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hafilax

Recommend me a softshell jacket

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Now that I have a real job it's time to update my worn out gear. At the top of the list is a new softshell jacket for ski touring and mountaineering. My current softshell is a shitty Dead'bird experiment gone wrong: the javelin. Water runs through it in the rain. I have Patagonia Alpine Guide pants that work pretty well for me.

 

I am a hot person and sweat heavily and tend to wear a softshell like most wear a hardshell. On the way up I'm typically in polypro and maybe a midweight fleece. When I get chilled the softshell goes on.

 

Softshell isn't well defined any more and there are so many variations that go from snow shedding fleece to basically a hard shell. I've lost track of which fabric does what. My requirements are good snow and rain shedding and not fully wind blocking. For full on wind or rain I will put a light hardshell over top.

 

So what are my best options?

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IMO your best option is to leave the soft-shell at home and use a poly-pro, fleece, puffy, hard-shell combination. Hey, you asked.

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Hardshell is pretty useless for me doing anything other than standing still. I overheat like crazy in it. I can wear the right softshell 90% of the time.

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Neither hard or soft but the best I have seen to date and I have seen just about all of them...

 

Atom Lt Hoody.

 

The newest Patagonia Knifeblade is a decent soft shell if you can deal with a pull over. *Polartec Power Shield Pro* rocks which is what the Knifeblade is cut from. If I were to buy a soft shell no question it is the material I would want.

 

Acto is an option as well. But having one in hand myself now it is not as "new" as this blog post would have you think. I'll correct that implication asap.

 

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/09/new-arcteryx-soft-shell.html

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Answering your question in detail would require a reply the length of a small novel. There's a number of different ways of approaching the problem, most of which have gotten more confusing with clothing advancements introduced in 2011. You're asking for lots of air permeability AND water resistance; these two characteristics are generally considered to be going in opposite directions on the performance continuum.

 

My short answer, also being a person who generates a bunch of heat while touring, is to supplement your layers with a light-weight, unlined stretch-woven jacket like the MEC kinetic. It won't work in prolonged rain but it looks like you're carrying a hard-shell anyways. Think of the stretch woven as being a softSHELL. It isn't warm on its own but you can dial in your thermal needs by layering underneath.

 

A second option worth considering is the Patagonia Knifeblade. It's a very different solution. It's an unlined soft-shell constructed like a hard-shell. It breathes much, much better than hard-shells but still offers enough water and wind resistance to replace the hard-shell on most trips. Seams are not taped so in theory it can leak when conditions go monsoon. Breathability rates are about 1/10 of the Kinetic but 12 to 20 X greater than the best of last year's hard-shells. The problem is going to be smoothly transitioning from multiple layers sans shell to wearing the shell. You might have to remove a layer for up-tracking...

 

All of this said there's no correct answer but I will say that the new (2011) fabrics are a paradigm shift.

 

 

 

 

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I can't talk since I'm no expert, but someone attended a slide show, and posted this report, FWIW:

“Here's a summary from Colin Haley’s talk:

CLOTHING:

- BASE LAYERS, LEGS AND UPPER BODY

- For comfort, use wool instead of Capilene because wool dries out slower, hence it has a slower evaporative heat loss, and your body doesn’t get hit as hard with a flash freeze effect.

- MID LAYERS, LEGS

- When very cold, use a base layer, fleece pants, then softshell pants.

- He prefers non-zip softshell vs hard shells. Soft breathes better.

- Patagonia synthetic puff pants with full-off zips are useful for very cold.

- MID LAYERS, UPPER BODY

- Base layer, fleece, then windshirt. Add a hard shell if it gets colder.

- He prefers a hardshell for the top since it's easy to take off and on, while he prefers non-zip softshell for pants, which can’t be easily taken off or on.

 

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I think the Acto would be perfect if it wasn't $300.

 

I'll go check out the Prodigy (power shield o2) and Fusion (Schoeller) hoodies at MEC. I'll try to track down a TNF Kishtar or a Marmot Pro Tour which are made with power shield pro to compare. Those jackets are also $300 so A'T isn't alone there.

 

Thanks for the suggestions.

