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Insulated hard shells
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Josh Lee
Insulated hard shells on 10/07/2012 23:09:23 MDT Print View

Not too much experience with winter hiking, will be taking a trip out to Colorado in January to Rocky Mountain National Park. Currently I have midweight REI polartech long underwear as my base and a Patagonia down sweater as my insulation and a Marmot Nano for my shell. Clearly this isn't going to be enough for expected temps in the low teens so I am looking at my various options. I was looking at a Montbell Frostline or an Alpine Light worn over the Patagonia sweater, but that would likely necessitate me having to buy a new shell as well; my Nano is just not big enough to wear over that large of a jacket. So rather than having to buy a new shell and a new jacket I was looking at some insulated shells like a Patagonia Nano Storm or Patagonia Primo Down jacket. Does anyone have any experience with these or similar insulated shells and do you think one of these comboed with a down sweater and decent base layer would be sufficient?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Insulated hard shells on 10/08/2012 03:26:25 MDT Print View

If you are going to wear all that while moving, you will get it all wet with sweat. You need a jacket with no insulation to handle that.


Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Re: Insulated hard shells on 10/08/2012 05:15:04 MDT Print View

I have a hard shell that has 11oz of down in it but its only for wearing to work or doing outdoor chores when it bloody freezing, I would never wear it hiking at all.

Josh Lee
Mainly looking for something to wear at camp on 10/08/2012 08:08:29 MDT Print View

Yeah while hiking I would be wearing much less, I am mainly looking for something to wear while resting and staying at camp. I guess that brings up another question though, is a waterproof hard shell really necessary during snowy conditions or could I get away with possibly layering a water resistant soft shell like an Arc'teryx Atom along with the down sweater?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Insulated hard shells on 10/08/2012 12:53:39 MDT Print View

I don't hike in the winter very much, but I do go cross-country skiing. In general, insulated hard shell parkas are not very useful unless you are a ski lift operator or a snowmobile driver.

It is much better to have one non-insulated shell parka and then some number of insulation layers to wear under it. On a warm winter day, you might be wearing only a long-sleeve base layer while you are moving. Then when you stop, the equivalent of a wool shirt goes on over it. If it is breezy, then the parka shell goes on over the wool. If it is a cold day and you have to stop for long, then some big puffy layer goes over the wool and under the parka shell.

It also becomes wise to modulate your rest stops to the right duration so that you don't have to keep changing your layers so much.


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
NOPE... on 10/22/2012 16:14:35 MDT Print View

I have used insulated hard shells, both down and synthetic, and found they were useful only in extremely low temperatures (-10 F and lower).

A generously sized WPB hardshell W/ pit zips ans an adjustable hood (i.e. mountain parka) over mutiple layers is the best and most versatile way to go in winter.

Robb Watts
(rwatts) - M

Locale: Western PA
Insulated hard shell on 11/28/2012 12:49:16 MST Print View

I agree with the crowd: insulated hard shells are much more useful at home than on the trail. I have a Nano Storm that gets used all the time as my "car coat" - warm, dry and convenient. But I couldn't imagine taking it in the woods.
It's one of those inventions that initially seems ideal for backpacking but just doesn't pan out too well. Kind of like soft shells.

samuel smillie
(sam_smillie) - F

Locale: central canada
no need for hard shell over puffy on 11/28/2012 14:47:04 MST Print View

Agreeing with the above advice, insulated hardshells are not very versatile so I would recommend against it.

Don't worry about fitting your hard shell over an additional puffy. Most puffys come with fairly windproof shells so you either

a) don't feel the need to wear your hardshell considering in your case you will have two puffys on top of your base layer or
b) some people who like to follow the 'never mix my layer order up philosophy' will layer their puffy right over their hard shell.

Either way, this has the advantages of
1) you not needing to buy an oversized hardshell that will see limited use
2) not needing to buy an insulated hardshell that are very expensive and will see limited use (unless you want one for in town anyways etc)
3) providing you with access to the hand warmer pockets that will be in your outer puffy - much nicer than mesh or nylon pockets found in shells.

In buying your outer puffy make sure you try it on with the layers you intend to wear underneath. Consider that patagonia has fairly boxy cuts while montbell has narrower cuts so think about the right size to get to avoid down compression. Also I strongly recommend a hood on your outer puffy.

As to your softshell question. Because I always use a softshell for hiking in instead of a windshirt (I am willing to carry the extra weight for durability and comfort), I choose to leave my hardshell as long as the temperatures are going to be solidly below freezing (no wet precip).

Other than the concern about warmer temperatures and wet precip, the only other thing to consider is where your softshell lies on the breathability-windproofedness spectrum. The more breathable the less windproof so consider how much wind-blocking you are hoping to have.

Personally I have a very thin softshell with lots of breathability and I am fine in windy conditions around camp when I have my puffy layers overtop.

Have fun!

Edited by sam_smillie on 11/28/2012 15:02:23 MST.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
No need for a oversized shell on 01/04/2013 20:31:47 MST Print View

If it is so cold that you will want more than your baselayer + down sweater under a hard shell, it will be below freezing, so a hardshell will not be needed. even if it's windy, you will essentially be wearing 4 windshirts (2x inner fabric + 2x outer fabric), so wind won't be an issue.

I wouldn't suggest hiking in a down jacket under a hardshell, great way to have a sopping wet down jacket after a few hours or at least days.

so i would add a thin fleece(vest).

Even over fleece I would choose windshirts or softshell outers, and perhaps carry a lightweight hardshell if there is a chance of wet precip.

The one exception would be Nikwax Analogy (Paramo/Cioch), as it is functionally equivalent to midweight base layer and windshirt, that just happens to be waterproof.

The other exception would be if you are wearing VB clothing, then ofcourse you can wear down with a shell over it without issues.

Edited by Tjaard on 01/04/2013 20:34:14 MST.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Insulated hard shells on 01/04/2013 23:00:15 MST Print View

Just to pile on, just say no to insulated hardshells.

It sounds like what you own would suffice for the times you are moving. You said you were hiking not camping or backpacking or ski touring. If this is day hiking, you presumably have no need for the extra layers to wear while standing around in the cold after sunset or sitting in the snow kitchen cooking.

You do not say anything about budget. If you are just starting out and are carrying a day pack, you might just look at some of the puffy synthetic down snow boarding jackets from Patagonia and Cloudveil that come on sale at the end of January at $100 to $150. They are much cheaper than the mountaineering "belay" jackets and you could just buy one large enough to fit over what you already own. You could pull it out at rest stops and put it back in the pack when you start moving again. For extra insulation while moving, a fleece or even wool vest is probably the best bet.

Note that the Arcteryx Atom series is really a lightweight synthetic down, not a soft-shell. The marketed feature of the Atom LT is the venting allowed by the cloth side panels which tells you that the main jacket does not breath. It is probably more breathable than a Patagonia Nano Puff but not as breathable as fleece or good old-fashioned wool.