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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Shell Shoot off, mano mano

A couple of months ago I started a project that has grown into a much bigger gorilla than anything I have done before on the blog.

A month ago I made my intentions public to do a side by side comparison of the newest high tech shells/jackets that I find most appropriate to my style of climbing...which is generally cold, not wet.

Once the blog readers got interested in that post, so did a few of the clothing companies.  And even more gear showed up at my door.

This all started because I have been so impressed with the Neoshell Apoc by Westcomb that was given to me as a writer's sample.  The Apoc was free so I figure if it is good as I think it is, no problem doing side by side tests against all comers.  The first side by side was with a Marmot Hyper jacket.   Those reviews were posted to the blog earlier in the year.

But with so many hard shell, soft shell, stretchy jackets available today I had to do more.  Polartec is the culprit here producing all sorts of fabrics that make some amazing garments to climb in.  Think Shoeller on steroids when you think Polartec.   Not sure if I hate them or love them yet but I know they are costing me and the rest of those involved some serious coin.  More on that in a minute.

I don't want to spoil all the fun for the field test so I'll just give you some high lights.  First there will be three of us using all the jackets over a 4 day period.  We'll be carrying at least 3 jackets a piece and we'll rotate over the trip so everyone gets into every jacket.   Hopefully this will include some decent climbing and at least one good day's walk.  But I am still not sure just how many jackets we will be taking.

Besides myself,  Doug Klewin, well known for the 1st complete of the North Buttress of Mt Hunter will be giving all the gear a once over.  As will long time UK alpine climber and Chamonix resident  Lee Clark.  Both better climbers than I and maybe even more critical of gear.  Our comparisons and opinions of like gear should be really interesting.

There are a number of things we'll be field testing on just this one trip that I will eventually write up as well, crampons, ice tools, helmets, new gloves, sleeping pads, packs, boots, approach shoes, and more clothing among them.  But that will have to wait for now.

The jackets I have currently for the field tests and reviews are:

Outdoor Research's  AXIOM jacket cut from a stretch water proof breathable version of *Gore-Tex’s Active Shell* 13.7oz Large

Westcomb's APOC jacket cut from Polartec's stretch waterproof  breathable *NeoShell*  17.4oz  XL

Marmot's HYPER jacket cut from stretch waterproof breathable technology, *MemBrain® Strata 100% Nylon Stretch* 13.4oz XL

Patagonia's KNIFEBLADE  pullover made with *Polartec Power Shield Pro* 20.8 XL

Eddie Bauer's FRONTPOINT jacket that is now discontinued, a hybrid of hard shell and soft shell technology. 17.8oz Large

Mountain Hardware's DRYSTEIN jacket cut from their stretch, water proof, breathable *Dry Q Elite* 18.7 oz XL

Arc'teryx VENTA HOODY in *Gore Wind Stopper*  22.9 oz XL

Arcteryx SQUAMISH pullover •Gossamera™—100% Nylon ripstop fabric with water repellant coating
5.6oz  XL

Arcteryx SQUAMISH pullover in use

A few more may yet show up before we take off.  If they do we'll give them a fair shake as well. Interesting to me when I explained what I was planning and what I wanted to test, several manufactures wanted me to test garments I didn't think suitable to judged side by side with the original core group.  I took all comers any way and added a few of my own (at my expense) because I think it will make a better side by side comparison.

I am likely more interested in the results of our little field test than you are! Other weight comparisons can be made here:


Jay said...

Hi Dane, so first off, thanks for doing this massive gear comparison that I'm sure will be more in depth, meticulous, and rugged than anything the climbing mags will put out.

Your selection of jackets is pretty comprehensive, but I'm wondering why there's no Rab gear? The Alpine Jacket looks like a solid, light, simple soft shell and the Baltoro has looked good to me too. Is it because they're using "old" fabrics and this test is all about the new generation?

Dane said...

Hi Jay,
While pretty good, actually I don't think the selection is comprehensive. Just what was sent to me or I bought with my meager budget. A few companies that I think should be there, that are not. Rab included.

The original idea was the "newest"
stretch, water proof shells. That has morphed into what you see. No secret early on what I was planning on field testing.

I have still have room for a couple more jackets if anyone out there wants a speciifc brand or material tested with this group. They just need to be here by Oct 5th.

Wyatt said...

I hope Rab sends you some gear!They aren't behind the times, Rab's using neoshell now. But it would also be nice to see how their eVent stuff compares to the newer, stretchier fabrics.

Julian said...

Hey Dane, I know you've had a good relationship with Sherpa Adventure Gear in the past (judging from some previous blog posts). Any chance you can get and review the Lungta Hybrid jacket as part of this? Their description of it makes it sound like a stretchy hard/soft shell hybrid. I have one on the way from SteepAndCheap, and would be curious to hear some comparisons to other jackets before I decide whether or not to take it to Colorado this winter.

Dane said...

Julian, I asked, we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Really interested to see about the Arc Acto and Patagonia knife blade. However I do think you need to add a control - bring along your current favorite jacket based current technology. Because for my part I'm interested not just in how these new guys compare against each other, but also if they are really such a big improvement over the current state of the art.

Dane said...

No worries on the control. I am not a big fan of shells in general although some of the newest materials are enticing.

Some nice jackets in this bunch and likely we'll have weather conditions that will test them and us.

What I am really interested in is what we come up with for opinions on each garment between the three of us.

I've used about everything. Doug almost nothing new in a few years and I have yet to quizz Lee on what he has used. That should make some interesting feed back for all of us.

James said...

Definitely interested in the Patagucci Knifeblade too. I had a look at one today and it really impressed me. Great fit and very simple. If PowerShield Pro is as awesome as people say I may have to invest...

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