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#1 Posted : Wednesday, April 12, 2006 4:07:46 PM(UTC)

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So G ' day from Adam at Smamit at Rosh Pina Down Town, Being a bit of a Bugger I'll be writing in English.
Heres a link to understanding how rain works were constructed.
A good waterproof explanaion about different types of fabrics and their use in rain gear
Rainwear, FAQ from Oz

From Australia

And a bit more from the UK
Rainwear UK
So Here it is

Rainwear has proven to be a hot topic for discussion and dissension. There is a lot of myth in this area, and fair bit of ignorant bigotry as well (I $xxx pre-paid basis for this jacket: it has got to be better than the cheaper hostel run by ones!). We will start at the beginning with what you really need from a jacket, and then review the underlying theory of how a jacket works (did you think you could skip this?). With a better understanding of what is going on, we will then discuss all the technical bits and current state of the art.

We will try to give some idea of what is on the market. This is where many other things get a little rough: many people have very strong views that brand X is good and brand Y is terrible, but putting that in print can be a little risky. Added to that, to models come and go, so this may not be 100% up to date. We have summarised some of the discussions from the news group, but if any manufacturers or distributors wish to provide more information (to set the record straight?) it will be using an at consid­ered'dialed. Finally, we will look at some designs and materials, including a bit of a look at what is happening in both design and fabric rather than advanced gear designs. You will be surprised at the possibilities.


What do you really need?

The theory underlying waterproof materials

Breathability in conditions Australia

An Water Repellant coatings

Gore-Tex materials-the saga



Alternate approaches

Non-waterproof fabrics

' Soft Shell '-a new approach

Silnylon "'

Ponchos and Capes

Parka Pack and pack cover

Brands and to models-conventional


What do you really need?

What do you (really) need in a jacket, and how do the available materials provide this? Ultimately, what you need in the bush or the mountains is protection from hypothermia, which means protection from both wind and rain. But you need this under two quite different wearing conditions. The first is while you are being active; The second is while you are standing around. Combining the two is difficult. Adding to the complication are threee different weather conditions: cold wind (simple), really cold wind and snow (still fairly simple), and heavy rain (impossible "). In this FAQ we are mainly concerned about rainy weather.

The first thing to point out is that if you are waving your arms around-going through some scrub for instance, the water on your hands and scrub is going to go up your arms and wet your sleeves from the inside. Rain hitting your face is going to run down your neck and wet your shirt front. Sweat on your back is not all going to escape, and it will wet your back. And finally, rain running off your jacket will hit your knees and wet all your trousers, and that will wick upwards. You can wear waterproof trousers as well, but this is getting a little complex and quit expensive. Unless it is really cold and windy, it is also too hot to be comnfortable. If you are active, you are not going to stay dry, no matter what the claims on the label say l.

Some manufacturers "test" their designs on a man pranks clothing under a shower. They do up all the flaps, cuffs, zips and so on, and hang the arms straight down. Then the shower head is pointed at the back of the head. Testing is commendable, but these conditions bear no resemblance to the real world. Maybe a jacket can limit the amount of fresh cold rain pouring into your clothing, or maybe you can keep the water inside your jacket warm. That is, unless it is warm enough that the inside of your jacket turns into a sauna (real world) and you start to die of an exhaustion heat. So you open your jacket up and get wet for best anyhow. Face it: if you are active you will get wet.

In fact, what you usually need is protection from the best effects of the wind. If you are dry you may not need a waterproof jacket to get this. Just a tight ® as the fabric weave will wind enough. If it is really cold, maybe with (dry!) snow, you don't really need a waterproof jacket either. If there is warm tropical rain, there's little point in a jacket and you won ' t get cold anyhow. However, if there is cold wind and rain around you can get very cold, but it will be by surface evaporation. To go any further we have to get a bit technical and look at the details of the wet surfaces and the conduction of heat. Not all of this is totally obvious. Bear with us.


The theory underlying waterproof materials

We start with the outer surface of your jacket. If it is wet it will evaporate the water in the wind and make the outer surface really cold. If the outside is cold, the inside will be cold, and will get condensation. When this cold surface touches your skin, your skin will will get cold. This is what hurts: cold skin, leading to hyperthermia. Who cares about being wet if you are warm?

