/ Hardshell or shoft shell for winter climbing ?

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BarmyAlex118 - on 22 Oct 2013
I am looking at getting a new pair of trousers for winter climbing in this season.
I had a pair of Karakorum trousers which did the job pretty well but my dad has asked for them back because he wishes to use them now.

Im stuck between going for a pair of soft shells such as mammut base jump pants / G2 soft shells and then carrying a pair of over trousers in the bag for if things get really bad, or getting a another pair of hard shells again like the karakorums or even the changabangs if i can stretch the budget.

Anyone got any recommendations and advice with regards to trousers.

Cheers :)
frqnt - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118:

Depending on where you are planning to climb; personally, in Scotland, Europe and NZ I've worn Haute Route pants for technical winter climbing with Crux over trousers if the weather turns really poor.

I'd get something a bit more substantial than the Base Jump Advance pants (which I also own) as they become sodden quick in fickle weather. Check out Mammut's 3L Softtech range. I'm a huge advocate.

Obviously plenty of other options exist, that's just my preference.
Michael Gordon - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Paramo do some good stuff
davy_boy - on 22 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: havent worn hardshell trousers in scotland or the alps in a few years. softshell all the way and thermals for really cold days underneath this combo works for me nearly all year round with the exception of hot summer days. i mainly do mountaineering, walking and ski touring in mine.best pair i have are norrona svalbard flex. hardshells might be better for ice or thawing conditions though.
Ben Sharp - on 23 Oct 2013
smithaldo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: patagonia knifeblade could be your solution? google for an article by colin haley.
planetmarshall on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Can't recommend the Mammut base jump pants - I wouldn't describe them as a softshell at any rate.

Personally I would recommend a pair of longjohns and a traditional hardshell as this combination will cope with just about anything, then consider softshell pants as a luxury. Personally I've been looking for a pair of Arcteryx Gamma Guide pants but they have proved difficult to find in the UK.
GridNorth - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Simond softshell from Decathlon. I had a pair of Mammut softshell which were very good and lasted for years but they cost about 130 and that was a long, long time ago. I now have the Simond ones which cost me 40 and perform just as well but I will have to wait a while to see how long they last but I suspect they will be similar.
Fultonius - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Don't think the base jump pants are weatherproof enough for Scottish winter.

I've used these for about 4 years. http://www.patagonia.com/eu/enGB/product/mens-backcountry-guide-pants-for-alpine-climbing?p=83555-0

Climbing (alps and Scotland), ski-mountaineering. The best thing about them is, if you crampon hole them you just need a few stitches an some seam-grip and they're good as new!
iksander on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Not much in it, unless you're the turbo nutter sort who loves nothing better than climbing slush in the rain - in which case hardshell is a no-brainer. What ever you get, make sure you can move well in them: do some squats, high steps and bridging with them on before buying. Anything that binds will quickly get on your wick.
NottsRich on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: I got some cheapy Regatta softshells for 25, apparently reduced from about 80, as an experiment. I used them for the first time a few weekeneds ago to try them out in the Highlands. It was a dry day, and about 0 rising to 10oC throughout the day. I got a bit sweaty walking up hill, a little cool going down hill and sitting around, but nothing that a normal pair of trousers wouldn't cope with. These 'softshells' then remained clammy throughout the rest of the day, sitting in the chippy, and the entire drive home, and took a while to dry out hanging up in the house.

Having never used softshells before, is that normal and they do get a little clammy and take a while to dry? I thought the idea was that they were windproof but completely breathable and would keep you dry from perspiration. Was I wrong, or were these trousers just rubbish? Ideally I'd try them in some colder conditions, but Scotland seems to be warming up again just now...
nniff - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to iksander:

Soft shell all the way for me - powerstretch under Mammut something or others, and powerstetch again under rather elederly but very good Macpac Powershield jacket.

I only wear hardshell if there is proper wet water falling out of the sky. Can't stand it.
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to NottsRich:
Had a quick look online, many of the reggatta soft shells have a membrane in, and its probably a poor performing cheap one.

I avoid soft shells with a membrane (however good it is) as they don't breathe much better than a mac, if I want more windproofing (or waterproofing) I'll either take a very light pertex shell (with no lining) or a water proof jacket (or use two layers of stretchy soft shell). Allowing me to normally use the stretchy softshell sans membrane making the most of its breathability.

Stevo
NottsRich on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: Cheers, good explanation. I didn't know softshells had membranes in. Sort of defeats the point doesn't it?
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to NottsRich:
I think so.

