I think it fitting to start this essay with a picture of Doug Tompkins climbing in Scotland from an old Chouinard poster.
But like any "job" outside you don't get to choose the weather you work in. You get the blue bird powder days along with the rain dump at 35 degrees. Better come prepared. Or be prepared to really suffer.
Yesterday I suffered. I generally do once a year or so...while skiing or climbing. My dues, generally, paid in full for not paying attention early on. But it could have been worse!
This time I stayed totally dry head to toe from 2 feet of fresh pow in the morning to a full on freezing rain by mid afternoon, to full on monsoon by late in the day. I was also full kitted from head to toe in a set of Patagonia's Knifeblade Series, the uninsulated versions of jacket and pants made of Polartech Powershield Pro.
to be fair:
A buddy of mine whom I trust was out in very similar circumstances (both physical activity and for weather conditions ) and his Knifeblade pants soaked through at the seat and thighs. I can only report what I have experienced personally. I can't tell what others have experienced. If you find something other than what I write please let me know and I'll be sure to add your referenced data/experiences as well. Or simply add a comment, which ever suits you.
Only issues I have had with PPP recently with daily use is wetting out on my seat on storm days riding a chair lift. (more use in the last few months than I ever get ice climbing in a season...were I seldom actually sit down) Always stayed totally dry doing anything but alpine skiing on a lift. And even then it is only my butt marginally soaking through. Work hard enough after that and I find the layers will dry out a lot easier than they wet out. So PPP is not a full on rain suit. But for me it is close enough to use as my full suit in terrible weather short of full on rain storm if I am at all active. I really like the breathability and the stretch in the material Patagonia has been using to date.
Last post I talked a little about my feet and just one technique you can use to keep your feet warm. Keeping dry really is the key to keeping your insulation layers worth as well as they might.
Sure the best insulation is key as well. I am a big fan of Primaloft One and high quality 800+ fill down. The other insulations? Not so much and I own/have owned garments made from most of them.
Shell materials? Again big fan of Neoshell and Gortex. But you really need to make sure you know what you are buying. (and that aint always easy for anyone including me)
Neoshell in particular comes in many different variations, insulated and uninsulated. Goretex in multiple fabrics and laminates. All offering differing levels of protection.
One fabric (and there are several in just my collection with this catch name) that I have come to rely on and judge "the best" out door choice for any of my uses is, Polartech Powershield Pro.
Just happens that Patagonia produces the garments I use of Powershield Pro. Not sure if that is a chicken or the egg thing. But either way the fabric is so good in both insulated and uninsulated from I am here writing about it.
I original garments I got were the Northwall Pant and a Knifeblade Pullover. Neither fit me well. But no surprise as Patagonia seldom fits me well. The 1st pair of pants I ended up returning. The Pullover while a funky fit I kept coming back to while doing a in-depth shell test.
I still have three shells for that original series of tests. Two from Westcomb and one from Patagonia. But that ONE? I have three of the Patagoinia Knifeblades in two different models. The original bright orange pull over in a XL, a 2nd pull over in a bright green and a size Large, and one of the newest Knifeblade jackets in a XL. Sadly I ma really in between sizes on this one.
Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover
And I went back and re bought a pair of Northwall pants. Two of my partners are now using the Northwall pants. And both now rave about just how good the North Wall pant is. I had a Northwall jacket as well. But that one I found could be easily replaced with a more efficient Knifeblade uninsulated shell in one form or another that I could then layer under..
I get dinged by buddies all the time at the seemingly painful detail I go into on the blog about gear.
I admit to liking things "my way" and explaining why they are or are not done "my way. And my way certainly isn't always "your way" or more importantly need to be.
So I could go into great detail on the Knifebalde and Northwall series from Patagonia. And that was my first intention. But I won't.
Patagonia makes the Northwall pant/bib and jacket in a insulated Polartech Powershield Pro material. It is a virtually wind and water proof, soft shell that is amazing for cold weather anything.
Patagonia also makes the Knifeblade series in uninsulated Polartech Powershield Pro. Same big /pant style, a hooded Pullover and a hooded Jacket.
Even if the Patagonia designs and sizing doesn't fit you perfectly the Powershield Pro fabric is so good it is more than worth trying one of these garments.
I can never figure out why Patagonia's patterns and sizing keeps changing between series and garments. Bu thy seem to. My medium North Wall pant fits perfect. My medium Knifeblade pant were too small, while the large pant is too big. Really disappointed on the sizing and some pattern features. While you may not be at all.
But I still own and use all of them.
I can say without any reservation in all my own skiing and alpine climbing that Polartec Powershield Pro is the best outdoor fabric I have ever used. And these pieces show below are my everyday go to outdoor garments, skiing or climbing. I use others...but these are the "rocks".
You wanted stay warm? Stay dry. Polartec Powershield Pro and the selection of Patagonia garments here will do that for you. Water, wind proof soft shells and 4 way stretch. May be the holy grail.
Insulated Northwall Pant
Insulated Northwall Jacket
Uninsualted Knifeblade Pullover
Uninsualted Knifeblade Pants
Uninsualted Knifeblade PJacket
More on Powershield Pro: