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shells vs insulated

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
getting a new jacket... which is best?? what do you wear under the shell? thanks for the info
post #2 of 27
Get a shell with a zip out fleece liner and you got all temps covered. I bought a Columbia Titanium jacket like this and I never used the liner except as a stand alone apres-ski coat . I wear a thin top over a compression suit .Which is basically a stretchy full body long underwear.

The shell will protect and keep you warm in this setup down to 0 degreees. Colder and this cold with wind I might add the fleece. I never had to last year but I was close to at 0.
post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by brice618 View Post
getting a new jacket... which is best?? what do you wear under the shell? thanks for the info
Shells are much more versatile. As you are probably well aware, with todays wide choices in lightweight insulating layers, it is simple to layer under the shell to fit the temperature. I ski NY and VT and am all too familiar with skiing on the cold side of 0 degree days. Yet, I have never been cold with a shell because I just throw a light primaloft (or heavy fllece) vest or jacket under the shell with a baselayer and 100 weight fleece shirt. Instant warmth with little weight and binding.

Light Primaloft vests or full length jackets give a lot of insulating warmth and versatility when coupled with a shell with a good venting system (Pit zips or core vents).

On moderate days you can remove layers as the day warms.

I used to sweat like a dog whenever I skied. I got rid of the insulated Jacket and skiing was a whole new experience.

I have owned many ski jackets (shell and insulated), and am embarassed as I mentally recall all the coats I have gone through. Hands down the best is Arcteryx. They are generally pretty darned pricey. But, you definately get great gear. The Descent jacket by Arcteryx was recently on sale at Sierratradingpost.com for roughly $190 (regular near $400).

This coat is light, durable, very waterproof, and well designed. When I wear the jacket I never think about the jacket the whole day long. I love gear I never think about while I use/wear it.
post #4 of 27
I greatly prefer shells, as they are easily adaptable to changing temperatures. i.e., just add layers if it's going to be a brutally cold day. I usually wear one or two Hot Chilly-style base layers, and a 100-weight fleece top underneath my shell, and that will keep me warm down to some pretty cold temperatures. A couple caveats:
  1. You do have to buy shells a size larger then what you might initially think, because you have to leave room under there to fit various layers. You need to be able to freely move without having your various layers bind on each other.
  2. You will probably need a 100-weight and a 200-weight fleece (depending on how cold it gets where you are, and how willing you are to be out in it when it gets that cold), so factor that into your budget as well.
There have been a variety of threads here on Epic regarding what people wear. A recent, on-going one, is here. Marmot, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Arcteryx, North Face... All have their legions of followers.
post #5 of 27
I am a Shell guy. Although, I use two different kinds of shells, a hard shell and a soft shell.

Both offer the advantages of layering, durability, waterproofness, comfort, etc... But having a soft shell helps in warmer spring days were the cold is not so much of a factor and vice versa with the hard shell. My 2 cents.
post #6 of 27
Having a hardshell, softshell and insulated jacket, I actually prefer an insulated jacket for my XMAS – Spring everyday jacket. The reason I switched from the shell is that, unless you ski with a pack or are willing to make multiple trips to the car, managing the multiple layers needed to make the hardshell worth it is just a total pain in the ass. Now that I have tried the different types I have found that the insulated jacked performs better than the shell + insulation.

Good insulated jackets have better venting because the vents are built through the insulating layer. This helps keep you cool while skiing. They also have well placed insulation mostly centered in the t-shirt region. This leaves your arms relatively uninsulated. This is a very good thing. The uninsulated arms act like radiators to help expel excess heat while skiing. When seated at rest on the lift your arms are by your sides or crossed this effect is minimized. Thus you are cool skiing and warm on the lift.

The problem with hardshell + insulation is that how comfortable you are depens on the insulation probably more so than the shell. For people who use flece + shell there is not in general enough venting of core heat while skiing. This results in a scenario where (depending on the thickness of your insulation layer) you are always either too hot while skiing or too cold while on the lift. You have to use multiple high quality, specialized, layered pieces to get a good comfort level (including vest). This actualyl costs alot more than a good insulated jacket and also requires more pack space to hold it all.

Regardless of what you get, its also worth while to grab a soft shell for warmer days.
post #7 of 27
Tromano makes some good points for an insulated jacket.

Still, I prefer shells. When you overheat and sweat like I do, insulated jackets can quickly become a prison.