Which model is your jacket? You can check if it has a membrane by trying to breathe through it with you hand on the back although some membranes have deliberate holes in.
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to NottsRich:
the current models are listed here
http://www.regatta.com/mens/softshells
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to NottsRich: That entirely depends of the sort of winter climbing you are doing. If you do cascade ice in europe when a hardshell it utterly pointless as the conditions just don't require them, but melting ice makes your clothes wet, then a membrane makes certain that you won't get wet. If you are doing highly aerobic climbing like you find in Scotland then having a membrane is pointless - you will be layering underneath a hardshell if the weather dictates or if you are walking in you need all the breathability you can get. Hence I use a pertex top for wind over a fleece or a primaloft if its really cold and hardshell for scotland or a membraned softshell for cascade ice when the extra maneuverability afforded by a single piece is a boon.
NottsRich on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to Stevo: I was actually talking about trousers not jackets, but probably forgot to mention it. I think they are these ones, in whichc case they've got a membrane. Lesson learned!

http://www.regatta.com/mens/legwear/geo-softshell-trousers.html

In reply to mike kann: Good point about a membrane being useful for Euro ice, but like you said not much use for Scotland unless it's a short walk in. I can think of a few though, so all is not lost!
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to NottsRich) That entirely depends of the sort of winter climbing you are doing. If you do cascade ice in europe when a hardshell it utterly pointless as the conditions just don't require them, but melting ice makes your clothes wet, then a membrane makes certain that you won't get wet. If you are doing highly aerobic climbing like you find in Scotland then having a membrane is pointless - you will be layering underneath a hardshell if the weather dictates or if you are walking in you need all the breathability you can get. Hence I use a pertex top for wind over a fleece or a primaloft if its really cold and hardshell for scotland or a membraned softshell for cascade ice when the extra maneuverability afforded by a single piece is a boon.

In most cases the membrane in a soft shell doesn't stop you getting wet for numeroues reasons. Normally the seams are not taped / welded also it's quite common for the membrane to have holes in it to try and prevent the breathability issues. Membranes also tend to make it a lot slower to dry out your under layers when they do get wet.

I've been dripped on quite a bit ice climing including in N Wales last season and in Cogne, wearing non membrane soft shell both times and it wasn't an issue, the drips ran off my soft shell in the main and what didn't was dry very quickly.

BTW I'm not saying that its not necessary to wear waterproofs ice climbing from time to time, just that so far since I've gone down the soft shell route its not been a problem for me.
BnB - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: For fine weather ice a non-membrane softshell is all you need. But for true Scottish conditions you just can't beat the extra protection of a hardshell. Is Goretex Pro that clammy? I haven't found so.

Of course you sound like a walking crisp packet, but that's another matter.
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beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: There's a simple answer to that. Buy a membraned softshell that is seam sealed. Revolutionary idea I know. By the way, windstopper is actually rebranded goretex Silver label (or was when it first appeared. So the only difference is that it has a lower hydrostatic head. I.e. if you seam seal a windstopper garment it is effectively waterproof just like a hardshell. Just not as waterproof. And yes the odd drip here or there you'll not have an issue with. When its -1 or slightly above zero and the ice starts to melt or you're climbing near exposed water, or you are knealing against ice at a belay and the ice pressure melts, then its a different story. Ho hum.
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BnB:
The thing about winter layering is that everyone seems to like a different approach. Some people run warmer (or warmer when going up long snow sloper) others sweat more, others chill more on belay etc.

If your logbook is accurate I think you'll be adjusting your layering system for a good while yet.

I personally do find all water proof jackets too clammy for winter climbing in, I have found the key for me is to wear relatively little layers on lead with soft shells as the outer layers and then get in a pertex primaloft belay jacket on belay (as this allows any moisutre to still dry off but keeps the wind out a lot and keeps me snug and warm). I find sweat is the root of all evil for me as it makes me cold when I'm standing around on belay.
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to mike kann:
Mike I've had a lot more than the odd drip of water when ice climbing both in the UK and abroad and not found it a problem on my non membrane soft shells.

I was already aware that windstopper is a gore membrane and that some soft shells have taped seams. I was just pointing out to you that your statement was an over generalisation and in the normal case not true "then a membrane makes certain that you won't get wet"

I'd personally rather buy a non membrane soft shell and on the rare occasions I decide I need waterproofing wear a hard shell.

