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Gore-tex pro-shell vs active-shell vs Polartec neoshell vs etc.
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By Andrew Mayer
Mar 6, 2012
top of mt. lady washington - rmnp
I am currently in the market for a new shell, ideally one that could be used year round (ice climbing, backcountry skiing, summer backpacking, etc).

I am intrigued by the new offerings of Gore tex active-shell and Polartec Neoshell because breathability is important to me but I have not had a chance to feel/look at either in person.

I know pro-shell is more durable than either active-shell or neoshell but how much so?
I don't think I want gore-tex pac lite due to durability issues.

I guess I am looking for recommendations on a new shell, especially from those who can comment on the new active-shell and neoshell materials.

Thanks.

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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Mar 6, 2012
RJN
I have both Pro Shell and Active Shell. Go Pro for durability and go Active for practicality. My only complaint it that Pro shell feels and sounds like I'm wearing a tarp! That said it has never let me down.

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By Josh Allred
From Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 6, 2012
P3 on Nutcracker.
ebay.com/itm/330695710363?ssPa...

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By APBT1976
Mar 6, 2012
Black Dike 12/25/11
GO Neo shell all the way. It actually breathes unlike Gore Products. When i say it breaths i can attest all winter long over 35 days spent in Neo shell and i not once had a problem.

I had a very sweet well built light weight Mammut Feltsrum Half Zipp all season also that i just returned. I sweat so bad in this jacket ice climbing on a 15% day that it had to be washed as it stunk so bad. Also if you do not like how delicate PackLight is then Active Shell is going to be the same thing for you.

Go Neo shell!!

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By Sunny-D
From SLC, Utah
Mar 6, 2012
Top of Jah-Man Sister Superior
I would go Neoshell or Event for how they breath I have both and have been using my neoshell all winter as a soft shell it breaths that well. The Event beats the Pro-shell, I think, hands down for how it works.
Dallen

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By Stephan Doyle
Mar 6, 2012
In my experience, eVent is the winner for one do-it-all shell. I'm hoping we see some light NeoShell garments next year, but as it is today NeoShell is only being used in warm, heavy softshells (I don't want to use an unlined softshell in the summer, or even spring/fall at low elevation, much less a NeoShell garment). eVent breathes better than Gore, and you can get pieces for <10oz that feel more comfortable than that 20oz softshell.

GoreTex Active Shell is marginally more breathable than the rest of their line. It's still the same technology and the same approach to WP/B.

NeoShell is great for winter (or when it's cold out). It breathes reasonably well for a waterproof (air permeability is 0.5 CFM. For reference, Gore is 0, eVent is 0.1, while a typical softshell is about 3.0), the garments I've seen made with it are durable and very well-thought out.

From what I've played around with, Powershield Pro might be the real winter warrior's garment. A 5,000 HH (so half as waterproof as NeoShell, but this is still "waterproof" by the vast majority of standards, and plenty for winter) combined with an air permeability of 2.0 CFM -- so truly up there in the softshell category. It's not getting the marketing hype, though, for a couple reasons: 1) Polartech isn't calling it waterproof (reserving that for the flagship NeoShell), and 2) Most of the garments using it also employ a fleece backing (making it much warmer, and not really a "shell" garment at that point.

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By Copperhead
Mar 6, 2012
People must have low expectations for breathability. None of these breathe anywhere close to a real softshell. But they block the wind, so take your pick.

I have a Powershield Pro jacket, and the biggest problem is that the manufacturer thought it breathes well enough not to need pit zips. It doesn't.

It does breathe better than Gore-Tex, though, and makes a nice winter garment. Most Powershield Pro garments will not work perfectly in rain since they usually don't seam tape them either.

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By APBT1976
Mar 6, 2012
Black Dike 12/25/11
Idk I have the same luck with my Mammut Gipfelgrat jacket breathing in winter as i do with say my Patagonia alpine Guide Soft Shell. I use it mostly or only for ice climbing but i often do long approaches and often will run the trail back to my car after topping out if a trail is a option.

I will say i ordered three Neo Shell jackets at the start of the season and all three where made of a different weight of the Neo Shell material. The Gipfelgragt being the heavies "thickest" and most stretchy. It is actually very stretchy and impossible to tear pull or puncture.

