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Necessity of a hard shell?
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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 13, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

If I'm planning on doing some ice climbing and winter rock climbing, is it necessary that I have a hard shell, or will a soft shell (with mid insulation layer) do the trick for shedding water, ice and wind?

I'm specifically looking at the Marmot ROM jacket for a soft-shell.


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By Nathan Stokes
Oct 13, 2011

In the North East I normally wear a soft shell if I even wear a shell. That is for winter mountaineering though. Very rarely have I had it wet out, and that was mainly in 1"+ / hr of heavy wet snow with 4 miles to go to the car. For ice climbing I wear a soft shell also, if the ice is wet you could have it wet out, mainly on the fore arms and chest if you are climbing a lot. FWIR I have a Marmot Superhero and a Mammut Laser, they both have their pluses (and minuses). For rock climbing you might be better off with a couple of layers (I like wool, poly, wool/poly blend) and a windshirt unless the conditions are really rotten, then I doubt you will be rock climbing anyways.


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By MikeJ
Oct 13, 2011

In most situations a soft shell will be preferable to a hard shell. Unless you know it's going to be REALLY wet, leave the hard shell at home. A synthetic base layer, optional fleece, soft shell, and big puffy belay jacket with a hood will cover you almost all of the time. If you're sweating inside a hard shell, that could be a bigger problem than any outside moisture it repels. Despite what manufacturers tell you, they're not that breathable.


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By Jeffrey Dunn
Administrator
Oct 13, 2011

I climb predominantly in the Adirondacks and although I have climbed in soft shells for short periods of time, I always go back to my hardshells. I typically wear a patagonia R1 hooded fleece and a light wool base layer underneath. On my legs I wear a hardshell bib which keeps my midsection toasty. I have several belay jackets to go over this depending on the temps, but rarely is it cold enough to need more underneath my shell.

I find that hardshells repel more water, whereas the softshells always get damp and due to their more textured surface hold more dripwater/snow and then that is introduced into my belay jacket. Being that I wear light insulation underneath my shell, I think the wind stopping and water proofing of a hardshell is much more important than breathability. I rarely sweat and basically regulate my body temperature by adding a beenie hat or removing it (typically have my hood up as well).

Bottom line is you need to build skills to make your equipment work well for you. Knowing before you heat up and wearing just enough to stay warm while moving are key. Having an insulating jacking to go over everything and keeping that dry is important. Good luck working out your system!


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By BryanV
From Fort Collins, CO
Oct 13, 2011
Ouray Ice Park

I only use a softshell, but for some reason i always pack a hardshell. I have never run into wetting out a softshell here in Colorado, but then again it isn't super wet here. That being said i am generally warmer than most people and a softshell works great with a couple layers underneath. I always make sure the hood can hide and that there are pit zips and harness friendly pockets as well. Simply put a great softshell goes a long way. I would look at Haglofs, Mammut and Rab for some of the best.

bv
www.whiteknuckled.com


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 13, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

Alright, so I'm thinking a mid-weight top/bottom base layer, a fleece or two depending on conditions, and then a soft-shell. And possibly a belay jacket once I know how the system works as is.

-It's still 60F out, I'm just getting my research done now :)


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By BryanV
From Fort Collins, CO
Oct 13, 2011
Ouray Ice Park

Always bring a down or synthetic jacket.

Perfect system for me is a silk weight long sleeve, midweight micro fleece type long sleeve (quarter zip), Haglofs Savage softshell. If it is cold i put on my Montbell synthetic lightweight sweater. While belaying i can thrown on my actual down (750 fill).

Good luck.

bv


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 13, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

Alright,

So I'd want to get a down/synthetic insulating layer to go under the soft-shell with the system I listed above, and a belay jacket for when it gets really cold.


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By Ksween
From Wakefield, RI
Oct 13, 2011

Brendan Blanchard wrote:
Alright, So I'd want to get a down/synthetic insulating layer to go under the soft-shell with the system I listed above, and a belay jacket for when it gets really cold.

If you do get a puffy midlayer... make sure its a vest... Otherwise you may not be able to swing your tools. you also dont want to sweat out.


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 13, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

Ksween wrote:
If you do get a puffy midlayer... make sure its a vest... Otherwise you may not be able to swing your tools. you also dont want to sweat out.


