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Advice for a hardshell for early spring and late fall.
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Advice for a hardshell for early spring and late fall. on 04/02/2014 20:47:52 MDT Print View

I'm looking at buying a hard shell for early spring and late fall backpacking.

The temperatures can be from 10F to 40F and I need something that can repel water as well as keep me bone dry. Hypothermia is just too dangerous.

I'm also planning on using it as plan B in the summer of the winter looks bad.

So I imagine what I really need is a medium level hard shell. Not as insane as some of the mountaineering options but also strong enough that I can go over significant peaks @ 8-10k without having to worry insane weather killing me.

I was thinking of getting the Montbell Torrent Flier:

BPL gives it 4.5 starts in terms of features but only 3.5 in terms of value... but the price has come down about $50 and it's also lighter now.

The other jacket I was looking at was the Super Mica from Marmot.

It's REALLY hard to compare all these jackets. Each vendor has about ten different hard shells and it's difficult to figure out which one I should go with.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Advice for a hardshell for early spring and late fall. on 04/02/2014 23:40:58 MDT Print View

Will your jacket see significant abrasion, as in scraping against granite while climbing or mountaineering, or extended bushwhacking through dense vegetation?

If this jacket will see significant abrasion, then you will legitimately need a jacket with heavier and more durable fabric, but for general on-trail backpacking, abrasion risk is highly overstated.

Whether you are at 10,000 feet or sea level won't make any difference. The jacket still serves the same function and will basically do it equally well regardless of what the ambient atmospheric pressure is.

Just get something light and with the features you want (pockets, pit zips, etc.). And there is really no need to spend more than about $150.

All these "waterproof breathable" jackets are glorified plastic bags. Some have better construction, fit, and features than others, but they are all universally poor at being breathable. Don't kid yourself: they won't breath much. Venting is the best option for breathability with any of these hard shells.

If this is just for run-of-the-mill backpacking, then I'd tell you to go with the Super Mica because it is cheap, and Marmot is really good about standing by their products for life. They have replaced two different WPB jackets for me that delaminated after a few years, and they didn't give me a hard time about it. They are a good company in my experience.

There are plenty of other good jackets out there as well though.

Edited by dmusashe on 04/02/2014 23:53:23 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
REI on 04/03/2014 00:37:10 MDT Print View

Unlike Derek I HAVE had good experiences with Gore-TEX and VERY good experiences with eVent hardshells. Gore-Tex is great for alpine skiing and lighter activity.

My favorite is REI's Kimtah eVent parka (and pants). Makes a good windshell and is very breathable. Plus it is the best eVent shell for the money.

True, you'll get sweaty with hard exertion but that's true even with quite breathable clothing. But with moderate exertion the eVent parka will keep you quite well ventilated.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Advice for a hardshell for early spring and late fall. on 04/03/2014 07:52:58 MDT Print View

First, don't plan on wearing a hardshell below freezing unless you're getting wet snow or the wind is super strong with a dangerous windchill. Relatively poorly breathing hardshells do even worse in the cold, which contributes to getting wet from the inside and hypothermia.

When someone says spring and fall backpacking, I think of the possibility of cold rain, wet mixed precip, and strong winds. All of these recommend a slightly burlier shell. While there is no inherent reason light face fabrics can't resist wetting out in these conditions, most suffer anyway. A good DWR is vital. A stiffer jacket fabric also provides more wind protection when things are nasty.

The Torrent Flier and Super Mica are very poor choices here. Montbell has a fairly poor DWR treatment, and both coats are quite thin.

One route would be to get a lighter, simpler Goretex coat. Probably talking around 13 ounces and 300 bucks. The Patagonia Super Cell, for example. Another approach if you prefer to spend less would be a PU coated coat with a heavier face fabric, like the Patagonia Torrentshell.

If you want to spend still more you can save a bit of weight with a high-end coat like the Arcteryx Alpha SL or Haglofs Gram Comp. Both will be excellent long term investments.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: Advice for a hardshell for early spring and late fall. on 04/03/2014 08:57:45 MDT Print View

I'm really just saying what others have said differently, but ideally you need a soft shell and a hard shell for that temp range. Maybe around 20-25F is the starting lower range for using a hard shell, but I've used an eVENT hard shell down to 10F with pit zips. I think you could get by with only an eVENT shell.

