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Long-term shell durability
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Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
Long-term shell durability on 11/25/2011 14:15:36 MST Print View

It's time. My 2-year-old Marmot Essence, acquired for something like half price is several months past the end of its "keeping me dry" stage. I've experimentally confirmed the wisdom that PU stuff like Precip or Membrain or YourFavorite AwesomeLight 2.5 Membrane just will not last. So, I've done a (tiringly) large amount of research on more durable (but heavier) shell options for the next round, so I'm familiar with much of the theory as discussed in many threads here and elsewhere, and resigned to the fact that my system will include Gore-Tex or eVent.

For low-impact or low-wetness 3-season trips, I will probably carry something in the vague poncho/DriDucks category (waiting for Dave's series to be complete to join and read up). However, more and more of my trips involve higher impact conditions where some of these options won't pass muster: glissading, brushbashing, occasional alpine abuse, etc. I'm mainly getting out in the Pacific Northwest in beautiful weather, rain, snow, and everything in between, backpacking on and off trail, scrambling, and occasionally doing some glacier/alpine travel. So I'm looking for a new shell system suitable for 4-season use, with an eye for long-term durability. I am willing to compromise a bit on weight to achieve that durability, but only as far as I need to. My hope is that I can still get something moderately light that will last. I do not go out in search of ways to abuse my shells, and when I do abuse them, I still try to be careful. so I hope I won't need to upgrade (downgrade?) all the way into territory where my jacket is as heavy as my 30-degree sleeping bag... On the other hand, I am somewhat skeptical of the durability of the latest hardshells in the 8oz range like the Montane Spektr Smock. (Also these seem to have slightl reduced coverage and lack of helmet-compatible hood.) Budget constraints exist as well, but we'll keep them out of the picture for now.

For each of the following shells, I would like to hear from those who have personally used them over an extended (ideally multi-year) period and in some high-impact situations. For those who have used more than one (or who have also used something like the Essence), comparisons and contrasts are most welcome! You can assume I am familiar with the features -- but not real-world performance -- of any shell I've listed. Of course I'll welcome other varieties of input and suggestions for other similar options since there's such a large amount of knowledge and opinions on tap here, but I'll probably only listen seriously if you have non-trivial personal experience using what you preach. :)

~12oz shells

Westcomb Specter LT Hoody: 3-layer eVent, 11oz
Rab Demand Pull-on: 3-layer eVent, 10oz
Rab Momentum Jacket: 3-layer eVent, 13oz
Arc'teryx Alpha SL Pullover: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, 11.5oz
Arc'teryx Alpha SL Jacket: 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite, 12oz
Arc'teryx Alpha LT Jacket: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell, 13oz

Westcomb Cruiser LT Pant: 3-layer eVent, 13oz
Rab Bergen Pant: 3-layer eVent, 12oz
Rab Drillium Pant: 3-layer eVent, 10oz

~16oz shells

Outdoor Research Mentor Jacket: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro Shell, 17oz
Westcomb Cruiser LT Jacket: 3-layer eVent, 16oz
(Fewer examples here because I am less enthused about this category.)


How well do the fabric and waterproofness stand up to long-term wear under the friction of pack shoulder straps, hipbelt, or climbing harness? Does/will it last for several years of regular use?

How well do the fabric and waterproofness stand up to high impacts like glissading, brush-bashing, occasional scrapes on rock? Does/will it last for several years of occasional high-impact activity?

How strong does the fabric feel? (Will I always be worried about busting it?)

Does the design permit sufficient venting? (e.g., lack of pit zips on eVent jackets, suitability of pockets for venting in place of pit zips, reduced breathability from large kangaroo pockets) I believe breathability is mostly a farce, though I've only used PU jackets. If I can sweat enough to get and stay wet without a shell, I'm sure I can with a shell... any venting will help.

If the design depends largely on breathability for venting, does it remain breathable over several years? (Assume or define reasonable maintenance.)

More generally, is something from the 12oz category going to last me several years of regular use and moderate abuse, or will I need to swallow another 4oz or more for that kind of durability?

If you have comments about a particular shell you like/dislike, please mention how long you've had it and how much use it's gotten.

Thanks for any insights!

Edited by bpwood on 11/25/2011 15:45:59 MST.

Babak Sakaki
(persianpunisher) - F
Alpha LT is the BOMB! on 11/25/2011 14:50:19 MST Print View

I have an Alpha LT, and just love it to death. It's not as breathable as eVent, but it's sure as hell a lot more durable. I've used and abused that thing and just keeps beading water.

Great shell for anything. I've used it skiing, backpacking, climbing and even around town (the lack of hand pockets makes this a bit odd though).

Incredibly durable for how light it is.

Here is a great video on it:

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Haglofs Ozo on 11/25/2011 14:55:13 MST Print View

I've recently seen both Dave Chenault (sp?) and Hendrik (two proficient posters, bloggers and gear reviews) raving about the Haglofs Ozo. It's around 8oz and uses GoreTex paclite shell. Check it out at their blogs:

Edited by dandydan on 11/25/2011 14:56:06 MST.

