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Paging the fabric gurus
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Paging the fabric gurus on 11/16/2010 08:46:20 MST Print View

I've been designing a new shell anorak (in my head), and want some feedback before I start buying fabric. This project also tries to do several different, perhaps contradictory things at once, and I want to make sure I'm not totally full of it.

Design parameter #1: Burly winter windshell

-My Gore-tex is not breathable enough for skiing in the cold. My Houdini is great, except when it's very windy and cold. I want a highly breathable shell that will block wind better than the Houdini, and have a slightly different feature set.

Design parameter #2: One shell to rule them all

-My Houdini wets out fast in sustained rain. My Gore-tex does a fine job of keeping the rain out, but under hard work its lack of ability to vent ends up being the weakest link. Case in point; on my GNP traverse 9 days ago I hiked the last 9 miles wearing all my clothes: two cap base layers and a thick pile hoody. When I got to the truck the capilene and pile were pretty dry, but the Gore-tex had lots of moisture on the inside (it was raining the whole time). I'd like a shell that was a bit more weather resistant than the Houdini, but breathes better than the Gore-tex.

Design parameter #3: durable DWR

-after reading R. Nisley's posts about DWR wearing off on long trips, I'd like to begin experimenting with ways to circumvent that issue.

The idea:
A two panel anorak, with Epic fabric on the hood, shoulders, chest, and tops of the sleeves, and something like Pertex Microlight on the under-sleeves and torso. Thicker fabric than the Houdini all-around to block wind better (so being a bit wet would matter less), and the weather resistance of Epic to provide increased protection where it matters most. Like the jacket in my avatar, with Epic in place of the pink and Microlight in place of the blue.


-Only place I can find Epic is on Owfinc. Their 2.5-2.9 oz/yard "Alpine micro rip polyester" sounds ideal, yet I've heard that Epic varies widely in quality. Any actual experience with this fabric?

-Where to find Microlight? I'd love to get hold of the same fabric used in my Montane Featherlite pants. The CS folks at Pertex have been very responsive, but haven't yet produced a viable suggestion for sourcing a yard or two. Any other options I ought to consider? Thru-hiker momentum is too light for this application.

-Would the breathability suffer too much with these fabrics?

-How substantive an increase in wind resistance will I find compared to my Houdini?

I realize balancing these last two is a delicate act, and I can't have everything, but am looking for informed comparisons.

Edited by DaveC on 11/16/2010 08:49:03 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Paging the fabric gurus on 11/16/2010 09:06:16 MST Print View


I don't have any experience with the fabric in your application but if you decide to go with EPIC I happen to have a couple yards of yellow (maize?) colored 1.7oz/yd^2 EPIC Malibu left over from a quilt project that I'd part with. I'm thinking $10.00/yard shipped to CONUS but would entertain an offer.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Paging the fabric gurus on 11/16/2010 09:55:58 MST Print View

Not a fabric guru, but my Raku is made of Epic. It has never seen anything more than a few snow flakes so I can't comment on it's performance, but from just a visual standpoint, it appears that it would wet out and hold water. I was expecting something that felt slicker and not so fuzzy. Hard to describe in words and I'm sure I am wrong and the online description of it is surely correct, but that is what it looks like. Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just gone with the quantum option as this will probably never get (very) wet...oh well.

What about event? BPL is selling some, I almost pulled the trigger on it but opted out.

Ever thought of asking Tom from Nunatak if he will part with a few yards of microlight? I'm not sure if he would do it, but it may be worth a try.

Edited by Steve_Evans on 11/16/2010 10:00:43 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
epic on 11/16/2010 10:33:21 MST Print View

Jim, a very fair price, one I shall keep in mind, and get back to you soon on. What sort of fabric is malibu? Ripstop? Microfiber?

Steve, interesting observations. There are all sorts of variables here, many of which are over my head. I'll keep bugging Nunatak in mind, they do have what I want.

The other concern I neglected to mention are the rumors (perhaps the wrong word) the Epic's breathability suffers at temps just below freezing. There's an old Dr. J article about spring camping in yellowstone that says as much.

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
re: thicker fabric on 11/16/2010 11:48:59 MST Print View

A thicker fabric won't necessarily be more wind resistant.

Wind resistance comes from a number of features of the fabric, including weave density, the use of calendering (passing through hot rollers after weave), etc.

This can be seen by comparing, say, Pertex Quantum with Schoeller Dryskin; the latter is a much thicker fabric, but much less wind resistant. Judging by how shiny Quantum is, I suspect it must calendered after weaving.