Each to their own.
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: I'm sure you already know that windstopper is gore. What you may not know is that when gold gore was the premium product they also had silver gore which was dropped as it was felt outright waterproofness was the way to go. It became windstopper. I.e. windstopper garments are essentially a hardshell without seamsealing, unless they've been seamsealed, in which case they effectively become a hardshell but with a lot less bulk. Hence why it can be a one suit fits all if you aren't doing the whole start stop thing like when scottish winterclimbing. If you're climbing in places like Rujken or Cogne, membraned garments can work well as generally taking a hardshell adds to your load for no reason. But as you say, each to their own. Of course saying to steer clear or membranes isn't a sweeping generalisation at all is it?
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to mike kann:
"Of course saying to steer clear or membranes isn't a sweeping generalisation at all is it? "

I haven't actually said that (on this thread at least), I just expressed a personal preference, if you look at my other posts on this thread I also clearly say what works for one person may not work for another.

I've never owned a windstopper product but I have heard from others that they do leak through the seams once they get quite wet and then they are a pig to dry out. I have however owned a membrane based soft shell and wasn't that keen on it.

"If you're climbing in places like Rujken or Cogne, membraned garments can work well as generally taking a hardshell adds to your load for no reason"

Well its not for no reason is it (for me atleast) as during my last Cogne trip I didn't wet out despite getting dripped on and didn't wear my hard shell. However when working hard I didn't have the sweat build up I would do with a membrane based soft shell.
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo: "I avoid soft shells with a membrane (however good it is) as they don't breathe much better than a mac,"

There you go. That's a sweeping generalisation. Gore windstopper is a membrane that is more breathable than Goretex. And it's generally accepted that Goretex is more breathable than most macs. And the fact that many windstopper garments get heavy when wet is because they are combined with heavy face and backing fabrics which hold water, not because of the membrane itself. Just pointing out that membranes if put in the right combination can work exceedingly well - eg my Alpine Direct seam sealed bibs, which breath well, have excellent ventilation when you need it, act as a hardshell when you need it and gives you a reasonable compromise between the two.

I have both membraned and non membraned and you just have to know when to use each. And of course you get different quality non membraned garments too, some which are utterly brilliant and some which are dire. As an all rounder, personally I go non-membraned top half, membraned bottom half so that I don't need to worry about putting hardshell on over crampons which is a pain in the arse. But as you say, if you sweat like a catholic priest and a Lesbian and Gays rally then you might have a different opinion.
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to CurlyStevo) I'm sure you already know that windstopper is gore. What you may not know is that when gold gore was the premium product they also had silver gore which was dropped as it was felt outright waterproofness was the way to go. It became windstopper. I.e. windstopper garments are essentially a hardshell without seamsealing,

Are you sure about this? I remember Activent coming out first and that later becoming Windstopper. I'm sure its an ePTFE membrane too (I get sweaty in the stuff!) but I wonder if it lacks the PU layer that normal goretex has but say eVent doesn't have.

Anyway, membrane geekage aside, it really shows that softshell is a completely useless term these days. These are called softshells
http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=2487
http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=4425
But they are both waterproof and seam sealed. They're hard shells that just feel soft?!
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to TobyA: That's what I was told a long time ago by a gore rep doing some training for the shop I was working in. Course he could have been telling me porkies. My trousers are these ones: http://www.directalpine.com/pants-eiger-20-softshell-13

Genuinely one of the best bits of kit I've ever bought - dry fast after a soaking, waterproof as far as I can tell, all the bells you need and well thought out. Would buy them again. As a softshell option I have some cloudveils but those aren't made anymore. Very very comfy and quite warm and brilliant until you get them wet, when they usually take most of a day to dry. Non membraned.
BnB - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:
> (In reply to BnB)
> The thing about winter layering is that everyone seems to like a different approach. Some people run warmer (or warmer when going up long snow sloper) others sweat more, others chill more on belay etc.
>
> If your logbook is accurate I think you'll be adjusting your layering system for a good while yet.
>
Oh, I think I'll be adjusting it for ever. With only limited experience and technique, going very fast up a climb isn't a problem for me right now. And isn't it part of the fun getting your gear just right.

Isn't it the issue with winter climbing that you are continually experiencing huge changes in the gains or losses of heat and sweat? And that, in Scotland in particular, each day can be very different from the last/next. So flexibility is vital.

