/ Waterproof-breathable materials

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TobyA 03 Nov 2019

UKC are doing a big group test of winter-climbing-worthy hardshell jackets and I thought I had lucked out in getting the new North Face L5 jacket in their new FutureLight material to test. I say "thought" because I wore it for the first time in proper mountain weather last weekend, and was singularly unimpressed with the jacket's breathability. It wasn't easy conditions - I was in the Lakes, walked up Moasdale in the rain very late on Saturday night and camped around midnight. In the morning I crossed over into upper Eskdale and went the 'back way' up to the Mickledore and onto Scafell Pike. It rained for much of that time so I had the hood up, and its a good hard slog up steeply from the river Esk to the top, meaning I was sweating plenty even though it was only just above freezing up top (snow on the summit of Scafell Pike). Hence it's not surprising that the baselayer I had under the jacket (and the inside of the jacket itself) was damp after that. But on leaving the summit, I walked round to Esk Hause, over Esk Pike and on over Bowfell - all quite high, so not much more sweaty-ascending to do. The weather was also much improved by then and the rain and sleet having cleared to leave dry, cool windy conditions. Normally I would expect a shell jacket to then start drying out inside in those conditions as my activity level goes down, but the L5 didn't, I was damp inside for the rest of the day.

I've been thinking about this a lot and realised until last winter when I reviewing the Jottnar Odin jacket, made from their own Skjoldr fabric, that I've been using almost solely Neoshell jackets for the past 8 years. Neoshell is generally reckoned to have good breathability (and I thought Skjoldr worked at least as well), so should I be surprised that FutureLight didn't seem as breathable? In particular has anyone recently had experience of Goretex Pro Shell  and NeoShell and has an opinion on whether NeoShell is noticeably more breathable than Goretex? I have reviewed Goretex gear in the past https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/clothing/waterproofs/marmot_alpinist_jacket_and_pants-3282 and I don't remember finding I got as sweaty in it as I did in the new Futurelight jacket. I'm going to review a goretex jacket as well, so I'll have a modern pro-shell coat to compare the L5 to, but I'm just interested if other people have found NeoShell is noticeably more breathable than Goretex or eVent or the (any?) other big players.

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AlanLittle 03 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I'm afraid my experience with Neoshell is that it pretty quickly simply ceases to resist water penetration in either direction.

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TobyA 03 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

What jacket was that Alan? I've heard lots of people say its not waterproof enough, although I can honestly say with both the Jottnar and Marmot neoshell jackets I've reviewed and then kept using for several years afterwards, it hasn't been a problem.

Have you gone back to Goretex or similar after a poor experience with NeoShell?

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gneiss boots 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Interested in this as had a Rab Neoshell jacket for a few years and realise it will soon be retired to commuting and other jobs but, having found goretex to be very poor previously and loved the breathability, softness and handle of Neoshell that there appears to be none of it about. Goretex may have got better and I have Paramo for winter but would love to find the closest modern match (in good design, wired hood etc) ready for 2020.

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ColdWill 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

So now you're going to have to do the whole walk again in equally bad conditions, twice.

I have noticed that the new Tupilak has lost its pit zips which is a bit worrying.

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DubyaJamesDubya 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Got a pair of Neoshell trousers 3(?) years ago. Found them superb in both breathability and water proofing.

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Toerag 04 Nov 2019
In reply to ColdWill:

> So now you're going to have to do the whole walk again in equally bad conditions, twice.

What he should do is cut each jacket in half and tape them together to make a half-neoshell half-goretex jacket.

Or make up some kind of kettle boiling test. I'm sure the UKC hive mind could devise something suitable.

Toby, how does the published hydrostatic head and breathability figures compare? Are comparable figures available?

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AlanLittle 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> What jacket was that Alan? I've heard lots of people say its not waterproof enough, although I can honestly say with both the Jottnar and Marmot neoshell jackets I've reviewed and then kept using for several years afterwards, it hasn't been a problem.

