Forum Index » GEAR » Current UL windshirts and breathability: are there other options and layering techniques?


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Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Great Lakes Bay Region
Re: Oh the problems we have!!!! on 02/25/2014 09:46:18 MST Print View

how many windshirts/softshells does everyone here own ... for some of us its too many, including myself


2 Windshirts for me, an older and newer style Houdini, also have a Paramo Anorak which technically is a softshell (but also a hardshell)

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - M

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Oh the problems we have!!!! on 02/25/2014 09:58:50 MST Print View

I own two wind shirts currently. One that is very breathable, and one that is not. I think there are conditions out there that warrant each. Their combined weight is only 4.4oz so maybe I just bring them both along.

Ryan

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Oh the problems we have!!!! on 02/25/2014 11:17:15 MST Print View

Jennifer added, "You do understand that we are all certifiable nerds, right? I mean, who else has discussions like this???!!!!! And ENJOYS them!!!!!"

This is news? :) Somebody did a personality survey here at one time. There was a high proportion of nerdy introverts. Duh!

It's a search for the highest performance at the lowest weight. A windshirt is a key component to my clothing layering system and clothing is a significant part of my pack load. Like shelter, it is vital to my comfort and safety, so it deserves the scutiny.

I think the design and marketing aspect of this one item makes a very interesting study of how products fold into the practice of ultralight hiking, particularly after having a representative from a manufacturer barge in and tell us were are all wrong. There are a LOT of implications in that message!


I can find many breathable wind shells in the 10-12 ounce range, but of course there have been many market "teasers" in the 2-3oz range. There WERE perfectly acceptable 4oz models that have been discontinued. In a hiking niche market where grams are significant, 8 ounces is a massive compromise.

And yes, as has been said, we are the largest gathering of gram weenies on the planet. So be it! :)

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
So...back to this 5 CFM statement... on 02/25/2014 11:22:46 MST Print View

It might be interesting to create another thread about how many windshirts people own, but I'm looking forward to an important conversation about Glavin's / Sierra Designs' statement that:

"We target 3-5CFM for all of our wind wear."

Doesn't sound so dissimilar from Patagonia's "Beyond this we don't go" statement:

"We've found that fabrics that measure as much as 5 CFM are still functionally windproof: ... we use 1-5 CFM as our standard for weather-protective soft shells ...Shells for higher exertion activities ... must be even more breathable. For these products we hold to a comfortably wind-resistant, but not windproof, standard of 10-15 CFM. Beyond this, we don't go."

So here we have two mfgrs actively disagreeing with the idea that a 35 CFM windshirt is a good idea, which is very interesting. It's not that they're just being inattentive...they appear to simply not buy the rationale for a highly permeable windshirt.

Which is a shibboleth here at BPL!

The size and scope of this disagreement is interesting; both sides have credibility, and this discussion should provide insights aplenty.

EDIT: Posted at the same time as Dale, who is honing in on the same conversation. I agree, Glavin's post is worthy of close examination.

Edited by Bolster on 02/25/2014 11:37:23 MST.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
So...back to this 5 CFM statement... on 02/25/2014 11:35:40 MST Print View

I'm not going to buy their windshirts based on this statement that 5 CFM is a ceiling. I'm glad a got a light, air permeable windshirt before they stopped making them. The more breathable varieties seem like a much better option, as long as we can get access to them again.

I think they sell more windshirts to guys who walk from their house to their car and not much more-ok, maybe a short walk of the dog. In those cases the 5 CFM windshirts are perfect.

I will trust Richard's research over the marketing plans of the large manufacturers.

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Dilbertism on 02/25/2014 11:58:01 MST Print View

We keep attributing the lack of high CFM windshirts to Dilbert-style "craven marketing."

What if that is a misattribution?

What if mfgers have done their own testing, have come to different conclusions than the BPL consensus, and actually don't believe that high CFM windshirts are a worthy product? That they don't deliver the benefits of a less permeable shirt?

I've found Nisley's arguments for high CFM windshirts persuasive, but at the same time, I'm taking a lot of that argument on faith. I would not mind at least hearing the opposing arguments fleshed out a bit more.

I would like to ask manufacturers: "What do you think is the drawback of a 35 CFM windshirt?" and see what they say. I'm guessing they'd say: "Insufficient wind protection, you'll get cold." I'd ask, "Then why did you used to make them?" and "What do you say to people wetting out from the inside on a strenuous hike when wearing a low CFM shirt?" I would like to hear those answers.

