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Softshell or Windbreaker?


Original Post
Lothian Buss · · Albany, NY · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 15

So... Sick of stewing in the hardshell for winter climbs and hikes. Keeping it for foul weather obviously, but getting some softshell pants for ice climbing and above treeline hikes.

Should I get a softshell jacket too? or just a cheap nylon windbreaker and a fleece? or a special "windshirt"?

ebmudder · · Bronx, NY · Joined Jul 2011 · Points: 50

It would generally depend on the weather conditions and exertion levels. Pretty hard to generalize.

The advantage to a fleece + windbreaker is you can remove the windbreaker if it's not windy and you want to allow evaporation...layers give you flexibility to adjust with the conditions. You could also consider a gore-tex (or similar) shell that is water/windproof but allows evaporation through the fabric.

Dylan Pike · · Sandy, UT · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 35

I like a windbreaker for dry conditions due to it's light weght, but if there is any chance of encountering moisture (ice climbing, snow activities, etc) I'll use a softshell. Another advantage of the softshell is abrasion resistance for bushwhacking. The disadvantage is loss of packability and weight increase. So generally, I use a windbreaker in the summer, hard shell when it's raining, and a soft shell in the winter.

Lothian Buss · · Albany, NY · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 15

Any suggestions for a good windbreaker? Cheapo nylon jacket from somewhere, or "technical windshirt"?

Forever Outside · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 240

get an OR ferrosi.  it is UL softshell.  or the BD Alpine Start hoody.

pat a · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 0
Forever Outside wrote:

get an OR ferrosi.  it is UL softshell.  or the BD Alpine Start hoody.

Seconded.  The Start packs down almost as small as my old Arc'teryx Squamish, keeps out most of the wind and drizzle, dries super fast, breathes well and is durable enough to climb in (unlike the squamish).  My favorite piece of clothing.

Nick Drake · · Newcastle, WA · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 486
pat a wrote:

Seconded.  The Start packs down almost as small as my old Arc'teryx Squamish, keeps out most of the wind and drizzle, dries super fast, breathes well and is durable enough to climb in (unlike the squamish).  My favorite piece of clothing.

Third on the alpine start. It sits firmly between a traditional windshirt and softshell, has advantages of both. Strikes a perfect balance between wind resistance and breath ability. 

I’ve used mine for alpine rock, waterfall ice cragging, ski touring, trail running, and regular old hikes. It’s been drug through a decent share of chimneys and offwidths, schwacked through slide alder from hell and still going strong. Schoeller has developed one impressive dwr, I clean regularly and water still beads well three years later. 


Patrick Corry · · PA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 75

How about a (hard faced) soft-shell like the Patagonia Knifeblade?  I have the pullover version, and it's mostly windproof, breathable, and sheds nearly all winter precipitation.... hey, if it's winter it's probably snowing, or sleeting. Sheds melting ice drips & spray too on those sunny ice climbing days. Can't speak for other similar products but I feel invulnerable in the Knifeblade, along with Patagonia's Northwall pants. Got both of 'em cheap on EBay used.  Patagonia Houdini over their R1 hoody works for more benign days, or ski touring.    

Andesite · · Portland, OR · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 0

I use a Marmot Ether DriClime hoody for winter bike commuting, but also as a outer layer/windbreaker for alpine climbs.  Side panels allow it to breathe well. 

Lothian Buss · · Albany, NY · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 15

I wound up ordering ferrosi pants and jacket, because I could get it wicked cheap. We'll see how it holds up to the east coast winter weather.

If I don't like it, you'll see it up here for sale!

Forever Outside · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Feb 2017 · Points: 240
Lothian Buss wrote:

I wound up ordering ferrosi pants and jacket, because I could get it wicked cheap. We'll see how it holds up to the east coast winter weather.

If I don't like it, you'll see it up here for sale!

The Ferrosi is a super classic piece, you will not be BoysContrastSleeve_ARTWORK.ai (except the harness covers the hand pocket zippers) but it's a great weight and super sturdy.  Doesn't pack down like the BD Alpine Start hoody, but has a better price and easier to capture on sale.  Also the BD Alpine Start doesn't has only 1 pocket (chest for the self-packing element).  New season ferrosi also has thumb loops.  

I can't chime in on the pants, never seen them.

Crushtian Black · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 295

I’ll throw a vote in for the Houdini. Thing saved my ass one time when we had to bail off a multipitch sport climb at 35 degrees and raining. I had that and wore it over my down puffy, the sleeves wetted out but it kept my core and puffy dry underneath. So small I never need to worry about not taking it, badass wind shirt. I bushwhacked soaking wet for 5 hours literally *crawling* through brush at times in the sierras and it never tore, looks brand new still. 

Nolan Huther · · Potsdam, NY · Joined Dec 2014 · Points: 480

Good call on the Ferrosi jacket, but the Ferrosi pants are not ideal for winter usage, in my opinion. I use them as my rock pants and for hiking. Wore them 2 weeks straight while backpacking. They're insanely stretchy, breathable, light and decently wear-resistant but I don't wear them for winter stuff (OR Cirques for me). They're probably my favorite rock pants, but rock pants aren't that important to me.

I wear the Ferrosi jacket all year round, and especially in the winter. The idea of an insulated soft shell seems weird to me, in this application at least, as I'd prefer midlayers to keep my warm and the out later to keep my midlayers protected. It blocks moderate wind nicely, and holds up if you get caught in a light rain. Very breathable, I wear it on windy/cold cross country skiing days, bring it hiking, climbing, just walking around, whatever. Definitely also feels like it can take a beating, especially with its somewhat reinforced shoulders and arms. Its been through a few bushwhacks. And they come with THUMB LOOPS now?!? Awesome!

I have an Arc'teryx hardshell for when it is just horrible weather (blasting, dumping, whatever). I use it sparingly to preserve its life since it was an investment, and usually the Ferrosi can handle most conditions in the winter (with proper midlayers, of course!)

The Houdini is a great wind jacket, don't be mistaken. Ridiculously light and has kept me fine while getting blasted by 30-40 mph winds on multipitches. It has a second use for me as the late spring / early summer belay jacket when the blackflies are out in force here in the Northeast. But it gets kinda sweaty with activity. It is a windjacket after all.

Seton Kriese · · Victoria, BC · Joined Aug 2017 · Points: 15

Second the Ferrosi pants not being suitable for winter use. Too thin. Have you tried just wearing less under your hardshell? I used to be a softshell guy with a hardshell in the pack but realized that in winter I was almost never in a situation where I wanted the protection of some sort of shell yet a hardshell + baselayer was too warm.

Tim Stich · · Colorado Springs, Colorado · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 1,476

I love softshell jackets for everything. So that's my preference for ice climbing as well.


Briggs Lazalde · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2017 · Points: 0
Lothian Buss wrote:

Any suggestions for a good windbreaker? Cheapo nylon jacket from somewhere, or "technical windshirt"?

I have the montbell windbreaker with hood and it literally packs up into the size of a racket ball. Little more rectangular but it weighs about 30 grams. Cant go wrong. Won't notice it in your pack. Downside is don't walk through brush or snag it. Its not durable enough to handle it. Will hold up if you treat it right. I would go with a soft shell for winter though

that guy named seb · · Britland · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 205

I have found the squamish pretty durable for what it is and it blocks wind like a champ, disappointing lack of any apparent hydrostatic head but with a fleece it works really well as pertex pile system so well that I now only use my hardshell if the winds get 60mph+ or on my walk to work. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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