Mine was from Rab. Waterproofing simply failed completely after about three or four years, Washing and re-DWRing didn't help.

> Have you gone back to Goretex or similar after a poor experience with NeoShell?

Yes.

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

Obviously if you got soaked in the NeoShell, and you don't in the Goretex, it's an improvement! But do you think while it worked was the NeoShell jacket more breathable than the Goretex do you reckon?

Thanks!

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> What he should do is cut each jacket in half and tape them together to make a half-neoshell half-goretex jacket.

Funnily enough a mate suggested I get TNF to run me up a half future light half goretex jacket just like that! I said I thought he was overestimating the influence of my reviews and UKC reviews on the global outdoor apparel market somewhat! (I heard on the grapevine that worldwide TNF are spending tens of millions of dollars on the worldwide marketing push for futurelight - it's big business!). But I think that ColdWill's suggestion of just trying to do similar activities in similar conditions is the way I will try to go. That and all my similarly sized climbing friends have been told they won't need to wear their own hardshells when (if? fingers crossed for good conditions!) we go winter climbing this season!

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to gneiss boots:

> and loved the breathability, softness and handle of Neoshell that there appears to be none of it about.

That is interesting isn't it. But off the top of my head I reckon you're right - Jottnar have moved away from NeoShell, I don't think Rab are using it anymore and have gone Goretex in a big way this year. Marmot don't seem to have any NeoShell jackets anymore.

In fact does anyone know of any mountain clothing being made still with NeoShell?

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LucaC 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I've had a whole range of different fabric jackets over the last 10 years, and here's some musing over them, for what its worth. Mostly these have been worn for Scottish winter, winter ML, work, or play time in the alps. 

Rab Latok jacket in eVent. Brilliant for about the first 30 minutes I ever wore it, and then basically a soft-shell. The pants were even worse.

Rab Neoshell jacket. Better than the Latok was, but my main criticism for this was the air permeability made it so cold to wear in Scotland in the winter. I didn't get sweaty because I was cold most of the time.

Rab Neoshell pants. Basically the best ever winter trousers I've had. Great cut and over a pair of vaporise pants they were the total business for being waterproof/comfortable when warm and sweaty/drying quickly.

Arcteryx np80 Goretex alpha SV. Really bomb proof. Managed 2 seasons of WML training/QMDs/Assessment and another 2 of winter climbing. A bit sweaty but the pit zips work. Kept waterproof right up until I put so many holes in it Arcteryx said they couldn't repair it and did I want them to recycle it.

Patagonia Triolet jacket with the new eco friendly Goretex. This stuff is rubbish. The first one lasted one Scottish route before the seams failed etc etc. Replaced by Patagonia this spring with the newest version which has lasted better. Less breathable than the neoshell was, but at least it keeps the wind out.

Patagonia Triolet pants, as above with the new Goretex. Wet bum time if you sit down. Re-inforcement patches in the wrong places. Weird cut. Basically useless. 

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AlanLittle 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> Obviously if you got soaked in the NeoShell, and you don't in the Goretex, it's an improvement! But do you think while it worked was the NeoShell jacket more breathable than the Goretex do you reckon?

Oh for sure, yes.

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ColdWill 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Toerag:

I had the ME Centurion jacket in Neoshell which was identical cut to the Tupilak Jacket. I used it once and realised the fabric was too delicate as it was stretchy and snagged on the rock (and everything else). Can't say I noticed a reduction in the amount of sweat on the walk in but it was a long time ago. I just don't remember thinking anything particular about it, except how snaggy it was.

I think a tougher version of the fabric would be fine as even if what people say on here about getting soaked is true, I somehow very rarely get soaked in winter.

Post edited at 15:57
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BFG 04 Nov 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

I had a first generation Rab Neoshell jacket; it lasted one Scottish Winter Season (and even then, only just barely). The pit zips in my Tulipak and a willingness to start cold allow me to manage sweat well enough these days.

