Is Soft Shell Material Wamer and Lighter
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Martin Ritsi
(fmritsi) - F

Locale: Sierra High Trail
Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/01/2006 06:08:21 MST Print View

Getting ready to make a jacket and pants for hanging around camp in freezing temps. I just stumbled on the soft shell Polartec material (Power Shield). Can anyone recommend if this will be the best warmth to weight material to use UNDER my rain gear hardshell? Some say it is wamer because it blocks wind (but so does my rain gear that I have to bring anyways) and others say the material has other technological advantages that make it warmer. What would you recommend as the warmest/lightest combo?

Thanks!!!

Edited by fmritsi on 12/01/2006 06:20:58 MST.

James Schipper
(monospot) - MLife
Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/01/2006 07:11:55 MST Print View

I think Power Shield is best for high output aerobic activities in cold weather because of its high breathability and wind protection. The best warmth to weight ratio is down. I'm not sure what temp range you are talking about, but montbell's UL inner down jacket might fit the bill. If not, there are many reviews on down and synthetic jacket/vests on this site.

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/01/2006 19:26:34 MST Print View

Soo.. you are looking for an insulating layer at sub freezing temps to wear under your rain pants?.. Just get some normal Fleece, powerstrech tights, R1 tights or something. Powershield is good as an outerlayer in cold weather because it transfers moisture very well and is a softshell fabric. Its also quite expensive for the use you are specifying. For hanging around camp in the winter you want real insulation.

Another point is that WPB fabrics dont work when it gets REAL cold.

A bit more information is needed then.

For jacket, I would go down or synthetic depending on your climate.

For pants, You might want to consider making a pair of insulated overpants like the Integral design Denali pant, or MH Chugash pants. Down pants are only a good idea when its zero and below, otherwise they are too easy to get wet.

Over pants are nice because you can just zip them on at then end of the day and start cooking, rather than take your boots and shell pants off to add an other layer.

Martin Ritsi
(fmritsi) - F

Locale: Sierra High Trail
Re: Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/02/2006 08:29:36 MST Print View

Thanks Eric,

I take it then that you would say that my 200 weight normal fleece (under my hardshell which is a RedLedge 11 oz top and 7.5 oz pants)would be warmer than switching to a Powershield fabric?

Here's my exact situation. I hike the high sierra's. Nice in the day, real cold after sunset and freezing by morning.

My current setup is just a tad cool.

200 weight polartec fleece pants (13 oz)
power dry long and short sleeve shirts
100 weight polartec vest (6oz)
Polartec WindPro Fleece Jacket (18oz)

I like fleece because I can hike in it and then it dries quick if I overheat. I also sleep in it with a 45 degree down bag and a light Primaloft quilt I toss over the bag and it is comfortable (I'm also about to try and make my own 30 degree down bag...that'll be fun!).

So, I'm getting ready to bring my daughter this summer to do the John Muir Trail and am relooking at gear and now find new materials on the market.

I could just add a little extra weight to get warmer by swapping my powerdry long sleeve shirt for a midweight long underwear, but these new materials make me think there is the possibility to get a little warmer with the same weight as I'm already carrying.

Problem is, they don't give a comparison warmth factor on the materials, so how can I compare.

Common sense says regular fleece under a windstopper will be just as effective (and cheaper) than fleece that is attached to a stretchable outer windstopping fabric (ie Power Shield). So...why spend the extra money.

Well if you or anyone else can help me figure this out, I appreciate it.

Then again, my buddies say why bother counting ounces...save the time, don't worry about it, loose a pound of body fat ahead of time or get a haircut and just relax....but it that were the case where's the challenge?

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/02/2006 12:15:38 MST Print View

>but these new materials make me think there is the possibility to get a little warmer with the same weight as I'm already carrying.


Or much warmer for less weight. I've switched from fleece to high-loft low-weight synthetics, such as Polarguard 3D and Delta. A Patagonia Micropuff is significantly warmer than an equivalent weight of fleece (same weight as your 100-wt fleece vest, but _way_ warmer), and it's also fairly windproof and water-resistant. (I've worn mine in a blizzard with nothing over it.) I'm not sure, but I figure a Micropuff is about as warm as 400wt fleece, if anybody made such stuff. Same for pants. Bozeman Mountain Works Coccoon pants weigh a bit over half what your fleece pants weigh, but again are much warmer. (BMW Coccoon clothing is rarely available, but there are other manufacturers out there making good stuff too.)

I use lightweight fleece as a winter mid-layer (Patagonia Expedition-weight Capilene) because it does breathe well, and I just leave it on. But I no longer add fleece for non-active insulation.

Edited by Otter on 12/02/2006 13:20:51 MST.