The Rab Neo Shell reminded me much more of Event or Gore and was not nearly as stretchy or bomber I could see tearing it easy! On the other hand if i wanted a coat for anything other than winter i would not go with the Mammut coat as it is built for winter only. Even though it breathes great it is thick and heavy and would just feel wrong any other time of year.

Rab, Marmot, and Westcomb all make a Neo Shell jacket that is much better suited to three season use than the Mammut. It is weird because as thick and bomber the version of Neo Shell material Mammut used it sure breathes way way better than any Event or Gore product i have ever used and other manufactures Neo Shell garments are much lighter and seem much more fragile.

I hope Neo Shell gets the attention it deserves. It will be a shame if it goes the way Event seems to be going and just not really taking off even though it is better than Gore hands down.

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By superkick
From West Hartford, CT
Mar 7, 2012
Free Solo up hitchcock gully WI3
Ive heard nothing but good things about MH dry Q elite, so thats anther option as well.

At the moment a softshell with power shield pro is my choice though.

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By suuntout
Mar 7, 2012
i have dryQ elite pants and they are awesome, used them in powder and very wet ice climbing conditions and have not had any water inside, they are very breathable, the air permeability seems to not be too big of a problem, atleast while skiing

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By Stephan Doyle
Mar 7, 2012
superkick wrote:
Ive heard nothing but good things about MH dry Q elite, so thats anther option as well.


DryQ Elite is essentially eVent, which is why I didn't mention it.

Starting last year, eVent may be marketed under any name.

This has given MH the ability to choose their own face fabrics and control more of the process. They use the eVent membrane, but have autonomy in design and construction.

It's good stuff.

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By NorCalNomad
From San Francisco
Mar 10, 2012
Stephan Doyle wrote:
DryQ Elite is essentially eVent, which is why I didn't mention it. Starting last year, eVent may be marketed under any name. This has given MH the ability to choose their own face fabrics and control more of the process. They use the eVent membrane, but have autonomy in design and construction. It's good stuff.


DryQ is eVent. GE has chose to allow manufactures to "rebrand" the material. Outside magazine has a great story about breathable fabrics/ Gore being shady this month. Sure makes me lean towards a eVent or NeoShell pro shell now.

That being said I f'ing love my MH Brono softshell with windstopper in it.

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By Mitch Musci
Mar 11, 2012
Remember that all these membranes being discussed are separate from the face fabrics they are laminated to. Technically, Gore-Tex Paclite could be laminated to a super beefy face fabric and be ultra durable, while Pro-Shell could be paired with an ultra light face fabric and be super light. The determining factor is that Gore-Tex will only allow certain combinations with certain membranes so yes, Paclite tends to be lighter and Pro-Shell tends to be beefier. It can really help to physically FEEL the face fabric of a jacket before buying.

The best way to choose a membrane is to consider what you will be doing in the shell. If it is a medium to high output activity in warm to cool climates, choose Event or Neoshell. If it is a medium to low output activity in cold climates choose Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex uses a polyurethane layer to protect the membrane from body oils. This makes breathability quite inefficient, but makes the membrane warmer (hence colder climates, think ski resort). Event coats the individual pores with PU, avoiding an all-encompassing PU layer and allowing the fabric to "vent directly". This membrane is inherently slightly cooler and slightly less wind proof.

Neoshell is strictly a PU membrane (NOT ePTFE) so it can STRETCH! It is also only as waterproof as it needs to be (10,000m2 vs 20,000m2 water column). It is not only used in softshells like stated above. I own the Westcomb Apoc and it is a blend of nylon, polyester, and PU.

Thanks for sharing about DryQ, that is really interesting info!

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 11, 2012
El Chorro
The last three posts pretty much sum it all up.

Gore-Tex is old technology - with really good marketing. It doesn't "breathe" at all compared to the new air permeable membranes. If you need high breathability and must have a waterproof, you need something that is air permeable. It won't be as waterproof as Gore-Tex Pro and the like (~30,000mm), but it will do the job (~10,000mm). If you can get by w/ a softshell then do so. Even a softshell w/ a membrane (e.g. Windstopper) will breathe better because the seams aren't taped. If you plan on standing under waterfalls or climbing in hurricanes then you'll need something more waterproof than what the current air permeable membranes offer, but who wants to climb in a hurricane?