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I've got a used MX I'm selling but I suspect it might be too warm for you... depends on what you wear underneath or on your legs. I often wear very little on my legs to allow for slightly warmer jackets on top

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if you run hot the MEC fusion is a bad choice...the WB-400 from schoeller is not the most breathable of softshells. also the hood is just wrong.

 

the ferrata from MEC would be a good choice (as would the kinetic recommended above) and if you got lucky you could find the red one on sale for $70 i think.

 

The OR Alibi is another option. the stretchy back is grand and the jacket provides plenty of weather protection as well. OR also makes a thin stretchy softshell that's absolutely brilliant but the name escapes me right now.

 

Or you could spend the money on a NeoShell jacket and be satisfied that you own a piece for every condition ;)

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"All of this said there's no correct answer but I will say that the new (2011 and 2012) fabrics are a paradigm shift."

 

I agree with that observation. But having samples of something like 90% of the newest fabrics here right now I don't see anything that I can't replace and do as well with from last year.

 

But Polartec has some amazing new fabric technology spread across all the lines. I am still trying to figure out what fabric/fabrics work best for my own use.

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if you run hot the MEC fusion is a bad choice...the WB-400 from schoeller is not the most breathable of softshells. also the hood is just wrong.

 

the ferrata from MEC would be a good choice (as would the kinetic recommended above) and if you got lucky you could find the red one on sale for $70 i think.

 

The OR Alibi is another option. the stretchy back is grand and the jacket provides plenty of weather protection as well. OR also makes a thin stretchy softshell that's absolutely brilliant but the name escapes me right now.

 

Or you could spend the money on a NeoShell jacket and be satisfied that you own a piece for every condition ;)

 

Thinking of the Ferrosi perhaps?

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Kind of off topic but any opinions on Polartec Neoshell? Westcomb Apoc or Marmot Zion for example.

Edited by hafilax

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Apoc is a great jacket. Neoshell is very good but so are the other new stretchy hard shells.

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The OR Alibi is another option. the stretchy back is grand and the jacket provides plenty of weather protection as well. OR also makes a thin stretchy softshell that's absolutely brilliant but the name escapes me right now.

 

 

If it's not Ferrosi maybe is Contour. I have that shirt but it's too thin for rain and snow.

ODR0200-BAL.jpg

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I think the Acto would be perfect if it wasn't $300.

 

I'll go check out the Prodigy (power shield o2) and Fusion (Schoeller) hoodies at MEC. I'll try to track down a TNF Kishtar or a Marmot Pro Tour which are made with power shield pro to compare. Those jackets are also $300 so A'T isn't alone there.

 

Thanks for the suggestions.

 

Hafilax,

Dane is softshell guru. I read his blog very frequently and hope I will find the review of my future jacket there.

 

Just a comment about materials...

TNF Kishtwar is made of Polartec Power Shield Pro.

Fabric: 224 g⁄m² (6.61 oz⁄yd²) Polartec® Power Shield® Pro - 84% polyester 16% elastane

Average Weight: 599 g (21.2 oz)

Inseam⁄Center Back Length: 29"

 

Marmot Pro Tour is not. It's made of Marmot's M2 and Polartec®Power Shield® O2. I am not sure about percentage. And it's shorter (to accommodate harness.)

 

Center Back Length:

27.5in / 69.9cm

Weight:

1 lbs 3.1 oz / 541.5 g

Main Material:

Polartec®Power Shield® O2 70% Polyester, 30% Nylon 4.8 oz/yd

 

Another jacket made of Polartec®Power Shield® O2 is Arcteryx Hercules Hooded Fleece Jacket. If you track this one at least you can try it in some stores to see is this what you looking for?

 

I also overheat during hiking or uphill ski touring.

 

I am looking for a jacket I won't take off during the steep and long approach (Grouse Grind in October is a good testing ground), windproof, excellent rain protection, light, warm while belaying, packable, little shorter not to interfere with harness and gear, colorful, with the hood, higher pocket zippers, arm pocket for iPod ...

 

Couldn't find it so far, but I would like to check new NeoShell. Marmot Zion is just 510g.