Insulated pants are, IMO, truly the worst. I'm soaked with sweat within moments of donning the suckers, (even in Crested Butte - which gets ultra-frigging-cold).

Put me in Lake Louise in January, though, and I could change my mind.
post #8 of 27

pit zips

dont buy a shell without pit-zips. they greatly extend the comport range when you get warm. i have always preferred shells ( i have north face 3-layer gore-tex and dna) with insulation ( I have fleece, patagonia quilted, and down,) for the versatility . that said, i got a good deal on a phenix insulated jacket last winter and it was by far the most comfortable, windproof, and warmest for the weight of them all. and dont forget to try the smartwool type base layer.
post #9 of 27

It's all about BREATHABILITY!!

Insulated jackets and especially those "System" jackets are typically made from less quality fabrics and materials that trap internal moisture - not to mention their design itself will trap moisture. While very warm, they have no where to put the water vapor from sweat and they end up getting you wet and then you get cold. I personally would (as others have done) recommend a high end shell (ie Gore Tex XCR) and some nice breathable layers. I had my first season with the "good stuff" this past year and what a difference. I thought I might be cold because of the thinness of the shells (I'm cold blooded by nature) but I ended being very warm and super-regulated - which made bell-to-bell days a joy!!

The base layers are important too - I got a bunch of expedition weight capalene stuff at the patagonia outlet (on sale for like $18 a pop vs ~$60 retail) which is really warm yet very breathable and regulating. Sierratradingpost.com has lots of comparable generic baselayers for cheap.
post #10 of 27
Recommend against zip-in/out jackets- veryoor breathability and a massive cold spot at the front zipper due to there being three zippers there with no insulation behind them.
post #11 of 27
X-EastCoaster is all over it and right on! This is where quality makes a difference. I was blown away by the performance of my Patagonia set up last year. The only thing I changed for colder weather was my base layer (go to expidition-weight intead of silk-weight). While I may get an additional insulation layer this year (like a Patagonia R4) and a softshell to complete the system, the combination of the R1.5 jacket and a shell (with pit zips) was bomber everywhere in all weather and conditions.
post #12 of 27
I prefer shells, then you can add/remove layers as the temperature changes. Most of the time they can be used all year because they are light enough and make great rain coats. It is really a plus to be able to control your body temp with your clothing.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takecontrol618 View Post
Recommend against zip-in/out jackets- veryoor breathability and a massive cold spot at the front zipper due to there being three zippers there with no insulation behind them.
On the better stuff; Marmot, Pategonia, etc., there's usually flaps over the zippers which eliminates cold spots on the chest.
post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Captain_Strato View Post
On the better stuff; Marmot, Pategonia, etc., there's usually flaps over the zippers which eliminates cold spots on the chest.
Under flap, zipper, flap and snaps
post #15 of 27
Most of the newer stuff actually seals without the overflaps. My Patagonia doesn't have an overflap (there is an underflap). I don't like snaps; they present opportunities for leaks. I really like the welded (now sewn) seams (they were called CSS at Patagonia last year... I'm not sure what they are this year). Mine is a Stretch Metabolic (which, interestingly, is a hardshell).
post #16 of 27
For layering, thin, smooth, non-scratchy merino wool is the latest.

It's pricey, but it feels great, is ultra-warm and breathable. Best of all, it doesn't smell in 10 min. like the poly undies selling at $50 per top or bottom.
post #17 of 27
I wear a Marmot shell. Most days I only wear a base layer and fleece vest under it. That keeps me warm enough.
post #18 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by X-EastCoaster View Post
Insulated jackets and especially those "System" jackets are typically made from less quality fabrics and materials that trap internal moisture - not to mention their design itself will trap moisture. While very warm, they have no where to put the water vapor from sweat and they end up getting you wet and then you get cold. I personally would (as others have done) recommend a high end shell (ie Gore Tex XCR) and some nice breathable layers. I had my first season with the "good stuff" this past year and what a difference. I thought I might be cold because of the thinness of the shells (I'm cold blooded by nature) but I ended being very warm and super-regulated - which made bell-to-bell days a joy!!

