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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Polartec Power Shield Pro...

Patagonia's Northwall jacket in Polartec Power Shield Pro and a grid fleece interior

As unlikely as I might have thought you'd ever see a virtual Patagonia ad on Cold goes :)  The editorial content is really suppose to be a well deserved Polartec ad/public service announcement but I can understand the confusion.  I am just as enamored with all the pretty colors, so what the hell :).

16 months ago I was lucky enough to get early samples of two different Polartec fabrics Patagonia was going to be using to great effect.  Obvious now, Patagonia has decided to expand on that effort in their alpine climbing line.  Great decision I think.

I'm generally not a big fan of the Patagonia patterns as they haven't fit me very well.  The current generation of garments are better.  Not an "Arcteryx fit" yet but much better than in the recent past I think.  Call fit a work in progress at Patagonia.  It doesn't happen often but I just spent some of my own money on gear at the local Patagonia store so it is good enough!  And some of what I bought is very, very good I think.  Thanks for the extra help there Travis!

What isn't a work in progress is the two fabrics that Patagonia is using.

Polartec Power Shield Pro


Polartec Power Shield Pro with the Regulator high-loft grid fleece interior.

Both are amazing fabrics for my intended purpose, which is alpine and ice climbing in cold environments.  And to some extent, alpine skiing, BC and lift served.

Interior fleece on the Northwall jacket
Photo above courtesy of    Good review here:

My first thought with the Polartec Power Shield Pro w/ fleece interior was,  "just add Neoshell".  And "I REALLY gotta have pants in this stuff!"  Then we would REALLY be rocking!   From the few I have heard of using the Neoshell/ Power Shield Pro combo so far, the feedback I have heard is "best pant I've ever used!".

I think that pretty much "covers it" from my perspective as well.  Much more to come on that in a future review or two.

Polartec Power Shield or Power Shield Pro is used in all these garments from Patagonia.  Costly and hard to justify the price, may be, but well worth a look.  I think these garments and the various versions of Polartec's Neoshell are the cutting edge for performance fabrics at the moment.

Mixed Guide Hoody is a hybrid hard and soft shell combo. 
Green is a hard shell, technology, the blue is stretchy and tough Power Shield soft shell.  Not the Power Shield Pro material.  But there is only a slight difference in the laminate used and virtually none in actual use outdoors that I can tell.  Check out the listed stats of both stats in the comments section below.

soloing in a Frontpoint
The first jacket I used with similar (almost exactly the same) hybrid construction to the Mixed Guide was the now discontinued Eddie Bauer Frontpoint.  The Frontpoint is still a bench mark in performance and weight for me.  And a go to piece for my own climbing even now.   Although a bit heavier by 4 oz in a size large (and likely more durable as well) the Mixed Guide will likely replace the Frontpoint for many projects.

The Patagonia Northwall pant pictured above.  Much as I really wanted to LUV these pants, for me the fit was terrible.  Which was a huge bummer. ( and eventually became perfect with a little help from the Chemo diet a year later)  But the Patagonia 100% customer satisfaction guarantee was rock solid, so no worries.  Patagonia is expensive in comparison to some other soft goods companies but also really easy to deal with if a problem does occur.  I'm always impressed by that.  At similar price points, let me know how far you get with Arcteryx for example on repairs or a warranty issus?   My experiences there have been bleak.   The Patagonia Northwall pant was truly an eye opener for the potential performance of Polartec Power Shield Pro with the Regulator high-loft grid fleece interior.

Men's and woman's versions of the Northwall jacket.  The Northwall is a very warm soft shell.  If you run cold this jacket may offer the option of a a warmer, and still very durable soft shell. 

The 2nd color choice on the Mixed Guide...hard to be bashful in either of these.

And the same jacket I'm using in the mast head photo on Carlsberg.  Now one of my all time favorite climbing shells, the Patagonia Knifeblade, made from an uninsulated version of Polartec Power Shield Pro.


billy bob said...