For the upper body, I buy the line that a non-membrane softshell makes for the best outer in optimum to moderate conditions. But I don't think I want to leave the Goretex Pro back at home for the sake of 500 grams. I can't climb in my belay jacket if the weather craps out. I'd roast to death.
Heike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118:
Most of my winter climbing is done in Scotland and I have always just worn a thin layer (powerstretch or so) on the walk-in and then put on waterproof (Goretex or similar) overtrousers. I have found that basically most of the time in Scotland it's wet (either from above or the snow is wet) and you just end up getting soaked in softshell. I have used softshell extensively in the Alps and elsewhere, but in Scotland I would always go for the driest option possible . Having said that my Goretex jacket and trousers are a few years old and leaking like a sieve...yuk! Just my 2ps worth
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BnB: I don't think he was advocating leaving it at home. For me hardshell trousers are a faff I can do without. It's either full softshell and highly unfashionable gaiters on a day when I know it'll stay nice, or membraned seamsealed softshell for moderate-grim days. Then if I'm in europe on a nice day a membraned softshell upper for roadside ice, or for colder days with a walk in like in scotland, a fleece/thick baselayer, pertex/super breathable softshell (Rab Boreas for eg), primaloft top (like rab generator) and hardshell. Or if its going to be a nice day, a base layer and windshirt and primaloft 100 based hooded softshell (patagucci wintersun) for climbing in.
CurlyStevo - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to mike kann:

> There you go. That's a sweeping generalisation.

I didn't say that I hadn't made any generalisations.

> "then a membrane makes certain that you won't get wet"

So I pointed out that this was an over generalisation and incorrect which it is, instead of agreeing with me you felt the need to try and pick holes in my other posts on this thread. Is this really necessary?

> Gore windstopper is a membrane that is more breathable than Goretex. And
> it's generally accepted that Goretex is more breathable than most macs.

Since I was aware that many of the membranes are breathable in softshells its pretty clear I was comparing to other breathable waterproofs. Mac was meant as a throwaway slang term not sure why you needed to take what I said quite so literally.

> And the fact that many windstopper garments get heavy when wet is
> because they are combined with heavy face and backing fabrics which hold
> water, not because of the membrane itself.

Did you really think I meant the membrane itself became saturated and heavy ? Surely not!

> Just pointing out that membranes if put in the right combination can
> work exceedingly well - eg my Alpine Direct seam sealed bibs, which
> breath well, have excellent ventilation when you need it, act as a
> hardshell when you need it and gives you a reasonable compromise between
> the two.

Maybe for you but not for me, not everyone's the same you know.

beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to CurlyStevo:

> I didn't say that I hadn't made any generalisations.

You made a generalisation which in my experience is wrong. I pointed that out. Your experience is that membranes are not worth bothering with, I've said that they are worth thinking about in certain instances. How am I generalising? Seamsealed membraned softshell fabrics are more waterproof and need less aftercare to remain waterproof than non membraned ones, whose DWR generally wears out or becomes ineffective when dirty. That's not wrong.


>
> Since I was aware that many of the membranes are breathable in softshells its pretty clear I was comparing to other breathable waterproofs. Mac was meant as a throwaway slang term not sure why you needed to take what I said quite so literally.

You take everything I say literally, so it doesn't work both ways?

> Maybe for you but not for me, not everyone's the same you know.

Well there you go. You encouraged the poster to steer away from non-membraned on the basis of your single experience with a membraned softshell. I have told him that they have their place. I didn't even disagree with you. Your experience is based on running hot. Mine is based on owning both systems and having used both in lots of different environments and therefore giving an alternative view to them so they can make their own mind up. As you say, not everyone is the same.
alasdair19 on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: 2 options for scotland in amazing weather maybe 20% of the time softshell is awesome. 80% of the time you need a hardish shell as heike says.

so options are goretex a cheaper derivative OR paramo!! which lasts really well.

if the karakorums work.... legs sweat less than bodies so a cheaper breathable shell is likely to work well as you#ve discovered.

decathalons simond brand is by far the best budget brand. I and many other have used their excellent non membrane trousers

hard shells work when the wearther is good too.
Kane - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to NottsRich) If you do cascade ice in europe when a hardshell it utterly pointless as the conditions just don't require them, but melting ice makes your clothes wet, then a membrane makes certain that you won't get wet.

Not really - ice falls form where there is a good water source and get nice and fat because the water runs down the ice fall and freezes, building it up. It's a fun experience taking out a screw to get a jet of water in the face. Melting ice falls you really want to avoid because the are not as strong as normal so are more likely to collapse.

My system is hardshell trousers worn all the time and then a soft and hard shell top and I wear either or both as fits the situation. I used to do everything in softshells but since a really miserable belay I always wear hardshell trousers, mainly for the windproofing in winter. There is a limit to how much wind powershield, pertex and the like can keep out. Also I'm not a very sweaty person which really helps.