My soft shell is cotton canvas and was $15. It's a bit heavy, more durable (particularly around fire), and works great. I use it for around 20F and below.

Edited by AndyF on 04/03/2014 08:58:30 MDT.

daniel B
(dbogey) - F - M

Locale: East Coast
2nd REI Kimtah on 04/03/2014 10:31:24 MDT Print View

Kevin - I just did a 20+ mile day last week in central Pa in the Kimtah eVent parka. Temp outside was 15 degrees and the jacket breathed very well. I used an ibex 150 weight short sleeve shirt and an ibex hoodie indie. The combination of these 3 pieces were perfect. Ventilation is the key and would just unzip the jacket and hoodie when i was ascending the typical Pa terrain.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
mildly confusing. on 04/03/2014 11:05:05 MDT Print View

Wow. This is a complicated thread with lots of differing advice.

Sounds like I should probably get two jackets. A decent soft shell and a decent but light hard shell.

I don't do much hardcore bush whacking where the hard shell would see any damage. Even when I DO it's at much higher altitude and I'm not running into much brush.

In the Sierra Nevadas there forest floor is pretty open.

So get a decent soft shell for winter conditions where it will be cold and wind issues are a problem.

I can then use this soft shell for cold temperatures WELL below freezing.

I can bring BOTH for intermediate temps 20-40. This way if it starts to rain hard I can just throw on the hard shell.

Then I can just bring the hard shell for temps > 32 where rain and hypothermia is the issue.

I want the hard shell for the summer as well. I'd like a decent plan B in the case of SEVERE weather and catastrophic shelter damage. Something I can just sit around in overnight under a tree waiting for a storm to end.

Plus I can do some decent mileage this way.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: rain shell on 04/03/2014 11:34:29 MDT Print View

When you need a rain shell, you need a rain shell. I don't see any seasonal differences in hard shell rain protection. It is just a matter of weight, durability and budget. You have something like DriDucks at one end of the spectrum with a $500 Arcteryx shell at the other. The 2.5 layer shells offer a good range of features for the weight, running about 12oz to 16oz and $65 on up. If you want the best of the best, I would lean to an eVent jacket with all the vents you can find. That will typically run you $200+.

I don't mind a few ounces more in a rain shell if I'm going to be wearing it all day. Hauling a rain shell seems more of a burden in good summer weather or climates with less precip.

The problem with the uberlight rain shells is that they lack ventilation features. It's easy to overwhelm any breathable fabric when walking uphill with a load and vents are the only way to tackle the issue. Pit zips, venting pockets and snaps or velcro tabs on the front zipper will allow you to get some air exchange when you are working hard in wet conditions.

Ponchos are an option too, giving good ventilation at low weight and cost. A $60 poncho can fill the same niche as a $200 7oz rain shell. You get emergency shelter and a pack cover in the bargain.

Soft shells are okay for day use where you know the conditions, like downhill skiing, but they are heavy and don't provide much insulation. They are NOT a substitute for a rain shell: once a soft shell wets through, you have a nice mess on your hands. They do provide good wind protection and are abrasion resistant, so they are handy for climbers.

I have compared soft shells to a synthetic denim jacket for warmth. You can haul a thick fleece or a very lofty down top for the same weight as a soft shell. IMHO, a windshirt and light fleece like an R1 will provide all the protection of a soft shell at less weight and far more versatility.

Edited by dwambaugh on 04/03/2014 11:35:58 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: mildly confusing. on 04/03/2014 13:56:49 MDT Print View

Kevin, I'd recommend a windshirt and a hardshell for this sort of thing. The windshirt gets worn 95% of the time, with layers underneath adjusted to suit. The hardshell goes over the whole deal when it's raining hard, snaining, hailing, etc. I strongly prefer one of he stretch woven, more breathable windshirts.

Be honest about how often and hard you'll use both. If the hardshell is going to sit in the pack most of the time, a light, fragilish, 150 dollar PU coat is just fine.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: mildly confusing. on 04/03/2014 15:01:52 MDT Print View

David's insights and suggestions are good ones, IMO.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
more details... on 04/03/2014 18:49:10 MDT Print View

Here are some good resources on the materials of these jackets:

I think I'm leaning towards the Super Mica

- same price as the Kimtah eVent
- has high vis colors (bright yellow)
- has great reviews
- about half the weight as the REI Kimtah eVent...

