Forum Index » Mountaineering & Alpinism » Is a softshell jacket necessary?


Display Avatars Sort By:
Stephen Collins
(stephencwcollins)

Locale: New England
Is a softshell jacket necessary? on 12/05/2013 20:16:56 MST Print View

Hey guys

Does anyone have an opinion on whether a softshell jacket is necessary for climbing mountains in the lower 48 in the snow?

I'm headed to Rainier in early June next year and wondering if I could get away with a wind jacket (or two) instead of bringing a softshell. The company that's leading the climb recommends a softshell but I figured a wind jacket or even two wind jackets are lighter weight and dry faster. The only advantage of a softshell I can think of is better durability and a potentially better hood.

I don't have any experience climbing mountains on snow or ice. Any opinions would be really helpful. Thank you!

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 12/05/2013 20:46:49 MST Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 01/16/2014 21:31:43 MST.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Is a softshell jacket necessary? on 12/05/2013 21:12:09 MST Print View

"Does anyone have an opinion on whether a softshell jacket is necessary for climbing mountains in the lower 48 in the snow? "

Necessary? Er, they were climbing mountains for hundreds of years before a soft shell was ever thought of.

But whether you can get by without that level of insulation would depend on the weather at the time you're climbing and what other clothing you would be taking. I can guarantee you that you will need more warmth than just a wind shell... but I assume you know that, eh? Though you will be climbing in the summer, it can be nasty and cold up on Rainier even in the summer...

It would probably be best to call the guide company and ask them though.

Billy

Will Elliott
(elliott.will) - F

Locale: Juneau, AK
W on 12/07/2013 01:49:33 MST Print View

Wind jacket is a softshell. Patagonia used to call the Houdini "our lightest [...] softshell"

You'll be fine.

Edited by elliott.will on 12/07/2013 01:50:53 MST.

John Whynot
(jdw01776)

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Is a softshell jacket necessary? on 12/07/2013 06:27:57 MST Print View

Necessary -- Probably not, but nice to have.

I did a 6-day glacial mountaineering course on Mt Baker 2 summers ago. I brought a Marmot Vapor Trail hoody soft shell.

I wore it every day. On the day we climbed to the summit I wore it until the sun came up. The pockets were great for extra gloves and snacks.

I don't feel that a windshell would have been warm enough for me, and would have required another extra layer underneath.

As a side benefit, I use as a jacket on colder days here in Houston...

Edited by jdw01776 on 12/07/2013 06:31:27 MST.

Stephen Collins
(stephencwcollins)

Locale: New England
Thanks on 12/07/2013 16:10:47 MST Print View

Thanks for the advice guys.

I can definitely see how a windshell alone would probably be good enough in terms of warmth and blocking the wind (meaning a modern softshell is not "necessary") and on the other hand why a softshell would offer more convenience in some areas (probably warmer, better features).

I ended up emailing the guide company to ask if I could could take a wind jacket or two instead of a softshell. For better or worse they said "no". So it looks like I'll be bringing a softshell. I was keen to try out a wind jacket on a big mountain in the snow but, alas I will have to wait. Oh well, I'll live :-)

(Fortunately I already have a softshell. I think it's the Arcteryx Gamma LT hoody, which I imagine is similar to Arcteryx Gamma SL that rOg_w mentioned he uses. In case anyone's curious, I've used it on some day hikes in cold weather and hiking up Mt Whitney last year and really like it. It's uninsulated, very durable compared to most wind jackets, breathes fantastically, and has an awesome hood. The main downside in my limited experience is that it dries relatively slowly and weighs at least 6x as much as a typical wind jacket.)

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Thanks on 12/07/2013 18:03:03 MST Print View

Just bring a windshirt anyway ;)

That way you can test it out and if you don't like it you have the softshell as a backup. I've never been guided before but I doubt they'll yell at you for not wearing a softshell, and they may be interested in letting you act as a guinea pig for windshirt use (as long as the weather isn't horrendous).

Stephen Collins
(stephencwcollins)

Locale: New England
bringing a windshirt anyway on 12/07/2013 18:08:36 MST Print View

Nice idea... And at just a few oz more it won't hurt. I'll have to let you guys know how it goes, if I remember in 7 months' time, haha. Cheers.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Is a softshell jacket necessary? on 12/07/2013 18:21:29 MST Print View

Every softshell jacket I tried was cold for the weight. IMHO, they are about like a denim jacket with zippers and good water repellency.

But they are tough, and that has always been my understanding of their popularity with climbers. Hugging ice, granite and basalt would shred a windshirt faster than you can rip up a Kleenex. I would count on midlayer fleece and I assume they want you to have some puffy insulation as well. I haven't tried a soft shell yet that have more insulation value than a 100w fleece, perhaps less.

A windshirt will cut the wind and shed light precip, but past that, it isn't any warmer than what you are wearing under.

We've had a couple threads on fleece and layering. How far you can go with a base layer/fleece/windshirt depends on the conditions along with your activity level and metabolism. If it is getting below freezing and you aren't moving much and/or there is wind, it's Puffy Time!

But why not take it and get a real world comparison? It's not much weight or space to deal with.

Edited by dwambaugh on 12/07/2013 18:25:56 MST.

rOg w
(rOg_w) - F - M

Locale: rogwilmers.wordpress
deleted on 12/07/2013 18:57:04 MST Print View

deleted

Edited by rOg_w on 01/16/2014 21:30:59 MST.

Richard Fischel
(RICKO) - F
the guide companies have a pretty good idea of what works and generally need to be conservative on 12/07/2013 19:36:45 MST Print View

Also, they are bombarded with calls requesting deviations from their clothing list and it's much easier for them to say no over the phone or by email.

On the route you're likely to be taking on Rainier I'd prefer a wind shirt and a power stretch hoodie. That being said, having watched them practice self arrests and play other games in the snow around camp Muir and other places on the mountain, a softshell may serve you better for the training portion.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: the guide companies have a pretty good idea of what works and generally need to be conservative on 12/07/2013 20:21:25 MST Print View

Go with their program. You hired the guides for a reason.
Don't over think it... just go with the guides' list.

They know the mountain, and, more importantly, the weather on that mountain...

You may be think of blue skies and mild temps for your clothing selection.
But you may get something quite different. You could still get high winds, blowing snow, and cold temps, even in June. Go with the guides' list.

Billy

Richard Fischel
(RICKO) - F
"You could still get high winds, blowing snow, and cold temps, even in June." on 12/07/2013 21:49:12 MST Print View

That's an understatment. June can be a really tricky month on Rainier. I summited the 3rd week in June a couple of years ago and when we topped-out it was a beautiful bluebird day with a 30 mph breeze and the thermometer showing 0°F. There was so much snow that June the Ingraham Direct was still in and there were only a few successful summits the prior weeks because the weather had sucked so bad, avalanche risk and actual avalanches. July and August are the 2 months in which you stand your best chance of summiting, but even in those months on any given day the weather can absolutely suck. I've been on Rainier 4 times in June, but missed summiting two of the times because of the weather.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Is a softshell jacket necessary? on 12/08/2013 09:33:20 MST Print View

Do you mean a wind shirt in addition to a real water proof wind proof shell, or as your only protection ?

You want something on Rainier that's indestructible, so if your intent was to bring a wind shirt only, I can totally see why they would say no.

I would bring a UL wind shirt AND a serious WPB shell for when it really gets bad.
I've been on Rainier when I had to get on my hands and knees to keep from getting blown off the mountain. In really bad conditions you may want something that blocks All wind just to stay warm and keep the life from being sucked out of you.

Edited by asandh on 12/08/2013 09:44:02 MST.