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Soft Shell Pants

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by the Product Review Staff | 2003-05-01 03:00:00-06

Ibex Alp and Ibex Guide Lite Pants; Arc’Teryx Gamma LT Pant; Sierra Designs Ultra Pants; Cloudveil Rodeo Pants

Table of Contents

  • Info & Stats on Pants
  • Overview of Softshell Pants
  • Dynamic Soft Shell Fabrics
  • Other Soft Shell Fabrics
  • General Performance
  • Climbing Performance
  • Comparison
  • Summary
  • Introducing the Mountain's Best Award
  • Awards
  • Manufacturer Contact Information

Info and Stats on Pants

Sierra Designs Ultra Pants
Fabric Terrastretch
Weight 11.3 oz measured Men's M
Features Trim fit, two zippered upper-thigh cargo pockets, two rear Velcro-closure pockets, zippered ankles, elastic waist with flat web belt
MSRP $110
Available in both men's and women's styles
Cloudveil Rodeo Pants
Fabric Inertia™ (with napped synthetic inner surface)
Weight 10.3 oz; measured Men's 34-in (waist)
Features Trim fit, zippered front pockets, Velcro stash pocket on right thigh, no rear pockets, Velcro and zippered front closure, non-elastic, mesh-lined waist with minimal built-in webbing belt
MSRP $145
Available in both men's and women's styles
Ibex Alp Pants
Fabric Schoeller Dynamic (with napped synthetic inner surface)
Weight 13.7 oz; measured Men's M
Features Trim fit, zippered front pockets, single zippered rear pocket, adjustable Velcro ankles, snap and zippered front closure, non-elastic waist, belt loops
MSRP $155
Available in both men's and women's styles
Ibex Guide Lite Pants
Fabric Climawool™ Lite (stretch-woven Nylon and Lycra with napped merino wool inner surface)
Weight 14.0 oz; measured Men's M
Features Trim fit, zippered front pockets, single zippered rear pocket, elastic waist with minimal built-in webbing belt (comfortable under a hipbelt or harness), hipbelt- and harness-friendly zipper that opens from the bottom up, zipper/gusseted ankle cuffs
MSRP $185
Available in both men's and women's styles
Arc'Teryx Gamma LT Pants
Fabric Schoeller Dynamic
Weight 17 oz; size Men's M (13.7 oz as measured)
Features Zippered front pockets, single zippered rear pocket, zippered thigh pocket, elastic waist hem with webbing belt
MSRP $170
Available in both men's and women's styles

Overview of Soft shell Pants

We’ve been wearing and testing pants and jackets made with stretch-woven soft shell fabrics for a few years now. In fact, a couple of our reviewers are so sold on the fabric that they now use stretch-woven pants for all of their climbing and most of their backpacking trips and day hikes, even while hiking in temperatures that exceed 80 deg F or drop well below freezing. (Note: stretch-wovens are only one type of soft shell fabric but for simplicity we will use stretch-woven and soft shell interchangeably in this review.)

Most stretch-woven pants are in the range of 12 to 15 oz (in Men’s size M) and so are about two ounces heavier than Supplex nylon trail pants with the same fit and features. However, those extra ounces buy you a fabric offering a much broader range of comfortable temperatures, better water resistance, and a less binding fit (due to trimmer cuts and the stretch fabric); thus they serve better for activities like climbing and cross-country travel. Further, when damp or wet, stretch-woven fabrics are far more comfortable next to skin than Supplex.

Dynamic Soft Shell Fabrics

Stretch-woven fabrics are nothing new, but only in the past few years have outdoor apparel manufacturers recognized their salability in the U.S. market. Schoeller Textiles of Switzerland has led the charge with its families of Dryskin and Dynamic fabrics. Although Dynamic is often assumed to be "Schoeller Dryskin on a Diet" (Dryskin Extreme came to the fore with the introduction of Cloudveil’s Serendipity jacket), there are important differences between Dynamic and the Dryskin Extreme fabric used in heavier clothing. First, Dynamic is simply a woven mixture of Nylon and Lycra, while Dryskin adds Cordura for added durability. Dryskin Extreme further adds a Coolmax interior nap to promote wicking.