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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Mar 11, 2012
Middle
How air Permeable is Pro shell, Event, Dry Q, and NEO when there is raining pouring off the outside of the jacket and the face fabric is soaked through?

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By Ryan N
From San Louis Obispo
Mar 11, 2012
RJN
Why is everybody hating on Gor-Tex? Maby not as breathable as some other newer materials, but with pit zips and chest zips why would that matter? If the conditions are bad enough to have the jacket zipped up then I would prefer the durability and waterproofing of a pro shell. Also as a wind breaker nothing comes close to pro shell. Besides layer right and breathability shouldn't matter. During winter with my pro shell jacket and bibs I'm practically a walking bivy sack it's impossible to penetrate my fortress!

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By NorCalNomad
From San Francisco
Mar 11, 2012
Ryan N wrote:
Why is everybody hating on Gor-Tex? Maby not as breathable as some other newer materials, but with pit zips and chest zips why would that matter? If the conditions are bad enough to have the jacket zipped up then I would prefer the durability and waterproofing of a pro shell. Also as a wind breaker nothing comes close to pro shell. Besides layer right and breathability shouldn't matter. During winter with my pro shell jacket and bibs I'm practically a walking bivy sack it's impossible to penetrate my fortress!


I don't think people are hating on it so much as not singing it's praises as people are use to with Gore.

I'll type out some exerts from the Outdoor Mag on it. "When I asked one manufacture why people were being so coy he told me, 'Everybody hates Gore, everybody needs Gore, so everybody's afraid of Gore. They can make or break you'...Whispers about Gore's heavy handed tactics have been circulating for years, but allegations have recently gotten serious enough that both federal and international regulatory agencies are involved."

Basically Gore's marketing and shady business tactics are stifling innovation/ not letting manufactures use other materials (all or none). And people are finally able to see that there are better alternatives out there. But I would agree with the Gore Pro for low to mid output activities and others for mid to high is true

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 11, 2012
El Chorro
Ray Pinpillage wrote:
How air Permeable is Pro shell, Event, Dry Q, and NEO when there is raining pouring off the outside of the jacket and the face fabric is soaked through?


Pro Shell is not air permeable at all. As for the others, they obviously will not work as well once the face fabric wets out. But that shouldn't happen if you are taking care of the jacket properly.

As far as I'm concerned, the air permeable membranes have filled a niche in the market. It is not designed to be the most waterproof - it is designed to be as breathable as possible while still being waterproof. Even the lowest testing air permeable membranes out there are still 5 times as waterproof as a garment needs to be to certify it as being "waterproof." It's enough to keep you dry until you get out of the storm. It is designed for people who are moving fast enough that they will be getting out of the storm the same day that they get in it. Think Ueli Steck on the Eiger.

I was trained by Gor-Tex to tell people that a full sized man w/ a pack on, kneeling on one knee, is about the equivalent of a 12,000mm water column test, and heavy rain in gale forced wind is about the equivalent to 4,000mm. The air permeable membranes out there are definitely rated higher than 4,000, and most would probably test above 12,000. Gore-Tex Pro Shell comes in around 28,000 (even though they won't publish their testing results anymore). You'd have to stand under a waterfall for hours and hours before you saw the difference between 12,000 and 28,000, but in terms of breathability, you can immediately notice the difference between Gore-Tex and any air permeable membrane (at least the ones I've tested recently).

Ryan N wrote:
Why is everybody hating on Gor-Tex? Maby not as breathable as some other newer materials, but with pit zips and chest zips why would that matter? If the conditions are bad enough to have the jacket zipped up then I would prefer the durability and waterproofing of a pro shell. Also as a wind breaker nothing comes close to pro shell. Besides layer right and breathability shouldn't matter. During winter with my pro shell jacket and bibs I'm practically a walking bivy sack it's impossible to penetrate my fortress!


The thing is, if you are going to rely on pit zips and chest zips then you might as well be wearing a plastic bag. Gore-Tex themselves admit that for the membrane to work, you have to build up a certain amount of heat and humidity inside the jacket, and that the bigger the difference between the inside of your jacket and the outside, the better the membrane will breathe. So opening the pit zips is actually the last thing you want to do if you are trying to get the Gore membrane to actually work. This brings up the question - if you are going to use chest zips and pit vents, why spend $300 on Gore-Tex?