Adam Kramer
(rbeard) - F

Locale: ATL, Southern Appalachia
Re: Haglofs Ozo on 11/25/2011 14:59:41 MST Print View

i have a marmot nano which i think is the lightest gortex piece at 9oz for XL. really liking it, but the fabric does have a little bit of stretch to it.

they are onsale today at rock creek....XL red is $149

no affiliation with rock creek or marmot

Edited by rbeard on 11/25/2011 15:02:13 MST.

nanook ofthenorth
(nanookofthenorth) - MLife
... on 11/25/2011 15:01:48 MST Print View

had really good experiences with paclite and XCR, have a Proshell set now and expect it to not have any issues with it.
Proshell feels more breathable then the Micra, but eVent feels better then both.

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
Thanks, any long-term insights? on 11/25/2011 15:32:11 MST Print View

Thanks for all the pointers. I'm most interested in relative long-term durability.

Babak: Good to hear the Alpha LT has held up to some use. How long have you had it?

Dan: I neglected to include the Ozo, even having read both Dave's and Hendrik's reviews. I do like the idea of it. I was skeptical about the lack of pit zips, but Dave's review at least seems to have covered at least a few months' time (though reviewing a bunch at the same time would give it less time to get beat up). As far as I can tell the hood is not helmet-compatible, but not sure? This is not a deal-breaker, but somewhat important. Also, I've had trouble finding where it might be available in the U.S.

Adam: I had seen the Nano (actually quite a while ago too), but was concerned about the lack of pit zips and had been a little turned off from Marmot w.r.t. my previous rain gear (probably unfair, since it was PU stuff). How long have you had the Nano? How much abuse has it taken?

Edited by bpwood on 11/25/2011 15:38:27 MST.

Babak Sakaki
(persianpunisher) - F
Hmmm on 11/25/2011 15:39:36 MST Print View

Just about 2 years.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Westcomb on 11/25/2011 16:13:38 MST Print View

The Westcomb Specter LT has served me very well, I got it earlier this year (sorry, no multi-year experience yet). It has survived some intense off-trail bushwhacking, heavy pack rubbing, general town and travel use, and lots of wet weather. The jacket still looks like new. I like to think of Westcomb as Arcteryx in eVent: high quality construction with high breathability, two things the Specter delivers.

My other shell is a Marmot Mica (similar to the Essence) which has been going strong for about two years. Not nearly as durable or breathable, but nearly half the weight.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
2 years is very poor on 11/25/2011 16:25:21 MST Print View

ben ...

heres my view

a rain jacket should last longer than 2 years unless you are wearing it in the brush or against rock several days a week ... if it should die, it should be because theres a big honking hole in it ... anything else should be covered under warranty

i would contact marmot and see what they can do for you ...

in the even marmot wont help you ... i would personally never buy from them again ... and i would buy my next jacket from someone with a no questions asked warranty ... namely OR, EB, anything at REI , etc ...

i decided not to buy a marmot rain jacket last year because ive heard issues of delamination and marmot not covering it ... so i bought a OR helium instead ... any jacket can delaminate, just buy from someone who will cover it should it happen

as to which particular model or fabric is up to you ... it is instructive though to see that something like the 129$ stoic vaporshell outperform most other fancy new $$$$ jackets in the BPL test ...

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
M10 on 11/25/2011 16:43:32 MST Print View

might peek at the M10, discontinued, but still available a few places- 3 layer, 10.9 oz and full pit zips

^ like eric I went w/ the OR Helium, it's light, it's waterproof and if it "goes", OR will replace it no questions asked

patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
Not Sure but its my two cents on 11/25/2011 17:34:02 MST Print View

Try either or both the Mammut Felsturm half zip or the Mammut Gipfelgrat.

The Felsturm is Gore's new Active shell and weighs in at a whopping 10.5 oz's

I ordered one from Backcountry and was very sad to return it. It was soooooo nice!! It did not have a helmet compatible hood and at $350 it had to go back as i need helmet compatible hoods on all my shells. Such a sweet jacket though!!

As far as lastability i have no idea but it is "GoreTex" and i trust Goretex anything to last as far as waterproof goes. The Active shell reminds me of Paclight so it might not be the most abrasion resistant material in the world if that is what you need.

The Gipfelgrat in Polartech Neoshell is as bomb proof and waterproof a shell you can get. It weighs in at 779 grams though. Add to the coat that Neoshell breathes far better than Event and is just as waterproof as Goretex and you have one sweet sweet coat!! I ordered one of these and kept it as i t was just so well built and purpose driven.

Might be hard to find now as they sold out many places very quick as they got great reviews.

patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
Re: M10 on 11/25/2011 17:38:20 MST Print View

The M-10 is another sweet coat. If i had the option i would go with the Active shell though at this point as it is just as fragile as the M-10.

