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Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring?
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Joshua Marvel
(dromond) - F
Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/02/2008 15:11:38 MST Print View

I've done a ton of research through the forum archives and have found a lot of useful info. I'm more of a back country skier than a backpacker but clothing-wise there seem to be a lot of similarities. I (think) that I am looking for a wind shirt or jacket to keep the icy chill of winter away while I am sweating my rear off on the skin track. My layering setup, some present, some *future:

capilene base layer
*breathable windshirt
*patagonia micro puff vest: for easy warmth through fast layering; easy to vent
EMS primaloft jacket: emergency or cold-as-balls weather. (It is quite warm)
heavier gore-tex or rain jacket: if weather demands it

bottom: (I am pretty happy with this stuff.)
poly-pro base layer
REI schoeller dryskin pants
smartwool ultra light ski sock

My issue is this. When I am skinning or climbing with ski gear I work up a helluva heat with lots of moisture. I go through 2-4 full nalgenes of water pretty easily during a daytrip. I can be comfortable hiking along in 25 degree weather with just a base layer but as soon as the wind picks up or I go over a windy ridge and have to transition to ski mode or perform some other task I am FREEZING! I have experimented a bit. My TNF fleexe back softshell jacket is good for skinning in extremely cold (~10F) weather but bulky and not very versatile. I actually rather like using my mesh-sided old nylon cycling vest since it breathes and vents so well, but bare arms against the wind or light snow can get cold, and I end up putting a warmer jacket on every time I switch to ski mode. This can get time-consuming and cold on shorter laps. I got an ultralight Salomon wind shirt/jacket for next to nothing, only to find that it was as breathable as a trash bag. Within about 5 minutes of skinning in 15F cold I would be soaked; and then subsequently freeze.

I want:
-extreme breathability (!)
-a full zip
-a bright color and/or reflectivity, and a drop back would be nice for cycling versatility
-to not spend too much money (just have to find a sale...)

don't care about so much:
-full water repellency (I don't often go backcountry skiing in the rain, and if I know that it might rain I bring a full rain jacket. Gore-Tex for a blizzard.) If it can shed spindrifting snow that is fine.
-ultra light weight. Just something reasonably light and packable would be fine.
-I could go either way on a hood

I'm 5' 11" and 164 lbs. So far I have considered:

Montane Litespeed: Seems unavailable here in the states

Patagonia Houdini: expensive, and possibly discontinued

A friend suggested the Wild Things Epic wind shirts, which ironically are made where I grew up. I am concerned that there are more of a weather shell which won't breathe well enough.

Any and all suggestions would be appreciated.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/02/2008 16:09:30 MST Print View

> Patagonia Houdini: expensive, and possibly discontinued

Hmmm, I haven't heard anything about it being discontinued. I believe it is usually just out of stock until spring... not sold during winter.

The houdini is expensive but it should last for years and you'll get heaps of use out of it. I like mine a lot. If you can wait you should be able to pick one up at 20% off some time.

Edited by ashleyb on 11/02/2008 16:10:28 MST.

Nick Chen
(fleetparadox) - F

Locale: Socal
Windshirt Sometimes Fragile on 11/02/2008 16:15:31 MST Print View

Another issue you might have to contend with is the fragility of certain windshirts. Being a skier myself, I've found that sometimes falls can damage clothing far tougher than the UL stuff that folks here use. I'd pick a windshirt on the sturdy side if I knew it was going to come in contact with the snow often.

Joshua Marvel
(dromond) - F
Re: Windshirt Sometimes Fragile on 11/02/2008 16:18:18 MST Print View

That is a good point. Falls and tree/shrub/rock snags definitely do happen. As I mentioned I am not concerned with this garment being ultra-light. If you all could think of anything that blocks wind well, vents and breathes well, and has a bit of durability then shoot! I would rather carry a few extra ounces than sweat or freeze to death. At the same time I don't want something so bulky that I can't fit layers over it if need be.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Windshirts on 11/02/2008 17:38:42 MST Print View

There is always the Marmot Ion which can take a lot of punishment but some do not think it breathes that well or you can make your own out of Momentum from

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Windshirt... on 11/02/2008 19:52:08 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/27/2015 14:29:37 MDT.

Philip Mitchell
(pmops5) - F

Locale: Florida
Windshirt on 11/02/2008 21:52:51 MST Print View

If you think you can go without a hood Campsaver has this on sale now:


Locale: South West US
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 01:27:47 MST Print View

Two options that are very breathable and more durable than ultralight windshirts are the Cloudveil Prospector and REI Pyrn.

The Prospector has gotten some good reviews from BPL members and staff, but personally I have found its not as good at blocking the wind as I would like. Might be good for extremely high aerobic activities though.

The no longer produced REI Pyrn is made out of Pertex Equilibrium and IMHO is the best balance of windproofing and breathablity. I use it for cycling over a base layer(Cap 2) and find it a little cool at first but once I warm up it keeps me just right. Currently, I think the Montane Dynamo jacket is the only garment using this material.

P.S. Here's a review of the Montane Dynamo by Outdoors Magic.

Edited by oiboyroi on 11/03/2008 02:34:43 MST.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 01:39:33 MST Print View

Patagonia has confirmed to me that the Houdini will be discontinued.

