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1/5/2013 12:01 PM
 

In my experience, "waterproof breathable".... isn't. Regardless of conditions, regardless of shell I'm wearing, or even with no shell, my baselayer will be soaked if I'm moving. That's just how it is. So it will come as no surprise that every WPB jacket I've tried has created an instant sweat bath unless I'm not moving at all. Not really much point for me to wear a rain coat at all if I'm moving because I'll be just as wet from the inside as I would have been on the outside. So a raincoat is largely useless weight that migrates to the bottom of my pack because it is only for wearing as I stand under a tree waiting for the rain to pass.

I've been hearing about Mountain Hardwear's Dry Q Elite WPB for a couple of years now. Supposedly significantly more breathable that previous WPBs. Joe Hayes recommended it to me after wearing it for a week long rain soaked trip in Appalachia. But as nearly as I can tell Joe doesn't sweat. So his recommendation was intriguing but not solid for my uses. I finally pulled the trigger on a MH Exposure parka to test this new fabric. If I can carry a coat that is waterproof but also usable as a shell for general movement, then I'm way ahead of the curve.

I've been wearing a Patagonia Dimension "soft shell" for the last couple of months. Soft shell is a misnomer because it doesn't have any bonded insulating layer. What it really is is a heavy duty slightly stretchy windbreaker. I figured that a good way to start my eval of DQE was to wear it under the same conditions as I've been wearing the Dimension and see how they compared.

Yesterday morning it was clear and sunny with morning temperature right around 0F. There was a brisk breeze that was more like strong wind on saddles and ridges. I was wearing the same mid weight synthetic / merino base layer I've been wearing. Good baselayer. Seems to keep my drier and warmer than other stuff I've used. Gloves and a beanie, with just the shell over that. Carrying a ~40lb pack breaking trail in ankle deep snow, both on trail and cross country. I chose to keep the pit zips on the MH shell closed because I wanted to evaluate fabric performance without any mechanical aids to water transport.

As I started out up a little saddle, I immediately noticed a higher moisture level inside the shell than with the Dimension. Nothing like what I've experienced with other WPBs though. Once I crested the saddle and was full on in the wind, it was also very noticeable how much better the DQE cut the wind. Then I dropped off the saddle and headed up valley under moderate exertion. I was no doubt wetter than I would have been in the Dimension, but not any colder, and not absolutely soaked.

Then I started busting a steep ridge line up into a hanging canyon. Really blowing and going, full ice beard. High exertion. At this point, I would have been wetted out in the Dimension and I don't think there was any difference between how wet I was in the DQE shell or in a Dimension.

Once I reached the apex of my travels, I paused to take stock of the country and was inactive for a few minutes. Within about a minute, I felt both drier and warmer in the DQE than I would have been in the wetted out Dimension. Particularly due to the strong wind. This sensation continued as I picked my way back down the ridgeline (low exertion). Once I got back down on the level and started cruising (medium exertion), the moisture level again rose. No more than before, and still plenty warm.

When I got back to the rig, I observed more standing condensation on my base layer than there would have been with the Dimension. Not completely saturated like would have been the case with other WPBs. However, the Dimension is usually soaked by that point and takes hours to dry. The DQE had areas of moisture, but didn't appear to actually be holding any in the fabric.

I then did something that I've completely abandoned with the Dimension. I put the shell back on for the drive home. With the Dimension, it is usually wetted out enough as to cause chills on the drive home. With the DQE, I stayed reasonably warm and slowly dried out.

This is one test in one specific set of conditions, but I'm going to keep this DQE layer and keep working with it. I think it is a more long term survivable layer in winter conditions, and has the added bonus of being waterproof which the Dimension absolutely is not. Plus, the DQE shell has pit zips which will make a big difference when I use them.

Based on this test, I wouldn't say DQE is my holy grail. It doesn't keep me as dry inside as a windbreaker under moderate exertion. But it does keep me dry enough inside to be usable, and may keep me warmer overall than a windbreaker. It is significantly better than other WPBs I've tried and probably worth the upgrade -- particularly at Sierra Trading Post prices. For those that sweat less than I do, it may actually be the holy grail - enough moisture transport to keep you feeling dry.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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1/5/2013 3:35 PM
 

Back in the day, I used to do the whole long distance trail running thing.   Tried all sorts of wet weather gear for breathability, durability and water resistence.