The Dryskin and Dynamic families do have a few things in common. First, they stretch more and breathe better than most non-woven shell fabrics like GoreTex and polyurethane coated nylons. In addition, stretch-wovens possess a unique type of water resistance that is inherent in the fabric structure and is not dependent on a chemical treatment that can wear or wash out. The surface of the fabric is woven in such a way that the hydrophobic face structure has a significant topography (peaks and valleys) rather than being completely flat like a typical rain shell. The net effect is that there is less surface area in contact with a water droplet that comes to rest on the fabric, which results in a lower surface tension force on the droplet, making it less likely that the droplet will collapse and wick into (i.e. wet out) the fabric. However, the fabric is still not immune to failure caused by dirt and grime.

Like other shell fabrics, stretch-wovens are usually treated with a DWR (durable water resistant) finish . And, as with other shell fabrics treated this way, that water resistance wears out over time and must be restored or the garment will "wet out." However, unlike conventional non-woven shell fabrics, the Dynamic/Dryskin fabrics breathe well enough to drive moisture outward (this in response to the temperature gradients induced by exercise), so these "soft shell" fabrics may provide for a drier microclimate near the skin, even in wet conditions. The downside, however, is that the Schoeller stretch-wovens absorb significantly more water when saturated than non-woven shell fabrics due to increased porosity (i.e., "water holding space") within the fabric structure.

Other Soft Shell Fabrics

Ibex’s Climawool™ Lite is similar to Dynamic fabric. It has a woven shell of Nylon and Lycra but has a napped merino wool interior as opposed to the napped synthetic interior of the Alp Pants. Climawool™ Lite is an upgrade to Schoeller’s Skifans fabric (Ibex had Schoeller modify Skifans to be more resistant to pilling).

With its Inertia™ fabric, Cloudveil does away with Lycra and depends on the weave of the fabric for what it calls a "mechanical stretch." In doing so Cloudveil reduces fabric weight while retaining the wind resistance, water resistance, and durability of a heavier nylon/Lycra fabric. Inertia™ absorbs less water and dries faster than a nylon/Lycra fabric like Dynamic. This is because a lighter fabric absorbs less water but also because Lycra absorbs a considerable amount of water and is slow to dry. The mechanical stretch of Inertia™ is not as dramatic as a nylon/Lycra fabric but does the job with a well-fitted pant. Finally, like the Alp and Guidelite pants, the Rodeo pants have a napped inner surface which Cloudveil claims will "improve breathability, comfort and performance.

Sierra Designs takes a different approach to handling water resistance with its Terrastretch fabric (a blend of Cordura and Lycra). Sierra treats the fabric with a hydrophilic finish to promote wicking rather than a hydrophobic DWR to promote water resistance. This allows for the movement of moisture away from the skin to create a more comfortable next-to-skin climate.

General Performance

In our field tests, both the Arc’Teryx Gamma LT pants and the Ibex Alp pants were comfortable in temperatures ranging from the high 20’s (deg F) to the low 80’s when worn next to skin. This surprising performance has resulted in some changes to our clothing for the legs. Typically, when a summer hike warrants a wicking base layer in addition to Supplex pants, we now replace the combination with a single pair of Dynamic pants. Supplex simply isn’t as warm in colder temperatures and it isn’t as water resistant (thus the need for a base layer in cold and wet conditions).

In one memorable side-by-side test in light rain, a pair of Supplex pants completely wetted out while a pair of Dynamic pants continued to shed water with only a few patches beginning to soak through. In another example of stretch-woven performance, this time on a 90-mile and very rainy trip to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the Dynamic pants allowed one of our reviewers to be warm and comfortable through sputtering weather fronts that seemed to come hourly. His hiking partner who wore Supplex pants was forever changing in and out of his rain pants. The rain usually ended soon after he put the rain pants on. He then stewed in the rain pants until he couldn’t stand it any longer and took them off. This constant adjustment of the shell layer wasted time, resulted in near-continuous discomfort, and caused a lot of frustration. By the end of the trip both hikers were wishing they had light stretch-woven shirts as well.