Thanks, if the layer is going to be under the soft-shell, is a fleece a good option for being warm, but not bulky or restrictive, or is some other synthetic a better idea?


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By Kobe's
From South Weber
Oct 13, 2011
going mixed left side of scruffy band

No hard shell needed, I recomend you read the chapter on clothing in Mark twights "Extreem Alpanism" he does a great job of defining the use of a light weight action suit and a belay jacket!


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By Cor
Oct 13, 2011
black nasty

Brendan,

if you have money for more than one coat, get whatever..
otherwise, i would go with a hard shell. it is wayyyy
more versatile than the soft shell. a soft shell is
good, and they have come a long way, but as Wormly81 said...
the soft shell is more textured, and as it wears it will attract
more moisture to stick to it.

you will also find that ice climbing is not always dry.
that being said, a hard shell is needed. (imho)

hope this helps,
c

ps: Kobe, are you wearing a hard shell in that picture?

Also to note, in the extreme alpinism book...
look at all the pictures. no one is wearing a soft shell,
as far as i can tell.


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 13, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

Thanks Cor, my only reason for trending towards a soft-shell is I tend to sweat quite a bit, and I'm naturally pretty warm having been born and raised in NH and wearing t-shirts through November sometimes ;)

To me it seems like soaking through your inside layers from sweat is more of a problem then getting damp sleeves/chest from ice climbing.


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By Cor
Oct 13, 2011
black nasty

Brendan,

i edited/added to my post.

the extreme alp. book shows no one wearing soft shells.
maybe look at other pictures of what the pro's are wearing.

c


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By Nathan Stokes
Oct 13, 2011

Regarding puffy layers, I normally size mine to go over my outer layer. I whip out the puffy layers for the inactive times (food/rest stop, belay duty, camera duty, summit break). I don't remember every a time even at -15F days where I had a puffy on under a shell when moving. If it gets really cold I put the hard shell on over my soft shell until I get warmed up, then the hard shell comes off again. Not for ice climbing exactly where getting wet is a factor, but a good share of the winter I don't even wear a shell layer when we are moving fast, just 2 short sleeve base layers and 1 long sleeve. I like Merino best for the base layers.

It took me a couple seasons of experimenting to get dialed in with the right combinations. Many types of quality gloves would be a better investment than a pricey hardshell IMHO.


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By cjdrover
From Somerville, MA
Oct 13, 2011
Taken at MWV Icefest 2014.

Brendan,

I actually prefer a hardshell. I've noticed that on the really warm days (Frankenstein on New Years Day '11 comes to mind) there is so much water and spray that a softshell may very well wet out. On the super-cold days I zip it up tight and only remove my down puffy when I'm actually climbing. Underneath I typically have a superlight baselayer and then midweight 1/4 zip baselayer, and if its super cold, a crew lightweight fleece pullover. Over these goes the hardshell, and then a down puffy (with DWR) over that. For pants I use softshell - I find that the legs generate so much heat that even when they get wet they dry very quickly - just be mindful about sitting down on snow.

In the end it takes some experimenting to find what works for you. Try not to spend too much money off that bat - check out the basment up at IME and see if you can pick up some cheap stuff to try out. Worst case you bring it back in and put it on consignment.

Have fun, be safe!

Chris

Nathan Stokes wrote:
Many types of quality gloves would be a better investment than a pricey hardshell IMHO.
+1, Gloves are clutch.


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By Dustin
From Pagosa Springs, CO
Oct 13, 2011

I hear there is a new company coming out in 2012 that will combine the attributes of hard-shell and soft - shell. Better than anyone has before.

www.voormi.com

Looks pretty cool - I've heard good things.


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By JLP
From The Internet
Oct 13, 2011

Cor wrote:
the extreme alp. book shows no one wearing soft shells. maybe look at other pictures of what the pro's are wearing. c

I think Twight's day came before the soft shell. Lots of pix out there of Steve House performing his duties for Patagonia. They have their place. Kind of depends where you plan to go with it.


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By andrewc
Oct 13, 2011

Brendan Blanchard wrote:
Alright, So I'd want to get a down/synthetic insulating layer to go under the soft-shell with the system I listed above, and a belay jacket for when it gets really cold.


Don't size your shell, be it soft or hard, to fit over a puffy layer. Size it to fit over a shirt and a light fleece or lightweight synthetic insulated sweater max. You will be warmer with less dead air this way and can get away wearing slightly less clothing underneath.