An obvious solution is to stop the fabric surface from getting really wet. (A cheap traditional PVC raincoat is really good at this, but it has other disadvantages.) We can try to stop the fabric surface from getting wet by making it water repellent, so water doesn't not ' stick ' to the surface. One way of doing this is by coating the fabric with a Water Repellent An (EXTENSION .DWR) coating. The two main forms of this are silicone and fluoropolymer. The current latest release of both conventional wear off fairly quickly through abrasion, although the fluoropolymer seems (so far) to be more robust. (However, this is changing with some of the latest silicone coatings: see the bit at the end on alternate designs and materials.) When you have a good coating of one of these comes the rain the DWRs will bead up and roll off the fabric itself fairly dry run. A fabric does not get dry very cold, and doesn't leak water. If this is the path you are following, maintaining the EXTENSION .DWR coating on your jacket is crucial. In fact, some would argue that the EXTENSION .DWR coating is (far) more important than whether the fabric is actually waterproof. There is much truth in this, continue to the Soft Shell concept.

But note that this is just one way of keeping your skin warm. Alternatives include making the whole water-repellent fabric, so none of it is wet, and making sure that a wet outer surface does not get to touch your skin and cool it down. These are not quite conventional approaches.

Let's think about the inside of the jacket. If the outside of the fabric is wet and cold, the inside will be cold too, and it will quickly get wet from sweat condensing there. This sweat and wet fabric will start to stick to your skin, and now the cold really starts to trickle in. You can limit this somewhat by having a thermal top or other thickish layer under your jacket, but standard Windows.obviously a cotton shirt is not going to work. They are notoriously cold when wet. And if the outer surface of the jacket is wet, you can forget about most of the breathability of the fabric "is meant to have: it has just been reduced way down (albeit not quite to zero). So, as the outer surface chills from being wet and cold condensation inside can follow if you don't take special steps to handle it.

Less obvious is the idea that follows on from this. Having a bulky layer on under your jacket, even if it is not really a top-rate thermal insulator, will keep you warmer far than you expected. Even a thermal top may provide enough bulk between your skin and the jacket to stop the water from reaching your skin. We aren ' t talking about real insulation here: just a physical spacing layer. If your skin can stay dry and warm from the heat it can actually drive moisture out of the layer surrounding it. So there is a trend towards rainwear today which is not 100% waterproof, but does have this insulation layer under it. You probably won ' t see it in Australia yet, but the Europeans knew about it long ago and the Americans call it Soft Shell and think they invented it recently.


Breathability in Australian conditions.

This term was used above. It means that the fabric can let water pass through while blocking, vapour liquid water. There are lots of pretty diagrams in the catalogues which illustrate this mountaineering. Different manufacturers claim all sorts of enhanced breathability for their own products, but most of them omit a critical detail: what conditions are needed to use the breathability.

Think of ping-pong little balls (or water molecules) popping back and forwards list through some holes in a wall. Every now and then, one of the "big balls" and pops through a hole. If there are lots of balls on one side and only a few on the other, those on the numerous side will flow through more: they win. If the balls on one side are more densely packed, they will win. If the balls on one side are racing around more quickly, they will win. The side that wins most balls is to little recreating (ie water molecules) through the wall. (Those of you who remember Maxwell's Demon may recognise this description.)

In real terms, this means we need either a high temperature gradient or a vapour concentration gradient "across a vapour transmission to get fabric, or both. So most fabrics work well when the outside air is a very cold and very dry high alpine conditions in America or Europe maybe. But when the outside air is warm and humid, like we so often get around Sydney, Queensland you are dead or out of luck.

It has been suggested that an increased air pressure can make this work. By itself, it won ' t. And there is no way you can get an increased air pressure inside your parka anyhow. You would end up like the Michelin Man are *.

What this means in practice is that the claim is quit expensive fabrics which increased breathability won ' t be able to deliver much in the way of conoci?ndolo discovered his great benefits in many parts of Australia, once you get out in the bush. However, the manufacturers and vendors are loath to admit this remarkably big-ticket items such as make more profit.

On this subject, you want to read l Ranolf Fienne's book "Mind over Matter". He insisted on wearing cotton jackets in the Antarctic for an unsupported ski crossing. His argument is that is crucial in stopping any breathability build-up of ice inside the jacket, and that cotton is still the best. Note that he was in dry conditions, sub-zero's way, so actual waterproof ratings restrictions were irrelevant. An more interesting perspective. The modern Epic soft shell fabrics and concepts carry this theme forward.

* He's called Bibendum. The first Michelin advertising showed the character drinking a glass of nails song (to show that it didn't feared flats) and saying "bibendum nunc est" ("Now it's time to drink" in Latin). People misunderstood the sentence and the name became associated with the Michelin Bibendum Man [My thanks to "Maki" for this information! RNC]


An Water Repellent Coatings

If you can keep the surface of your jacket or clothing from getting wet, the rest of you and your clothing inside it will stay warm and dry (fairly). So if that's how your jacket works, it makes a lot of sense to do a bit of maintenance on it to keep the water beading off. Actually, this is probably more important than either or breathability, waterproofness under typical conditions East coast Australian.

