Cloudveil Prospector Jackets

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by the Product Review Staff | 2003-07-02 03:00:00-06

Introduction

We like softshell garments. You know that. They are superbly breathable and offer a wider range of comfort than traditional hardshell clothing. Stretchwoven softshells, in particular, with their trim cut and freedom of movement, are some of the more comfortable pieces of clothing to wear while hiking, climbing, or skiing. Their ability to shed enough moisture to keep you dry in most conditions makes them very appealing for the backcountry traveler.

Our biggest complaint with stretchwovens, however, is the fabric weight. Few fabrics from Schoeller Textiles, the self-proclaimed knight of softshell fabrics, are less than 5 oz/sq. yd. Cloudveil addresses this concern with its new Inertia fabric used in its Prospector line of softshell garments. Herein we review the Prospector Pullover and Hooded Jacket.

Inertia Fabric

Cloudveil has developed some of the lightest and most versatile softshell garments available with their new Inertia fabric. The Prospector Hooded Jacket is a fully featured softshell for less than 15 oz, and the Prospector Pullover is a sub-9-oz wind shirt that earns title as the market's featherweight stretchwoven. Compare this to other softshells that are typically over a pound and lack a hood and the other niceties of the Prospector and you readily see why these garments are worth a closer look.

Inertia does not depend on stretch fibers such as Lycra for its stretch - but is designed with "mechanical stretch" formed during the weaving process. In doing so Cloudveil reduces fabric weight while retaining much of the wind resistance, water resistance, and durability of a heavier nylon/Lycra stretchwoven fabrics. The thin, lightweight Inertia absorbs less water and dries faster than a nylon/Lycra fabric like Dynamic.

Our favorite feature about Inertia is its textured interior and smooth surface, which provides the necessary structure required to most effectively drive moisture through the garment via capillary action (wicking).

Hooded Jacket

At 14.5 oz, the Prospector offers a high feature-to-weight ratio that competes with any softshell on the market. This jacket is loaded with storage with three external pockets and two internal pockets. The jacket’s hand warmer pockets are generous, cut high enough to access above a hip belt, and are mesh lined for ventilation. The single napoleon pocket is also large and has a mesh backing. The jacket has two internal cargo pockets that are perfect for larger items. The jacket’s hood is cut almost large enough to fit over a climbing helmet and has two hem draw cords to seal out the elements and tailor the fit.

Open all of these mesh lined pockets and you get serious ventilation as we discovered when testing jacket ventilation features in one of our high speed wind testing laboratories (a windy bobsled run for suicidal skiers in Montana's Bridger Mountains). Between the vented pockets and the breathable Inertia fabric, the Prospector Hooded Jacket does an excellent job venting excess moisture and keeping you dry during hard aerobic activity. The brushed wicking lining of the fabric also helps with moisture management and the comfort range of the jacket.

Pullover

At 8.6 oz, the Prospector Pullover is the king of lightweight stretchwovens. It features the cut of a wind shirt and is suitable for layering over a base layer. A single mesh-backed Napoleon pocket, tricot-lined collar, and hem drawcord round out its simple feature set. Cloudveil recognizes the need for ventilation, even on a superbly breathable garment, by adding a deep neck zipper.

A Little Light for Foul Conditions, No?

We first tested these garments on an October ascent of 14,414-foot Mt. Rainier, the Cascades' iciest peak and Washington's highly irritable queen of foul weather. She didn't disappoint us on our first attempt, where we began the approach to Camp Muir in light rain that eventually degraded into driving sleet and snow in a double temperature inversion that draped trails, rocks, packs, and signs in rime ice as we climbed further up the mountain.

We wore our Prospector shells over 100-weight gridded fleece base layers. Moving rapidly, we generated enough body heat so that the garments handled all of this with aplomb and we never resorted to using a hardshell. Needless to say, the foul nature of Mt. Rainier chewed us up and spit us out, but certainly not as a result of the limitations in these remarkable shell layers.