This does not mean that you can wear Dynamic pants forever in the rain! If you get hard rain the pants will wet out, but if the precipitation is only light or intermittent you may get by without additional protection. Recall that one downside of Dynamic is that if it gets wet it will absorb more water and take longer to dry than a fabric like Supplex. Our reviewer carried a pair of 4 oz rain pants which he only used during a couple periods of heavy and prolonged rain.

The Sierra Designs’ Ultra pants are more comfortable at warmer temperatures than pants made with Dynamic. The fabric is thinner, lighter, and more breathable, and with a cottony-feel and wicking finish, and our reviewers found theme quite comfortable at temperatures typically encountered during the peak of summer. Expectedly, they also found that the pants’ performance in windier and wetter conditions was compromised, due primarily to the fact that the Terrastretch fabric isn’t as wind-resistant as Dynamic, and it has little inherent water resistance. However, the pants were much quicker than Dynamic to dry, and this proved to be a valuable feature for intermittently rainy conditions. Paired with a waterproof-breathable shell pant, t the Ultras proved a terrific pant for hiking in wet and cold conditions. The wicking action of the Terrastretch kept our testers comfortably dry under the normally clammy conditions imposed by a waterproof-breathable shell.

The lighter Inertia™ fabric of the Cloudveil Rodeo pants is also more comfortable in warmer temperatures than either the Dynamic, Climawool™ Lite or Skifans type fabrics. But unlike the Ultra pants it yields little to these fabrics in windy, wet conditions. Like the Alp and Guidelite pants the napped inner surface increases the performance and comfort range of the pants.

Climbing Performance

Climbers and other outdoor gymnasts will appreciate the stretch of these fabrics. Worn over a base layer, the fabrics provide excellent shell protection for backcountry skiing, winter ice climbing, and snowshoeing, cutting cold winter winds while shedding snowfall and spindrift easily. The stretch fabric allows a climber or skier to wear a trimmer-fitting pant with uninhibited mobility, a dream come true for both. But even hikers will benefit from the stretch, especially on steep stretches of trail, which they would negotiate far less well with the current breed of Supplex pants, or worse, Supplex under unyielding rain pants.

Note: While writing this review we’ve found out that Ibex has discontinued the Alp pant although you may be able to buy it from its outlet. The Alp pants have been replaced by the Alpstar pant and Ibex also offers a similar Guide Lite pant. Both the Guide Lite and Alpstar pants use Ibex’s Climawool™ Lite fabric.

We quickly obtained a pair of Ibex pants with Climawool™ Lite fabric and we’ll summarize and rate these Guide Lite pants at the end of this review.


Fit. The Ibex Alp and Cloudveil Rodeo offer a trimmer fit than the Gamma LT, and the Sierra Designs Ultra pants are the trimmest of the bunch. Theoretically, a trim fit should result in a slightly warmer pant (due to less ventilation), but we felt that with these fabrics, trimmer fit did not make a noticeable difference. We did like the trimmer fit better simply because the fabric was less likely to get in the way in bushwhacking or climbing. We felt that the fit of the Gamma LT was slightly too baggy and yet that the fit of the Ultra was slightly too trim (we had difficulty pulling a men's medium pant over a 32-inch waist). The Rodeo pants, while comparable in fit to the Alp and Guide Lite pants, lacked the low- profile ankle that a zip or Velcro closure provides.

Fit Edge: Ibex Alp — Cloudveil Rodeo close second

Features. The Alps and Gamma LTs have similar pocket configurations. Pockets on both pants include two front zippered pockets and one rear zippered pocket. In addition, the Gamma LTs offer a zippered cargo pocket that is trim and attractive but is bellowed and thus roomy enough for a map, pocket camera, and a snack. Unfortunately, the vertical pocket zipper resulted in more than a few lost items during the testing period when one hiker forgot to zip up. One can argue that this is the fault of the hiker, but there is no question that an angled or horizontal zipper would provide better functionality. Further, the Gamma LT's pocket zippers are sewn inside out, undoubtedly for visual appeal. Unfortunately, this configuration leaves the zipper difficult to access and far from smooth in its operation.

