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Experience with soft shell jackets/pants?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Looking for a good versitile ski jacket. Rather than Gore-Tex, the Schoeller WB-400 material looks interesting. Claims are that it's highly water repellant (not as good as Gore-Tex), highly wind resistant (not as good as Gore-Tex) but much more breathable. Don't see myself skiing in hard rain but I do want something that would keep me dry in soggy spring conditions, etc. Specifically was looking at the Beyondfleece Cold Fusion, but I know other companies offer this stuff. Any first hand experiences?
post #2 of 18
I've been using soft shell jackets made of the Scholler fabric for 2 seasons.I find that I use the soft shell about 75% to 90% of the time. With proper layering they work well in very cold conditions and work great in warm conditions since they breathe incredibly well. When the weather is dry to moist I prefer them to my Gore-Tex XLR jackets. Once the weather turns to wet the Gore is the only way to go and the soft shell works well as a layer (if it's not wet yet). In windy conditions the soft shell works in everything from a stiff breeze to a light wind but leaves you asking for Gore-Tex when you get a hard wind going. Again the soft shell is one of the best layers available when it is cold, wet and windy.

So, if you have a hard shell that doesn't breathe as well as you'd like or you go in when the conditions get extreme the soft shell will work great for you. I believe they are some of the best, most versatile skiing garments available these days. The range of motion available to you in these soft shells is amazing since they stretch.

post #3 of 18
The mountain hardwear Achlemy jacket is truely the best soft shell jacket available.
I am outside patrolling rain or shine, and I wear only that.
It is pretty water resistant (not proof).
The fit is great, other companies are coming out with their version of it, but the fit doesn't compare.
post #4 of 18
I would have to agree with NVSP. I have had an Alchemy for a few weeks now and it has performed very well in the cold and rain. The fit and ability to stretch make it much more comfortable than a regular Gore-Tex jacket.
post #5 of 18
If you're interested in some hard breathability numbers, have a look here:


You'll see that in their desire to build a 'hefty winter jacket', they actually mad the Schoeller WB-400 that Salomon uses MUCH LESS BREATHABLE than standard GoreTex!

I am a big fan of softshell jackets, but you do need to be careful with fabric selection. My favourite is the Schoeller Dryskin/wool blend that Ibex uses (www.ibexwear.com). Their jackets are luxuriously comfortable compared to some of the others, and seem to have a wider comfortable temperature range. They are also much less technical looking than jackets like the Alchemy, so you don't have to look like a geek when wearing it apres ski. (It seems that their high end Neve jacket can be had right now directly from their website for super sale prices.)

The downside to the Ibex is that IF it does wet out, it must be the slowest drying jacket in existance. The Schoeller Dryskin with 3Xdry from Cloudveil dries much quicker. The Cloudveil jackets are also fairly attractive - I believe that Cloudveil was the first to bring the style/name to the US.

I ski in perma-drizzle Vancouver, and always use my Ibex softshell now, strapping a light Gore shell to my pack for use when the rain/snow/wind gets really nasty.


[ September 28, 2003, 07:48 PM: Message edited by: TooSteep ]
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Wow! Looked at the link Toosteep posted. The WB-400 is advertised as being highly breathable, but certainly doesn't appear to be the case based on the tests. Are jackets like the Alchemy highly breathable? Is the Schoeller Dryskin Extreme sufficiently warm for Eastern skiing if you layer under it? To me, the Dryskin looks like it would be great on relatively mild fall or spring days but that it wouldn't be an adequate shell for Alpine skiing on sub 20F windy days.
post #7 of 18
September skiing mag had a brief review of latest soft shells. Worth taking a look.
post #8 of 18
The best way to go is with the EMS fusion jacket and fleece coat combo. At $250 its an easy choice, the coat is like a wind block material and the shell is a gore tex equivalent. You have your cold/wet days with the fleece and shell while the warm spring days with the fleece.
post #9 of 18
Here's a good overview of some of the most popular softshells:


I tend to agree with the author. For me, the Ibex Neve offers the best combination of breathability and warmth. The Cloudveil was just a tad too thin, and the Arc'Teryx Gamma SV was way too warm (not breathable). The Arc'Teryx Gamma MX was too thin for my liking(unless you're doing pure aerobic work).