On the summit day of our second attempt a few days later, we climbed most of the way to the summit, again wearing only the Prospectors over 100-weight gridded fleece. (we added additional layers above 14,000 feet). This combination kept us warm enough in high winds and sub-freezing temperatures with no clamminess or sweat-induced chilling. We added additional insulation layers near the summit when winds reached 60 mph and temperatures had dropped into the teens. We found the two internal cargo pockets of the Hooded Jacket ideal for storing half-liter Platypus bags of water to keep it handy and warm, essential for maintaining hydration on any mountain endeavor.

Warm Weather Use

Since their initiation on Rainer, the Prospectors have been abused in a variety of other conditions in all four seasons, including the Utah desert. In the desert, we found that the lighter Inertia fabric of the Cloudveil garments is great for warm as well as cold conditions. One of our reviewers discovered terrific comfort and utility of using the Pullover as a hiking shirt, finding that the napped inner surface provided great wickability and the shirt's wind resistance allowed for a very high range of comfort. We think that for mild and warm conditions, most stretchwoven softshells are overkill. The Prospector Pullover, however, due to its minimal weight, makes a great companion for three season backpacking.

Price

It seems that those little Schoeller hang tags and ancient bird logos must cost a lot of money (special thread required to attach them to the clothing, maybe?). At any rate, we're pleased that Cloudveil is offering high quality stretchwoven fabrics at reasonable prices. The Hoodie comes in at $150 and the Pullover is $115. These aren't bargain basement prices, by any means, but they are at least within shootin' range for the rest of us.


Citation

"Cloudveil Prospector Jackets," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00108.html, 2003-07-02 03:00:00-06.

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Soft Shells
The purpose of this forum is to discuss the design and performance of soft shell clothing, especially as related to the wind resistance, water resistance, and breathability of stretchwoven garments. One debated concept is the efficacy of denier gradient-induced moisture movement, by which a fabric promotes the wicking of moisture from its inner face (which contains large diameter fibers and/or larger interstices between the pores) to its outer face (which contains small diameter fibers and/or smaller interstices between the pores). Examples of denier gradient fabrics, and fabrics / fabric constructions, that are otherwise designed to promote directional wicking, include Powerstretch, Parameta S(Paramo), shelled Driclime, Pertex-and-Pile (or microfibre pile), Dryskin Extreme, Climawool, Pertex Equilibrium, and others. As a basis for this discussion, the reader is referred to the article:

as well as many of our reviews and other articles about soft shell apparel.
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John Reed
(starwoman) - F
Paramo on 12/13/2003 20:43:50 MST Print View

The abstract to the Soft Shells article gave me the impression there would be some discussion of the so-called denier gradient fabrics. After reading the article twice I still don't see it, although I am not specially conversant with the technical details important in this area, so I am not sure if I missed it.

I am curious whether anyone has experience with the Paramo shells. They claim their fabrics are not only waterproof and breathable, but capable of (and willing to) move liquid water from the inside of the fabric to the outside. This is a powerful claim, and if true would seem to consign Gore-tex and whatnot to the same scrap heap of obsolesence that the slide-rule enjoys.

Ok, so there's not much interest in this so far. I bought one of their caps; it kept my hair dry in the shower for about 10 minutes. It seems to work well if it's not raining, or for up to 45 minutes if it is raining; don't know if it's breathable yet..

Edited by starwoman on 12/22/2003 21:09:12 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Paramo on 01/12/2004 21:35:38 MST Print View

John - hopefully, the new article on Pertex Equilibrium will give you some insight into how a denier gradient fabric works. We'll put Paramo's Parameta S denier gradient fabric on our list of fabrics for creating technology overviews about.


(Anonymous)
Pertex Equilibrium: Shell, base layer or both? on 01/15/2004 22:48:28 MST Print View

Thank you for the education on Pertex Equilibrium. I am confused, however. Each of the garments discussed and pictured is described as a "shell," yet you opine that they can make for "excellent base layer choices in the fringe . . . and winter seasons."