The Alps have a button and zippered pant closure (with belt loops), while the Gamma LTs sport an elastic waistband with built-in belt and no fly. The Gamma LT's waist and belt are a pain to use (especially when one is well-hydrated) because the trim buckle is easily lost in the waist loops after unbuckling (necessary even for male hikers to relieve themselves because of the relatively trim waistband); one needs the finesse of a surgeon to extract it and re-clip it. Overall, we prefer the conventional zippered fly opening of the Alps, because it just makes life simpler.

The Ultras feature two perfectly positioned front cargo pockets with zippers, located on the upper thigh. Two rear pockets with Velcro tab closures round out the storage ensemble. Our testers found the waist belt (thin nylon webbing with a Ladderloc buckle) somewhat ill-designed, with its front constantly creeping up above the pants' waistline.

The Rodeos have an excellent waist with an integrated, low-profile webbing belt and soft mesh lining -- especially comfortable under a hipbelt. They have front pockets with horizontal zippers. This unusual zipper configuration is great for keeping objects in your pockets but a bit awkward for casually shoving your hands in. Also the pockets are a bit on the smallish side. The pants have no rear pocket but do have a nice Velcro closure stash pocket good for a compass, GPS, cell phone or small camera.

The most practical feature difference between the pants is in the cuff design. The Gamma LTs and Rodeos have open cuffs while the Alp cuffs offer a Velcro tab that allows the opening to be adjusted (open for ventilation, closed for warmth and for use as a gaiter over boots). The Gamma LT cuffs are so wide that they tend to snag a bit on trailside vegetation and other debris, and they are not the most attractive around-town wear due to the sloppier look. While trimmer than the Gamma LTs, the Rodeos' cuffs are wider than either a Velcro or a zipper-closure ankle and you can't put them on over a pair of running shoes. The Ultras have zip cuffs which offer some ventilation possibilities, but the trim fit of the pants still prevented them from being pulled on and off over shoes.

Feature Edge: Ibex Alp

Fabric. Dynamic is a family of fabrics all of which have about the same properties but vary in their finish, feel, and Lycra content. While Arc'Teryx uses a conventional (and very popular) version of Dynamic, Ibex uses a variation of Dynamic in the Alp pants that has a brushed inner surface: this supposedly promotes bidirectional wicking (capillary action from a region of low fiber density or large pore diameter to a region of high fiber density or small pore diameter), and our testing revealed that the effect is noticeable. Under similar damp conditions, the Alps feel drier than the Gamma LTs. The more practical observation is that the Ibex pants feel warmer at cooler temperatures than the Gamma LTs. Conversely, the Gamma LTs feel cooler at warmer temperatures than the Alps, as expected. However, we do not feel that the brushed inner surface significantly reduces the high-temperature comfort range of the Alps. The Ultra uses Terrastretch, which emphasizes wicking over water resistance. This makes it more comfortable than Dynamic in hot conditions but severely compromises its performance as an outer shell in wet conditions. However, Ultra is the fastest drying of all the fabrics and remains most comfortable next to skin when wet. Cloudveil's Rodeo pants also have a brushed inner surface but their fabric is lighter overall than nylon/Lycra ones such as Dynamic. This means that the Rodeos perform similarly to Dyamic in having a brushed inner surface, yet it is more appropriate for warmer-weather wear.

Fabric Edge: Ibex Alp for most conditions (Gamma LT and Rodeos for warmer climates)

Cost. Like most products using Schoeller fabrics, the Dynamic pants are ridiculously expensive. The Ibex Alps retail for $155 while the Gamma LTs retail for $170, and the Ibex Guide Lites top the list at $185. When you can purchase a premium pair of Supplex pants for fifty bucks, you may have trouble justifying the expense, even though the increase in performance over Supplex is significant. We feel that the cost is justified in terms of comfort alone. The Ultras are cheaper but by no means "budget" at $110.

Cost Edge: Sierra Designs Ultra.


In general, we give the nod to Ibex for developing a solid product in the Alp and Guide Lite pants. Good fit, smart design, and a bidirectional wicking version of Dynamic and Climawool™ allow us to award these pants the edge on performance and style. Minor improvements to the Alp would include replacing the belt loops with an elastic waistband that would interfere less with hipbelt or climbing harness and result in a simpler look.