How do you think the north wall would compare to the arc'teryx hyllus. I need something in warmth right between my arc'teryx hyllus and atom Lt. Would the north wall fit that notch? What did you not like about the fit of the pants? The jacket would be for ice and alpine climbing in alaska this mid winter and early spring.
Kevin Lanier

Dane said...

Hi Kevin, Not used the Hyllus and barely remember I looked at it. Which tells me something as well.
I suspect the NW is a warmer jacket. Think Gamma MX with a fleece liner and you'll be close on the NW. I am trying to drop a couple of layers by using the NW and lower my garment weight over all. Single layer underneath and no shell required over it..just a belay jacket as the next layer.

May be not as flexible of system but good in the cold. My worry as well that it may be too warm and not breath well enough. Haven't had the chance to use the jacket enough to comment further. Time is coming though that I should be able to answer that question more fully.

The Northwall jacket is more than a Atom LT for warmth. I use both these jackets over only a single base layer (R1 Hoody) generally. The NW is very breathable and likely better weather protection than the Atom LT but it is not as breathable as a Atom lt. Close in warmth but the NW is just so much more durable and weather proof as a single garment. Although it has to be cold to climb in one even with just a single layer under it. Think real north walls or lift skiing on a cold day in the chair. Pant's? Too baggy in the lower leg and too long for cramons. Decent for dh skiing but still not great. I thought about having mine tailored locally before finally just returning them.

Ben said...


When using the Knifeblade, what do you typically layer underneath...just an R1 hoody?



Dane said...

Yes, generally just an R1 hoody. May be a really light weight wool base layer under the R1 if it is pretty cold. But that is a system I need to be working pretty hard in to stay warm. The two layers are my current choice for leading water fall ice. Bit cold to follow in though if it is chilly out. Nice thing about the Knife blade is it has room to layer under it if required.

Madisonian said...

I am on my third Arcteryx Fission jacket for pocket zipper delamination issues. With each return Arcteryx customer service simply asked which color I want in my new jacket. Couldn't have been easier.

Anonymous said...

Just a couple weeks after trying to give you a hard time for seeming to overlook PSPro, here you go and make a whole post about it. Curious what else you've got cooking. =)

For what it's worth, I really like my Northwall jacket. All else aside, the lining just feels nice. The pants fit me well, too.

Dane said...

I remember your "numbers" post comparing Neoshell and PPSP, Brian.

I had a few garments made up last year and earlier this year in a Neoshell-Power Shield Pro combo. Using those to compare the lightest Neoshell, a few new Arcteryx garments and the Pati NW jacket. Interesting comparisons. I should have some dedicated time to climb in all of them after the holidays.

Unknown said...

Great post Dane i think powershield pro is quite an overlooked fabric at the moment now neoshell is out. To me powershield pro seems a better product for many situations.

I notice you would prefer powershield pro pants and neoshell jacket? I would have thought the opposite would have been better?

What is the benefit of using a hybrid powershield pro/neoshell garment as you spoke of in your last comment (would love to see these)? Would it not have more of the limiations that benefits of each?


Dane said...

Sorry for the confusion. I really like the two versions of Powershield Pro material that Patagonia is using. I'd likely be happy with well fitted pants and jackets in those materials. I think adding Neoshell to that mix just betters the garments for some uses. Not every use mind you. Seems more appropriate for the NWall material for my own use. Having to choose I would rather have a more breathable top and a more water resistant bottom. If I can have both water proof and very breathable I'll take that combo. Yet to be seen if I have a combo that works as well as expected. But to date with the earlier material Marmot used in the Zion, as the example, I think we are very close. Adding the Neoshell to the NWall Patagonia version of Power Shield Pro just seemed like a no brainer to me.

What many miss I think is Neoshell can be added to any material...if you are willing to pay for it. So it doesn't have to be either/or. Why not take the best material for your own use and add Neoshell for the added protection?

Anonymous said...

Just a heads up that the Pata Mixed Guide Hoody uses Powershield and not Powershield Pro. They are actually completely different fabrics.