"Base layer", as in nothing else between the Pertex Equilibrium shell and the skin (yes, I know you state that it is quite comfortable next to skin--particularily the lined ones). If used as a "base layer" then what is the next layer? A mid layer? An outer layer? And if there's a next layer, is the Pertex Equilibrium "base layer" really still a "shell"?

Perhaps I'm misunderstanding how these "shells" are to be used and am assuming too rigidly that they are always used as the final outer layer.

Cheers.


(Anonymous)
Waterproof/Breathable fabric evaluations? on 01/16/2004 00:04:03 MST Print View

I, like I'm sure many of your readers, would greatly appreciate your evaluation and comparison of the various waterproof/breathable fabrics (e.g. Gore-Tex XCR, Precip Plus, etc.). Which are the best performers? Is an Red Ledge waterproof/breathable hard shell for $100 really comparable to a $180 Marmot Precip Plus or a $350 Gore-Tex XCR hard shell in terms of performance?

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Pertex Equilibrium: Shell, base layer or both? on 01/16/2004 09:21:21 MST Print View

I would say that the GoLite Energy is least suited as a base layer. It is made with Pertex Equilibrium that is unlined, so there is no tricot or knit lining that serves to provide both warmth and improved moisture transfer (by absorbing sweat, and distributing it over a larger surface area so it can more efficiently be transported through the Equilibrium). Thus, I think the GoLite Energy would be a fine shell over any knit base layer.

The Rab V-Trail top has a microfibre pile lining - about the weight of a very light tricot - and is a superb next the skin layer. In essence, the lining provides the same function as a conventional base layer (soft feel, wicking, insulation).

The Buffalo Equimax Jacket and the Parrot Concure Pull-On both have Coolmax linings, which are very light, reasonably comfortable next to skin, and provide excellent wicking ability. The Parrot Concure, in particular, it a great design that is ideally suited for a base layer, although it is a little long for my taste (it is long because it's primarily marketed to the bicycling community).

How to integrate a garment like this (i.e., the Rab V-Trail Top) with other layers is more fully discussed in the recent artice on winter clothing:

(M) Winter Backpacking Comfort: Lightweight Gear and Techniques for Shelter, Clothing, and Sleep Systems

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00278.html

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Waterproof/Breathable fabric evaluations? on 01/16/2004 09:24:00 MST Print View

Both Gore-Tex XCR and eVENT will be featured in upcoming fabric technology articles.

Because of the wide variety of so-called 'proprietary' technologies like Marmot "Precip", Mountain Hardwear "Conduit" and the like, it's impossible to feature each of these technologies in depth. So, they are going to be treated as a family of technologies that will be discussed in the context of PTFE membrane/laminate technologies in a comprehensive technology overview of waterproof breathable fabrics in general, which will be published this month.


(Anonymous)
laminated fabrics on 01/16/2004 18:56:14 MST Print View

Pertex Equilibrium sounds like a promising new fabric. My question is in reguard to a garment's abilty to evaporate heavy rain.

Will a multiple layer laminated fabric worn as a baselayer be superior at evaportation to a garment with two separate layers or a shell worn over a baselayer? The difference being that body heat is driving vapor through the garment more directly in a laminated product where with multiple sepaqrate layers the air between layers insulates the outer shell surface. Any insights are appreciated.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Re: laminated fabrics on 01/18/2004 07:54:12 MST Print View

While descending a hill in a bitter north-easter yesterday, my two-layer, soft shell Mountain Equipment pullover evaporated sweat away uncomfortably quickly. I was very cold for a few minutes. A combination of Parameta shirt under a Berghaus Inferno windshirt has, in the past, given me a similar experience.

On the ascent of the next hill, with my back still to the wind, I found that the two-layer pullover was easier to ventilate than two single layer garments. Nevertheless, I prefer the two garment combo as the older fabrics are nicer to the touch and quieter than the new fabrics used in the ME soft shell.