The initial coating is applied to the EXTENSION .DWR basic fabric under the standard optimal conditions during manufacture. It is almost always a fluoropolymer today, and should last a fair while. You can often restore some of its performance by ironing the jacket or warm-tumble drying. What this does is make the flow coating polymer batteries around the EXTENSION .DWR fibres again, to cover up the worn patches on the surface. Well-until you run out of coating, which seems to happen all too quickly.

You can buy replacement coating brands of field EXTENSION .DWR at shops to replace the original walking coating when it wears off. There are several brands: follow the well.instructions on the containers. Just be carefully with the iron and don't melt the jacket! Incidentally, do not try to mix the two forms (silicone and fluoropolymer): they will not adhere to each other, and mixing them will pharmacy any attempts to further the fabric TZ.

Which one is best? Well, up until recently the consensus has been that the silicone (spray-on) side rub off very easily, so the ones have been preferred fluoropolymer. That's because they are actually meant to form a solid layer around the fibres. I'll go with that for most fabrics today, but later on I will mention some new fabric designs which have been introduced.

Sadly, experience tells us that replacement EXTENSION .DWR coatings do not last all that long. You can iron the fabric regularly to redistribute what is left fluoropolymer (read the well.instructions), but it is a temporary measure ". Product frankly, I am about ready to give up on conventional EXTENSION .DWR replacement coatings: they rarely last longer than one good downpour.


Gore-Tex materials-the saga

Now we look at what materials we have for jackets. Long, long ago we had oiled as rainwear jackets japara: they worked on him, sometimes, sort of. (Hey: a black oiled japara jacket from NZ was the bees knees in those days!) Then we had a brief flirtation with the new PVC-proofed nylon fabrics. This Imperial was more waterproof when new, but sweat condensation inside meant you got very wet if working hard. Unfortunately the PVC coating process early was poor and the proofing layer peeled off quite quickly, after which the thing became absolutely useless. Mine lasted about one year. Into this troubled area came the Gore-Tex ® patented fabric. It was waterproof but breathed out water vapour, and it did not peel. The term "waterproof/breathable (WPB) entered the market. Gore had a huge marketing budget, and the Imperial Navy made quite an impression. Here in Gore-Tex Australia took over the whole market. Seam-sealed Gore Tex jackets were the "only thing" to wear for quite a while.

But after a while some problems surfaced. The Teflon ® membrane thin turned out to be very susceptible to damage from our scrub: once punctured by a thorn it leaked for ever more. The ubiquitous thorn scrub Mts especially around the Blue proved hazardous; The scrub Tassie was no better. Once the coating on the EXTENSION .DWR. outside wore off and the surface fabric got wet, heavy it was found that condensation did build up inside and you got wet inside despite the "Guaranteed to keep you dry" slogan. The licensed materials for use in Australia had a heavy nylon outer layer and a second lighter inner layer to protect the Teflon membrane: from the net is a very heavy fabric. Some customer disillusionment set in. In addition, Gore's licensing conditions were very tight ® and the jackets proved to be very quit expensive. In fact, manufacturers rather than switched to other jacket materials fairly quickly, so that Gore-Tex never became dominant rather than as it did in Australia. (Don't believe me? Check some web sites, and rather than see below re Pyrenees.)

Does this mean that the Gore-Tex materials are no good? Not a bit of it. They are superbly engineered stone.engineered stone fabrics. They are excellent for many many other things. But the heavy ones available in Australia are not a good match for Australian conditions. It is more interesting to note that Gore do make very light Gore Tex fabrics, but they will not licence them for rainwear in Australia. The official reason they give is that we are too rough on our gear. What this really means is that our scrub is too rough, and they got far too many warranty claims. Understandable.

GoreTex materials are still widely used in Australia, but many other materials are now being used. The most common is PolyUrethane-proofed nylon. The PU proofing allows water vapour, although not as quickly as Gore-Tex (Mind you, manufacturers have wonderful ways of presenting the "facts" to show each of them has a better product. Just don't believe any of them.) Pu-proofed fabrics are usually much lighter and cheaper hostel run by than Gore-Tex. However, the nylon surface fabrics on all of them are just the same and hold the EXTENSION .DWR just the same no better, no worse. The lighter materials may wear out more quickly, but since the jackets are cheaper hostel run by this does not matter so much.