Dane said...

My bad. Thanks for pointing it out. I like to be specific and accurate. But "completely different"? In` use I have yet to see it. May be I am missing something? Mind telling us the difference in use?

Mixed Guide:
The remaining soft-shell areas are made of heavy-duty but highly breathable Polartec® Power Shield® fabric. This durable stretch-woven blend (57% polyester/36% nylon/7% spandex) uses Hardface® Technology that dramatically enhances the Deluge DWR (durable water repellent) finish’s resistance to wind, water, snow and abrasion.

Power Shield® Pro fabric fills the gap between traditional hard and soft shells, offering unprecedented breathability, protection from the wind, and waterproofness.

North Wall:
Our premier soft shell for cold conditions made of Polartec® Power Shield® Pro with a Regulator® high-loft grid fleece interior

Anonymous said...

Dane, I know your a fan of the arcteryx venta mx. What do you think of the venta mx compared to the Patagonia northwall? Which is Warmer? How wind proof is te northwall compared to the venta? I appreciate your time!

Dane said...

Hi Kevin,

First I think I was wrong! I took a quick look at the Hyllus. Pretty darn close to the North Wall Jacket. So not sure it is going to help much if you want to be between a Hallus and a Atom Lt. But it might drop right in there. Let me know what you think if you get to make that comparison.

Northwall is warmer. Think Venta with a R1 glued into it. That would eb a better compoarison for warmth. Norwall has a lot more stretch. Venta is a nice pattern as is the Northwall. I'd suspect the Venta is more wind proof but can't tell you that for sure yet.

Venta would likely be more water proof as well. Venta is a LOT lighter @ 22oz. NWall is 28oz.

Over all? I am more impressed by the NWall and Knifeblade designs and the fabrics than I have been by what went into the Venta. The Venta seems to me to be a step backward for the Arcteryx soft shells. And I had previously LOVED their soft shells.

Dane said...

If you are still wondering what the difference is between Power Shield and Powershield Pro?
These are the published highlights from the Polartec web site for each. From what I can tell only the laminate is different and that only slightly. In the hand it is really hard to tell any different if the base fabric is the same. In use...there isn't much for cold weather climbing that I can see or feel. 99%? 98%?

Polartec® Power Shield® Pro

•Blocks 99% of the wind
•Highly breathable
•Highly water resistant
•Extremely abrasion resistant
•Stretch for active comfort
•Less noise than a hardshell
•Warmth without weight
•Machine washable

Polartec® Power Shield®

•Blocks 98% of the wind
•Highly breathable
•Water repellent
•Extremely abrasion resistant
•Less noise than a hardshell
•Stretch for active comfort
•Warmth without weight
•Machine washable

Anonymous said...

Power Shield should be a bit more breathable. Less waterproof. 98 or 99% doesn't sound like a big difference, but if it's accurate, and depending on your interpretation, that actually means that Power Shield lets through twice as much airflow: 2% instead of 1% in Power Shield Pro. Whether you can really tell that in the field is unknown to me.

Power Shield Pro is more similar in construction at the micro level to Neoshell than Power Shield. If the name wasn't Power Shield Pro we would probably be talking about it differently.

Dersu said...

You should check out the updated Mountain Equipment Pulsar jacket:

It's also made from Power Shield Pro, while being a lot cheaper (around 370$ vs. 450$) and quite a bit lighter (almost 100g or 3.5 oz) than the Northwall.

Dane said...

Looks good Dersu.
But I think most people don't understand that Polartec signature fabrics can be any number of combinations and still have the same name. I would want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples on the MEC jacket to the Patagonia NW. They sound similar but I suspect they are different fabrics. Weights? You have to have same size garments on hand and make a direct comparison before saying one is heavier or lighter than the other. The published data from the manufactures is never a good place to start if you want to be accurate for a comparison.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the knifeblade pants for next year? Are there any other power shield pro pants coming out? Seems like an ideal fabric for ski touring pants