Similarly, the water resistance of a fabric is affected by a number of features; weave density, surface texture, etc. If you look at Paramo's shell fabric, that's almost a peached finish, and yet, when proofed, it is very water resistant. My guess would be that the very fine surface texture, when combined with a DWR treatment, serves to increase the effective repellence.

As for EPIC varying in quality, well, strictly speaking, of course, it's a DWR treatment, and not a fabric. So the quality and properties of the result will depend very much on the base fabric. My limited experience of silicone encapsulated items is that they're less breathable than similar fabrics in microfibre nylon or polyester. But they're a lot more water resistant... Hey ho; more compromises...

Edited by captain_paranoia on 11/16/2010 11:59:37 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: epic on 11/16/2010 12:00:13 MST Print View

What sort of fabric is malibu? Ripstop? Microfiber?

Definitely not ripstop, not sure about microfiber. I will mail you a small sample if you send address via PM.

I dug out what I have. The usable width is approx 58", one piece is 3 yards long, another is a fraction of an inch less than a yard

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
correction!: epic on 11/16/2010 20:22:18 MST Print View

I looked again ... my yellow EPIC Malibu IS a ripstop weave

Dave: A swatch has been mailed, look for it later in the week

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
epic on 11/16/2010 21:12:34 MST Print View

Much obliged Jim. Tearing apart the old Patagonia anorak to use as a pattern when I decide on fabrics.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
re on 11/17/2010 17:48:24 MST Print View

I made a wind/rain jacket out of Epic, from owfinc, I think it was 1.9 oz/yd2.

I recently wore it in light rain and it soaked through pretty quickly.

I have heard someone else on this site with a similar story.

If you got sweaty inside wearing Gore-Tex, you were wearing too much. When you start sweating, take some stuff off, open vents, slow down,... I know I'm saying the obvious, but...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
ahhhhh Jerry on 11/17/2010 18:08:39 MST Print View

If only things were so simple.

Douglas Ray

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Fabric sourcing on 11/17/2010 22:43:17 MST Print View

I suspect if you asked nicely enough and didn't quibble about the price, many custom makers would sell you small quantities of fabric. I think Nunatak makes gear with both 1.7oz epic and 1.30oz microlight. Feathered friends uses those and a very light Scholler Nano-sphere, which they claim is more water-resistant than epic and more breathable than gore-tex (although less breathable than E-vent).

I'd bet that what makes your windshirt feel less warm than your hardshell is that the softer fabric flaps more in the wind and that "pumps" air in and out of the garment. You might bet more perceived wind resistance with a stiffer fabric. Some people describe E-vent very much in the terms you are using.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
flappin' on 11/18/2010 12:23:15 MST Print View

Good ideas Doug. I suspect that you're right about the flapping, pump effect of thinner windshirts being a significant factor.

Samuel C Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
WPB fabrics on 11/18/2010 19:55:22 MST Print View

Wish you had stated what type of GTX you found lacking.
If it is one of the more current and improved varieties, there are probably only two materials that would be an improvement for you; eVent or the fabric used by Montbell that is an improved Entrant. Very hard to find either one in yardgoods.

As for the Epic, the Malibu for some reason does well for a certain duration, then begins passing some water through. Not enough to pass drops at first, but the inside of the fabric becomes wet. I have tested several samples repeatedly for tent use in the rain, and that's what it consistently does. After it dries out, it works fine again for most rains, but with another really long rain, starts passing some water through again. Tried treating it with Atsko - made absolutely no difference. And there are many reports such as the one above, of it immediately wetting through when used as a garment. (Had this happen to me in a driving rain with an Epic pullover from Wild Things, but don't know if it was Malibu). Malibu is a silicone treated polyester. Can't tell you what the other fabrics sold by OWF with Epic treatment are.

In fairness, some good silnylons (not WPB) I have tested also allow a little water to pass through in extended driving rains. But if it is the inside of your tent or jacket, a little water added to the condensation you already have, can be quite uncomfortable. I also suspect that when WPB's start passing water, they lose their ability to transmit water vapor, and condensation increases greatly.

You can read Alan Dixon's article on this site for details on WPB's. Doubt that the state of the art has changed much since he wrote the article, but could be wrong - actually would like to proved wrong. Some of the manufacturers make extravagant claims that simply don't pan out when the fabric is subjected to heavy rain. That kind of rain is so unusual, particularly in some places, and because many often take shelter in that kind of rain, that many folks do not find out the fabric's limitations for a while (if ever), and then it can be an issue trying to return a worn garment or tent, not to mention the discomfort experienced in the field.