The base layers are important too - I got a bunch of expedition weight capalene stuff at the patagonia outlet (on sale for like $18 a pop vs ~$60 retail) which is really warm yet very breathable and regulating. Sierratradingpost.com has lots of comparable generic baselayers for cheap.
Sorry but many high end insulated jackets exist. Some of them use gtx xcr (ie Rossignol). Other manufacturers chose other fabrics but saying they are not quality products is not true. The difference is that they use synthetic fabrics like Promaloft ot Thinsulate. And you know what? It doesn't make a big difference because both don't breathe well at all.

I really liked the title of your post. I thought you would say something about softshells. So i'll say something about softshells.

People, if you want breathable fabrics i suggest you look at softshells. They are far more breathable than hard shells. In fact, they don't compare. But you have to look for true softshells. A true softshell does not have a membrane. IMO Schoeller makes great softshell fabrics. They are probably the best in the world now.

And if you don't belive me, check out these links which will show you that i'm telling the truth. I found the links when i was looking for the most breathable fabrics available. And i found them.

Note how breathable Schoeller's Dryskin is compared to all of the other fabrics here

Here is a GREAT website for more info on hardshells and softshells

Schoeller Dryskin

Schoeller WB-400

This is another good site



So, it is clear that soft shells rule. Some manufacturers claim that they can be used in 80 or 90% of the time spent on the slopes. I think that this claim depends on the weather conditions and is not very realistic. But 70% is realistic. For the rest of time (ie worst weather conditions) i will wear my hardshells (insulated and shell) which don't breathe very well at all. In fact, there is no reason to buy expensive hard shells because they are not more breathable than the other hard shells. So it really doesn't matter if i get an Arcteryx or a chaper hard shell. The results will be the same: water will not pass through the membrane but i won't breathe, either...

Don't worry about the cold. You can wear a fleece underneath the softshell or something even more breathable like the Dryskin. If it is colder, i will be wearing the WB-400 as my outer layer and the Dryskin as my mid layer. If you look at the Beyond fleece website you will see that it is even more mbreathable than fleece. It is as warm as a 200wt fleece.


Jamie

Btw, if there is something more breathable than the Dryskin and WB-400 let me know.
post #19 of 27
As for underwear, look at X-Undergear.

http://www.x-undergear.com/ and http://www.x-bionic.com/Energy_Accum...Handout_en.pdf

It works. Considering the design, it is probably the most advanced on the market.

Jamie
post #20 of 27
I used to wear insulated jackets but the breathability is poor. They make me sweat then I get wet and cold.
I went to a hardshell and have a soft shell as well. I wear the soft shell more actually.
My home mountain is Whiteface. I think about the only place in the "world" that gets colder is antartica! But seriously it is absolutely freezing here int he winter. More days below 10 below than above zero!
Either shell with a underarmor cold gear mock shirt, a northface vaporwicking turtleneck and my black diamond vest is all I need for any condition!
I use both my shells all year round to. I will never go back to a insulated jacket. Only one I wear now is a thick ass down jacket for cold nights on back country trips.
post #21 of 27
In college poverty, I was known to use a Hefty Bag with strategic slits cut out. As it warmed up, cut more slits. As it cooled off, skied faster. Lesson for the more affluent: Go for a hardshell/fleece each with plenty of pit zips and torso vents. Look more at companies with foundations in climbing gear (Arcteryx, Mountain H.) cuz they understand what it's like to work hard and sweat at ridiculous temps.
post #22 of 27
I was a shell guy too before.

Since last year I just were one multifunction (long arm on those very cold days) shirt and then my Airvante Rossi jacket.
Airvantage is all what I need for insulation from +10°C to -10°C days. If it gets colder then -15° or -10° and strong wind Airvantage insulation even fully blown up doesn't make it anymore and I have to put on a fleece too.

Airvantage is just the only adjustable insulation - inflate some air for the cold mornings and afternoons were you get cold because you're tired. Deflate for the midday sun.

If Airvantage is too expensive then I'ld just go with a non insulated shell jacket from a climbing gear jacket producer. They are more robust and lots of zips. Insulated jackets are as well damn heavy
post #23 of 27
Each type of jacket has its place which is why they are likely all still being made. Some random thoughts:

Insulated Jackets- come with synthetic insulation of various kinds or goose down of various qualities and densities. Synthetic insulated jackets tend to be heavier but not as bulky in appearance. Down is lighter but tends to have a puffy look. If you are planning on having one winter jacket for all purposes including skiing then an insulated jacket has the advantage of allowing you to quickly take it off and put it on again when entering or leaving heated environments. When I was going to school in New England I had one insulated down jacket that I used during the winter for all activities from going to class to skiing.