Evaporating heavy rain away in a cold wind just doesn't bear thinking about. As cold winds can occur at any time of year where I live, it seems to me that a genuinely waterproof coat should always be carried when backpacking in the mountains. They are getting very light so there is no good reason for not carrying one.

Best wishes, John D.

Edited by JNDavis on 01/19/2004 02:24:35 MST.

Eric & Anca Simon
(Simon) - F
Paramo on 07/14/2004 02:37:25 MDT Print View

I've used the normal range of gortex, triple point etc over 17 years of working and playing in the UK mountias. As a soft shell I have found paramo (I use a lite weight smock) to be by far teh best. Like all soft shells it is slightly to warm for a humid summer day. Thats when I use Pertex over a Merino top.

Not only does the Paramo outperform all other fabrics in terms of breathability and comfort while keeping you dry it is VERY durable. I use mine every day for three years, no "normal" jacket can take that abuse. All I do is stick it in the washing machine and use the waterbased reproofer. Magic!

Enjoy
Simon

Nicholas Couis
(nichoco) - MLife
Epic or other encapsulated fabrics on 07/28/2004 02:27:25 MDT Print View

I've used epic and really like it. I'm finding it harder to find any jackets now and can't find the heavier stretch nylon Epic. Why aren't more companies making garments of this type of material.Does anybody know,Thanks.

Karen Allanson
(karen) - F
Pertex Equilibrium in sleeping bags? on 08/22/2004 18:06:22 MDT Print View

Hello -- your article was very helpful, as always, but I didn't see any mention of Equilibrium used as a sleeping bag outer fabric. Marmot and a couple of other manufacturers are now offering this, and I'm wondering how this fabric would perform (especially in winter conditions) as opposed to Dryloft or Epic?

Many thanks!

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Pertex Equilibrium in sleeping bags? on 09/29/2004 09:00:27 MDT Print View

Karen-

Are you sure you've seen Equilibrium used in Sleeping Bags? I thought Marmot's "EQ" bags use Pertex Endurance Fabric.

-Mike

Edited by MikeMartin on 10/09/2004 10:52:11 MDT.

Colin Thomas
(fullofadventure) - F
Pertex Stretch Equilibrium on 12/11/2004 10:13:39 MST Print View

I for one am interested in the new stretch version of equilibrium. I think it will have a greater comfort range than all others fabrics and actually be able to used in all 4 seasons. My Arc’teryx power shield lightweight jacket is only good in cold weather so I sold it. The Berghaus jacket out now weighs in an 11oz and the new Montane jacket due out in the spring is an ounce lighter and look to be able to do what most of us want a soft-shell to do.

Those Paramo and Buffalo products look intriguing too though. I wish I had the money to try out all this gear to find out what works best for me.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Cloudveil Inertia == Schoeller Dynamic?!?!? on 01/31/2005 09:19:30 MST Print View

This past weekend I was in the local outfitters in Sylvania, OH (outside Toledo) and noticed they had a pair of Cloudveil Prospector pants on the clearance rack (wrong size!). There was a Schoeller Dynamic hangtag on the pants. This surprised me. I thought Inertia was some sort of proprietary fabric. Maybe the pants were a couple of years old?

Also, assuming the pants truly were Schoeller Dynamic, I was surprised at how thin the fabric is. For some reason I thought Dynamic was a bit thicker. More like Powerstretch.

So, how does Dynamic compare to Inertia?

Unfortunately, no one in my area carries many softshell garments (save for the Windstopper and some Powershield), so I rarely get to touch-n-feel the fabric first hand.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Dynamic compare to Inertia on 01/31/2005 09:52:58 MST Print View

Dynamic and Inertia are very simular. I believe Inertia is a bit lighter / sq yard, and the fibers seems to be smaller which results in a slightly softer and lighter shell. They seem approx the same when it comes to wind and water resistance. I have found Inertia to be more comfortable against the skin, and Inertia seems to more comfortable over a slightly larger temp range. Dynamic is definitely more durable. After a year my Intertia pants where showing wear and the Dynamic pants looked almost new.