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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, October 15, 2012

Soft Shells..the end..finally! Part 4 of 4

Jack Roberts RIP 

I would have thought that of my 11 choices in soft shell jackets either insulated or uninsulated shells would have been my favorite.  One or the other.

Turns out I am a big fan of the newest technology like the Neoshell fabric used in the Marmot Zion.  The inexpensive REI "town and country" hoodless version I reviewed feels the same to me but offers  significantly less weather protection.   But the REI version still makes a darn good ice cragging jacket if you don't require a hood.  And while cragging I seldom require a hood.  My guess would be they are the same fabric without the Neoshell laminate in the REI version and a very good DWR that does an incredible job on the their fabric.

Given the right material, that is wind proof, 100% water proof and does in fact breath well enough for your own use you could cut your layering system by weight and bulk.

Neoshell I think offers a chance to do all that if a company like Arcteryx, OR or even Mammut would put some time and effort into a single package.  Single package as in "action suit" package.

Neoshell has me thinking how I could revise my layering system for the better.  But at the moment none of the options available jump out at me as a replacement.  Maybe a Neoshell Atom LT?

More on layering here:

Mark Twight's "action suit" is a reality in every serious alpine climbers kit.  The newest fabrics like Polartec's Neoshell or any of the better Goretex or Shoeller newest offers are now giving us a chance to design the ultimate "action suit".   Only Mountain Hardware seems to be up to the task at the moment  with the new Ueli Steck line of gear.   And they haven't covered everything or made any real innovations imo.  They have just done things better...not really different.  It is time for different!

I have one of the few pair of Neoshell Salopettes that I know of, and simply love them in the alpine.  Mating the right jacket with those pants is a priority for me.  So I am still looking for the ultimate shell.

There will be a time...when the action suit starts with your crampons....then your boots and then your "shell", boot sole to a head covering system.  "THE" suit will include an integral glove system, gaiters and different options for insulation depending on the temperatures.  Water resistance and breathability will be a given.  I've been climbing more decades than I like to admit to.  But a systems approach to our clothing is not all that far away in the grand scheme of things.

Viva technology!

This is on my blog list but worth checking out as well if you haven't already:


Anonymous said...

So, if it weren't for stretch, why would I want a jacket in Neoshell, while wearing good fitting eVent jacket (RAB Latok), and eVent indeed breathes very well?

Anonymous said...

not sure if u have seen the new westcomb neoshell jacket but it is a direct competitor to the axiom. its called shift lt i think and looks awesome. any insight on that one?

PK said...

Rab also has its Neoshell jacket. I only just looked it up so have no experience whatsoever with it, but I use other Rab pieces of gear and have found them to be uniformly very high quality.

I wonder how this will compare. I've not tried anything made with Neoshell, but Dane yours and the recommendation of others has me intrigued.

Dane said...

RAB? Take a look around the blog..I have already done a review on the RAB Stretch Neo. Like most Neoshell it is a Hard shell version. Not easily compared as a soft shell which is what this comparison was. RAB is a nice jacket. I liked mine a lot for what it is.

Dane said...

Hey John, thanks for asking. I'll be reviewing the newest Westcomb Shift and Focus as a Neoshell and Event comparison shortly. Stoked on Daniel Harro's comment about the super LWT shells. The Shift is under 12oz I am told. No clue on the Focus but it might well be even lighter. I'll know much more shortly.

Anonymous said...

I've tried the Marmot Zion neoshell jacket and I must say it is extremely warm and somewhat on the heavier side of things

Anonymous said...

Westcomb Shift-- Can't believe I am saying this but is it too light? I tried one on and had a bit too much room in the chest area and only 1 Napoleon pocket (would have liked to have seen some hand pockets). Don't know if this would hold up in the alpine environment

Dane said...

No clue on the Shift as it hasn't arrived yet. But I'll let you know what I think. Seems a bunch of my friends are raving about the 12 to 14oz hard shells so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. But they claim the Arcteryx SL/FL versions are way tougher than they first appear. The three guys that suggested I take a look are really rough on and critical of gear. All of which makes me really curious. More later.

Dersu said...