I'm trying to get beyond this reductionistic argument that "any disagreement with BPL dogma is driven by corporate greed alone." That whole narrative is wearing thin for me. I'm open to the possibility that a manufacturer might actually be acting in good faith, and trying to put out an improved product. Improved products happen all the time; manufacturers aren't out to screw their customer base or they'd shortly be out of business. I really want to hear the rationale for low CFM windshirts, even though I might not buy the argument, being a Nisleyite myself.

Edited by Bolster on 02/25/2014 12:06:27 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: So...back to this 5 CFM statement... on 02/25/2014 12:05:03 MST Print View

Another thing to consider is whether the 5cfm decision was based on other factors like fabric availability and cost and the chatter from the companies is post production marketing hype to justify the the product.

You have to keep in mind that wind shells are typically one small part of an extensive line of clothing. If Patagonia dropped all their windshirt products, it would be something like 1/250 of their line. We may be a small minority that is willing to drop $100 on a thin bit of nylon when there are poor performers at TJ Maxx for $20.

Edited by dwambaugh on 02/25/2014 13:13:03 MST.

Rick .
(overheadview) - F

Locale: NYC
35cfm on 02/25/2014 12:07:54 MST Print View

I'd understood Richard to equate 35cfm for a base/windshirt ensemble as the max benefit in moisture transport. It's a continuum from a few cfm up to that. Over that it is less wind/water resistance without more gain.

There's also enough anecdotal evidence and our own experiences that wearing a garment of a few or less cfm causes moisture buildup.

If there is a test showing contrary to that, I'd be interested in seeing it.

Meanwhile, i dont think I'll be the guinea pig trying a 2cfm shirt against my skin. No thanks.

Delmar O'Donnell
(Bolster)

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Good point. on 02/25/2014 12:09:01 MST Print View

Dale, I've wondered that, too.

It just seems implausible that nylon of a certain permeability, that was once widely available, is no longer produced. Generally manufacturing options tend to proliferate.

I suppose it's possible, though.

>There's also enough anecdotal evidence and our own experiences that wearing a garment of a few or less cfm causes moisture buildup.

Yes, and we've also seen plenty of commentary to the opposite, too; people who own low CFM windshirts posting their satisfaction with them, and stating that the whole "insufficiently breathable" argument doesn't make sense to them.

And then there is the "Unzip the windshirt and get all the breathability you want" argument.

I guess I will just have to buy a low CFM windshirt and test this for myself!

Edited by Bolster on 02/25/2014 12:17:23 MST.

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
High CFM on 02/25/2014 12:44:19 MST Print View

>> What if mfgers have done their own testing, have come to different conclusions than the BPL consensus, and actually don't believe that high CFM windshirts are a worthy product?

It's not that the manufacturers think that high CFM layers aren't worthy. Most of them, certainly including Patagonia and Marmot and Nike and addidas and Brooks and Reebok and UnderArmour and Sacouny and ACIS and New Balance et al make very high CFM long sleeve shirts, jackets, hoodys, and half zips for high aerobic activities such as running, climbing, trail running, hiking, biking, etc.

It's just that these products aren't worthy; it's that these products are not windshirts. They are not intended to significantly block the wind. Just the opposite, they are intended to be air permeable. Most manufacturers pretty clearly identify the products that are intended for high aerobic activities and maximum venting of heat/perspiration.

-----------------

BTW (and on a separate topic) I also suspect that there may be some disconnection between the CFM numbers that are being generated here and the numbers the manufacturers are using for the same materials.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Dilbertism on 02/25/2014 12:52:49 MST Print View

"I'm trying to get beyond this reductionistic argument that "any disagreement with BPL dogma is driven by corporate greed alone." That whole narrative is wearing thin for me. I'm open to the possibility that a manufacturer might actually be acting in good faith, and trying to put out an improved product."

+1 - but I would add - for their intended audience. Some folks have a hard time believing that they aren't the target audience.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Dilbertism on 02/25/2014 12:57:12 MST Print View

"What if mfgers have done their own testing, have come to different conclusions than the BPL consensus, and actually don't believe that high CFM windshirts are a worthy product? That they don't deliver the benefits of a less permeable shirt?"

No doubt that some customers wanted more watr resistance and the weight race took some precidence as well. There are all kinds of light less breathable fabrics to choose from, making it easy to crank out a wind shell and live with the results. Compromises are made in cost, performance, availability (numbers produced), etc. And like I said, it's a small part of these huge athletic clothing lines.