I picked up a pair of Rab Neoshell pants a few years later and at a greatly reduced price in a sale (and after many people had assured me that the first generation Rab Jackets were an aberration, not the rule), and they've survived much better - about four years now. That being said; my legs don't really get sweaty, so I'd struggle to be precise as to how breathable they are.

On my Goretex, I find it breathable enough; it doesn't hang onto moisture long on the inside. Again, how much that's due to the cut and extra features of the Tulipak, as opposed to the fabric itself, I couldn't possibly say.

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to all: 

This is really very useful, thank you everybody for your contributions. Any other random thoughts on on or experiences with waterproof breathable materials are most welcome!

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bouldery bits 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Funny. Don't seem to have any of these issues with buffalo.... :P 

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to bouldery bits:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/dbpage.php?id=22919 believe me I know all about Buffalo! I used to sell loads of Buffalo gear in the shop I worked in, back in the 90s - the zeal of the convert and all that. For about a decade all I used was Buffalo gear, clothing and sleeping bag system.

But if its raining you do get wet. Not the end of the world if you can keep moving but not super fun if you get wet and then can't.

Anyway, back to the waterproof-breathables...

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GForce1 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I have a Rab Myriad neoshell jacket that's lasted over 5 years. Much more breathable than previous proshell and even active shell jackets.

That said I give my waterproof jackets an easy life, only wearing them when I really have to. Still my favourite waterproof to date.

Post edited at 20:18
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bouldery bits 04 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Cracking photo mate! 

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captain paranoia 04 Nov 2019
In reply to Toerag:

> What he should do is cut each jacket in half and tape them together to make a half-neoshell half-goretex jacket.

That's exactly what Ken Ledward used to do (KLETS); get the item made up with one half in one fabric, and the other half in another fabric. Then you can do direct comparisons with exactly the same condtions.

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to bouldery bits:

> Cracking photo mate!


Cheers, although I've always thought it looked like I was taking a slash whilst halfway up a little pitch of 80 degree ice. I certainly didn't feel relaxed enough for that, and any wee wee that came out would have had to have been dealt with by the Buffalo salopettes' excellent moisture transfer ability! ;)

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TobyA 04 Nov 2019
In reply to GForce1:

Thanks GForce1, that's similar to my experience with NeoShell, but its useful that you found it noticeably more breathable than Proshell. I do wonder if after mainly wearing NeoShell stuff for years, I have an unrealistic expectation for Futurelight, but at the same time I reckon they think its really breathable! So I'm intrigued why it didn't seem particularly so for me, at least on that first proper test.

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Timmd 05 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> Thanks GForce1, that's similar to my experience with NeoShell, but its useful that you found it noticeably more breathable than Proshell. I do wonder if after mainly wearing NeoShell stuff for years, I have an unrealistic expectation for Futurelight, but at the same time I reckon they think its really breathable! So I'm intrigued why it didn't seem particularly so for me, at least on that first proper test.

I'm still using eVent and Goretex XCR fabric jackets, but a thought popped into my head about whether any differences in jacket designs - and related venting capabilities might be making a difference? 

Post edited at 01:43
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ColdWill 05 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Is the reason not related to ambient temperature, moisture and dew point? Basically all fabrics are more breathable on cold dry days and less so on warm wet days. Certain fabrics perform better in certain condition combinations blah blah...... and there's probably a way of working it out but its different for every fabric. Your trip working hard uphill on a non freezing rainy day sounds like the worst possible conditions for a waterproof breathable fabric.

I have walked in on routes in -10c before with a powerstretch and a soft shell and had Ice build up on the inside of the soft shell (non membrane) so I guess that wasn't "breathing" that day.

Just re-read after posting. Not meant to sound flippant at all. I removed one of the blahs.

Post edited at 09:19
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Timmd 05 Nov 2019
In reply to ColdWill: I thought those sounded like challenging conditions for a breathable waterproof too. I often wonder if 'a warm fug' is the best one can hope for, with different amounts of dampness always present. 