When I watched a video review of Alpha FL, I noticed it was rather short in length. But then again, the guy wore such a size, that the fit was very athletic, he probably couldn't even fit an Atom LT under there.

Josh Allred's Blog said...

Question: Venta MX vs Gamma MX

I am torn between the Venta mx vs the Gamma mx.

I have tried on the Gamma MX. I am concerned that the Gamma might be a tad short with pulling over the harness as I sweing my tool. I did like the feel and weight of the Gamma. It seems like a time tested piece.

The Venta looks like a great piece as well. I am wondering how it fits compared to the Gamma. I am also concerned about how well it breathes and how it packs.

I am honestly looking for a piece to go ice climbing, alpine climbing and possibly mountaineering. Something breathable and stretchy. Any help is appreciated, thanks.

Dane said...

Hi Josh. afaik the pattern of the Venta MX and Gamma MX are the same. Gamma will breath better and pack just a tiny bit smaller but not much. The Venta will offer more weather protection.

Brett said...

Do you have any further information on the new pertex shield mixed with a layer of event? Much googling after reading the short Japan article has yielded nothing, yet it sounds like it could be a contender.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if I could get some more thoughts from you on Polartec's Power Shield Pro fabric, found in the Patagonia Knifeblade and a few other garments. Putting aside the fit and features of the Knifeblade, what do you make of the fabric? I'm having a tough time figuring out a reason that Neoshell might be considered superior to it.

Neoshell is rated waterproof to around 10000mm and PSPro is rated to 5000mm when new and 3000mm old. But 3000-5000mm is still basically waterproof for ice/alpine conditions. A tent I've used, the BA Seedhouse SL has a FLOOR apparently rated to 1200mm. The Nanoshield fabric used by BD for their tents is rated to 1700mm. How much water resistance do you require in a jacket? 3000-5000mm is waterproof enough for a heavy rainfall. Maybe not a full on literal hurricane, but certainly any rain I'd ever want to be in in the mountains.

Dane said...

The Knifeblade is a good garment. I like the fabric. Neoshell is offered in many different fabrics...from a super light shell fabric to the insualted fabrics like the Marmot Zion. May be the PSP is as well. I don't know the answer on that one. My interest for winter climbing is in the newest insulated fabrics that are also water proof and exceptionally breathable and that stretch. I have a new set of bibs and a jacket from another Polartec fabric that is all those things.

I don't think you are asking the right question. It is the base fabric that really matters if all the laminates are very close in water proof performance. The important question for me is how well do they breath?

Anonymous said...

So what is the answer to the breathability question? =)

Every review I've seen says PSPro breathes significantly better than any released iteration of Neoshell. From the things I've read, Power Shield Pro really has little in common, tech-wise, with the original Power Shield. Instead, PSPro and Neoshell were developed at the same time and are the same tech, but Neoshell is the less breathable 10000mm water resistant version and PSPro is the more breathable, 5000mm version. Both are waterproof for most conditions.

And yeah, the actual fabric can be changed up on PSPro. Compare the Knifeblade or Northwall to the North Face Kishtwar.

I will concede that I have yet to see a 12 ounce PSPro jacket.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Polartec says that the ratings for both of these fabrics drops after 20 washes: as I said earlier, 3000mm for PSPro, but 5000mm for Neoshell, effectively turning Neoshell into PSPro.

Dane said...

Numbers are nice if you believe them. As I said in these reviews most of the new fabrics are very close in performance for winter climbing. By the time I wash any of these garments 20 times they will be worn out for my use.

BUT...and it is a big but. In actual use you need to make comparisons to similar garments. Take a 12oz Westcomb Neoshell, a Marmot Zion Neoshell and the Patagonia Knifeblade....all three are totally different garments with different uses in the field for me because of the base FABRIC used. My suggestion is forget the freakin numbers and find a garment or two that fits your needs first and then look at the laminate used.

Or you could decide for yourself what the best laminate is and then go looking for your perfect garment.

I took a third route. I went looking for the perfect fabric for my own use. Then found that same fabric with a laminate that provided the protection and breathability I wanted and then had the garments made to my spec.

It is never just the numbers that will tell you the performance of any one is the entire design process.