Martin Ritsi
(fmritsi) - F

Locale: Sierra High Trail
Sythetics: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/02/2006 15:05:48 MST Print View

Pretty cool, those are some hard stats to beat. How are synthetics for drying out once they get damp? Do they stay wet a long time, or dry out like the fleece.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Sythetics: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/02/2006 16:28:41 MST Print View

>How are synthetics for drying out once they get damp? Do they stay wet a long time, or dry out like the fleece.


I find mine dries about as quickly as fleece, assuming I'm warm underneath. In fact, I usually just pull my Micropuff over my wet base layer, knowing that the moisture will quickly move through the Micropuff. The synthetic fill material doesn't absorb water, and since the loft is mostly air there is less fiber surface to adsorb water. This is the same material used in synthetic sleeping bags, which are usually preferred in wet weather for just this reason. The Pertex Quantum shell material used in the Micropuff and Coccoon is highly breathable, so it lets the water out easily.

Take a look at some of the BPL reviews and articles on synthetic insulating clothing (esp. "2005 High Loft Synthetic (Belay) Jackets REVIEW SUMMARY and GEAR GUIDE OVERVIEW"). There's a lot more and better info there than I can give.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/xdpy/ss/Clothing%20-%20Insulating%20-%20Synthetic/index.html

Edited by Otter on 12/02/2006 16:35:38 MST.

Nicholas Couis
(nichoco) - MLife
Soft shells, Fleece, Synthetic fills on 12/03/2006 16:41:08 MST Print View

There was a good video on the Patagonia website with Steve HOUSE explaining the gear he wore on NangaParba?.This shows the full set up.Using synthetic fill clothing doesn't allow the sweat generated by the body to evaporate into the atmosphere instead it will stay in the synthetic fill and gradually decrease the efficienty of the fill.Synthetic/Down fill is great when stopped and around camp.Try using the newer fleeces ie R1/R2.(grid pattern)
Using a windshirt over your fleece will give much more flexability than a combination item.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Soft shells, Fleece, Synthetic fills on 12/03/2006 17:44:46 MST Print View

>Using synthetic fill clothing doesn't allow the sweat generated by the body to evaporate into the atmosphere instead it will stay in the synthetic fill and gradually decrease the efficienty of the fill.


Nanga Parbat is a whole different problem, where it's below freezing _inside_ the insulation layer. If the moisture freezes inside the fill, it's going to stay there regardless of whether it's synthetic or down, until it thaws or sublimes and can move through the shell material. Nobody should be actively sweating inside their insulation layer, regardless of material. Synthetic fill clothing in normal winter temps is capable of passing insensible perspiration plus a bit more; mine has done so reliably even in prime condensation conditions and in very cold weather.


>Using a windshirt over your fleece will give much more flexability than a combination item.


A windshirt over lightweight fleece is fine for active thermal control (that's what I use), but the weight of fleece required for in-camp insulation at well below freezing is going to be significantly greater than that for the equivalent warmth of synthetic fill.

Edited by Otter on 12/03/2006 18:09:43 MST.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Re: Soft shells, Fleece, Synthetic fills on 12/03/2006 18:43:39 MST Print View

Recently I've settled on using a synthetic vest as one of my insulation layers (Patagonia Micropuff vest). It provides great warmth per weight, but also vents moisture much better than a full jacket. I have found it helps to avoid some of the issues re breathability of synthetic fill jackets, but still gives me good warmth and the comfort of having some synthetic insulation in my kit.

We'll be doing a complete review and update of the synthetic fill jackets and vests in 2007.

Martin Ritsi
(fmritsi) - F

Locale: Sierra High Trail
Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/04/2006 19:39:55 MST Print View

Thanks Everyone for your comments. I've learned that soft shell seems to be just a really great combination of 2 garments in one, but not a super wieght/warmth ratio renovation.

Your comments spurred me on to look into trying one of my layers in down. Sythetic looks lighter than fleece and down seems the lightest. Soooo, I'm going to try my hand at a project.

Will try a new thread and am asking hear too, does anyone know where to find a pattern for a down vest or jacket?

Thanks for the tips. Happy hiking.

Martin Ritsi
(fmritsi) - F

Locale: Sierra High Trail
Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/12/2006 20:14:30 MST Print View

Got some answers direct from Polartec/Malden Mills. Doug was really helpful in getting their weight and warmth rating (clo's) for all their fabrics. Bottom line is that the Soft Shell is not a warmer material per se, it is just combined with a windproof shell. So if you are wearing Polartec under a windshell (or rain gear), it will be just as warm as the soft shell equivalent. Loft is loft.