Post edited at 11:57
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Flashman38 05 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Is anyone producing jackets in non-breathable material and marketing it as such?

Don`t Columbia do something like that? Would be useful to have on a group test as a benchmark and with hefty pit-zips and bomb proof material might make a lot of sense.

I may have just described Barbour!

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alfmeister 06 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

In my experience most breathable jackets are very good at first. I’ve recently been impressed with a ME gore active jacket and neoshell trousers with little or no moisture build up . However once the DWR begins to wear performance deteriorates rapidly and it’s difficult to restore.

It would be interesting to know if all DWR’s are created equal. Do some brands last longer ? Does the treatment bond better to different fabrics or weights of fabric ? This would certainly help a lot in the selection process 

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DaveHK 06 Nov 2019
In reply to alfmeister:

> In my experience most breathable jackets are very good at first. I’ve recently been impressed with a ME gore active jacket and neoshell trousers with little or no moisture build up . However once the DWR begins to wear performance deteriorates rapidly and it’s difficult to restore.

I've come round to the opinion that 'breathable, waterproof fabrics' are largely a myth kept going by the cunning use of improved DWR treatments.

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jethro kiernan 06 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I have a Montane Neo shell I picked up second hand, I’ve only tended to use it in the winter and snow so can’t really comment on how it is in “dreek” weather but it is breathable more so than my Rab event

i tend to run hot and sweaty so the fact it’s not a 100% weather proof is offset by the fact it’s more breathable.

ill be watching this closely as I’m probably in need of a new waterproof.

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mff513 06 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I have a gore tex pro lhotse and it's fairly breathable however I recently bought a mammut ultimate eisfeld which is made from "windstopper with light rain protection" and also has taped seams. Maybe this is gore's take on neo shell as it's super breathable and feels more hard shell than softshell but I've not give it a proper soaking yet 

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tripehound 06 Nov 2019
In reply to mff513:

I have a Paramo bought in 2003 for hillwalking, its been used a-lot and is still as effective as the day it was bought. Very breathable and waterproof. I have a winter Paramo for ice climbing  and used in conjunction with buffalo gear is utterly bombproof. I use a light rab softshell next to the skin for the walk in. 

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Toerag 06 Nov 2019
In reply to Flashman38:

> Is anyone producing jackets in non-breathable material and marketing it as such?

> Don`t Columbia do something like that? Would be useful to have on a group test as a benchmark and with hefty pit-zips and bomb proof material might make a lot of sense.

> I may have just described Barbour!

Waxed cotton leaks when pressed against stuff. In relation to your question though, commercial fishing waterproofs until recently weren't breathable because waterproofness, cost, and durability were way more important than anything else. Fishermen certainly build up a sweat, yet breathability was never considered to be an issue. Personally I find Guy Cotten non-breathable dungarees fine for hiking in because the chimney effect allows the moisture to escape. They are bulky and heavy, although the cut is very generous.  You can now get breathable fishermen's waterproofs, but I don't know how breathable they are or how good they are. I'll ask the question on the fishing pages on Facebook and report back.

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whenry 06 Nov 2019
In reply to tripehound:

I'm a Paramo convert too - had mine a couple of years and can't really fault it. It gets a bit warm in the summer, but the massive pit zips help.

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ColdWill 06 Nov 2019
In reply to mff513:

Good point there, I have the G2 Alpine pants from ME in Windstopper. Windproof but not waterproof and you get proper hot in them on the walk in due to the poor venting. Knees get wet at belays as well if they're pushed against the snow (proper wet). Still a good pant for 90% of the time, would be better with bigger vents.

Think Neoshell is Polartechs take on Windstopper as its been around longer I think.

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tripehound 06 Nov 2019
In reply to whenry:

Its warm but I like that. I use my lightweight softshell in warm weather if its not raining heavily. The softshell can be used as a midlayer higher up the hill so there is no need to carry a fleece. The warmth of the Paramo also means you don’tneed to carry quite as much insulation. So although Paramo is heavier the whole system isn’t.

its a winner.