Marmot DOES seem to have a Nano jacket that is GoreTex and slightly beefier but that might be overkill.

Here's a good comparison of the two:

man these decisions are hard!

$250 isn't an insane amount of money but what usually happens is that if I don't do the research I have to buy 2-3 things before I find something I like. And it can add up fast.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: more details... on 04/03/2014 19:29:35 MDT Print View

This jacket will stay in your pack 95% of the time and shouldn't weigh more than 10oz for 3-season Alpine use. Get an OR Helium HD and be done with it. Never have to worry about delamination issues with the OR warranty, e.g. Marmot, and shouldn't cost you more than $150 on sale. Combine with a RAB Boreas and your set for 3 seasons.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/03/2014 19:35:05 MDT.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
OR on 04/03/2014 19:41:35 MDT Print View

Interesting but OR doesn't (yet?) have the Helium HD on their website. They're saying spring 2014 in that video. I also can't get specs to compare them.

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: more details... on 04/03/2014 19:58:39 MDT Print View

What's the $250 price tag referring to, Kevin?

You should be able to get a Marmot Super Mica for around $150. You can check Amazon after reading this post and see for yourself that this is the case. I wouldn't spend much more than that on a lightweight PU coated WBP jacket. Lots of people like the Outdoor Research jackets as well, like the ones suggested above.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
$250.. on 04/03/2014 20:17:50 MDT Print View

Not the Super Mica specifically just that every piece of backpacking gear is about $250...

daniel B
(dbogey) - F - M

Locale: East Coast
Helium HD on 04/03/2014 20:35:44 MDT Print View

Kevin - they are here

Alot of good suggestions for a jackets and in your initial post you mentioned a jacket that will take you down to 10 degrees. I dont' know about you, but I'd want something that is bombproof once below freezing and the possibility of wet weather.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Re: Helium HD on 04/03/2014 22:03:07 MDT Print View

well.. anything LESS than 32 is going to be frozen. So even just a soft shell and a down jacket is fine.

The REAL issue is when it's raining and still cold. And I will RARELY need it ... so I think something more suited for a variety of conditions is best.

Plus... if it gets REALLY bad I have my tarp. I can just use that. Having BOTH is really valuable though. It means I can deal with severe weather if something like my tarp rips and I have to stay outside overnight. That's my real fear.

I've been in a couple of situations where I was thinking that if my tarp were to tear it would be very bad. Mostly worried about a limb falling and tearing my tarp. In that situation I could just throw on my jacket and then hike until I find some shelter.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Helium HD vs Super Mica on 04/03/2014 22:56:43 MDT Print View

Both of these jackets:

seem very competitive against one another.

The Super Mica is $25 more...

BUT .. the super mica comes in the high contrast yellow.

Which means that I have a piece of gear that could come in handy in a rescue situation. Which I kind of like.

Normally I like blending in ... mostly so other people don't see me and I don't ruin their wilderness experience.. But in rainy conditions it's ok to be seen IMO

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
OR on 04/03/2014 23:18:27 MDT Print View

OR has the best warranty in the business

some BPLers have stated issues with marmots warranty on their rain jackets ... do a search

with OR if you dont like it for any reason at all you send it in

when buying these UL rain shells, warranty matters ... hell even the BPL SOTM report had a montane event shell fail on them

as to what to buy ask yourself how often youll be using it ... if its always then get something a bit burlier ... if its a "just in case" then a UL shell will be fine


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Helium HD vs Super Mica on 04/04/2014 00:06:02 MDT Print View

The Super Mica appears to use a ~2x heavier denier fabric than the Helium HD. So perhaps more durable (30D on Helium HD is pretty durable though) but I would bet LESS BREATHABLE. I would also bet the Halo hood on the Helium HD works better (major complaint of the Helium II). And the Helium HD has a chest pocket too.

Eventually all these WPB jackets fail, so I would choose the cheapest one with the best no-hassle warranty if 3-season trekking is your primary need.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/04/2014 00:06:34 MDT.