Johann Burkard
(johannb) - F

Locale: Europe
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 07:34:53 MST Print View

Has someone ever done a test on the strength of Pertex Quantum vs. Pertex Microlight? The Microlight jackets are pretty solid but Quantum has always felt a little experimental to me.

Joshua, if you're looking for something made of Microlight, Vaude makes the Laser Jacket (I own it). Like most German stuff it's got a ton of options (pockets, pit zips) but it still weighs 150 g or so.

Edited by johannb on 11/03/2008 07:38:43 MST.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 07:39:53 MST Print View


I have a Montane LightSpeed and love it, very breathable and relatively tough for a windshirt, full zip, but not very water resistant.

My large weighs 6.5 oz and my wife's weighs 5.6 oz.

Montane products are also available at
Their stock rotates quite often so you may have to ask them to order one.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 10:59:08 MST Print View

Johann, Ryan J. was the first I ever saw come out and say Microlight was more breathable than Quantum. Before that the general consensus was the opposite.

The lightspeed did gain weight over the years with more features added. Mine is an older one that I think was more around 5 oz for a size large.

Neil Bender
(nebender) - F
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 13:22:56 MST Print View

Anything in EPIC won't be breathable enough for that level of activity. I like some of the thin, light polyester wind shirts for cycling. Pearl Izumi makes some nice ones (their Optik cuts the wind well, but also breaths well and is very light, under 4 oz). Louis Garnot also has some inexpensive wind shirts (one model was the Stratos, maybe 6.5 oz). The cycling wind shirts typically are hoodless and have an athletic cut. Performance and Nashbar usually blow them out at the end of the season, but occasionally they can be found on sale in season (as in right now).

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/03/2008 15:54:12 MST Print View

I have been using the Montane Aero (Quantum) for several years. I find it is both very breathable and very durable, but lacks a full zip. I also have two sleeping bags in Quantum, and breathability hs not been a problem with them either. I haven't tried the Microlite fabric for comparison though.

Joshua Marvel
(dromond) - F
Thanks everybody on 11/06/2008 07:39:16 MST Print View

Very pertinent suggestions and advice!

Despite being out on winter conditions most of the time I actually have problems staying dry on the inside more than the outside. A compromise of wind proofness sounds just right. My current nylon wind vest has huge areas of open mesh and is O.K. so 100% windproofness is not necessary. Just something that snow won't immediately stick to and melt on, and that will cut the wind enough so that I don't icycle-ise with every gust on a ridge top after sweating it out for the last hour.

I've seen some breathability complaints on the Marmot Ion, which turns me off to it.

Does the Cloudveil Prospector have insulation or a fleece backing? I can't quite tell. My TNF Apex Bionic jacket has a fleece backing and is too warm and sweaty for skinning in anything over 10F.

The Montane Dynamo and REI Pryn sound spot on. Too bad one is discontinued and the other is only available in dark grey in GB! Can anyone think of any other pertex equilibrium jackets? I'll have to track something down :)

Joshua Marvel
(dromond) - F
P.S. on 11/06/2008 10:21:57 MST Print View

Has anyone used the Patagonia Nine Trails jacket? I found one in a local shop. While it has no pockets, it does have a full zip. This thread: suggests that the front fabric is identical to the Houdini while under the arms and on the back is a very breathable looking stretchy woven fabric. Considering that in the backcountry I am wearing a good sized pack almost all of the time, this could work out. Durability is still something of a concern. Hmmm.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
Arcteryx on 11/06/2008 10:59:31 MST Print View

Arcteryx makes a windshirt called the Squamish which is reviewed on this site. Haven't used it though myself.


Locale: South West US
Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/07/2008 01:10:43 MST Print View

Does the Cloudveil Prospector have insulation or a fleece backing?

Nope! The fabric is thin and has a smooth outer. The inside has a very slight texture which helps keep it off your skin and trap some warm air. Neat stuff.

I forgot about another jacket that uses equilibrium which is the Rab Vapour-Rise. It doesn't exactly meet your criteria because has light insulation, however you may not need a base layer under it. Many reviews are available online for this jacket.

Edited by oiboyroi on 11/07/2008 01:11:13 MST.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Which windshirt for 3 season alpine touring? on 11/07/2008 08:17:11 MST Print View

Whatever you get, just make sure you can vent it. I haven't found a piece or fabric yet that will do exactly what you want. High aerobic activities in the cold are funny. I've been running though snow with no shirt on several times but as soon as you stop, BAM, instacold. A full zip, mesh, whatever will help more than any specific fabric.

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
The dynamo on 11/07/2008 13:35:41 MST Print View

To be pedantic the dynamo is actually made out of stretch equilibrium. Not madly stretchy - just enough give to let them use a tight cut and retain movement. Venting pockets & a double ended zip too.

Sorry if I'm not helping! It is of course really not light for a windshell at ~350g.

It might well be the only jacket using stretch equilibrium - even the rab VR with stretch panels uses power stretch instead. No idea why.

TNF do some similar weight jackets in apex aerobic (eg the elixir) which sound as if they might be suitable if you can find them. Seemingly not in their winter catalogue.

Edited by MartinCarpenter on 11/07/2008 13:45:06 MST.