Introducing the Mountain's Best Award

This series of reviews introduces a new award from, Mountain's Best. In the past year we've focused a bit more on clothing and equipment useful to alpine mountaineers geared towards fast and light summits. Mountain's Best products are those items that clearly surpass others in performance, features and durability to give the lightweight alpinist every advantage. While these products may not always be as light as the very lightest trail gear that some of our readers are familiar with, they have an exceptional ratio of performance to weight. Even our trail-only users might seriously consider using some of these products. Finally Mountain's Best and Trail's Best products are not mutually exclusive. In fact, our inaugural Mountain's Best product is a co-winner of our Trail's Best award.


Mountain's Best

The Ibex Guide Lite pants improve upon the Alp pants. The have the same trim fit but have an elastic waist with a minimal built-in webbing belt that is comfortable under a pack hipbelt or climbing harness. They have a hipbelt/harness-friendly zipper that opens from the bottom up. Any man who has tried to find a zipper buried underneath a hipbelt or harness, especially with a gloved hand, will realize how much easier it is to find and operate a fly from the lower position. The Guide Lites have zippered, gusseted ankle cuffs which make for a trim closure. After using them for several years, we are familiar with Skifans fabrics like Climawool™ Lite. The stretch-woven shell of Nylon and Lycra and napped merino wool interior of the Guide Lite's Climawool™ Lite fabric should provide an excellent combination of weather resistance, breathability, bidirectional wicking, and comfort in a broad range of temperatures.

Trail's Best

Clouveil's Rodeo pants at 10 oz are almost a third lighter than pants with similar wind and water resistance. In addition they absorb less water and dry faster than the nylon/Lycra pants in this group. They are also just a tad cooler than the heavier fabric pants -- a good thing in warmer weather. For one reviewer they make Supplex pants obsolete and would be his first choice for desert travel and high-summer alpine wear. They do work well in cooler climates with a base layer as they have the wind and water resistance to do the job. As with the Alp and Guide Lite, the napped inner surface on Inertia™ fabric provides bidirectional wicking for moisture management, and comfort at a variety of temperatures. The only improvements we'd like to see on the Rodeos would be a trimmer ankle with a zip or Velcro closure and a bit more room in the front pockets. Oh, and since we've seen it in the Guide Lite pants, a reverse-direction zipper on the fly, at least on the men's model.

Other Pants

Arc'Teryx offers a well-performing product with the Gamma LTs, but at $170, we expected a little more design detail from the company whose marketing materials trumpet its on "meticulous precision." Our recommendations include: reducing the leg volume, adding a cuff closure, reversing the zippers back to their normal configuration, changing the orientation of the cargo pocket zipper, and using a fabric with a napped inner surface.

Sierra Designs offers a different approach to stretch woven pants, emphasizing wickability over water resistance in the Ultra pant, which makes the fabric more comfortable when skies are clear. The Ultras have the best cargo pockets of the bunch and offer a nice trim fit (but too trim in the waist and hips). Overall, the Ultras fill a unique market niche and provide great improvements over Supplex nylon for warm conditions.

Note: All of these pants are available in both men's and women's styles.

Final Grades

Sierra Designs Ultra B+
Cloudveil Rodeo A- Trail's Best
Ibex Guide Lite A Mountain's Best
Ibex Alp A-
Arc'Teryx Gamma LT B

Manufacturer Contact Information

Ibex Oudoor Clothing Inc.
PO Box 297
2800 Westerdale Cut-Off Road
Woodstock, VT 05091
Phone: 1.800.773.9647

Arc’Teryx Equipment Inc.
2770 Bentall Street
Vancouver, BC
Canada V5M 4H4
Phone: 1.800.985.6681

Sierra Designs
1255 Powell Street
Emeryville, CA 94608
Phone: 1.800.635.0461

PO Box 11810
Jackson WY 83002
Phone: 1.888.763.5969


"Soft Shell Pants," by the Product Review Staff. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2003-05-01 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.

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.


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

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.

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!


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


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


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.