Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions?


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? on 10/25/2011 14:27:18 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies - Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions?

Edited by addiebedford on 10/25/2011 14:29:13 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
testing on 10/25/2011 16:04:15 MDT Print View

That is some seriously dedicated hiking.

I disagree on the Spektr being under sized. The sleeves and torso are actually longer than almost any other comparable jacket (all other things being equal). I'd call the fit actually fitted. They do need to get rid of that goofy lumbar cinch cord.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? on 10/25/2011 20:14:52 MDT Print View

Will,

Excellent! Thank you for the hard work and valuable data provided in this article.

I am having difficulty easily discerning which line is for which jacket for similar colors. Please add different line patterns for similar line colors to facilitate interpretation.

Edited by richard295 on 10/25/2011 23:12:19 MDT.

Brendan Swihart
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? on 10/25/2011 22:38:26 MDT Print View

Excellent report. I generally hate wearing rain shells and only take one when I know I'm going to be hiking in sustained rain in cold weather (usually I'd rather hike in a windshirt with good DWR that absorbs minimal water). For me, this article confirms that fabrics such as event are not worth the extra $ and that the biggest priorities are fit (especially hood) and that the jacket is light and compact enough that it doesn't seem like too much of a burden to carry (9oz max).

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? on 10/25/2011 22:51:04 MDT Print View

Thanks will... this is excellent. This is exactly the sort of report I have been hoping BPL would do. Reminds me of the 2001? which looked at moisture accumulation. Just the sort of info glossy from manufactures don't provide, and where the normal person doesn't have access to enough variance to do any comparisons. This is VERY valuable. Thank you.

I also had trouble telling which lines which which. You could do the patterns recommended by Richard... but being a data guy I would say "how's about posting the data via google doc, csv, etc so people can play with the graphs."

I appreciate you indicating that none of the materials are fully up to the task. I read so many people say "X is so breathable" where my experience is nothing is good enough when doing a hard push. I haven't tried all of these jackets/materials, but what I have used match what you describe. I understand why you might have expected PowerShield to function better than your test indicates, but that completely matched my experience using PowerShield in the field. I don't get the membrane soft shells at all. In my experience they aren't as comfortable, breathable, or waterproof as eVENT. The only think that seems to best eVENT are stretch woven which are MUCH less waterproof.

The one material/jacket I would love to see added to this would the the lightest driducks or or rainshield 02 which gives surprisingly good performance, especially in view of cost.

--Mark

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F - M
OR on 10/25/2011 23:32:46 MDT Print View

one thing that i think would be most interesting to test it the OR torso flow ventilation system ... its basically 2 way zippers down the side of the jackets ...

IME .. it provides extreme ventilation, and if yr wearing synth layers, the occasional rain that comes doesnt matter too much ... also a double zipper allows you to leave the bottom of yr front zip open while having the top closed





edit ... does anyone else think it quite hilarious that a $129 backcountry brand (stoic) jacket outperformed most other yuppie brand jackets that cost double the price ;)

Edited by bearbreeder on 10/25/2011 23:37:16 MDT.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: Swiss Alps / Southern Appalachians
Re: Re: Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions? on 10/26/2011 01:47:57 MDT Print View

Will, that was awesome. Thank you very much for this very insightful article.

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies on 10/26/2011 02:58:51 MDT Print View

Invaluable data. Despite the obvious difficulties to keep the testing conditions coherent, this is more revealing than anything I've seen before in a field where most of the available data is hype.

To further overwhelm Will, I not only second the proposal to include some Propore item but also two rather extreme shell test cases: a woven windshirt (no membrane) and a strictly non-breathable top. Those two benchmarks would adequately frame what WPBs really offer.

Ismail Faruqi
(ismailfaruqi) - F
! on 10/26/2011 06:33:17 MDT Print View

holy friggin cow, this is the most detailed WPB test I've ever seen... Will, thanks for detailed report! Awesome!

edit: I suspect Spektr fares well because it utilizes roll closures instead of zipper. Won't be surprised if it gets Highly Recommended... And agreed with above advices, where is THE driducks test...

Edited by ismailfaruqi on 10/26/2011 06:47:13 MDT.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Confusing results on 10/26/2011 08:12:24 MDT Print View

Big thanks for the material.
Now some thoughts and questions (in order of appearance in my mind):

+1 for trouble of reading graphs and vote for google docs.
- GoreTex membranes are not air permeable.
- I think the inner liner of Rab and TNF jackets might be a little warmer than the other jackets liners. So it helps to generate more heat inside the jacket and correspondingly more humidity. It can be corrected by the thickness of base layer for example.
- May be the effectiveness of front zip opening was increased because humidity sensor was near the front zip? If it would be near pocket or underarm area, then we might get different results.
-What is the technology behind Stoic Vaporshell and Breeze Dry-Tec?
-I think that control of heart rate during this test series (to make sure it is constant) could help to make conditions more equal.
-And most important thing. It is simple - we need rain gear when it is raining. When it is not raining we can use windshirt and thats all. So for me it would be more interesting to test this rain jackets when there is 100% humidity outside and its rather cold (to make sure we dont overheat to much during testing). Then we can find an answer what type of membrane laminates is more comfortable. And i assume it would be the membrane with high air permeability and that gets more score on the A1 breathability test.

Edited by joarr on 10/27/2011 02:04:31 MDT.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies on 10/26/2011 09:29:35 MDT Print View

Very interesting.