 

Off to check Dane's blog. Maybe he just posted the review of the jacket I am looking for? :-)

 

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a bit of my experience

 

1. if you run hot a dead bird atom is not an ideal choice IMO ... i run hot and find the double nylon and coreloft overly warm and hot the most breathable unless it quite cold ... i own and use one as a light belay jacket

 

2. any polartec powershield would not work that well for me if you are constantly active, i have owned dead bird gamma powershields, and find them not very brethable and overly warm for when moving ... for stop and go belayed climbing they arent bad, but for scrambling you overheat ... same with windstopper ... basically any membrane softshell

 

3. your best bet IMO if you MUST have a soft shell is a weave softshell ... dead bird makes em in the gamma lt, patagucci makes em ... but the one i currently use is a MH 50$ one i got ... you can often find em at discount stores ... in fact the bigger brand names often go on sale as long as you dont mind wearing "non exclusive" brands such as MH, NF, columbia, etc ... weave softshells are not as water or wind resistant as membrane softshells, but they are much more breathable, dry quicker and more affordable ... it is CRITICAL that you renew yr DWR very so often by washing, drying and treating it ...

 

4. you absolute best bet if you dont need the abrasion resistance is a nice windshirt ... either something like the marmot driclime, rab vaporise or a light fleece and plain old windshirt ... i use a mec R1 knockoff and a marmot trail wind when i dont need the abrasion resistance ... mec also has good windshirts for good prices ... the reason i say its better is because you get a softshell equivalent while retaining the flexibility of a fleece/winshirt with a combo ... you can just wear the windshirt and no fleece when going up hill and put the R1 on at flats or belayed climbing ... windshirts dry the quickest as they dont really get soaked for long, body heat will dry em off ... if you go driclime, the fuzzy interior will actually keep your skin less damp as it wicks away the moisture ... note that driclimes should be worn against either bare skin or a VERY light base layer

 

6. have you tried renewing the DWR on yr javelin? ... try washing it with DWR wash, rinse it a few times, and put it in the dryer for 30+ on medium heat ... usually thats all that is required ... many people complain that their jackets leak ... but in reality its CRITICAL to renew the DWR on softshells ... not saying thats the problem, but if you havent tried it ... you want to keep looking like a yuppie in a dead bird dontcha now ;)

 

7. at the end of the day you will sweat heavily when going uphill if yr overdressed ... the trick with not sweating jacket out is to either not wear one, or if its raining wear something minimal underneath it ... and use yr zippers to ventilate ... the reason im quite suspicious of anyone claiming that something is "the best" (including myself) is that it is VERY condition dependant ... for example i could probably do an approach at -30C in my dead bird gamma/atom and be fine in the rockies, but do the same at 0C on the west coast and im sweatier than an overweight middle aged man in a strip club ...

 

hope that helps

 

 

Edited by bearbreeder

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Dane recounts an episode where he decided to avoid over-dressing: http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/02/walking-walk.html

“Temps were between the low 30s walking in and the mid 20s on the climb. But I still forced myself to start in the fishnet T-shirt and the silk head band. Yes sir, it was a little chilly for the first few minutes in the legs, more than the torso, surprisingly.

2 hrs later and just short of the ridge I added the EB Frontpoint wind shell. In the wind and fog on the ridge crest, while others were adding belay jackets, I peeled the Frontpoint jacket and added my dress weight (very lwt) Merino wool sweater ($30 from a Men's Warehouse sale) and zipped up. The other climbers already on the ridge were well kitted for the weather as long as you weren't going to actually move!

An hr. later I was on top and comfortable. My clothing still dry. The first climber up behind me (who started before me) was complaining that he had to take a break and peel some layers before he could continue. He was both over- heated and wet.”

 

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My Javelin actually works OK with two glaring exceptions: it leaks like a sieve at the seams between the hardshell and softshell; when I sweat I get nice soaked stripes under the harshell parts.

 

I actually don't mind getting wet in it because I generally dry off quite quickly since I kick out so much heat. The annoyance is the water literally running into the seams. I figure that something made entirely out of a similar softshell material will do me pretty well. I can't figure out what kind of material it is though.

 

Thanks again for all of the discussion. It's definitely helped me figure out what to look for. I realized that my description of how I will use it was probably misleading. I rarely wear a shell on the way up unless it's cold enough that I'm not sweating like crazy, including in the rain and snow so the jacket doesn't have to be on the far end of the breatheable spectrum.

