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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, October 5, 2012

Super light wind shells?

5.11 trad, circa 1988 with a Patagonia wind shell in tow

There are few pieces of gear that have been a consistent staple in my gear collection for a few decades.

I can limit it to boots, pack, crampons, and a set of axes for the most part.  And in that tiem frame all of them have changed several times over.  Except one.  When it comes to clothing two items have remained pretty consistent.  A decent lwt down jacket and a light weight wind shell.

Only the lowly wind shell has literally saved my life a time or two.   Literally considered "emergency equipment" for the most part.  Like in the picture above tied around my waist and unnoticed until needed.

Same shell on the summit of Rainier circa 1984

I generally take one of these along  when the weather is "perfect" in the mtns but I'll be out long enough or up high enough that  the weather can change in short order.   Alpine rock climbs with a good change of a thunder storm or a perfect day on the local volcanos that is bound to be windy at sunrise.  Or for my ultra light trips where I generally end up suffering a bit if my plans don't go as first thought out and I end up huddled around a fire all night to keep warm.


Or when I just want something to add a little warmth and break the wind while while still breathing well as I try to move quickly on a easy approach like walking out to Professors in chilly temps.

Spring 2012 and still the same wind shell @ 6oz for my Large.

They seem to last awhile and are light in weight (around 5 oz in a large) and for the most part pretty wind proof and breath well.  The best fabrics these days also offer some rain protection with the most modern fabrics.  For my ancient gear I just give them a good soaking to get a DWR with something like Nikwax fabric coating.  And try to keep them away from an open flame and wind blown embers.

I get teased every time I put on my 80's purple Patagonia pull over shells (I have 2 ) because the bright colors gives away the age.  Not like my white hair doesn't!  So while my Patagonia piece is the for runner of the current Patagonia Houdini (retails @ 125 or under, some times WAY under so look around!) of today the only thing that seems hard on any of the them is fire.  After I collected a bunch of pin holes in my favorite shell during an unplanned overnight stop with a resulting fire to keep me warm till morning I went looking for a new shell.

I found three I think are worth mentioning but there are any number of them out there.  Patagonia Houdini is a good place to start if you don't like what I ended up with.

The first up is really the rock star of the bunch.  Camp's MAGIC ANORAK aka Flash Anorak.  Brian (who convinced me to buy one)  has a great write up on it here:

Yep, no back on this one and you cna add or take it off without removing your pack.  At first I thought it only a skimo gizmo for the race guys.  Now it is one if nto my favorite for serious stuff in the mtns.

• Climbing, Running, Skiing, Hiking, Cycling
• The lightest, most compressible hooded wind shell in the world!
• Proprietary Araneum fabric is uncoated, yet windproof and water resistant
• Built-in stuff sack measures just 4” x 2.5”
• Chest pocket closes with a Velcro flap
• 9-inch front zipper for ventilation
• Velcro tab holds rolled up hood to prevent flapping
• Lycra cuffs on the bottom hem and sleeves
Constructed from innovative Araneum fabric, the Magic Anorak weighs only 3.4 ounces and fits in the palm of your hand. Araneum is a 20 denier nylon ripstop (35 g/m2) that is 33% stronger yet only 10% heavier than 15 denier fabric. The Magic Anorak is indispensable for light and fast outdoor athletes who cannot afford to carry extra weight, but may find themselves in adverse conditions. Clip it to a harness for long climbs or toss it in a pack as an emergency piece on aggressive cross-country hikes or ski tours. Because Araneum fabric has no coating (its technical features are gained from the tightness of the weave), the Magic Anorak can be washed time and again without affecting performance.
ID: 1669
Sizes: S - M - L - XL
Weight (medium): 91 g, 3.2 oz  (4.2oz for my XL)
$89.95 USD

The RAB Cirrus Wind Top:

Next up is my now "every day" lwt.  The Camp Flash
was so good I figured I needed something with actual
full coverage for I wasn't wearing a pack!
I am using this one every where and for things I would
never pull out an anorak for.  Running, biking and even
throw it in my pack for a day of cragging.  Or off for
a beer in town if the weather is decent enough to sit
on the patio.  Love the full zip but it still seems like
I am cheating some how.  But one of my now favorite
pieces of kit.

            Useful kit as Ally shows on the summit of Mt. Blanc.
photo courtesy of Ally and Jon Griffith @ Alpine Exposures

The Cirrus Wind-Top is the full zip version of the Cirrus

Using the same Pertex Quantum 15 Denier fabric as the Pull-On
the Wind-Top also features an under-helmet hood and 2 zipped
hand-warmer pockets.Designed for fast and light use the Cirrus
Wind-Top is a fully featured jacket that can be used over layers
to create a warm and windproof clothing system yet weighs in at
 just 120g / 4ozThe Cirrus Wind Top is ideal for adventure racers,
 mountain marathons, fell runners, mountain bikers, or even for
super lightweight alpine style ascents on rock where wind proof
protection is required.