Post edited at 21:59
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Damo 06 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

>

> In fact does anyone know of any mountain clothing being made still with NeoShell?

No, they all binned it cos you said it wasn't windproof!

You seem to be implying, maybe, that a superhyped new miracle fabric from a multinational corporate making huge claims for revolutionary performance is not, in fact, living up to that hype?

I'M SHOCKED, I TELL YOU, TOBY - SHOCKED!!

All-caps snark aside, I really do hate when companies tie their fabric changes to increased performance on the hill. Pretty much none of their 'athletes' have done anything in that gear that surpasses things done 20 years ago in heavy gore tech, or whatever. 8000m peaks were skied 20 years ago in better style, Everest was climbed faster 20 years ago in better style, proportionally more big new routes were done alpine-style 20 years than what is happening now in fancier threads.

Cue PT Barnum...

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mff513 06 Nov 2019
In reply to ColdWill:

Yeah but if you remember gore always markets windstopper as a softshell but then changed their tune a few years back to windstopper with light rain protection to try and market themselves against neoshell, and I dont know if it's the face fabric mammut use but it seems 80 denier or more, the g2 are windstopper but not the wimdstopper with light rain protection so I suspect they have differing hydro static heads hence the wetting at the knees but I doubt my jacket would be significantly better 

Post edited at 23:06
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TobyA 07 Nov 2019
In reply to Damo:

I meant to reply to your last challenge to me about Neoshell and windproofness a few weeks back and didn't - apologies. But did you see LucaC's reply further up this thread where he reports he has found Neoshell so air permeable he stopped using it in Scotland as he was always cold!   Looking at Luca's great gallery https://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/author.php?nstart=24&id=117313 he is clearly a chap with very valid opinions, gained the proper way, about using coats in Scotland. (Of course I'm not saying your opinions aren't valid, rather the opposite in fact - you liking one my reviews is about the greatest honour I can think of because I'm not sure if I've come across anyone who has spent as much time in extreme conditions climbing or exploring as you have!

Oddly, TNF are making a big thing of futurelight's air permeability and the other weekend in wind and temperatures around 2 or 3 degrees I was pretty certain that I could feel more coolness than I was expecting particularly on my arms (which is quite like my experience with Neoshell). But then having said that it seemed bizarre how damp I still felt inside the jacket.  

Hoping to do another snowy/sleety hill walk this weekend and some more testing, although "family issues" might mean I have to head to the rainy midlands rather than the snowy hills.

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TobyA 07 Nov 2019
In reply to mff513:

I had a purely Windstopper jacket made by Haglof about 10 or 15 years ago. They were all the rage in Scandinavia for XC skiing, hiking, biking and the like.

I was a great cut jacket with super helmet-compatible hood, but the material was just shit. Water would get through in heavy rain and sweat never seemed to get out. All the disadvantages of Goretex with out the advantages!

Neoshell in my experience is much more breathable and much more waterproof.

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Timmd 07 Nov 2019
In reply to Damo:

> All-caps snark aside, I really do hate when companies tie their fabric changes to increased performance on the hill. Pretty much none of their 'athletes' have done anything in that gear that surpasses things done 20 years ago in heavy gore tech, or whatever. 8000m peaks were skied 20 years ago in better style, Everest was climbed faster 20 years ago in better style, proportionally more big new routes were done alpine-style 20 years than what is happening now in fancier threads.

> Cue PT Barnum...

Hurrah for this.  I was just pondering along similar lines while walking home in the pouring rain, and warm and dry in my wetting out eVent jacket, that one can get too caught up with the latest evolution in breathable fabrics. My fleece was a bit damp from perspiration, but my body was on the inside of that so all was good.

I found something Dick Turnbull  (of the outdoor shop brand Outside)  wrote about climbing high and cold mountains quite interesting, where he talked about having layers close to the skin which transported moisture away from it as efficiently as possible being important, which seemed to be the main thing to do with being comfortable and surviving. Rather than there being no moisture at all within the clothing system which I guess is hard to achieve but desirable when it's very cold.