The whole idea behind the air permeable membranes is that they work all the time, even when the temp and humidity inside your jacket is exactly the same as the outer environment. Thus eliminating the need for heavy zippers and the time wasted messing with them. You might say that anyone who is worried that much about time and weight can just lose a pound or two, but then we are not talking about your average mountaineer anymore are we? Like I said above, think Ueli Steck on the Eiger.

There is nothing wrong with Gore-Tex and it certainly has done us all very well in the mountains. But as C Blank alluded to above, they are not very forthcoming about their products and definitely are not interested in helping advance the outdoor apparel industry at all unless they are going to benefit from it.

And at the risk of starting a meaningless argument, I think that a few of the things you've said are perfect examples of Gore-Tex's excellent marketing and advertising. Proshell is no more durable or water/windproof than the dozen other waterproof membranes out there - they just have you thinking that it is the best.

Moreover, the durability and performance of the jacket has just as much to do w/ the face fabric and inner lining as it does with what membrane is in it. Gore-Tex doesn't make those things, the clothing manufacturer does. Any problems with durability usually have more to do with those things than the membrane.


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By Ray Pinpillage
From West Egg
Mar 11, 2012
Middle
Ryan Williams wrote:
Pro Shell is not air permeable at all. As for the others, they obviously will not work as well once the face fabric wets out. But that shouldn't happen if you are taking care of the jacket properly. As far as I'm concerned, the air permeable membranes have filled a niche in the market. It is not designed to be the most waterproof - it is designed to be as breathable as possible while still being waterproof. Even the lowest testing air permeable membranes out there are still 5 times as waterproof as a garment needs to be to certify it as being "waterproof." It's enough to keep you dry until you get out of the storm. It is designed for people who are moving fast enough that they will be getting out of the storm the same day that they get in it. Think Ueli Steck on the Eiger. I was trained by Gor-Tex to tell people that a full sized man w/ a pack on, kneeling on one knee, is about the equivalent of a 12,000mm water column test, and heavy rain in gale forced wind is about the equivalent to 4,000mm. The air permeable membranes out there are definitely rated higher than 4,000, and most would probably test above 12,000. Gore-Tex Pro Shell comes in around 28,000 (even though they won't publish their testing results anymore). You'd have to stand under a waterfall for hours and hours before you saw the difference between 12,000 and 28,000, but in terms of breathability, you can immediately notice the difference between Gore-Tex and any air permeable membrane (at least the ones I've tested recently). The thing is, if you are going to rely on pit zips and chest zips then you might as well be wearing a plastic bag. Gore-Tex themselves admit that for the membrane to work, you have to build up a certain amount of heat and humidity inside the jacket, and that the bigger the difference between the inside of your jacket and the outside, the better the membrane will breathe. So opening the pit zips is actually the last thing you want to do if you are trying to get the Gore membrane to actually work. This brings up the question - if you are going to use chest zips and pit vents, why spend $300 on Gore-Tex? The whole idea behind the air permeable membranes is that they work all the time, even when the temp and humidity inside your jacket is exactly the same as the outer environment. Thus eliminating the need for heavy zippers and the time wasted messing with them. You might say that anyone who is worried that much about time and weight can just lose a pound or two, but then we are not talking about your average mountaineer anymore are we? Like I said above, think Ueli Steck on the Eiger. There is nothing wrong with Gore-Tex and it certainly has done us all very well in the mountains. But as C Blank alluded to above, they are not very forthcoming about their products and definitely are not interested in helping advance the outdoor apparel industry at all unless they are going to benefit from it. And at the risk of starting a meaningless argument, I think that a few of the things you've said are perfect examples of Gore-Tex's excellent marketing and advertising. Proshell is no more durable or water/windproof than the dozen other waterproof membranes out there - they just have you thinking that it is the best. Moreover, the durability and performance of the jacket has just as much to do w/ the face fabric and inner lining as it does with what membrane is in it. Gore-Tex doesn't make those things, the clothing manufacturer does. Any problems with durability usually have more to do with those things than the membrane.


Face fabric does wet out, especially when talking about the volume of water you are. In practice once it's raining enough to need water proof none of the membranes mentioned really "breath".

I can only think of one scenario where I'd want water proof and that is rain or very warm/wet snow in which case all that fancy shit goes right out the window.