One thing not mentioned: with the inside temperature 20-25 degrees F warmer than ambient and the inside relative humidity of 80% or more, it is inevitable that sweat will condense on the inside of the shell (which is cooled by the outside ambient temp). Some mistakenly think this condensation comes from rain leaking in.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
"Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies – Part 2: Are There Detectable Differences Under Real World Backpacking Conditions?" on 10/26/2011 09:39:28 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the work, but it seems strange not to test rain gear in the rain!
The ventilation issue isn't really relevant imo. If it's raining, all the zips are closed. If it was dry enough to wear a jacket with the front unzipped, i wouldn't be wearing the jacket.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Field Testing Air Permeable Waterproof-Breathable Fabric Technologies on 10/26/2011 09:42:58 MDT Print View

Verber wrote: The one material/jacket I would love to see added to this would the the lightest driducks or or rainshield 02 which gives surprisingly good performance, especially in view of cost.

+1

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Excellent Report on 10/26/2011 09:51:11 MDT Print View

Thanks Will for taking one for the team! Subjecting yourself to uphill hikes with not-so-breathable jackets.

One note: the MontBell Thunderhead uses Gore-Tex PacLite Stretch on the arms and elbows (according to their website).

Great report overall. Glad you were able to get so many jackets. I wonder how Gelanots would have compared. It is a four-way stretch WP/B fabric used by OMM, Milo and a few other companies around the world.

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Wind speed on 10/26/2011 09:51:57 MDT Print View

Think there's a good explanation for your confusion.

Notice that he purposefully chose for very still conditions so basically no wind on the undulating walk and 2-10mph for hilly one being notable. Amazed he could get enough days like that actually, but clearly common enough where the testing was conducted!

Now compare the results for Powershield Pro/Neo shell on the two hikes. A very obvious difference, especially for PPro. Or even actually I suspect the Felstrum (negatively), although not sure if thats entirely clear.

On reflection thats very logical, because even PPro doesn't have a *huge* level of air permeability overall. And so other factors are relevant in very still conditions, but once the wind gets up it turns much more important.
(Suspect it actually partially explains the slightly mixed empirical reviews of PPro this.).

So do you often get still, rainy conditions? I'd say not so much in the UK, but it might very well vary :)

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
Unzipped front on 10/26/2011 10:11:15 MDT Print View

> If it was dry enough to wear a jacket with the front unzipped, i wouldn't be wearing the jacket

there actually is a practical application for this in the rain: a WP top plus an umbrella. It's a very versatile combo that I usually use in the long-ish hikes. The combination is also a powerful one: the umbrella allows great ventilation through the head and torso, the latter by partially unzipping the front. You still have a rain top for the arms and for full coverage when the umbrella is not a good idea.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Marketing departments gone wild on 10/26/2011 11:14:40 MDT Print View

Will - Pretty awesome testing, nice work. As you pointed out, it's really difficult to test these fabrics under controlled conditions, but even so I think there is a very obvious take-away from this article: the marketing departments at these manufacturers have gone wild in their descriptions of this technology.

A few other points:

1- So WP/B fabrics aren't really that breathable...I think we all knew that. But they are also not very waterproof. Their waterproofness depends on the performance of their DWR, which is easily degraded by dirt, abrasion and body oils. Once the DWR craps out, the exterior layer wets out and the equilibrium process begins working in reverse: it's more humid outside the jacket (because the exterior fabric is saturated with moisture) than inside, so water starts moving inwards. Great, now you're wet from the inside and the outside.

2- The marketing pitch for WP/B fabrics hinges on a consumer's belief that they can actually stay dry when it's wet outside. My experience is that this is flawed expectation. The outdoors has no environmental controls like we are accustomed to in our modern lives: when it's cold, we turn up the heat; when it's hot, we turn on the A/C; when it's raining, we go inside; when it's muddy, we keep to pavement and leave our shoes in the mud room. Backpackers need to get over this idea that you can be immune from your environment -- when it's wet, you should expect to get wet, because you will. It's much more fruitful to focus your attention on how you can minimize the effects of being wet.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Marketing departments gone wild on 10/26/2011 11:39:17 MDT Print View

Excellent post Andrew!

I would also add that in my experience, high pressure rain can simply overwhelm the DWR at a point and time even without the 'wearing off' of the DWR over time.

Jim Cowdery
(james.cowdery) - MLife

Locale: Central Florida
vapor barrier on 10/26/2011 11:46:57 MDT Print View

Thanks Will;

As usual you hammer the subject with lots of data.

I agree with Inaki. I think running the same test with a completely non breathable top might show if there is a significant difference between a complete vapor barrier and an expensive breathable jacket. Would the results be significant enough to justify the added cost?

peter vacco
(fluff@inreach.com) - M

Locale: no. california
see, Andrew has it right .. on 10/26/2011 12:21:25 MDT Print View

" Backpackers need to get over this idea that you can be immune from your environment -- when it's wet, you should expect to get wet, because you will. It's much more fruitful to focus your attention on how you can minimize the effects of being wet."

you see, one can even tell the time by looking at the clouds. for instance, if it is raining, it is then time to get wet.
this is why they make wool.
or, if it's Really wet, polarstretch.

one will go a lot farther forward following andrew's advice than endlessly buying new parkas.
--
all that said. Great Test !

and, as a lot of things put on 2 dimensional digital graphs, in an extremely multi dimensional world and analog'ish world, it ain't going to give the whole answer.
case in point, i know for a fact that i can/will/do wear my e-vent parka a vastly lot more than i ever did my goretex ones, and that it runs dryer over a wider range of conditions than the graphs might indicate. and as indicated in andrew's insightful comments, i suspect sometimes the stuff leaks backwards.

once i found e-vent, i consider the fabric issue to be closed as far as me personally. it's good enough that any improvement is not going to increase my range or make a better experience. maybe yours, but not mine.

nice test though ! i like the comparitive condensation meters. if only it was as easy as wearing a different sock on each foot ....