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Let me add a couple of things and a correction.

 

Every piece of clothing and how appropriate it is depends on the temps and conditions. Where I climb may not be where you climb.

 

"if you run hot a dead bird atom is not an ideal choice IMO ... i run hot and find the double nylon and coreloft overly warm and hot the most breathable unless it quite cold ... i own and use one as a light belay jacket"

 

First there are two Atom jackets from Arcteyx. They are the Atom LT and the Atom SV. Totally different garments and intended use. The Atom Lt, which has vented sides and has been very well recieved in the alpine climbing world replacing a soft shell of any sort. But it is worn over a lwt base layer, generally a R1 style hoody and nothing more. Call the Atom a sweater weight piece as it is no belay jacket and with the vents makes a poor one used in that form. As a piece to climb or ski in while working hard in cold weather it is unlike most anything else available. Although Mtn hardware has something similar but no hood. The Nano Puffs don't have a vent. I'll stand by the opinion that the Atom LT is the best soft shell available for my own use....because it breathes better than any other current soft shell I have used to date for the warmth offered.

 

But I have a few new ones here I have yet to use.

 

But no, it won't survive a off width battle on limestone. Where a Gamma MX will everytime. Nor is it as warm as an MX, thankfully.

 

The Atom SV is a totally different weight jacket (it is heavier and warmer than the LT) and layers perfectly over the Atom LT when used as a belay jacket. The SV works extremely well as a belay jacket in most temps well below 0.

 

I rarely wear a shell on the way up unless it's cold enough that I'm not sweating like crazy, including in the rain and snow so the jacket doesn't have to be on the far end of the breatheable spectrum.

 

A thought on breathability. If you run hot, and sweat a lot I might suggest that you want the MOST breathable garments possible. To stay warm you want to stay dry. You've obviously figured it out and are looking for the best of the soft shells which will need to breath exceptionally well to keep you dry.

 

The fishnet t shirt mentioned in my quote above is the extreme example. The EB Frontpoint is very breathable as a high bred jacket both soft and hard shell. So even though my fishnet was soaked the Frontpoint allowed me to dry the fishnet...not that hard right...before adding a light weight wool sweater. I was then working hard enough to soak out the wool sweater if the Frontpoint hadn't been able to breath well enough to keep the fishnet T and sweater dry while moving.

 

I'll (as most experienced climbers will) often take a second garment to replace my wet one after the uphill or climb's approach so I am wearing a dry one on the down hill or the actual climb.

 

I'll take breathable everytime over water resistant or added warmth. It is always a balance, that is why there are so many opinions. Use the wrong garment at the wrong place and time and now matter what you have, life will suck.

 

Keep moving, stay dry and you'll stay warm generally. Stay dry and you'll stay warm everything else being equal.

 

I had an interesting conversation with a clothing designer today. His unbiased opinion while working with all the cutting edge materials available today was..."the difference in fabric isn't nearly as important as the ability of the user to match the garment and its use, to the activity".

 

Quick versions of that? Layer accordingly (fishnet T shirt if required) and then use the zippers and vents as required to stay dry. Nothing magic in the fabrics if you cna't do that.

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Quick versions of that? Layer accordingly (fishnet T shirt if required) and then use the zippers and vents as required to stay dry. Nothing magic in the fabrics if you cna't do that.

 

I couldn't agree more. And I'd raise you one. You don't need fishhet and zippers and vents to stay warm and dry if you are knowledgeable and paying attention. Garbage bags and army surplus wool jackets will perform better than goretex and the latest fleece jacket if you are paying attention, but if you simply wear goretex or other breathable shells and assume they are "waterproof and breathable" without otherwise paying attention, and if you don't know how to use your gear, you will not stay dry and warm. On this point, I may agree with the frequently maligned JohnDavidJr, a regular poster on this site who says you can get a good tent at Wallmart.

 

But I have been on a lot of outings where my partners wore their "standard" gear, while skinning uphill in a snowstorm, and swetting. I thought it was time to take the shell off. Even if it was snowing,but they didn't see it that way. When we stopped for a rest, I pulled my down sweater from my pack and stood there warm. They stood cold in their wet insulation.