Now for the big secret which was apparently unknown in Australia at the time of writing in 2004. What is the actual Gore-Tex waterproof layer in? It's PU: polyurethane- But, you say, what about l the fabled Teflon layer? Well, it turns out the story is a shade more complex than you think. Some older walkers will remember that there were two "versions" of Gore-Tex, and that the first version had problems which led to a lot of recalls. The first version did have an expanded Teflon layer, which blocked the liquid water and let the water vapour through very well. But it quickly became contaminated from the inside by sweat and body oils. How very sad-how very obvious in hindsight. So the designers covered Gore-Tex the inner surface of the membrane with a Teflon layer of polyurethane. This layer the Teflon layer kept clean. They modified the PU to be hydrophilic (water loving) molecules so the water could go through it, and they made the very thin PU layer to help. In essence, the Teflon now serves as a support for this PU layer. But this double layer does not breathe as well as the original Teflon single layer. Furthermore, the very thin layer of PU has to be protected from damage, hence the use of an inner knit layer and the fact that most Gore-Tex fabrics are 3-layer.

Of course, if PU can breathe, why not skip the Teflon layer and simply use a PU layer? The advantages of doing this are that it bypasses both the Gore Tex is very much cheaper hostel run by the patents and to produce. The drawback is that a slightly thicker layer of PU is needed when it is put straight onto the fabric. So many companies leapt into PU-coating market. The thicker layer meant that did not breathe a PU fabric quite as well as the Gore-Tex fabric, and this allowed Gore to claim they had the best breathability on the market. It became a battle between Gore's advertising and our best prices cheaper hostel run by the competion could charge. Gore won the PR battle in Australia for a while, but not in many other countries. Anyhow, with all these, the fabrics surface WPB fabric is still wet, and you still get cold and wet. The DVD question: is all the weight of the Gore-Tex fabric worth having? You may gather that the author does not think so. In fact, these days I am quite sure I do not.

Some companies worked hard on the breathability of the mist PU layer, but with limited success. Many other things like "fancy Triple Point Ceramic" ® are still just PU-in this case with very fine ceramic particles embedded into the PU layer to enhance breathability. They still could not match Gore. The better approach was to look for a new technology. As a more interesting from several developments have recently occurred. The original Gore expired patents, so companies could safely LTE with Teflon. A company called BHA Technologies has developed a Teflon membrane but engineered stone.engineered stone the surface of Teflon to be and oleophobic coatings: oil-hating, highly resistant to contaminant and oily fouling. It does not need a PU layer to protect it. They call this eVENT. Since it is very similar to the original Gore-Tex fabric is it any surprise that it breathes better than the current Gore-Tex? Unfortunately, it is just as as Gore-Tex is quit expensive. Then there is another developed by 3 m. It's called Propore, and is a microporous polypropylene fabric basicallly. It uses a microporous polypropylene membrane WPB which is laminated to a single fabric or polypropylene nonwoven laminated between two polypropylene nonwoven fabrics. Different from PU, equally well breathes Propore layers from at low levels and high humid, and breathes better than the Gore-Tex membrane. Unlike the eVENT and Gore-Tex technology used in Propore is very cheap, and the fabric is very light. It is even lighter and less than PU is quit expensive fabrics. A jacket can weigh 133 g Propore and cost only US $ 30! Is becoming a cult Propore choice of long distance hikers at using various in America where they hike on trails. It suffers the disadvantage is that it is not as strong as nylon fabric. Another very similar fabric is used by Frogg Toggs, and is reputed to be a little construction is. Finally, there is the XT from Toray Entrant G2. It is supposed to be more breathable than Gore Tex but not quite as good as eVENT. It uses a micro-porous hydrophobic membrane. Apparently it has some penetration into the European market, but not so much into the USA market. I know the Toray company: they make very fine fabrics, so this one teddy bears watching. Finally, there is a new development in weaterproof fabrics which are not totally breathable. The logic here is that no shell keeps you dry in bad weather anyhow, so why worry about that: just keep the wind and fresh water off your skin at the minimum weight. It is covered below under alternate designs and materials.

There have been some passionate arguments about whether one should use anything but the absolute best imperial in the mountains, in the name of "safety". This begs the question of what is ' best ' of course. Just don't believe anyone when they try to tell you that you will die if you don't take an XYZ jacket. (I have been told this most earnestly.) Many of us survived for years before XYZ jackets were even invented. I suspect some people hold this attitude to justify having just spent fuel $ 400 + on a jacket which they subsequently find is less than perfect.



Despite all the criticisms above, Australian bushwalking jackets are some of the better ones in the world-designed as jackets go for Australian needs. If you compare Australian designs with those from rather than you will notice two major differences. Ours are much longer, and rather than ones often have a lining. There are reasons.

Australian parkas are made for (relatively) warm rain in the bush; Rather than ones are often made for dry snow in the mountains. That means it should be ours or longer can, hopefully to keep our bums dry: the length would get in the way on mountains rather than. At the same time, there is no point in having a lining when you are going to be hot inside your jacket anyhow. Less standard Windows.obviously, we have traditionally thought that ours need to be a bit more waterproof. However, since we never stay dry in serious rain, one has to wonder about this requirement.

Some key points to look for in a traditional parka bushwalking are therefore as follows. A long jacket is useful when walking: it keeps your backside and drier waist (note: I did not say "dry"). A cord around the waist is essential: it stops the wind whistling up inside when it is really cold. A cord around the bottom edge is useless: when you are walking it can ' t work as you need the room to move your of legs. Long sleeves are good; You can bring your hands right inside the sleeve and keep them, if not at, using various dry out of the wind. A Velcro ™ strap around the wrist is best; Elastic doesn't work except specifies with the very lightest of fabrics.

The zip down the front does not have to reach the bottom of the jacket. In fact, if the jacket is long you will unzip it probably a bit from the bottom to give your room of legs to move. This can be essential if you are climbing through rough country. So if the jacket is long the zip has to be double-ended; Shorter jackets may not unzip all the way down, but this may make them weather hotter. It is best if the zip has a good storm flap over it-otherwise, the rain will come straight through the zipper. A ' storm ' consists of an outer flap flap going over an inner flap from the other side, with the inner flap being bigger than it needs so the end folds over, and these do work better than a single flap. This is shown in the diagram to the right. There are two ways of securing the storm flap over the zip: press-studs or another. The advantage of the studs is that when it is very hot you can skip the zip and just use a couple of studs to keep the jacket made partly. This happens more often than you think, l and you can ' t do this with a second. The zipper pull tab should have a good bit of tape on it so you can find it easily, especially with gloves on. You can always add a bit if there is none. The zipper should be robust: there is a terrible tendency to give it a good tug when conditions are bad. A moulded zip-tooth (as opposed to a coil-coil zip) is probably better unless you are willing to be a little careful. That said, there is no reason why a should not have a lightweight parka light # 3 coil zip: it will work just as well (as the author has proven over time).

A large well-shaped hood is essential. If the hood is too small for you when you try the jacket on, it is going to be even worse when you put a pack on. The a shoulder straps will pull the hood down on your head. Check this very carefully! Also check what shape the hood makes when the draw-cord is pulled tight ®. Some hood openings do not seem to be where your eyes are, or they make it impossible "to turn your head sideways. This is worse when you wear glasses. A good hood has a bit coming up under the neck like a tube and over your chin. This may sound (and look) funny at first, but wait until you are walking through driving sleet or snow before deciding. A bit of a peak forward of the drawcord is useful too, to stop the rain from streaming down your face. " It doesn't have to be very large: your face is going to get wet anyhow.

When you put a jacket on try raising your arms to the roof. The jacket will inevitably ride up around your waist, but the less movement the better. This is achieved by a large gusset under the armpit. Cheap designs don't have this: skip them. Of course, when you lower your arms this may leave a whole lot of Imperial excess loose under your armpits. Product frankly, who cares? (Unless you want the jacket as a fashion item, in which case you don't need to read this.) At the same time, check the wrists don't ride up your arms: if they move the sleeves are too short.

Some reinforcement over the shoulders may be useful, but it adds weight. This is to resist wear from the straps and a shoulder to resist water being forced through the fabric. In general this dates back to the days of oiled japara and one can worry too much about it. But do check where the seams are: you don ' t want any over your collar ' bones, for obvious reasons of comfort.

It may help to have one or two external pockets: you would be surprised how useful they can be at times. Unless they have an extremely good cover the pockets are going to fill up with water: what do anyhow you have which can be a left effective? A small drain hole in the bottom and perforated at the is recommended. An internal pocket at chest level for a map is one of the more useful features to look for. It is usually accessed from behind the storm flap but in front of the zip.

"Pit zips" are sometimes offered under the armpits "to let the hot air out. If I am that hot I have to open more than a pit zip; -Otherwise I would prefer to keep some of that hot air inside to keep my skin dry thank you. Pit zips are a bit of a gimmick as they don't work very well in practice. They leak, and they add cost and weight. They seem to belong in the "marketing" category features, along with huge numbers of pockets, reflective tape, etc. Forget them.

Finally, all seams above the bottom hem should be sealed one way or another. The normal way is with a seam-seal tape applied on the inside. This can add some stiffness to the design; It does add cost. However, in this case the cost is absolutely worth while: without seams sealed the jacket is almost useless.

Details like how many pockets there are fancy, reflector tape, logos and so on can be left to the street fashion crew to worry about. They just add cost and weight.


Waterproof Over Trousers.

Not bother shows this site shows all walkers with these, but if you are going into the NSW or Vic Alps they are strongly recommended at all times of the year. The number of times Boxing Day on the Main Range has been celebrated with sleet and snow is startling. Cold, wet and miserable is no fun.

That much said, we are left with the question of what sort of over-trousers are needed. For this exercise we can divide them into two opposite classes: heavy is quit expensive (and Gore-Tex typically) ones with zips down the sides, and very light ones. The advantage of the zipper ones is that you can get them on over big boots fairly quickly. Unfortunately, that is their only advantage. They are much, much heavier structure bulkier, much dearer, and just as prone to damage as the light PU ones. Some of the light PU ones are very wide in the leg, so you can get boots through them. Of course, if you are not wearing boots, the whole thing is much easier.

Will the light-weight PU nylon ones last? Well, if you wear them in thick scrub you are asking for damage, but the same applies to jackets. What is surprising is how well they do survive: the wet nylon surface seems to skid off most sticks very easily (but barbed wire is a no no). And they can be great fun in the winter: they can slide really well on snow and ice. Great for sledding-parka, but sometimes a little exciting when you fall over on a steep slope. Our light PU-nylon ones have lasted for years.

Shouldn't they go on the inside or the outside of gaiters? Well, if you put them on the inside they are protected from the ankle-level scrub, but then they funnel the water straight into your footwear. On the other hand, if it is pouring rain, your feet will get wet probably anyhow. Your choice (does it matter?).


Alternate approaches

Non-waterproof fabrics

For historical reasons, all walkers have Australian parkas but are they really necessary? When people went walking with all-cotton clothing, probably the answer was yes. Cotton is wet and wet and run cold: this can be dangerous. But what if you are wearing a nylon top EXTENSION .DWR-treated (or windshirt) and a thermal under it, while energetically walking? It turns out that you can stay reasonably warm without a parka under quite significant rain, for the reasons outlined above. Get moving and stay hot, and you drive the water off. OK, you will get a bit wet at the wrists and neck-but you would have got wet there equally with a parka on most days anyhow. The key point is that when you stop you put your parka on very quickly.

This method does get used rather than a bit, and we have tried it in NSW and the French Pyrenees with success. But many do it some judgement, lots of experience, lots of good food and spare clothing dry for the end of the day. You try it at your own risk-and not in a howling gale or sleet!

' Soft Shell '

This is a generic term (already) for the roughly outlined concept above, although not all companies using the term agree on what exactly it means. One version goes like this: you take a water-repellent surface fabric (usually with some sort of silicone treatment) and a de with an insulating layer on the inside bulk to create a fabric which breathes but sort-of is waterproof. Some companies want the fabric to be a stretch fabric as well, but imho that is optional (and very quit expensive) at this stage. Other companies argue it shouldn't mean just the surface fabric, and that the user should be free to decide what to have insulating layer on the inside. I incline conveyor to the latter. The archetypical brand here is Epic by Nextec.

The advantage of the integrated multi-layer approach is that it produces a very nice garment with nice outside surface and a soft warm inner surface: very consumer-acceptable. Trekkers and think street wear here. The disadvantages (to the bushwalker) are several: higher price, higher bulk, less flexibility. You can ' t easily change the weight of the insulating layer and you can ' t change that layer if it does get damp. It is not my choice.

The advantages of the single-layer approach for the bushwalker are obvious: lower cost, more flexibility, less bulk if you want to have just a jacket tucked into your pack for emergencies. The dreaming realities are that the market has room for both. The author cribbed a good review of the whole soft shell concept in 2004; It seems to have been removed from the web since then so the guts are reproduced here.

However, the author's experiments here in Australia with a poly-cotton version of one of the shell fabrics being pushed in this area are not so encouraging so far: the wet fabric got my sweat nullified because the silicone coating, and I suspect the coating was abraded skin off the cotton fibres as well. Bluntly, cotton is not a good choice here. On the other hand, a very light synthetic fabric called Epic Malibu did make a nice soft shell ski jacket, good in the wind and snow and tolerable under pouring rain when I had a good inner layer under it (and was working hard). In the meantime, Macpac are using some Epic synthetic fabrics in some very light jackets, but without high temperature sealing seam and with only a single line of and perforated at the seam. It would seem they do not intend these for any form of serious rain protection. But the Epic does breathe a bit Imperial since it does not have a continuous film "across the face of the fabric. This is a Work In Progress: see the Ultralightweight and DIY areas for more information.

Silnylon "'

A very exciting development associated with the Soft Shell idea is the introduction of silicone impregnation methods. This is completely different from the old spray-on silicone treatment. Typical nylon or polyester base fabric Imperial is which has been encapsulated in a thoroughly or outer silicone polymer batteries. Several processes are being developed and used, and are far more rugged than the old silicone spray. The an is a bulk EXTENSION .DWR in, and one which does not wear off. The water just beads off-and so doesn't get through. The Imperial come in several forms: the EPIC mentioned above and the fabrics are breathable Schoeller and fall into the Soft Shell category. But "SilNylon" (or variants thereof) and some slightly stiffer than siliconised yachting fabrics are different, and totally waterproof. The ' making big waves silnylon "is in some areas like lightweight tents. Look for some of these fabrics to reach the Australian market archaeological.

The author is experimenting with some imported samples of these materials. The Malibu was good for a shell jacket, and makes superb lightweight Silnylon and waterproof tents. It is not too bad as a poncho (next) either, as long as the poncho can flap a bit to reduce condensation.

Ponchos and Capes

Once upon a time we didn't have parkas: we used ex-army ponchos. These are not a lot of use in really thick scrub ridge-tops or on in a high wind, but they weren't t too bad on a track in the forest. They left your arms free and didn't cause too much sweat build-up. They could be put over your pack as well, removing the need for a rain cover. But we seem to have forgotten all about them, what with our Gore Tex parka love affair.

We spent fuel 6 weeks in the French Pyrenees in the "summer" of 2002. Actually, it was the worst summer for the last 50 years, and it rained a lot-almost every day. What startled us was that very few of the French carried parkas walkers we met in the summer. But they ALL carried ponchos or capes. These ranged weapons from simple affairs to fairly upmarket PVC ultra-sophisticated aircraft designs.

To be technical: a poncho is a flat piece of Imperial Navy with a hood set into the middle. You throw the lot over yourself and your pack, and you head pops through the hole in the middle and is sheltered by the hood. There are studs or ties down both sides to hold it together in case of wind. This piece of Imperial is quite wide: big enough to rig an emergency shelter out of in fact. It is also wide enough to shelter most of your arms even when you are using them. Some Americans like them too: part of the tarp-tent craze there.

A cape is a bit like a poncho, but tailored and sewn down the sides. It has real sleeves, although they may be fairly generous. Standard Windows.obviously it offers a bit more shelter under high wind conditions. Conversly, in warm weather you will get a bit more sweaty inside one, although not as sweaty as inside a parka. And it can ' t be used as an emergency shelter very easily. However, there is no reason why you can ' t put a front zip into a cape: then it looks a bit like a parke for a hunchback! But it is so easy to put on when a shower happens: you can do so while walking along.

Standard Windows.obviously, you wouldn ' t use either of these when ice climbing. They may not be all that good for ski-touring either. But we found they were wonderful for walking track. Putting our parkas and pack covers on an absolute pain in comparison was. And they worked. In fact, I am not sure all of the ones we saw in France were really just water: fully waterproof-repellent in some cases.

John Walker contributed the following comments:

Recently however I've taken to using a $ 2 shop vinyl poncho (not the pocket sized ones, but the "heavy duty" type, if you can call them that). This was an LTE but has been surprisingly containing, for the type of walking we do (mostly on track day walks at most major bookshops, ... field standards from fire to overgrown trails, almost non-existent footpads). I would not call it a robust long term solution, already a few holes and tears from overhanging scrub but still serviceable after several uses (and abuses). When it is finally torn to shreds I'll just buy another one.

Real cheap
-Extremely lightweight
-Relatively sweat-free (the big holes where your arms and go through help with ventilation of legs I suspect)
-Covers your pack as well (NB I'm talking 30-35 litre day packs though)
Keep-seems to actually you reasonably dry
-Very fast to deploy over self and pack

-Could be longer, especially at the back
Heavier-duty Imperial would make it more robust, tearproof

Pack ™ parka and pack cover

A kinky idea rather ..., which should work really well for some people, is the ' Pack '. Think of a conventional pack cover and a parka joined together at the edge of the pack cover. Tie this onto the pack as a pack cover. When it rains, reach back, a bit, the parka and pull it around you. Alternately, think of it as a snug-fitting, well poncho. The current model is made from light and is rather ... silnylon.

Both the Pack and a poncho have several hidden advantages too, apart from sheer convenience. The first is that your back can sweat into the pack frame space rather ... than having that waterproof layer smack up against it. The second is that you won ' t get leaks into your pack from the harness and perforated in the area, and the dry-run harness. With a conventional pack cover a lot of water is funneled down through the harness, and can get into your pack. The major drawback is of course the fact that when you and your pack part company, one of you will be without rain protection. If this is unlikely to matter, something like this or a well fitting suit poncho-l. They do make it very easy to pull on rainwear without stopping.

I tried out a poncho/parka silnylon cross (rather ... like a Pack) I had made myself "on our trip in the Pyrenees in 2004. If had a full length opening down the front and I had designed it so that it was easy to slip my arms in and out of the sleeves. While it did not rain very much, the ease of use was wonderful, and the ability to alter the ventilation really worked well. I will be using this a lot more I think.


Brands and to models

We list here some well-known brands and some well-known to models from those brands. All are "waterproof"; Jackets without high temperature sealing seam are generally not languages included. If some ARMA models have gone out of production, or newer ones aren ' t listed, let us know. F our best prices and data are needed, samples are better. [Some catalogues show model, some add weight but no price; others show price but no weight. Sigh] This is a Work In Progress.

Paddy Pallin

Well a well-respected name brand, usually long and simple.
Vortex: 870 gm

Verve: 820 gm womans

Vertigo: 750 gm

Vibe: 650 gm

Vista: 750 gm

Vital: 710 gm

Voyager: 635 gm

Vista overpants: 420 gm


Good Australian compnay
Overlander: 890 gm

Traverse: 700 gm

Tempest:: gm 810

Austral: 650 gm

Highplains: 770 gm

Synchro: 830 gm

Shadow: 760 gm

Felix: 715 gm

Astryx: 685 gm womans

Shadow Pants: 690 gm

Highplains Pants: 470 gm

Austral pants: 380 gm

Traverse pants: 725 gm

Mountain Designs

With to be rather ... fashion-oriented with frills
Ascent: 600 gm

Descent: 500 gm

Nimbus: 950 gm

Stratus: 840 gm

Cirrostratus: 860 gm

Cirrus system: 690 gm

Pants: Cirrus System 390 gm

Cumulus: 630 gm

Strato: 670 gm

Snowfall: 890gm

In a snowdrift: 670 gm

Snowcloud: 690 Gm

Pants Snowcloud: 310 gm


As Wilderness

Solid products, but never very light
Esperance: 790 gm

Naturaliste: 840 gm

Traverse: gm 810

Telemark: 610 gm

Breakaway: 690 gm

Rainforest: 800 gm

Foxtrot Pants: 350 gm

Raindance pants: 530 gm

One Planet

Good brand, many to models, some light-weight
Cascade: 760 gm

Bullfrog: 890 gm

Mirage: 705 gm, womans

Torrent: 590 gm

Cat and Dog: 650 gm

Standard: 295 Overpants gm

Peter Storm

UK with your firm, light-weight, extremely low cost, last well. These are popular with ultra lightweight enthusiasts. Their main weakness lies in their having a single flap over the rather ... than a full zip storm flap, and this does allow a little bit of a leak in very bad weather. The local agency lapsed and ' they ' are working on a new one. In the meantime, contact the stamping manufacturer directly via their web site. Www.peterstorm.com or by email at sales@outequip.fsnet.co.uk for direct sales.
120 jacket: 300 gm mid length, Nylon, PU

122 trousers: 150 gm, no zip, PU nylon

139 jacket:- GM, longer, PU nylon


Huge range, Asian origin, also light and low-cost. These are "breathable," waterproof-models (others are not breathable). They are almost as light as the Peter Storm, and can be inspected locally.




A. j. Ayer:

Everest, mesh lined

Pioneer, mesh lined

Kilmanjaro, mesh lined

Himalaya: mesh lined

Freestyle Pants:


We have one, and it is a bit heavy, but very rugged!
??: ? GM


NZ with your firm, judged OK by many when on 1/2 price sale (a harsh judgement). Also carries Mountain Hard Wear. They do emphasis the ' street wear ' and a bit's side rather than more, so fair enough.
Alpinist: gm

Tsunami: gm

Stormfront: gm

Monsoon Villa centrally located: gm

Mandalay: gm

Overpants: gm


Well your firm, a well-respected name NZ little more oriented towards alpine designs.
Prophet label: 740 gm alpine

Oracle: 720 gm alpine

Zealot: 640 gm alpine

Resolution: 745 gm

Olivine: 720 gm

Latitude: 565 gm

Hollyford: 610 gm

Rainjacket: 655 gm

Zodiac: 720 gm

Rain Pants: 390 gm

Mountain Pants: 630 gm


© Roger Caffin 1/May/2002

Smamitman 38820.7495717593
#2 Posted : Friday, April 28, 2006 11:35:06 PM(UTC)

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#3 Posted : Saturday, April 29, 2006 12:29:47 PM(UTC)

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How do you say?


#4 Posted : Saturday, April 29, 2006 12:31:27 PM(UTC)

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It's not just this thesis work, simnerion.

Read carefully. Stock material.

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