Edited by scfhome on 11/18/2010 20:01:43 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
G-tex on 11/18/2010 22:10:56 MST Print View

The fabric in question was Paclite from an '09 Arc'teryx Alpha SL pullover.

In all fairness I only found it lacking compared to the ideal of a perfectly waterproof and breathable jacket. I've never owned a more weatherproof shell, like it a lot, and will continue to use it (though thankfully snow season is upon us). I reckon I'm more looking for something that would, on the continuum from Houdini to Paclite, be about 40% of the way from the former to the later.

I should also thank everyone for their thougths so far. Epic seems like it might meet my needs, I'm just concerned about lack of breathability at this point. Anyone with experience in this regard, please share.

Edited by DaveC on 11/18/2010 22:16:45 MST.

William Johnsen
(sixoclocknews) - F
fabric combos on 11/19/2010 14:40:11 MST Print View

Epic will wet out pretty quick under a load (ie. shoulder straps), you might want to try a true wpb in those areas to extend the range. Similar to what Arc' did with the Alpha Comp Hoody, but less burly (and probably not as much wpb areas).

Samuel C Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
Fabric on 11/19/2010 22:14:56 MST Print View

I stopped using the Wild Things Epic pullover also because I perspired in it considerably more than in GTX. So, you might be disappointed in that respect also. I now carry an extremely lightweight and breathable DWR nylon Montane as a windshirt just to keep the chill off, and a Patagonia Specter pullover for serious rain. Should a long eVent jacket below the 8.5 oz. weight of the XL Specter become available, I will switch to that if the price is affordable for me.

Despite my warnings, another poster did buy some Malibu from me to make a rain suit. Maybe she will chime in on how it has worked out. As I told her, the Malibu is only moderately breathable, and not really waterproof in severe rains. Because it passes water vapor at lower humidity, it could be a great single wall tent material if it had more water resistance. A lot of Black Diamond Malibu tent users who carefully seam sealed and never got into long heavy rains have reported being quite satisfied with the BD Malibu tents. For some other users, not so much. It is an attractive, quiet but not stretchy fabric, very easy to work with, and that is why I tested it for several months and tried several spray treatments in the hope it might work out.

The problem for a jacket is that as the humidity inside the jacket increases with exertion, the vapor transmission of Epic does not increase much, unlike GTX and many other WPBs. This is discussed and illustrated in a graph in Alan Dixon's article that I mentioned at

Since it sounds like you are not looking for a tempest proof material, if you used Schoeller Dryskin, you would have much more breathability, and enough water resistance for short term exposure to rain. has some Schoeller fabric in a light tea green that might interest you. Don't know if it is equivalent to Dryskin, though.

Also omitted to mention the very breathable Propore fabrics, as used in inexpensive but fragile Rainshield and jackets. I use these around town with no problem, but not in the woods. Sometimes I get crazy ideas like making micro-holes in light cuben and bonding it somehow to Propore; but fortunately, the fantasies quickly fade.

Science marches on, and there are new WPB jackets with new materials regularly coming on the market; unfortunately, though, it is quite a while if ever before the new materials become available as yardgoods, and the marketers' claims are so extravagant, one has to be very cautious if on a limited budget.

Good luck with your search. Should you be satisfied with the results, am sure many of us would be interested.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Epic is a treatment on 11/20/2010 00:38:17 MST Print View

Epic is a treatment, not a fabric. Some extremely breathable
fabrics have an Epic treatment. Cotton khaki pants for instance as well as some soft shell knits.

If you really want ventilation, do like Jardine and carry
a bumbershoot.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
event on 11/20/2010 00:51:05 MST Print View

event on the high splash areas ... pertex or the like in the low splash areas ...

velcro or zip pits ...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
the current plan on 11/20/2010 10:15:40 MST Print View

Just found some Pertex Equilibrium in the bargain area of Rockywoods and ordered that. That will form the back, lower chest, sides, and panels under the arms (3" wide or so) that will taper out just past the elbow. I think I'll use Owfinc Alpine ripstop Epic for the hood, chest, shoulders, and arms.

Perhaps. This has been a fun bit of thinkering thus far.

Samuel C Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
Pertex Eq. on 11/20/2010 16:28:27 MST Print View

Whata snag!