 

If you are paying attention, the thoughtful use of the latest innovations may surpass the garbage bags and wool, but I have been on a lot of outings where people wearing very expensive breathable waterproof gear were colder and wetter than those who wore "caveman" gear.

 

I don't mean to sound rude, critical or superior but I fear that my remarks might be seen as such or I wouldn't say this. My point is that I think lots of climbers and skiers and hikers assume that "waterproof breathable" means what it says and don't necessarily focus on the important questions of (1) "is my clothing making we sweat" or (2) "is my clothing leaking water that is degrading my insulation." If you are working hard and sweatting, you don't want a shell even in light rain; if your are standing or even climbing in hard rain you don't want breathable because it will not breath and only may seep moisture more than completely waterproof fabric (breathable fabric, coated with water, is not breathable). If you are standing in a waterfall, you don't want breathable or even "waterproof"-you want water not even touching (an umbrella would be a good idea). In fact, I think a cheap umbrella and no rainshell is a good idea even when walking in rain, if you are not exposed to wind.

 

As to the original poster's question? I'd recommend carrying two shells: a completely waterproof one (depending on weight considerations I've used industrial guage gear for this purpose) and a windshell (windshirts are a little flimsy in my opinion but there are a lot of wind breakers available with features varying from a jogging jacket to a mountaineering workhorse).

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ill stand by my assertion that the atom lt doesnt really work for me active ... i prefer a fleece and windshirt, it may not be lighter but for me its more flexible and the fleece more breathable, if i bring my atom i use it for stops or moderate weather belays ... ill bring it this thurs/friday up the chief for belays

 

it all depends on the person and what conditions they are using it for ... everyone has a different metabolism, and everybody is doing different things which is why there is no "best" except for what marketers would want you to believe ... its all opinions and what works for you

 

i absolutely agree with the above poster that you can have all the fancy fabrics and garments in the world and still screw yourself over ...

 

as in any sport there are those who use old gear/garments who do perform better than those with all the new shiny gear ... not to say that gear doesnt help, but it doesnt make up for other things

 

I figure that something made entirely out of a similar softshell material will do me pretty well. I can't figure out what kind of material it is though.

 

for the OP .... have you tried seam sealing the leaking part? ... the dead bird javelin softshell is schoeller dryskin i believe ... if you like the fabric which is considered quite breathable as a woven (not membrane) softshell then you may want to consider the MEC ferrata 2 made of schoeller dryskin extreme at the non yuppie price of $140 ... i believe the BCMC or ACC has a 10% off sale at MEC soon as well

 

i havent used it myself, i have heard good things about it from other people ... also buying from MEC allows you to return it if it doesnt work out...

5015028t_v1_m56577569831089237.jpg

http://www.mec.ca/AST/ShopMEC/MensClothing/WindwearSoftShells/PRD~5015-028/mec-ferrata-2-hoodie-mens.jsp

This soft shell jacket offers a superb balance of light insulation, breathability, and weather-resistance. The close-fitting hood adds an extra degree of warmth and fits snugly beneath a helmet without restricting vision or mobility. The highly abrasion-resistant fabric is blended with spandex to ensure lots of stretch.

 

This is a low-profile garment with just enough insulation to keep you warm in cold weather as long as you stay on the move. The fit is close but not tight, with ample room for layering over light or midweight underwear. Even though soft shell garments are suitable for a broad range of weather conditions, we recommend you carry an additional waterproof-breathable shell if you're travelling for several days, or if really nasty weather is expected.

 

Made of Schoeller® Dryskin Extreme, a double weave fabric containing 80% nylon, 10% spandex, and 10% polyester.

The fabric also features new NanoSphere® DWR (durable water repellency) technology. Schoeller has developed an environmentally sound process which introduces a new, durable surface texture to the fabric.

Close-cut athletic fit with snug, but comfy hood.

Chest pocket positioned high enough to avoid a harness belt.

Small zippered accessory pocket on left bicep.

Cozy microfleece-lined collar.

Full front zip with full-length zipper flap.

Slim fit

 

 

description of yr dead bird i believe ...