Hard Shell- If you want a jacket just for skiing and plan to ski from November through April and maybe beyond, then a hard shell coordinated with various base/mid layer combinations provides a lot of versatility. I have two shells that I use, one made by a climbing gear manufacturer and one from a ski-wear manufacturer. Both are high quality, but as others have pointed out, a quality jacket from a climbing gear type manufacturer is likely to be of more rugged construction and very technical (well thought out zippers, pocket placement e.g. they work well with backpacks and so forth.) They also tend towards conventional colors (that hide dirt well) where ski wear specialists tend to be more trendy.

Soft shell- I don't have one, but they seem to have their place in less than extreme conditions. I haven't looked at any lately, but when they first made their appearance they didn't seem to have many pockets. I'm into lots of pockets for storing things so have stuck with hard-shells.

There are a lot of materials with different characteristics used in the manufacture of winter clothing. Some is excellent some is only so, so.

Think about the purposes that you need your jacket for, what months you will be needing it and what range of temperatures you will likely encounter and go from there. Good luck.
post #24 of 27
Obviously, nothing beats a shell for spring skiing. If you ski late into the season, thats reason enough to own one. I skied in an insulated jacket for six or seven years before I went to a shell. However, I find that with the shell in mid winter I'm constantly trying to anticipate how many layers I'm going to need, what the weather is going to be, what I'm going to do with the extra layers I have to strip off, etc. That gets to be a pain in the butt. The shells with the zip out liners don't tend to breathe very well, I can never wear the two together unless it's bitterly cold, and then I find there is a draft in the front zipper area as someone else previously mentioned. When I had my insulated jacket, I just threw it on over my base layer and out the door I went. The key here is quality. The cheap stuff isn't going to work. If you buy a decent lightly insulated waterproof jacket with GoreTex or some other breathable material you'll be fine 90% of the time. I'm keeping the shell that I've got for spring skiing, but for the rest of the time I'm going to be investing in a new high quality insulated jacket.
post #25 of 27
I like the versatility of shells. I've got a Marmot goretex jacket that has served me well for the past 8 + years. I knew exactly how to layer based on conditions and rarely had issues with being too hot or cold. I just bought a new Descente shell that I'm very impressed with all the new fangled tech. Special heat and sweat venting areas on the lower and mid back of the interior. Plenty of vent in the arm pit areas and lots of storage pockets. I almost bought an insulated jacket, (Obermayer, last years model at 50% off) but I would have had the same issues of layering with the insulated jacket as with a shell. Most likely it would have been too warm except for the coldest of days and here in the PNW, I can't recall skiing in temps below 15 F w/o a wind chill. I'd probably end up skiing with out the zip in liner 99% of the time, so what's the point of spending all that money for an insulated jacket? If you ski in March and it's cold in the morning but warmer in the afternoon, then you'd be taking off the zip in liner by lunch, or just not wearing the zip-in liner and layering for the conditions.
post #26 of 27

Shells for me - hard and soft

Got a ~10 year old GoreTex hard shell that I still use on stormy nasty days. Plenty of pockets, big pit zips for venting, and still works great. I skied through a rain storm last spring, and the only part of me that was wet was my face. I generally run warm - so a lightweight base layer, long sleeve micro-fleece and the shell will serve me on most days. I can add a vest if need be.

That said, most (probably 85%) days I use my soft shell. It also has plenty of venting capability, and gives a pretty snug fit. It's warmer than the hard shell, so some days I can get away with just a base layer and the jacket.

The wife has an insulated hard shell. She runs colder than me, so the warmth of an isulated jacket makes a lot of sense for her. Pick the right tool for you. As many have said - quality counts.
post #27 of 27

Insulated!

Like another poster said- shells for spring skiing, only way to go.

I find insulated more comfortable...and with my Patagonia parka and down sweater I can do just about anything, (except late season, then the thin shell comes out) When it's real cold use the Parka with MAYBE a vest under it, when it's REAL cold use the parka with a fleece under it. When it's not too cold (and not windy) I use the down sweater- which is very warm and light by itself. You could do a fleece or vest under this, but it has a small collar so if it's windy your gonna get pwned. LOL.

The ideal combo for me is a heavy insulated parka, the down sweater (I'm not sure if anyone besides Patagonia makes something like that), and a breathable/waterproof shell.
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