I've been a part of enough sales oganizations to know that the staff has to struggle sometimes to come up with good attributes and benefits after someone up the food chain made a turkey. Want to buy a Pinto or a Vega? :) I'll listen to someone who has imperical data like Richard, or someone who plays in the same conditions that I do. All others are highly suspect!

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Closet testing on 02/25/2014 13:09:28 MST Print View

> certainly including Patagonia and Marmot and Nike and addidas and Brooks and
> Reebok and UnderArmour and Sacouny and ACIS and New Balance et al make very
>high CFM long sleeve shirts, jackets, hoodys, and half zips for high
> aerobic activities such as running, climbing, trail running, hiking, biking, etc.

hwc, I don't agree with your statement.
If you are talking about stretchy baselayer shirts with no water resistance, then yes, there are plenty of options (though most are probably over 8 ounces).
But jacket-style garments that are breathable, water-resistant, and light weight? It is the exception, not the rule. I will believe that the Brooks LSD jacket satisfies the criteria, but can you provide specific models from other brands that satisfy the criteria? I went to a sporting goods store and tested what I could, and found that non-breathable was the norm.

Those companies are marketing driven. Also they probably don't like seeing an online review of their jacket saying that it's cold.

Last night I visited my closet and conducted the breath test on a number of 100% nylon button-down hiking shirts that I have. I was shocked by how low their air permeability is. I also tried some shirts made out of cotton, and was shocked at how low the air permeability was for some of the shirts. Naturally none of these garment have a PU layer, and most have been worn and washed a lot over the years. High air permeability in a fabric is not a given at all.

Edited by clear_blue_skies on 02/25/2014 13:15:20 MST.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
Sierra Designs on 02/25/2014 13:09:35 MST Print View

We have to check air permeability of SD windshirt on Richard Nisley's equipment before making any conclusions. Because as i can see manufactrurers data for CFM are correlated with Richard's data but not equal to them. Apples to apples.

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
I didn't say water-resistant on 02/25/2014 13:59:56 MST Print View

>> But jacket-style garments that are breathable, water-resistant, and light weight? It is the exception, not the rule.

I didn't say water-resistant. I said that all of these companies make products that are extremely air permeable and designed specifically to vent maximum heat/sweat under high aerobic conditions.

Here's an example -- a New Balance half-zip. But, virtually every running brand makes something similar:

http://www.runningwarehouse.com/New_Balance_Mens_Boylston_Half_Zip/descpage-NBHZM14.html

Heck, for that matter, a 100 wt fleece is going to offer extremely high air permeability and "breathability".

There are countless options for high air permeability garments. The trade-off is that they are less weather resistant. Windshirts are different product. They trade-off air permeability for increased weather resistance. They have to. The definition of "blocking wind" is reduced air permeability.

Rick .
(overheadview) - F

Locale: NYC
Re: I didn't say water-resistant on 02/25/2014 15:05:56 MST Print View

>There are countless options for high air permeability garments. The trade-off is that >they are less weather resistant. Windshirts are different product. They trade-off air >permeability for increased weather resistance. They have to. The definition of >"blocking wind" is reduced air permeability.

Right. But there's a sweet spot where you get the better of both worlds (windblock & breathability), which is what this thread is about. Not "windproof" but not a plastic bag (or a burlap sack) either. Where is that point? (measured in CFM) and which jackets offer it?

You can see this best when you're coming in and out of treeline/peaks/ridges, where the wind is howling at 40mph. You get cold quick without some moderate windblock layer, and it would take an awful lot of fleece (strenuous activity or no) to keep you warm. As you pass back out of the wind, you warm up and (can) sweat. A fleece works in case B but does very little for case A. The wind pulls warm air from your body immediately, and you chill, period.

There is a niche for products which handle both of those extremes well enough to stay on thru all changing conditions in between throughout the day.

If it rains, put your rain jacket on, that's a different garment (until they can make a several cfm jacket that is still waterproof, this is necessarily a different garment). If a fleece works for you, fine! but there's a lot of people who are looking for something else (and had found it in previous iterations!)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Dilbertism on 02/25/2014 15:22:13 MST Print View

"I'm trying to get beyond this reductionistic argument that "any disagreement with BPL dogma is driven by corporate greed alone." That whole narrative is wearing thin for me. I'm open to the possibility that a manufacturer might actually be acting in good faith, and trying to put out an improved product."

I don't think it is greed, just attention to marketing factors that don't fit my needs. It's more incompetence than malfeasance.