 

 

"A mixed weather softshell jacket incorporating new user friendly fabrics. Using a stretch woven Schoeller® fabric maintains breathability, while the 3X-Dry® application wicks away moisture. Mens: Weight: 465 grams / 16.4 ounces (M) Schoeller® Dryskin 300 - A stretch woven fabric with a brushed interior for superb comfort of wear and a nylon face exterior to fend off abrasion. This fabric incorporates a DWR finish to shed water, dirt and snow, a 3X Dry treatment for optimum moisture transfer, and anti-pill qualities for added durability. 600N PTFE Waterproof Breathable three-layer laminate with brushed polyester lining. A lower hem draw Drop hood utilizing both softshell and hardshell fabrics for ultimate fit Excellent breathability and super durable Full Front WaterTight' zipper Hybrid design enables great freedom of movement, with superb all weather protection 2 hand pockets 1 hidden chest pocket We are not able to ship Arcteryx products outside the US because of that other thing."

 

 

 

hope that helps

Edited by bearbreeder

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Not quite a softshell, but something I just looked and am thinking to try this winter (please not that I haven't used any of these pieces, but have read great things about ether).

 

1. Base layer of your choice.

 

2. Mid layer, which can also be used as outer for the approach, etc.: Arcteryx Acto MX Hoody (or similar piece with a tight-weave non-membrane fabric). This looks to breathe amazingly, be quite wind resistant, repel some water and provide some warmth, while being lighter than a 'normal' softshell.

 

3. Outer layer: Arcteryx Alpha / Beta FL (or other Active Shell garment). These are super-light, reputed to be extremely breathable and are fully wind- and water- proof.

 

Most of the benefits of a softshell, hardshell and windshirt? Any thoughts on this?

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Not quite a softshell, but something I just looked and am thinking to try this winter (please not that I haven't used any of these pieces, but have read great things about ether).

 

1. Base layer of your choice.

 

2. Mid layer, which can also be used as outer for the approach, etc.: Arcteryx Acto MX Hoody (or similar piece with a tight-weave non-membrane fabric). This looks to breathe amazingly, be quite wind resistant, repel some water and provide some warmth, while being lighter than a 'normal' softshell.

 

3. Outer layer: Arcteryx Alpha / Beta FL (or other Active Shell garment). These are super-light, reputed to be extremely breathable and are fully wind- and water- proof.

 

Most of the benefits of a softshell, hardshell and windshirt? Any thoughts on this?

 

That's what, $1000 in jackets (retail)?! :shock:

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My basic system is:

 

1. base layer synthetic t-shirt: usually my Arc'teryx Ether if it's clean (I own one I got on clearance, wouldn't pay $70 for a shirt ever) but anything light will do here. If it's going to be cold, base layer long sleeve shirt (I like the ones from Land's End).

 

2. Arc'teryx Accelero pullover: this is one of those magic items from the Dead Bird that seems to have flown under the radar. It manages to adapt well to both cold and warm conditions (often just by unzipping the 1/2-zip front), sheds a light snow/rain, and dries quickly. This is pretty much the only piece of clothing I wear every single time out in the alpine/ice/mixed realm.

 

Most of the time, when moving/active and in not-too-bad weather, I can easily get away with that two-layer system.

 

3. If it's really cold, really wet, or really abrasive, I'll throw on my one softshell jacket (Arc'teryx Venta SV hoody). I just got a hard/soft shell hybrid (Sherpa Adventure Gear Lungta Hybrid jacket) that looks and feels good and I'm excited to test out when the conditions call for it. I also just bought a used Arc'teryx Gamma LT jacket that will probably fit in here.

 

4. Belay jacket/sweater: right now this is usually one of three things, depending on conditions: a North Face Redpoint belay sweater (Primaloft 1 insulation), an Arc'teryx Venta SV softshell (Gore Windstopper), or a MEC Slipstream 2 Hoody (Polartec Windpro Hardface). When REI's 20% off sale starts on Friday (I also have a bunch of store credit to spend) I'm getting an Arc'teryx Atom SV Hoody.

 

If it seems like I'm a brand whore for Arc'teryx it's only because I've found their stuff performs the best in the field and gives me the best fit of anything I've used. Plus all my Arc'teryx stuff has been purchased at 50% off or better.

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