Post edited at 18:08
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mff513 07 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I mean I guess things have changed a little bit i reckon windstopper has changed as i have windstopper active shell as well but that never seems to let water in only the heaviest rain seems to get through, but I wonder what the hydro static head is on the windstopper with light rain protection is it higher than the normal windstopper 

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PPP 07 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I use Neoshell trousers to this day in winter when it's likely to be foul weather. If it's clear skies, then it's regular softshell time. My Gore-Tex Pro salopettes are gathering dust somewhere in the flat! 

I just can't wrap my head around why all the Neoshell garments disappeared? I can't remember seeing any new Neoshell products released.

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Prof. Outdoors 08 Nov 2019
In reply to PPP:

I have had a Rab Neoshell for 4 years and it is much more breathable than Spongetex. It is not however going to keep me dry in a howling storm.

Just checked article below. Apparently somewhere in there Polartec state that Neoshell deteriorates with time but never drops below 5000mm. I think rain driven by strong winds will penetrate hydrostatic head around 10,000mm.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/waterproof_breathable_fabric_-_explained-4556

Possibly the reason for no Neoshell is not necessarily it's performance but the power of Spongetex marketing. Guaranteed to keep you dry is a hell of a statement.  Manufacturers may miss out if they produce garments in a material which actually may be better than Spongetex. The general public all know Spongetex so that becomes the one to have.

Post edited at 19:28
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Stichtplate 10 Nov 2019
In reply to TobyA:

On Monday I received an Arc'teryx Beta AR jacket for my Birthday. For the rest of the week I have been walking (slowly) from the car to work and back, through torrential Northern rain. Not only have I been dryer than Dave Allen, I've also experienced stratospheric levels of smugness every time I've passed uncomprehending NF and Canada goose clad 'Youth'.

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HeMa 10 Nov 2019
In reply to Stichtplate:

No smugness required. ’Ryx has been a Chinese brand for some time already. 
 

I seem to recall TNF being still US owned. No idea about Can Goose though. 

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Stichtplate 10 Nov 2019
In reply to HeMa:

> No smugness required. ’Ryx has been a Chinese brand for some time already. 

Why on Earth would I care that the company's now owned by a Chinese consortium, or a Finnish one before that?

I could don a Gieves & Hawkes suit, step out of my suite at the Waldorf Astoria have a bit of a shop at Harvey Nic's and then go for a cruise down the Thames in a massive Sunseeker yacht. That all these brands are Chinese owned makes bugger all difference to the quality of the product or the perception of the brands.

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TobyA 12:22 Sat
In reply to TobyA:

As we discussed what has happened to NeoShell in this thread I thought other might be interested in this article: https://outdoorsmagic.com/article/polartec-neoshell-explained/

It's noticeable that in the linked articles in that piece, Outdoors Magic only seem to be able to link to a 2016 Jöttnar review - Jöttnar now make that jacket out of their new fabric not neoshell. Also the stock pictures in the article aren't the UK, probably the US?, and the jackets illustrated are 66 North ones which I think is an Icelandic brand and I don't think is distributed in the UK?

It does kinda feel that NeoShell has crashed and burnt, in the UK at least (the article hints that it is used by cycling companies a lot now although I don't know which ones), despite quite a few of us here having had positive experiences with the fabric.

The article also goes on at length about air permeability of NeoShell keeping you cool which tallies with my experience, and others here, of finding NeoShell not very wind resistant.

Post edited at 12:23
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gneiss boots 17:25 Sat
In reply to TobyA:

Interesting thanks though clearly 'produced in association with Polertec' so a touch glowing but I have been a fan of my Rab Neoshell jacket and it refers to characteristics I favour as I preferred it being cooler as a summer shell. Others were clearly not so keen and if it did not sell or had excess returns that is why these firms have gone back to Gore and other materials.  Perhaps it will return one day - manufacturers and brands seem to turn on head of coin each season!

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