The Ibex stuff is very well made, looks great, and feels much nicer against the skin than any of the pure synthetics. It also doesn't stink as much after a really heavy workout.

I'm still trying to determine what the best pants are. I might give the Gamma MX a try.
post #10 of 18
the message board failed yesterday when i tried to respond to you PM. So hopefully you will get this here...
I wear the patagonia R2 under my alchemy jacket. Alot of companies have come out with 'magic' materials that I sometimes don't find a difference in, but the R2 is really great !!
Depending on the temps, I alternate my base layers, them the R2 and the MH alchemy jacket.. thats it.
the R2 is not to hot when it warms up and warms up when the temps drop. it actually regulates, as it says.
the alchemy jacket sort of feels like armor, its really a great jacket.
I wear it all but the heavy rain, it doesn't have a hood, so its not perfect (but if it did have a hood the windproof factor would decline).
post #11 of 18
I am also looking for a softshell jacket this season. I already have a MH Gore-tex hard shell which I bought 4/5 seasons ago.

I saw an advert for MH's Synchro jacket made from Conduit Softshell (fully windproof, waterproof and breathable membrane laminated to a stretch fabric and a brushed microfleece inner lining), which seems to be the latest advance in softshells.

I am also a bit concerned that softshells can rip easily eg ski sharp edges and rocks.

softshells also seem to be quite short in length which is probably not very good for powder skiing/backcountry?

what are your views?
post #12 of 18
Just bought the EMS (Apollo?) on club day. It was a question of economics. The base price was $180, 20% off for members of outdoor organizations brought it down to roughtly $145, and then I had gift certificates/credits totalling $80, so my net cost was $65.

I hadn't looked around, but I'm sure I would have liked some of the other manufacturers better (MH, Marmot, etc). The price difference was just too much. I'll report back on performance once I've tested it out.

For those in the Northeast, EMS has club day in the fall and spring. Worth holding off on a major purchase for the 20% discount, although they might not discount everything.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
I have looked around a lot since first posting. Ended up with a Marmot soft shell jacket, was convinced waterproof pants would be better. EMS makes nice stuff. I looked at their jacket after getting the Marmot. It's a nice jacket. My wife and I bought a bunch of stuff at their club day sale.
post #14 of 18
I have my application in at my local area... Im probably going to be a night liftie it might get a little cold sometimes and I need a new jacket... Can the Mountain hardware softshell keep me warm with a hoodie or somthing underneath?
post #15 of 18

i wear the MH alchemy jacket patrolling on east coast.
pretty cold here, and it keeps me warm.
if you are going to be standing around you may want to get it in a bigger size so you can fit a heavy fleece under it.

post #16 of 18
I use the Arc Gamma MX hoody out west (Whistler), except when it's wet (raining) or really cold. It's pretty wind resistant so that on colder days I just add another thin insulating layer underneath and I'm ok. Usually it's just a patagonia R.5 or R1 base layer and the softshell.

My hardshell has no insulation, it's only warmer because it's probably more wind resistant and I sized it larger and can add more layers.
post #17 of 18
I wore MH Alchemy almost all last season. Only on the heaviest powder days did I wear anything else, and when I did I regretted it. Unbelievable freedom of movement and lack of that bluky michelin man feeling.

I'd get it form-fitting whatever the smallest size is where you can reach fully forward w/o itpulling back from your wrists or your shoulders, wearing perhaps two layers of polypro.
post #18 of 18
I wear a Cloudveil Serendipity jacket just about every skiing day, at the area or in the backcountry. I also wear old Cloudveil pants (Symmetry?). I have good shells to wear, but I find that I prefer the soft shell gear unless it is really snowing hard. My brother in law has moved from Cloudveil to Mammut and he says that the Mammut soft shell gear is also excellent. I look forward to trying that soon.
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