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Shell Jackets for Winter Climbing
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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 12/02/2004 01:33:37 MST Print View

Other than the obvious (hard vs. soft), I'd like to invite some comments from folks to see what they think about the appropriateness of a features in a mountaineering shell jacket. I'll comment on my preferences as well. Challenge me to save some weight? My winter climbing shell jackets run 14-16 oz.

1. Pockets

I like two chest pockets. Accessible with zippers near the main zipper, opposite hand side access. i.e., the right hand accesses the left pocket. example: cloudveil serendipity, arc'teryx alpha lt.

2. Fabric (Hardshell)

I like a robust fabric. I find that in really stiff winter winds, a 3L fabric like XCR or eVENT is warmer than a 2L polyurethane or e.g., paclite. I really struggle with this one - 2L jackets in the same design typically save 4-6 ounces over their 3L big brothers.

3. Hem

I like a drop hem in the rear. Tucks into a harness nicely and doesn't ride up. A slightly lower-than-waist hem all around is nice when you're not wearing a very water resistant pant and the snow is really coming down.

4. Hood

It's gotta be BIG. I have to be able to have unrestricted mobility when I'm wearing a hood over my climbing helmet. Nothing annoys me more than jackets claimed to be "climbing" shells that don't have hoods big enough to put over a helmet - while the shoulders of the jacket are fixed in place by your backpack straps. I see some manufacturers conveniently claiming a helmet friendly hood by saying "hood conveniently fits UNDER a climbing helmet"...

Alfred Pelayo
(movingmountain) - F
For ski mountaineering on 12/11/2004 17:37:13 MST Print View

All of the above, but with pit zips(I over heat easily) and adjustable closures on sleeves(velcro straps instead of elastic)

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
Re: For ski mountaineering on 10/02/2005 00:08:55 MDT Print View

Patagonia's Rain Shadow Jacket, comes in at 13 oz. That's light! But, alas - this isn't a mountaineering jacket - it's a rain coat.

It's pretty sweaty. Perfect for standing around in the rain in the north cascades. But don't try to walk uphill in it.

I used it in alaska, and it didn't work.


Zeno Martin
(ananda) - F
Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 10/02/2005 19:54:15 MDT Print View

Ryan, at what time in your activities do you prefer the hardshell?

For ski mountaineering I like the Patagonia core skin for anytime I'm moving around becuase it's so breathable and comfortable. When I'm stopped or cold, or it's windy I use a Puffball over it. This is a light and comfortable set up in the WA Cascades.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 10/03/2005 00:16:34 MDT Print View

Dr. J (or anyone),

don't climb, so can't offer advice. do have questions though:

>>"...I like a robust fabric. I find that in really stiff winter winds, a 3L fabric like XCR or eVENT is warmer than a 2L polyurefthane or e.g., paclite..."

can you please explain this to me? what does the 2L vs. 3L fabrics have to do with "warmer"? these fabrics (3L or 2L) really don't trap any significant amount of air to function as insulation, do they? if the 2L fabics are windproof (i'm assuming here. am i wrong? if so, please set me straight - thanks.), isn't this more of a function of air xchange?...i.e., how tightly the 2L jacket is sealed at wrist/neck/waist, cp. to the 3L jacket? thanks in advance for taking the time to reply.

Edited by pj on 10/03/2005 00:31:39 MDT.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 10/04/2005 03:06:11 MDT Print View

just a post to keep this thread "current".

hope someone will be kind enough to take the time and answer the questions in my prev. post in this Thread so that i can learn something.

is the ans. as simple as the 2L are NOT windproof? i thought they were, but i sure could be wrong - wouldn't be the first (or the last) time.

many thanks,

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
3l vs 2l fabric on 10/21/2005 16:14:21 MDT Print View

Stiffer fabrics don't flap as much and hence don't
pump as much air in and out of the openings.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: 3l vs 2l fabric on 10/21/2005 17:08:03 MDT Print View

better late than never!


thanks so much for the reply. i'm sure you only just read this. thanks again. appreciate it.

take care,

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: 3l vs 2l fabric on 10/22/2005 00:42:06 MDT Print View

Yeah, Dave hit it on the nose regarding flapping. It makes a big difference in high winds and cold temps.

At any rate, my foul conditions climbing shell hasn't really dropped any weight since the original post. I'm still using a 16 oz Arc'Teryx alpha LT that has an XCR yoke and paclite body. Haven't found anything to really compete with it features:weight wise. This market is pretty stale.

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: Re: Re: 3l vs 2l fabric on 10/22/2005 02:06:44 MDT Print View

Dr. J,

my thanks to you too for taking the time to educate me. so it is the "air xchange"/pumping issue. hadn't realized this about lighter fabrics vs. the heavier ones, but it should have been intuitive to me.

well, thanks again.

(and esp. thanks again to David - appreciate you taking the time to reply about the "pumping" aspect and its relation to fabric wt.)

Edited by pj on 10/22/2005 02:12:31 MDT.

Ryan Welde
(Duece2) - F
Re: For ski mountaineering on 11/25/2006 19:06:37 MST Print View

Mountain Hardwear Aiguille Parka! This is light and tuff. I just spent 3 days out in temps from 8 to 15 F. and I loved this jacket. It does fit a little snug, but I had no troubles with layering. It has two pockets about chest high ( above the harness or pack straps) and next to the main zipper. The hood fits great with OR without a helmet. The pit zips are huge and cool you off fast when needed.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 12/14/2006 08:32:24 MST Print View

My favorite and current winter ice climbing jacket is a patagonia paclite jacket that was discontinued about three years ago.

I prefer nylon as the face fabric for a winter ice climbing jacket as I find that it does a better job bonding with DWR replacements than poly. I reproof and iron my jacket once or twice a season. In my opinion, pretty much all of the membranes kinda suck at least some of the time, and the by far the best results can be had by religious applications of DWR and the iron.