None of the new fangled high tech rain kits breathed well enough.  

I ended up combining kit for the longer runs in wet weather.

Wore a Windproof / water resistent jacket (with pit zips) which took care of most of my needs.  Then used a Poncho on top of that or by itself when it was really raining hard.

A Poncho was the most breathable piece of rain kit that I found.   However the wind tends to blow up from the bottem.  That is when the windproof jacket comes in.

You can tie off a poncho around the waist. This worked well with less extreme cross country running, but didnt work out too well when one gets really physical.

 

In my experience Windproof jackets with open pit zips are a million more times breathable than any of the waterproof jackets i tried.

Plus they work well by themselves in about 80% of the wet weather I ran in.

 

Ponchos:

For light weight and decent durabililty & water proofness US Military Ponco worked the best. 

For durability but heavy, an oil skin Drizabone Poncho worked the best.  It held up great when running through brush which would have torn a ripstop or rubbercoated poncho to shreads.

Anyway, these are just a few thoughts which might help you out on your adventures.

 

Stay safe

 
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1/5/2013 3:55 PM
 

I believe DryQ is event, or something very close to it.  The humidity level at which event moves moisture best is quite a bit lower than Goretex, ergo it has better functional breathability.  Unfortunately in my experience event is significantly less durable than Goretex (the membrane and its adhesion to the face fabric, not necessarily the fabric itself). 

One thing I've not seen quantified (at all) is the effect of shell fabric stiffness on functional wind resistance.  Burlier wovens like the Dimension probably have air permeability fairly close to event, but their softer hand seems to let harder winds pump heat out of your layering system too easily.  A lot of the Scandanavian and Alaskan folks who get out regularly in serious cold seem to like Goretex for this reason, even though there's no reason to have a waterproof shell when it's -50.

 
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1/5/2013 4:39 PM
 

I have had this conversation many times before and it is almost easier to have a discussion about liberal vs conservative, ford vs. dodge, or which rifle caliber is the best.
 
 
Your perspiration problem is not all that uncommon but some start sweating and sweat heavier than others. We try to control that by active ventilation (unzip base layers, open pit zips, cuffs, main zippers, remove beanies, gloves and expose wrists), exertion control, and or not wearing a shell at all if it is not precipitating or too blowing too hard.
 
 
In my opinion and experience, WPBs (Gore-Tex, eVent, Toray) work in transporting water vapor (body heat pushing it out past the membrane and onto the exterior fabric where it evaporates, a little wind helps this process) as long as it is not coated with water or snow which seals/blocks the pores. If the exterior fabric is saturated then your shell is nothing more than a glorified rain jacket and then active ventilation, exertion control, and the use of an umbrella instead of a shell is your only option.
 
 
We simply try not to sweat hard while wearing a shell and facilitating the evaporation of sweat as much as possible when we have to work hard and wear a shell. WPBs work but not in the way that the marketing weenies have sold it to the public for the sake of moving more product. It is not magic but it is still better for what we do than a non-breathable coated rain coat.
 
 
Not sure what you mean by the Dimension not being a real soft shell because there is no bonded insulation layer.
 
Wade Nelson
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
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1/5/2013 5:22 PM
 

I am also pretty sure DryQ and eVent are the same, or at least have the same specs. Nothing out there that breaths like Gore tex, eVent, DryQ is going to be waterproof or at least not for very long. When you go from wearing Gore Tex to eVent it does feel like magic. All these new fabrics are way better than before, its not just marketing hype. I now use a system called the "PNW switch",  eVent on the way up and a Gore Tex shell on the way back down.