BarmyAlex118 - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: Right thanks for all the info and heated discussions, didn't realize i might nearly have started a flame war. lol

Most of my winter climbing this year will be in the lakes (that's if it gets snow) and the occasional trip to the uncivilized north when funds allow.

I think i will just get the same pair of hard-shell's again and get a pair of soft-shells for if it does get sunny. Considering the G2's by ME as i like the look of them and have heard good things about them.
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
In reply to Kane: yep I know. Sometimes conditions aren't what they should be. And what i'm saying is that the more hardshell style softshells i.e essentially wterproof softshells can be just the ticket for that sort of climbing as the provide the protection when needed but none of the bulk of traditional hardshells. Just a slightly different system to what you're using...
beardy mike - on 23 Oct 2013
CurlyStevo - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to alasdair19: ive only used my hardshell once since owning soft shells and a belay jacket, (been using that system about 3 years), that was in the lakes walking in whilst raining. for me soft shells (non membrane) are preferable in the uk nearly all the time when winter climbing and most the time whilst walking in.
Jerry67 - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: I've had a pair of G2s for getting on for 12 years. They're now a bit battered, but I can thoroughly recommend them.
Jerry
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martinph78 on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118: If you go for a hardshell (not saying you should, as I don't have any real experience with softshells at the moment) then have a look for ones with good venting options. My Montane trousers have full length zips that you can open from the top down. Makes a big difference for letting the heat out. Same with shell jackets. Pit zips and opening the front up works well for me. Something like the ronhill pants and a microfleece top underneath helps with wicking and that cold/clammy feeling.




Ron Walker - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118:

I use Paramo and don't own a winter hardshell. For my legs I've always worn the Paramo salopettes. The only issue I have with the Paramo is that after close on 20 years of use the elastic is starting to perish on some of my older Paramo kit and the newer kit although lighter is not as robust!

With regard to ME G2's, I use them in the Alps especially if it's breezy and on shady north face ice routes as it saves carrying extra windproofs. I find them OK for occasional light rain or drizzle and for skiing. However on several occasions in Scotland I have been absolutely soaked and never take them on an overnighter. The G2's takes ages and ages to dry out and for some strange reason the Gortex Windstopper seems to just suddenly fail. You then get absolutely soaked and really chilled compared to wearing Paramo.

If it's cold and snowy then the soaking shouldn't be an issue as everything is frozen, but then you'd get away with polyester tracksuit bottoms and some helly longjohns anyway!!!

FWIW I totally agree with Toby on the overuse of the word softshell these days as it's now become a pretty meaningless term...
BnB - on 24 Oct 2013

In reply to mike kann:
> (In reply to mike kann) things like this : http://www.mountainhardwear.com/mens-trinity-jacket-OM4501.html

But this is twice the weight of many hardshells (and horridly burly to wear IIRC)!! Not saying it doesn't breathe well but you were explaining only minutes earlier how softshells can be so much less bulky...
beardy mike - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to BnB: if you don't have to wear something beneath it as insulation then it is not any different. Look, all I'm saying is that in certain instances it can work. If you prefer a hardshell, then wear a hardshell. I've used my MH softshell for ten odd years now and found roadside ice is where it works really well. I'm not saying its brill in the mountains... And as I said, each to their own.
nufkin - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to Ron Walker:

> the overuse of the word softshell these days as it's now become a pretty meaningless term...

I shall take this opportunity to wave my decree wand and state that if things have a membrane they're not a proper softshell. With that sorted, back to the Hard v Soft for Scotland


Wee Davie - on 24 Oct 2013
In reply to BarmyAlex118:

I'm a softshell fan after 20 years+ of climbing using quite a few different soft and hardshell systems.

The main disadvantages of softshell are the lack of waterproofing and the loss of heat, particularly when it's windy (your heat leaks out and the cold wind gets in). If it's going to p1ss down or be really windy you could be in trouble in softshell.

The big advantage for me is the fact that I can walk-in wearing the same outer layer that I climb in, and I'm far more comfortable in softshell than I ever was in hardshell. I simply can't walk- in from the car wearing hardshell trousers or jackets. It's just far too hot and uncomfortable for me.

Wearing softshell trousers means I'm not carrying a big heavy pair of hardshell trousers or sallopettes in my bag. That takes nearly a kilo off the bag weight.

If the conditions are humid and damp I'll be far more comfortable in softshell because the sweat can evaporate. Hardshells don't breathe like they're advertised. I'm yet to use a shell fabric (except Neoshell) that breathes like the hype would have you believe.

If they can sort out a decent durable Neoshell jacket that has full functionality I might go there again. The Rab one I had last season was trashed in half a season.

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