I would only use a 3 layer laminated jacket. A 3 layer laminate has a face fabric, the membrane and then a scrim all sandwiched together. It looks like one piece of fabric, usually with a funny looking interior that gives it away. A 2 layer laminate lacks the protective scrim and instead requires a liner. I personally find the liners to be a recipe for icing and general discomfit. Additionally, 3 layer laminates are generally significantly lighter than 2 layer jackets with their accompanying

I have no interest in extraneous pockets on my shell. One of the main reason I love this old jacket is that the pit zips open the pockets, and that the pockets form 'double' pockets inside where I can stash water or whatever. I am a strong believer in a systems approach to my clothing, and handwarmer/junk pockets exist in my fleece and in my belay parka but not my shell.

The hood is the most important part of the shell. It must fit over my huge HB El Cap carbon fiber helmet, and under it as well. If the hood only fits on top, I find it sucks in full on conditions. The hood should have an adjustment on the back and on each side for the different parts to get it nice and snug. A pet peeve is when the snap lock on the back adjustment string is set up so that it grinds against my helmet. In my experience, when you're out in full on conditions for more than eight hours, your hood belongs under your helmet and it should be as snug as can be...

A drop hem is good, but I really look at the pattern to make sure that I have full range of movement without the jacket riding up on the sides. I generally have a pack on in winter alpine climbing, and then i don't have to worry as much about the back riding up. Keeping your kidneys warm keeps you warm, so that is very important, but in my experience a jacket will let you down quicker by letting cold air in the sides than up the back. (now for b/c skiing... but that's another story.) I almost never wear a hard shell for cragging / ice climbing.

I've climbed over 100 days a year for over ten years now, at least half of it in winter conditions in the states, canada, europe and the caucasus and central asia. I've never really trashed a jacket, so I'm not that concerned about it. Then again, I am conscious of the fact that my jacket is one of the most important components of coming home warm and well, and I tend to 'keep an eye' on it.

Now if you want to talk about bibs, gloves and mittens, well, they're disposable. I've put enough holes in my bibs from reasons ranging from gumbyness to mind gone fatigue...

Joseph Aulwes
(eispickel) - F
Re: Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 01/24/2007 15:26:32 MST Print View

I believe Ryan was referring to the 2.5-layer jackets like Paclite which are lighter than the 3-layer.

I never thought about the pumping caused by a lighter fabric. My current system I use a Soft-shell jacket in combination with a 2.5-layer jacket; shedding the appropriate layer depending on the weather.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Re: Re: Features to consider in a winter climbing shell? on 02/21/2007 13:46:17 MST Print View

Does anyone here use something as light as the Patagonia Specter for their winter alpine shell. The kind of winter climbing I do does not require alot of abrasion resistance and most of approach I use an Ibex Icefall shell. Climbing in NH my primary reason for a hardshell is for protection in above treeline elements (80+ MPH winds). In years past I have used an Arc Teryx Sirrus SL, but for overnight trips I have been looking to cut more weight. I use the Specter for three season use but have been reluctant to use it in winter. Any feedback?

Christopher Chupka

Locale: NTX
patagonia Krushell on 03/07/2007 08:04:10 MST Print View

They don't make it anymore but the old Krushell jacket is exceptional for cold conditions. I have not dome anything extreme but been up a couple CO Fourteeners in February and March and up in the Mountains around Taos in February. Lots of high winds and snow.

It is not waterproof by any means but snow brushes right off in the cold.

Combined with silkweight undies and R2 fleece the breathability is unbeatable. The Krushell is lighter and more packable than a Schoeller type softshell.

I reread your post. The pockets are not what you want but the hood fits over a helmet and the back has a nice drop hem.

There are not pit zips but the pockets are vented all the way thru and high enough above pack straps to allow for good airflow.

I was nervous at first with this kind of shell in these environs, but the there are no negative tradeoffs with the benefits of light weight, increased breathability and packability.

Next time I go I may try something as light as the hooded Houdini. Prolly won't be until next spring though.

Edited by FatTexan on 03/07/2007 08:25:31 MST.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Krushell on 03/09/2007 14:06:43 MST Print View

I agree, the Krushell is a great piece. No matter how much I look around to find somthing lighter, I can never find anything with the fit, features, breathibility or function of this jacket. While it is not made anymore, it is essentially the first version of the current Ready Mix before they stopped using sewing machines over at Pataguch...

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
Yep on 03/09/2007 17:08:36 MST Print View

I third the Krushell, It is a great winter piece. I think of it as a technical windbreaker, and have used it on many expeditions in alaska.

I like how supple it is, you can layer puff layers over it, sleep in it and kinda forget you are wearing it. I have had the zipper relaced in mine already.

I also sewed in a strech gusset into the lower arm to make the wrist opening bigger and so I could pull the cuff over my elbow, works great.

Matt Allen
(zeroforhire) - MLife
specter on 03/18/2007 00:45:59 MDT Print View

I use the specter full zip as my shell on most climbs. While I mostly climb with my softshell as my jacket, the specter has been the perfect thing when things have turned nasty. I have found that the specter holds up surprisingly well against abrasion etc. I probably wouldn't do any long glissades on icy snow with it though. Just my .02

jon goldsmith
(jegsmith) - F
Ready Mix on 03/20/2007 20:46:10 MDT Print View

Is the ready mix a krushell replacement?

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Krushell Replacement on 03/21/2007 06:10:34 MDT Print View

as far as I know the Ready Mix is a more evolved version of the Krushell. It essentially looks the same but the fit is alittle different. Somtimes I find the Krushell to be abit baggy, and the Ready Mix is slightly more form fitting.