Sizes: S - XXL
Weight: 120g / 4oz  (4.6oz for my Large)

$110 retail

Last but not least is an interesting new shell from NW Alpine.

With a retail of $475.00 American DOLLARS I am not sure
what to think yet.  I have yet to wear a lwt shell out..even
the less than $100 ones.  But then I try to take care of them
and they don't generally get to touch granite.  Simply because
it will shred a normal lt weight.  Bill @ NW Alpine may be
on to something here.    My Eyebright weighs in at  5.4oz for
a size Large.  Mind you Bill is looking at the Eye Bright as
"the lightest fully featured waterproof/breathable jacket
on the market".

As in "fully featured" like any of the Gortex, H2No or Event
shells offered by others in a similar price range.  This could
well be the ultimate lwt waterproof and breathable jacket
and a lwt wind shell or body armor as a bonus.  If it is, with
the kind of durability claimed the $475. might actually
be a be a bargain. Just remember any of these shells will
melt if you add a little heat!

World’s Lightest Full Featured Waterproof/Breathable Jacket
The name Eyebright refers to the genus of many species of flowers
 that thrive in high alpine meadows where their small size belies
the strength it takes to survive in harsh mountain conditions.
The Eyebright Jacket is built from waterproof/breathable non-woven
Dyneema® fabric. Unlike other ultralight jackets that will tear at
the sight of granite, our fabric provides tear strength and abrasion
 resistance superior to any other material of it’s weight. The
waterproof membrane is one of the most breathable available
on the market. With fully taped seams, adjustable cuff tabs, an
 adjustable helmet-compatible hood, and chest pocket, the
Eyebright is the lightest fully featured waterproof/breathable
jacket on the market. Simply put, if you need a shell that
weighs almost nothing, packs small and can stand up to the
abuse of alpine climbing, bring this jacket on your next trip.
Available in white, made in the USA.


Anonymous said...

I think this is not just a Dyneema but Mylar with Dyneema. It is called Cuben Fabric a.k.a CTF3. Joe @ ZPacks makes a jacket, pants and some other stuff from this fabric - see . Price tag is twice as low, though.

This fabric (at least those runs they had a while back) is not so durable and will loose color over time, se here . Maybe they will fix this issue, maybe it is already fixed - I don't know.

Brian said...

What are your thoughts on the helium II from OR? Six ozs gets you a fully waterproof jacket...

Dane said...

OR makes great stuff. I have not used the Helium. But it sounds as good as any of them.

"Outdoor Research's Helium II jacket rises to the occasion with an ultralight 30 denier ripstop fabric that's fully waterproof and even equipped with welded, watertight zippers. •2.5 layer 30 denier nylon ripstop
•Pertex® Shield DS waterproof breathable membrane
•Fully seam sealed for complete waterproof protection
•Attached, three-piece storm hood with back drawcord adjustment
•Welded, water-tight zip front chin guard and zipper garage
•Welded, water-tight zip chest pocket
•Partially elasticized cuffs
•Interior touch-fasten pocket
•Adjustable drawcord hem
•Waterproof rating: 20,000mm
•Breathable rating: 15,000"

Lots of choices in material and designs with this style of garment. Just trying to show that with the write up,

Ryan said...

Nice write up Dane. I've been a big fan of the FF Jackorack, it's about the only piece of gear that comes with me on any and every type of trip (rock/ice, summer/winter). I hadn't seen the CAMP anorak--very interesting concept... And I look forward to hearing more about the NWAlpine jacket--I'm a big fan of a few of their products I've used, but I doubt I'd be willing to spend that kind of $$$...

Aaron said...

Hey Dane,

Nice write up. I'd never really thought to give one of these pieces a space in the kit, but I've been finding lighter and lighter pieces to act as wind/water blockers.

What do you think about Bill's simplicity jacket? Seems to fit in here and comes in under 5 oz for a medium.

Dane said...

Thanks Aaron. I use these type of garments a lot. Always have.
I suspect any of them will work. I do like the Pertex though for the money spent.

stevemcgee99 said...

I've got an old Baggies pullover windshirt - good for abrasion, and really blocks wind. Ugly colors as I used to not care or notice that at all.

But my most-used is the Wild Things windshirt, right after the label changed to text. Pinkish red, ultralight, velcro cuffs, high mock zip neck. I've worn it so much it's amazing it hasn't worn through.