Of course you will need to pay more attention to the fit making sure it isn't binding when you reach up high.

When climbing wear the absolute minimum to stay warm and dry.
When belaying throw on your warm coat over everything else. The warm coat will help dry out any moisture you've accumulated during the pitch.


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By jack roberts
Oct 13, 2011

I live in Colorado and it's a pretty dry climate out here. Hence, all I usually need for my climbing October-April is a soft shell top and bottoms. I've climbed in North Conway in February and March, when it was raining when I was on Repentance and on the Frankenstein cliffs and was glad for a hard shell GTX jacket. I don't know where you do your climbing but regional climates can make a difference as to what you wear for protection.

It isn't so much the softness or hardness of the jacket fabric so much as what the coating lamination or filament is. Is it GTX Pro Shell, Neo Shell, Pertex or ?? etc........For a more complete overview of what is currently being offered check out Dane's blogsite at www.coldthistle.blogspot.com. Now here's a guy who is obsessed with gear , gear performance and colors!!! Thank GAWD!

FWIW, I prefer softshell jackets and pants and when they begin to wet-out, I just retreat them and throw them into the hot cycle of my dryer. Works everytime. The soft shells I use give me all the protection and performance I need 99% of the time...And then I use a Nano Hoody for my mid-layer. I've discarded the fleece mid-layer a couple of seasons ago and never looked back.


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By Mike Washburn
From Orem, Utah
Oct 13, 2011

I find that I wear soft shells 95% of the time, whether on ice, rock, mountaineering, or bc skiing/split boarding because they breath so much better. I've really liked my arcteryx soft shell. That said, the other 5% sucks without a little more protection from wind and water. I hated carrying a hard shell that I seldom used. I usually carry a Marmot Precip jacket in my pack now. It works great even in pouring water or sitting on snow, weighs almost nothing and packs very small. It also costs $100 or less. I don't think it would last anywhere near as long as an expensive hard shell if I wore it all the time, but I don't. I've had mine for a couple years now and it still looks new because I rarely need it. It is also a versatile piece of gear for the months of the year when you need rain gear but not a heavier hard shell.I agree with spending on the gloves. They make a BIG difference for me. Good luck!


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By Josh Brown
Oct 14, 2011

I climb mostly in the ADK's and I use the ROM jacket. It's great. nice fit so it doesn't bunch up and making looking for screws on your harness a pain, fits over a helmet and breathes way better than any hardshell ever would


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Oct 14, 2011
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

Soft shells are what you want most of the time, but you should always have a hard shell in the pack in case it gets super wet and windy. I prefer a very light hard shell as it packs better. I have a bullet-proof hard shell that is like a tarp, but it won't compress down without an elephant sitting on my pack, so it gets left at home.


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By Jace Mullen
From Oceanside, Ca
Oct 14, 2011

Jack, what do you use to re-treat your soft shells? After a winter in Vermont of mine being worn nearly daily for a few months they are beginning to wet out.


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By Brendan Blanchard
From Strafford, NH
Oct 16, 2011
Obi Wan Ryobi - Darth Vader Crag, Rumney NH

Thanks for all the info. It looks like I'll be focusing on a nice soft-shell and glove, then I'll get an emergency/rough condition hard shell for when there's just too much melt water or I need the extra layer.

Suggestions on gloves?

I'd also like to know what you're using to re-treat your soft shell as that will come in handy.


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By jack s.
From Kamloops, BC
Oct 16, 2011
Mean Green P2

Rab Ice Guantlet www.prolitegear.com/rab-ice-gauntlet-glove.html is a good all around ice climbing glove. Possibly the Latok www.prolitegear.com/rab-latok-glove.html for mixed climbing, although it is not as warm or durable as the Guantlet (more dexterity though).

Good plan on the shell. A soft shell will get you through 90% of the conditions that you will be in. Event or (I've heard that Gore Tex Proshell is even better) will get you the rest of the way. Your down layer will most likely go on the outside of your shell though for when you are belaying. It would have to be bitterly cold to need the down on while you climb, in which case the dinner plates that you pull off the route will have you so terrified that you won't need the down in order to be warm anyway. (Note-this is from Montana/Wyoming experience, not from my time in Berkeley, CA)


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