a.m. on October 17, 2018 (EDT)
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In the cold and wet UK, Paramo is an option that gets mentioned a lot. I haven't tried it and dont know about US availability. It's heavier so not for light trips but seems to be popular for extended days of rain and cold like the Scottish highlands.

8:49 p.m. on October 25, 2018 (EDT)
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Did a purposeful bad weather test of my gore tex jacket (Millet brand) yesterday in preparation for a month long trek in the Nepal. Went up an exposed 600m hill directly into strong headwinds (60km/h+) and light driving rain at 9 degrees Celsius. Up and down in 90mins.
Result: Jacket (and trousers and boots) entirely waterlogged. Long merino top soaked at arms and from belly button downwards. Body very hypothermic. Especially hands and knees.
A total gear failure.
What are materials that would keep one dry for say 4 hours in such conditions? Plastic ponchos would be problematic in exposed sections b/c of wind drag.

7:36 a.m. on October 26, 2018 (EDT)
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If the jacket was soaked from the outside, consider re-treating the dwr.  Nikwax or equivalent.  If the nylon shell isn't shedding rain, it also isn't 'breathing' vapor out. Also laundering can help get rod of oils from your body that eventually impair the membrane.  

If soaked from sweat? Generous armpit zip openings help. Mechanical venting like this outweighs the breathability of any rain shell in my experience.  But, that same hike in a non breathable coated nylon rain shell would leave you even more drenched inside.  

Synthetic layers handle high output of sweat better than wool by drying faster.  

8:22 a.m. on October 26, 2018 (EDT)
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When Patrick and I met up the other week I got to see his Lightheart Gear silnylon rain jacket - felt a little slick/clammy but am still wondering if that wouldn't be a better way to go for shorter rain events in cooler weather.  For those trips where I get rained on multiple days etc I'm still going with "breathable" despite their failure to work in heavy rain or when I have my metabolism at full charge heading up a hill - they still keep me warm and dry out the mid layer much quicker than non-breathable stuff.  Pit zips are an absolute must - large ones at that.

3:51 p.m. on October 26, 2018 (EDT)
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foxpro said:

What are materials that would keep one dry for say 4 hours in such conditions? Plastic ponchos would be problematic in exposed sections b/c of wind drag.

 Doesn't exist. 4 hours in heavy rain and driving wind, while ascending and descending at a rate of nearly 2,000 ft per 90 minutes. That's hard exertion, and any material that would keep moisture out under those conditions would also trap it in from sweat.

5:53 p.m. on October 27, 2018 (EDT)
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This is a perennial problem, durable but breathable and waterproof all day long.

1st is the LAMINATE. I prefer eVent for its direct breathability. 

2nd is the exterior DWR treatment. I prefer Revivex spray or Granger's spray-on. Both are "semi-durable" (for one rainy trip only).

3rd is the VENTING. Even with eVent pit zips are often necessary. Chest high zippered pockets with mesh backs also help vent well. The zips need to be angled W/ zipper cover so you can leave them opening the rain W/O water getting in.

If your WPB parka has these you may stay relatively dry in an all day rain - or not, depending on your exertion level.

The DWR treatment is of prime importance here. If the DWR fails and the garment "wets out" you have lost breathability.  Learn how to constantly maintain the DWR.

 

Eric B.

7:30 p.m. on October 27, 2018 (EDT)
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My 12 year old eVent parka is the most breathable piece I’ve ever experienced and it does keep me bone dry underneath in urban pursuits. It is a phenomenal and very versatile piece of rain gear.

That said I strongly prefer my Snugpak Patrol Poncho for hiking. That also keeps my pack dry and the pack keeps it away from my back. It does not have side flaps but is like a big muumuu with sleeves and thumb holes to keep them in place. It is non breathable Pertex if I recall. As stated already nothing will truly keep one dry under exertion. I mean I sweat in a light shirt therefore…

6:55 a.m. on October 30, 2018 (EDT)
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I use a umbrella in addition to gore tex rainwear.  The umbrella allows me to substantially unzip the parka and remove the hood, offering dramatically better venting than can be had relying solely on conventional vent zips.  And if only a little breeze exists, the umbrella is all I need, and that has been the driest option I've experienced.

Ed

1:13 p.m. on October 30, 2018 (EDT)
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I've toyed with the idea of umbrellas but almost every trip I find myself on less maintained trails with brush and branches trying to pick my pocket or grab my hat or have a significant side breeze. Keeping an open mind and looking for opportunities as I can imagine it feels great compared to a zipped up rain jacket...maybe I just need to hike in nicer weather, but then everyone else shows up too!

5:15 p.m. on October 30, 2018 (EDT)
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FlipNC said:

"I've toyed with the idea of umbrellas but almost every trip I find myself on less maintained trails with brush and branches trying to pick my pocket ..."

Good point. Brush is only an occasional problem for me, as most of my trips are in the High Sierra, or open desert.

Ed

5:41 p.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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FlipNC said:

In the cold and wet UK, Paramo is an option that gets mentioned a lot. I haven't tried it and dont know about US availability. It's heavier so not for light trips but seems to be popular for extended days of rain and cold like the Scottish highlands.

 

I have UK friends who swear by Paramo.  I was in London last year and looked at their items in a shop.  I nearly bought a set for myself, but I really don't need it.  Paramo, which is owned by Nikwax, is not waterproof like goretex or event.  Instead it is treated heavily with Nikwax so it does not absorb moisture.  Eventually the Paramo garments will soak through (so does everything else) with the idea is that body heat will eventually dry it out.  It's quite a system of layers all designed to integrate with each other.  Since Paramo isn't waterproof there is minimal sweat buildup.  The sales presentation was quite convincing.  UK weather is ideally suited for these garments.

6:53 p.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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Well that was interesting! Didn't know that about Paramo (admittedly didn't know anything about them really), so thanks Alan! I just went down the rabbit hole looking through their website (which has loads on info on how/why they believe in this system, worth a read).

11:22 p.m. on November 5, 2018 (EST)
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There is another UK brand called Buffalo Systems.  Again, my UK friends love the stuff, though I have not seen any of their clothing.  I think Buffalo Systems is trying to get North American distribution, I seem to recall seeing a discount for NOLS grads online.

http://www.buffalosystems.co.uk/about/our-story/

May 20, 2019
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