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M Windshirts: 2012 State of the Market Report - Part 2: The Present and Future of Windshirts

by Dave Chenault, Photos by Meredith Chenault and the author

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Article Summary:

In the first part of this report I wrote: "A windshirt may increase absolute packed weight, but is also likely to increase backcountry safety, efficiency, and pleasure....In today's market, there likely is a windshirt for everyone. Happiness is merely a byproduct to accurately assessing end use and matching the same to features, fabric, and fit."

I detailed the evolution of windshirts over the last fifteen years, explaining why they have become what they are today. I discussed four leading examples of classic, hardshell windshirts, all of whom had very similar performance characteristics, and noted that it was not a coincidence that this would be so. The balance achieved by all four between weatherproofing and breathability, between durability and weight, represents the pinnacle of current technology.

I also discussed the re-emerging market of soft shell windshirts; garments made of more breathable but less weatherproof woven fabrics, which for certain circumstances and users provide a more versatile answer to the windshirt question; which shell can be comfortably worn most often in the most conditions? The soft shell windshirt market, for a variety of reasons, has yet to define itself as well as has the niche of hardshell windshirts.

Windshirts are here to stay. Soft shell windshirts do not at this time pervade the market broadly enough for systemic speculation to be productive, but several large questions surrounding hardshell windshirts should be answered in the next half-decade. Advances in fabrics will continue to push the balance between weight and durability, and weatherproofing and breathability. How light can a fabric be while still standing up to years of regular use? Can breathability be improved without sacrificing wind or water resistance? We wait to find out.


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