 
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1/6/2013 10:29 AM
 

A little bit more discussion of how I layer -- everything I'm wearing on my torso will be wet period in any conditions. I've tried nothing but a couple of base layers, I've tried lightweight fleece over lightweight baselayer, I've tried various shells, etc. The key for me is simply what garments I want to have soaked, and how to stay warm in the process. I've learned that a windshirt over a baselayer seems to be the best combination. The baselayer will be soaked, but a single wet baselayer is relatively easy to manage in the backcountry. Windshirts will also be soaked, but don't hold much moisture so that isn't a very big deal. At the same time, windshirts do a pretty good job of keeping the heat close to the body. Particularly for their weight.

So in warmer seaons I have an Otte Gear windshirt that is pretty nice, and in colder seasons I've been using the Patagonia dimension windshirt. I say it's not a softshell because my understanding of a softshell is a stretchy hard face with wind and water resistant properties bonded to some kind of fleece insulating layer. The dimension has only the hard face, no insulating layer bonded to it -- which works out well because there is less material to get saturated and have to dry out.

Given my layering system, a raincoat that doesn't breathe when I'm moving (which is all of them I've tried up until now) has been just mostly useless weight to carry in the bottom of a pack. In fact, I've carried nothing more than a silnylon poncho most of the summer. I'll have to see how this DQE works in warmer temperatures but so far it looks like I might be able to actually move in it without getting soaked inside in at least some conditions. I'm guessing I'll still be using the Otte windshirt in warmer seasons, but the DQE might become a garment I actually use from time to time in conjunction with that rather than something to ride out most trips as useless weight in the bottom of my pack.

Wes, when you say that GT, eVent, and DQE won't be waterproof for long -- do you mean that they will wet out and stop keeping water on the outside over the course of several hours in the rain, or do you mean (like DaveC says) that the coating on them won't last for very many months of use? Also, it sounds like you're saying that in your experience GT has different properties than the other two? More waterproof? Better longevity?


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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1/6/2013 11:38 AM
 

I am not exactly sure why all my rain shells wet through after use. They seems to work fine for a couple months, then they just start to not work. Maybe either loss of coating or sweat/oils clog the pores in the fabric. On my comparison of GT to eVent. My Rab eVent shell is the best jacket I have ever had. Its does not have pit zips but breaths crazy like. However I have found if your are not working hard enough to pass moisture out, it will start to come through the other way. Meaning if your climbing an incline in the rain you will stay relativity dry, but soon as you stop working its going to soak through. GT is more waterproof but I cannot hike in it, just does not breath enough. When I start my way back downhill though skiing or hiking I will switch out to my GT shell. I am not really producing a large amount of heat/moisture then so I can use GT. It will keep you drier if you sit/fall in snow. I think the best setup right now would be a eVent like jacket and GT pants. Remember this is for the PNW, where its is above freezing most of the time with lots of snow/rain. 

Rain gear is something that has always drove me crazy. I stll have not found the answer but eVent seems to be good enough for now.

 
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1/6/2013 2:32 PM
 

I think that 95% or more of the rain coat "failures" have to do with the DWR getting dirty, and thus not working.  In theory the WPB membrane should remain waterproof if this happens and the face fabric becomes saturated.  There is still debate over whether the same vapor transmission which allows WPB to be as much in the first place can happen in reverse.  Personally I'm not convinced it can, but a soaked face fabric absolutely does faciliate condensation inside the shell because the flaccid shell material tends to compress the dead air space inside which creates most of the insulation value.

If your shell doesn't aggressively bead water it needs to be washed, rinsed twice (to get out all soap particles), and then dried on a fairly high heat for 15 minutes.  The fabric needs to get up to 150-180 degrees for the factory DWR to reset itself on a molecular level.  Modern DWRs are pretty good, and I have a 6 oz Goretex anorak whose factory DWR has stood up perfectly to several years of hard use.  The problem is that it's hard if not impossible to reset DWR in the field, making modern WPB fabrics less than optimal for full condition multiweek trips with no resupply/visit to town.

While no current WPB will come close to keeping up with serious exertion generated moisture, most people haven't used a jacket made of plain waterproof fabric recently.  I did last spring and summer, and it gave me a new appreciation of Goretex.