However until this Active Shell hit the market i would and did take the M-10 over Event any day of the week as it is soooo light! A bit fragile for day in day out ice screws and the such. Perfect for anything else!! The green is a sweet color also. It can be had for like $250 i thin?

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
M10 on 11/25/2011 18:04:54 MST Print View

I have an M10 and it has been more reliable than any other gore-tex paclite or proshell that I have ever used. Its durability has been pretty good as well. Given the chance, I would choose it again.

Ben W

Locale: NW Center for Volcano-Aided Flight
variety on 11/25/2011 21:24:11 MST Print View

Thanks for more thoughts.

Ryan, your thread on the Specter got me interested in it. Glad to hear it lasted through intense use.

Eric and Mike, I did get the Marmot Essence at REI, so I'm covered. The OR Helium is appealing in its lightness and the Infinite Guarantee in its... infiniteness and good reputation. I take it I would have to go heftier (>= Revel) to get their clever TorsoFlo. Has either of you put the Helium through extended rain or or used it extensively enough to comment on wear under pack straps? Maybe I'm gunshy from the Essence, but I can't help but wonder if I would be worried about it failing in the field. I liked my Essence and got comfortable with it, but then the one time that it really mattered (nasty 2-3 day shoulder season wind/rain/snow storm) it started to fail under persistent nasty conditions. This does sound suspiciously like I'm suckering myself into using extra weight for "peace of mind," though.

Eric: Agreed about the Stoic Vaporshell. Unfortunately, I can't find any available anymore (at least direct from Backcountry).

M10 is interesting too, but at the price, I would probably defer to a similar weight eVent. Any direct durability comparison experiences between M10 and comparable weight eVent shells (see above)?

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: variety on 11/26/2011 03:49:31 MST Print View

you need to go at least revel for torsion flo

if you think youll be using it more often in the rain torsion flo is worth the weight and expense (not that much more on sale) ... i think the revel should handle backpacking just fine with the caveat you refresh the dwr every now and then like any other jacket

i actually carry my helium more than i use it ... its my just in case of rain gear ... that said when i had to use it in the pouring rain it worked fine ... for constant pack carrying over time it may not be as suitable, Mike would know better as would david chenault who did jacket tests for BPL

they are both 2.5L pertex shield though ... not 3L

an interesting question is would a 3L be less prone to failure than a 2.5L ... should the DWR wear off, will it then become a waterproof but non breathable jacket ... or would there be leakage

regardless all brands of jackets can fail ... though i havent hear of that many failures with OR

if you want to go eVent ... westcomb is made in vancouver,bc ... all the westcomb gear i have is pricey, but the build quality is top notch, and REI carries em

that said i personally use my <100$ revel with torsion flo over the more breathable event/gorepro any day in the PNW, despite having had the opportunity to buy westcomb and dead bird jackets for > 30-60% off ... only used either one for about a a year+ now so well see what happens ... my view is to not spend too much, find something that works and seems less likely to fail, and make sure you can trade it in should something go wrong

IMO for constant everyday (not occasional) abrasion against rock and bushes ... none of the UL options will work that well, the DWR will wear off or youll put a hole in it eventually ... for that "bomber" jackets ... or a non breathable one ... is likely the best ... or consider not wearing the rainshell until absolutely needed, wind/softshell instead (what i do)

Edited by bearbreeder on 11/26/2011 04:22:58 MST.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Helium on 11/26/2011 07:58:41 MST Print View

I've used in mine in some prolonged rains- no problem w/ wetting through (yet), like all hard shells if your exertion is high enough you're going to get some wetness from within- pit zips would help, but certainly not prevent this (a quick drying base layer is a given under any rain wear).

I haven't had mine long enough to comment on durability under shoulder straps-if it does wear enough where it impacts performance, I'll simply ask for a new one :)


patrick walsh
(apbt1976) - F
OR on 11/26/2011 08:43:40 MST Print View

I have only owned two OR products one being a soft shell pant and the other being a hybrid jacket. Both got returned to Rei as the waterproof DWR coating lasted all of a matter of weeks to a couple months at most.

They do gloves right imop and that is about it. I do hear good things about this years line though..

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
REI on 11/26/2011 12:09:53 MST Print View

Look at the REI Kimtah parka (if it's still available).
16 oz. and quite a bit more breathable than my GTX PacLite Cabela's parka at the same weight.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: OR on 11/26/2011 14:10:43 MST Print View

you need to renew the DWR with softshells ... my dead birds had the same issue ... after a few trips i needed to renew my gamma sv with some grangers and a dryer

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Re: OR on 11/26/2011 14:26:13 MST Print View

My OR Zeolot had great DWR from the factory, although after several wears I reapplied anyway.

My Arcteryx Theta had poor DWR from the factory but after reapplying, it has lasted over three winters without issue.

Maybe DWR degrades over time even if not being actively wet / used?

I am an OR fanboy, however.