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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Mar 12, 2012
El Chorro
Ray Pinpillage wrote:
Face fabric does wet out, especially when talking about the volume of water you are. In practice once it's raining enough to need water proof none of the membranes mentioned really "breath". I can only think of one scenario where I'd want water proof and that is rain or very warm/wet snow in which case all that fancy shit goes right out the window.


I don't really disagree. That is why I said what I did about the air permeables filling a niche. You can't go into the mountains w/o taking a waterproof, that is just asking for bad thigns to happen. But instead of having to wear a softshell and carry an emergency waterproof, the air permeable allows you to just take one jacket. It breathes well enough in fair weather to just leave on, and it will keep you dry when the weather turns bad, even if it is not breathing anymore.

I don't mind wearing a windshell and carrying a super light waterproof in my pack for emergency, but then again I am not a top class mountaineer or alpinist.

If you are doing high activity in super wet weather, you probably will not stay completely dry no matter what type of membrane you are wearing.

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By Ryan Stott
From Salt Lake City, UT
Apr 12, 2013
Uintas
Andrew Mayer wrote:
I am currently in the market for a new shell, ideally one that could be used year round (ice climbing, backcountry skiing, summer backpacking, etc). I am intrigued by the new offerings of Gore tex active-shell and Polartec Neoshell because breathability is important to me but I have not had a chance to feel/look at either in person. I know pro-shell is more durable than either active-shell or neoshell but how much so? I don't think I want gore-tex pac lite due to durability issues. I guess I am looking for recommendations on a new shell, especially from those who can comment on the new active-shell and neoshell materials. Thanks.


Andrew,

What did you decide? I'm also debating Active vs Pro shells, and I'm wondering what you picked, and how it is working for you

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By DuncanKL
Apr 12, 2013
Just get something with pit zips.

eVent is noticeably less warm than others in my experience, for what that's worth.

Again, pit zips.

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By coppolillo
Apr 12, 2013
Lots of good info here, but boil it down....

Gore products do NOT breathe until the internal environment (read: your sweaty-ass body inside its shell) is nearly 100% relative humidity. You'll wet out from the inside, just by sweating.

The newest eVent is really, really good...

but nothing is as air permeable as Polartec NeoShell. I own the Rab Stretch NeoShell and it's been durable, breathes better than any Gore product I've ever used and a bit better than eVent (I've tested newer eVent by Rab and Westcomb--all really nice), and it's 20000mm waterproof.

Gore indeed bullies companies into using its fabrics and skews the marketing (by choosing tests that give the appearance the stuff breathes). Google around for "Army Natick Lab" and you'll see the US Army has verified all of the points made in these posts at its lab in Natick, Massachusetts.

My Rab Stretch NeoShell review here: elevationoutdoors.com/blogs/ma...

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By BGardner
From Colorado
Apr 12, 2013
I've used neoshell and Mountain Hardwears DryQ elite at least 50 days each.
I tend to run on the warm side of things and really value breathability. I generally use primarily soft-shells even though I've spent a lot of time in rainy places like Patagonia and the Cascades. For years I just carried an ultra-light hard-shell in my pack in case it got really gross or had to stop. I found that as long as I was moving, soft-shells kept my inner layers drier then hard-shells in anything but full on downpours.

DryQ elite (aka: Event) is definitely a step in the right direction from traditional waterproof/breathable. Very waterproof, good wind protection and breaths way better, but really stiff.

Neoshell (mine is Rab) is slightly less waterproof and windproof then Event but noticeably more breathable and has some stretch which I really like.

I still prefer high quality soft-shells for most of my use but if I had to buy a new hard-shell today it would be a neoshell product.

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By Andrew Mayer
Apr 12, 2013
top of mt. lady washington - rmnp
Ryan Stott wrote:
Andrew, What did you decide? I'm also debating Active vs Pro shells, and I'm wondering what you picked, and how it is working for you


Ended up with a patagonia super pluma (pro shell) because I got a real good deal on it. And I've still got an older north face polartec softshell that I still use and really like.

Also just got an OR helium II a couple days ago for a super light (6.4 oz) spring/summer/fall shell

As alot of people have mentioned, and as an owner of a high-end pro shell jacket, I would recommend going with a more breathable E-vent or Neoshell jacket. More often than not, I reach for a shell other than my pro-shell unless I know its gonna be super stormy and exceptionally wet.

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