Joined: 04 Jan 2003
| Posted: 8/24/2003, 11:04 pm
|Let’s take a quick look at jackets, specifically the type of jacket you’d want along on a day hike in Arizona. A waterproof, breathable jacket is your best bet. According to a few outdoor publications, these can be broken down into three basic categories.
The toughest outdoor jackets, we’re talking expedition type jackets, are designed to withstand whatever Mother Nature throws your way. These jackets are tremendously durable and completely waterproof. As a result, they are less breathable than the other types of jackets. Most often, these shell jackets are paired with a fleece to create a warm, weatherproof layering system. This isn’t the type of jacket you’re going to take along on a day hike in Sedona in September. But it might be in your pack for a late-fall ascent of Humphreys.
At the other end of the jacket spectrum are ultra-light shells. These jackets are lightweight and packable. Because these shells are so packable, their durability is somewhat compromised. They’ll keep you warm when there’s a chill in the air. They’ll keep you dry in a sudden rain. They’re probably not the best choice for an all day hike in the rain. An ultra-light shell is perfect for day hiking if you aren’t interested in carrying much gear. These shells are commonly seen on runners because of their light weight. When you consider an ultra-shell, think bare bones. This is the minimum you should be bringing along.
Somewhere in the middle is what is commonly referred to as a mid-weight shell. These jackets are more durable and heavier than the ultra-light shells, but not as thick and bulky as the heavyweights. For that reason, the mid-weight is the jacket of choice for most hikers, backpackers, climbers, and cyclists.
When considering a breathable-waterproof jacket consider how the jacket vents away internal moisture. This would be the “breath ability” aspect. Unless you enjoy that swampy feeling while hiking, you’re going to want to opt for the jacket that offers the most ventilation possible without sacrificing weather-proof-ness. Manufacturers employ a variety of strategies to accomplish this much desired breath ability. Pit-zips (think arm pit) are vents under the arms that can be opened via a zipper usually running from mid arm to the upper torso. Pockets are often lined with mesh. Another popular strategy is allowing cuffs and waists to open wide via Velcro (hook & loop) or zippers. Often the main zipper will have a storm flap that snaps or velcros shut, but allows the zipper to remain open to enhance breath ability.
The industry leader in breathable/waterproof material is Gore-Tex. In layman’s terms Gore-Tex is Teflon that has been stretched into a thin membrane. This allows water vapor to pass through; but prevents actual water from penetrating the material. Manufacturers have their own versions of Gore-Tex, each with it’s own name. Regardless, the underlying idea is to allow sweat vapor to leave but keep rain drops from coming in. Likewise, these shells generally come as “two-ply” or “three-ply”. Two-ply protects the waterproof layer with a lining of mesh. Three ply surrounds the waterproof layer resulting in a more durable feel.
Jackets will also tout their DWR finish. DWR stands for Durable Water Repellent finish. Similar to the wax on a car, this causes water on the jacket’s outer surface to bead. When this finish breaks down and wears off you’ll need to reapply the finish using a spray product such as Nikwax TX or ReviveX.
When your jacket gets dirty, toss it in the wash on warm without detergent. If you managed to face plant and slide down a muddy hill coating your jacket in a layer of mud, clay and horse droppings…you’re going to want to toss in a bit of detergent, just make sure its mild, or try Nikwax Tech Wash.
Some items to consider when purchasing your shell:
Consider what you’ll be wearing under the jacket; make sure you buy a jacket that provides the necessary room.
If you wear glasses, check to make sure the hood bill won’t obstruct your glasses.
Consider if you want full butt coverage (think rest breaks on wet rocks)
Check for full range of motion…raise your arms, bend over, twist…make sure the jacket won’t ride up, bind, or bunch.
Bring your pack into the store. Make sure the jacket and pack work together.
Choose a high visibility color…you don’t want to be blending in with the surroundings, especially if you’re lost.
A good shell is one of the ten essentials for hiking. It’s probably better to have it and not ever use it than to need it and not have one along. Be prepared, and remember...
The Journey is the Destination