 
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1/6/2013 2:40 PM
 

DaveC wrote
 

If your shell doesn't aggressively bead water it needs to be washed, rinsed twice (to get out all soap particles), and then dried on a fairly high heat for 15 minutes.  The fabric needs to get up to 150-180 degrees for the factory DWR to reset itself on a molecular level.  Modern DWRs are pretty good, and I have a 6 oz Goretex anorak whose factory DWR has stood up perfectly to several years of hard use.  The problem is that it's hard if not impossible to reset DWR in the field, making modern WPB fabrics less than optimal for full condition multiweek trips with no resupply/visit to town.

Thanks for the good info. That goes against everything I have heard about caring for GT, especially the part about heat. I will have to give it a try with one of my older cheap GT shells first. I know when I washed one of my bloody hunting GT jackets it was never waterproof again, but I let it hang dry.

 
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1/6/2013 3:20 PM
 

Okay now I feel dumb after reading all the care labels on everything I have. I guess I never read them, I am a man what can I say. Got it all confused with wool and down maybe.  I also never wash unless they are bloody anyway. GT says warm wash tumble dry low, eVent says wash but do not use dryer steam okay, Precip says cold wash tumble dry low. I am right about eVent though, they recommend drip dry.

 
New Post
1/6/2013 5:40 PM
 

DaveC wrote

I think that 95% or more of the rain coat "failures" have to do with the DWR getting dirty, and thus not working.

If your shell doesn't aggressively bead water it needs to be washed, rinsed twice (to get out all soap particles), and then dried on a fairly high heat for 15 minutes.  The fabric needs to get up to 150-180 degrees for the factory DWR to reset itself on a molecular level.  Modern DWRs are pretty good, and I have a 6 oz Goretex anorak whose factory DWR has stood up perfectly to several years of hard use.  The problem is that it's hard if not impossible to reset DWR in the field, making modern WPB fabrics less than optimal for full condition multiweek trips with no resupply/visit to town.

While no current WPB will come close to keeping up with serious exertion generated moisture, most people haven't used a jacket made of plain waterproof fabric recently.  I did last spring and summer, and it gave me a new appreciation of Goretex.

 

This is my take as well.  I've read that goretex should only be washed in "baby soaps", IE Ivory Snow or Sportwash, as these don't have surfactants.  Surfactants make water "wetter", IE the molecules become less polar and will find a leak quicker, much the same as antifreeze will.

 

The heat angle I wasn't aware of, but I've read the same regarding the new nano-tech softshells the Army is issuing, so it makes perfect sense.

 
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1/7/2013 12:00 PM
 

WPB is one of the last things I look for in gear. Instead I focus on managing wetness via neoprene socks, wool and the like. I prefer ventilated solutions usually in the summer (poncho / kilt) and sof shell like in the winter.


http://www.seekoutside.com | sig added by EH... go check out Kevin's stuff!
 
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1/7/2013 5:47 PM
 

It dumped a foot of snow last night here and now its raining at 46 degrees. I like my WPB stuff! For me theres no point even owning a soft shell. I did buy a Mountain hardwear softshell a couple weeks ago for my Montana trip. Why does 15 degrees in Montana feel warmer than when its 30 around here..

 
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1/7/2013 10:02 PM
 

Evan,

In all fairness, your right, I don't sweat much.  Even in the summer time.  Guess that's why I routinely go days without showering!  I wish I still had that jacket, Ampato I believe mine was called.  Thanks a lot Salem, OR meth heads!!!


----------------------------------------------------------------------- Excuse me while I whip this out.
 
New Post
1/8/2013 10:41 AM
 

I, too, am skeptical of anything claiming to be waterproof and breathable.  I have normally just accepted that when walking hard (or fast) keep the layers off and get wet.  Stop, pack off and put on your waterproof until you need to move again. 

However, I have a new hunting jacket made from Toray that seems to be as close as it gets just now and it needs high heat in the dryer to reactivate the DWR, as previously stated.  I have not tested it out in the rain though, just the snow.

Evan - look into EPIC cotton jackets (in the US you can get them at an Orvis retailer) it is billed as "amphibious cotton" , not waterproof but water repellant , wind proof and breathable.  I have one (Bergans not Orvis) and it is extremely good.  It may suit your needs.

 
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