Here is a table of some of the fabrics, their weights and clo values:
..........................................oz/sq yard * clo
100 Classic..............................5.7 * 1.1
200 Classic...............................7.4 * 1.3
300 Classic...............................10.7 * 1.45
9602 PowerShield (like 100) 7.5 * 1.0
7796 PowerShield (like 200) 10.5 * 1.2
9654 PowerShield (like 300) 9.2 * 1.4

Edited by fmritsi on 12/13/2006 10:37:36 MST.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/13/2006 09:42:08 MST Print View

>Another point is that WPB fabrics dont work when it gets REAL cold.

Uhm Eric,

Care to explain?

The way i know it works is: Inside your WPB Jacket it's about 35 degrees and 100% relative humidity. If your walking somwhere and the ambient conditions are, say, 15 degrees and 70% rel. hum. there is a Water Vapour Pressure differential between inside (high) and outside (lower) and hence water vapour will permeate through the WPB jacket.

If ambient conditions are REAL cold as you state, say, -30 and 20% rel. hum. there is a much bigger differntial between inside and outside hence WVT should be higher.

Eins

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 12/13/2006 13:58:55 MST Print View

Eins,
while moisture vapour pressure will increase under those conditions, you also have to take into account the dewpoint. Don't forget that while warm, moist air moves from the body through the WP/B barrier to the ambient air, the temperature of the air decreases and if drastic enough, the dewpoint could lie inside the barrier with condensation as a result, decreasing the effectiveness of the WP/B barrier. The resistance from the WP/B barrier to moisture vapour transfer plays an important role in this. Further, research has proven that hydrophilic compositions show an increasing resistance to moisture vapour transfer beneath 32°F/0 °C.

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
WPB in cold on 12/16/2006 20:54:59 MST Print View

Regarding WPB in cold, cold weather,

I guess I should have clarified, the original post was geared more towards standing around camp, and my reply was for activity.

Lets say for example you are exerting yourself at -10 to -25 F and maintaing your body warmth, the temperature gradient across your insulating layers is very steep. At the end of that gradient is your gore-tex or whatever you choose to use, at this point the fabric will be freezing as well since it is in contact with the cold temps. The pore spaces in the fabric will freeze with moisture it is trying to transfer inside them rendering the jacket an icy shield. I've had many fabrics, from standard Gore-tex, Gore-tex pac-lite and even a regulator soft shell - the Kru-shell, freeze INSIDE when exerting in extreme cold. It sucks! imagine wearing a sweaty fleece with a shell of ice&frost, then an outer shell, while trying to stay warm at those temps.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: WPB in cold on 12/17/2006 05:47:22 MST Print View

>Lets say for example you are exerting yourself at -10 to -25 F.......

Interesting info Tom and Eric, thanks for sharing, but -10 to -25F, brrrrrr. I like the cold much much more than warm weather, but i barely hike in -10 to -25C! Let alone -10F!

Eins

Eric Parsons
(EricP) - F

Locale: Alaska
brrrr on 12/18/2006 23:37:41 MST Print View

Yeah, Conventional wisdom starts to take different forms when the mercury gets down there. You kinda have to re-think things entirely.

Ben Strickland
(ben_strickland) - F

Locale: Georgia
Synthetic Kits on 12/31/2006 13:01:10 MST Print View

Martin, you can find several synthetic insulated garment kits at http://www.thru-hiker.com . There are two different insulated pull-overs, a vest, and a jacket. Many fabric and insulation options with each.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
re;Is Soft Shell Material Wamer and Lighter on 01/01/2007 00:10:47 MST Print View

Tom, Einstein, You are both talking about water vapor or air moving through the WP/B layer, but in the backpackinglight article on WP/B fabrics, it describes that goretex and other WP/B fabrics (except eVENT) are backed by a solid layer which is not gas (vapor) permeable. The gas must change to liquid form, soak through the solid backing, and evaporate of the other side. That is my laymans understanding of the article.

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
Re: Is Soft Shell Material Warmer and Lighter on 01/08/2007 01:00:34 MST Print View

Lot of great info here, but without getting into all that, my simple solution to the original post:

I carry a puffy synthetic vest or down jacket for those cold camp conditions. I almost never hike in either. They are simply insulation for sitting around camp. For my camp layer, I'm after high loft per weight, and breathability is not desirable. I also rely on this layer for sleeping warmth/loft. A jacket like the cocoon's are ideal, and since their availability seems limited, would be a good DIY project.

I like to hike hard, and thus I wear lighter and more breathable layers while hiking. Light fleece and softshells are frequent in my cold weather hiking layers, but fleeces are too heavy per loft as a dedicated camp layer.