What's the design process? A small task force is asked to update the last model, surveys, reviews and other feedback are studied, features like cuff adjustments or zipper details or current fashion colors may be introduced, the fabric samples come out (this is the important part), it all gets kicked around, it is written up, samples are made and reviewed and somewhere in the process someone in authority says "go," and the patterns are sent off for production samples, they are reviewed and away we go. At each stage the marketing folk have their input and there are other folk who do cost analysis to get the product to fit into the right cost for the perceived market slot. Personalities and authority have their influences. There amy be opinions worked into the process that have nothing to do with good science and engineering and divorced from the laws of physics.

Taking The North Face as an example, some of us are old enough to have watched the brand go through several changes in market direction with more of an emphasis on urban fashion than mountaineering. It has been interesting to watch Eddie Bauer swing back and forth with the First Ascent line and it's prominence and position in the stores and catalogs.

It's a pulling contest from several directions and there are market sections that we don't get into directly, like running, biking, skiing, team sports, rock climbing, gym/conditioning, and even some military uses. That last may have more good influence for backpacking than the rest and it is more than the US armed forces too.

But after the cookies have been baked, someone has to get the stuff sold and the design teams have to justify their decisions and all the other corporate machinations. Good scientific method requires research, then theory. Marketing tends to take a feature and then attach attributes and benefits to it, basically doing the "research" to support the theory instead and finding reasons to "pitch" the product.

Let me give an example of an item I just ran into. I found this pair of Novara/REI bike gloves. They have a tag hanging off the side that has the Novara logo on it. It is reflective, but I'll bet dinner that no one on the design team said, "we need a reflector on that outer seam" and then the logo was added. I'm sure it was much more like someone on the marketing side wanted more brand identification and a compromise was made to add the tag rather than some big logo splashed across the back of the glove. The tag is in a poor spot for reflecting in traffic and there are more integrated reflective panels on the knuckles anyway. As a user, I can see no real purpose for this tag and in fact I find it annoying. It is also difficult to remove. it just marketing hype that the user has to pay for and live with.

Novara gloves
Novara gloves

Here is the REI blurb on this product. The italics are mine and something I see as a justification for the junk that marketing added to an otherwise good design. This stuff is pervasive and we are saturated in it. And I hold it is the product of design by committee. Imagine a Frank Lloyd Wright design with an equivalent "tag" hanging off the side. I don't think so. This is where Apple succeeded: just the look and feel of the product identified it as an Apple product, to the extent that everyone else had robbed the designs.


From http://www.rei.com/product/803637/novara-headwind-bike-gloves-mens:

The sleek, windproof Novara Headwind biking gloves protect and insulate hands from brisk winter weather.

Polyester laminate fabric blocks wind and repels water; microfleece lining and stretch cuffs retain valuable heat
Padding in the synthetic leather palms cushions and protects hands from the vibrations of rough roads; reinforced thumb and forefinger panels enhance durability
Fleece thumbs mop up brow moisture
Reflective detailing increases your visibility in low light

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
Unicorns on 02/25/2014 15:47:08 MST Print View

>> There is a niche for products which handle both of those extremes well enough to stay on thru all changing conditions in between throughout the day.

There's a niche for unicorns, too. Alas, I probably sweat too much for a single mythical jacket to serve every purpose of every moment of every hike. I don't think there is anything that will block a 40 mph wind on a summit AND not trap too much heat for me when I'm trudging uphill. Fortunately, I move so slowly that I'm not "popping above and below treeline" very quickly, so I can usually just stop and put on a windbreaker when I get above treeline. If it's too hot for that, I've got other options that block a little wind. Specifically, I've got two options in hybrids that have wind resistant fabric on the torso and breathable panels on the back, sides, and under the arms.

hwc 1954
(wcollings) - M
On reflection on 02/25/2014 15:54:06 MST Print View

I think most people would view the added reflective bits on those gloves as a benefit. I know that when I ride a bike or jog in traffic, I want as much reflectivity as I can get. Without those tags, the gloves would have zero reflectivity from the palm side.

Rick .
(overheadview) - F

Locale: NYC
Re: Unicorns on 02/25/2014 16:27:47 MST Print View

Wcollins-

It's not a unicorn! Lots of people are lamenting the loss of the older houdini (apt name!)

It's fine if you don't see the need to get deep into the exact cfm that works for these conditions, and have methods that work. For me and a lot of others, there's a use for this type of garment. Its also not for every hike. Or even the whole day.

I've been in conditions where the only option was to fumble with a jacket several times an hour, sweat with it on, or be unnecessarily cold with it off. If something can bridge that gap I want it.