Windproof vs Waterproof

Discussion in 'Clothing & Footwear' started by Chiseller, Jun 18, 2020.

  1. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Let's get this can of worms open....

    I've been on multidays with just a windshell... Combined with a brolly, it worked well. I wasn't totally miserable, but could have been if it wasn't for my alpha layer.

    I've been through windproofs at a fair rate over the past couple of years... Fighting for that perfect combination of fit, function and weight.

    Recently I returned to the paramo Ostro, but this time the latest incarnation called Ostro UL.
    My old Ostro ticked a lot of boxes apart from weight.
    Great hood, good fit, lightweight considering, hood, 3 usable pockets, draw hem, long back, fairly long front and zips for venting/access.

    Which brings me to this post.

    I don't find the material as breathable, considering its lighter material than its earlier incarnation.
    I've struggled with a lot of brands on the breathability side. OMM, Montane(which was pretty good though) inov8, OR, MH, Marmot to name but a few...
    The 'fauxdini' was great, but as an offset, wasn't totally windproof and the fit wasn't good for me due to the small sizing ( I had the largest)
    For gentle walking, when a windproof makes sense.. Most are pretty good. In my experience, the best, but heaviest was the Mountain Equipment Squall... But if it was wet, cold and still windy, it took some drying and could leave me feeling windchill ( not as bad as a heavier but very comfortable Rab Borealis shirt)

    So today, in heavy rain, I set off to see how long the dwr would last, and how comfy it would be with my Norrona Alpha Raw underneath.
    No pack, just worn as is, with the hood up.

    Tempreture was mild, not a great deal of wind, just enough to test the hood in driven rain and the shell.

    I covered just over 2.5 miles in 37 minutes. With my knee, this was some good going and added sweat to go with the rain.

    I was soaked... Not uncomfortable due to the Alpha and the mild tempreture (around 13C )
    The norrona didn't have chance to combat the rain and the sweat... Where a buffalo for example would have done better, working on the same principle as alpha raw and a windshell.

    When its not rained and hiked I've been soaked in sweat with a pack on, taken the pack off, lifted an alpha garment and my skin has been almost dry to the touch. That was my Marmot isotherm and other Alpha garments with a windproof face.

    So... (I know, I've dragged this bit out) it got me to thinking...
    Why use a windproof when a good breathable, quick drying waterproof shell can do the same?

    Some will say weight?
    Some will say, it saves wear on a more expensive waterproof?
    Some will say packability?

    Throwing a spanner in the works... Or a can opener....

    I've a couple of waterproofs, that are low weight, built well, reliable and pretty breathable with the right layer and when they're worn in a favourable climate (humidity, wind, tempreture, activity and exposure time) and some unfavourable climates.

    A classic memory is starting the Bob Graham Round last year. The wind was hard, I was pushing hard and the clag was coming in.
    I donned my OMM Phantom hoody, Stretched it over my small back pack /race vest and my front pack ( RIBZ )
    It worked great, especially considering it has zero venting options other than loose hem and hood down, sleeves pushed partly up.
    It kept me dry from rain and comfortable from sweat. I admit, the breathability was possibly good due to the air gaps created by my packs. BUT I've worn it a few times as a windshell when there's been a threat of more than just a shower and it's performed well.

    I've also got an Outdoor Research Ascent jacket and an OMM Aether smock that all perform very well in comfort, durability, function and pack size.... And are considered very lightweight.

    So now, I'm thinking, on trips where weight is an equal consideration to comfort... I will possibly leave the windshell out and just use a hardshell (using the term Lightly as the Phantom. Is very soft and the others are not what I'd consider a true hardshell along the lines of a winter rated waterproof)

    The weight comes into it... By water absorbed into the material of a windshell and any layer or layers beneath.
    For me... Moisture from sweat seems to dry quicker than moisture from being soaked in rain.

    Dear reader.... If your still with me...
    Here's the kicker...

    Most ultralight folks in the UK, will discredit a layer by weight. That weight that effects our choice over one garment/brand from another... Can be as small as 20g or as large as 100g+
    Now we all know... A ml of water weighs a gram...
    A well soaked jacket can easily add 100g, a well soaked mid or base layer can easily end up absorbing a couple of hundred gram depending on material choice... Especially some merino layers.

    So now... That windshell or ultralight waterproof that has failed due to prolonged exposure or poor materials.... Is no longer ultralight, and is adding weight to be worn or carried until dry again. Same with the added weight of the soaked under garment.

    Some days... The rain may not break for long enough.... So you decide to take the windshell off and don a full waterproof... Maybe even change undergarment quickly in the hope to have a fresher, drier, warmer start.
    You've still the added weight to carry, wether it's worn or in your pack.

    On price / expense of replacing worn out or failing waterproofs.....

    A lot of us spend heavy cash on our choices... Especially as we chase the ultralight. But let me it put it into another context.
    Some of us have other passions, some of us don't. Those that have other hobbies, sports, obsessions... What is spent on consumables, like football, cricket, rugby, concert tickets etc.... Fishing, cycling, diving etc... They all provide memories... Some of them very special, lifelong memories...

    So what of our mountain, Moor, Long distance trail, quick overnighter memories.... I will argue... Some of the very best feelings possible... Even miserable at the time feeling's, often later become funny, educational, humble yet still great memories....
    What price do we put on these?
    (Going off subject.. The same could be said for a lot of our kit that we've had or expected to Las a long time)

    So on the financial side... Should the cost and durability of a windshell be favoured over the cost of a slightly heavier or expensive rain jacket that can perform both tasks and possibly save weight over the duration of a trek?
    I for one, couldn't put a price on some of my experiences... The price of a jacket alone, would seem cheap for such emotion.

    There.... I'm sure I could lollygag some more... And I'm. Sure I will still favour leaving a hardshell at home... Or carrying both.

    Looking forward to seeing/hearing your own thoughts.
    I will resist replying as typing this, has made my own mind up for future trips in all but wintery seasons / climates.

    Doh...bit more to say....

    Obviously wind chill and its dangers are not to be taken 'lite-ly' we all know how to do what we do safely and how our choices and decisions can play out.
    Stay safe folks... Stay lite... But be comfortable and hike your own hike....

    Sithee :thumbsup:
    Footnote
    I appreciate we all tolerate heat/cold differently and some of us may not Don a windproof until later than others and vice versa....
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  2. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    Alpha and a windshirt is great when you're tabbing on

    For normal hikes i prefer a fleece and a waterproof jacket
    Chiseller likes this.
  3. Robert P

    Robert P Ultralighter

    Personally I always carry a windproof and waterproof in summer, but use the windproof more.

    Why? Membrane/coated waterproofs have a limited lifespan so I try to use only when raining, and windproofs tend to be more comfortable (less rustle, softer, quieter) and more breathable so I find them more pleasant to wear.

    In the colder months I tend to use Paramo, but not carry a windproof as the system has the same durabilty and comfort.

    In set dry summer conditions I'd be thinking about just taking the windproof.

    I accept that taking a waterproof by itself as a multi use item would save weight, but I find that I use a windproof more than any other clothing in the mountains - much more than a fleece (well, I almost never wear a fleece when moving on the hills), more than a waterproof. And the weight penalty to carry a windproof is typically minimal.

    Everyone has a system that is comfortable and works for them - this works for me and reflects the windy environments I am used to; and was influenced by Chris Townsend's articles in TGO many years ago.
  4. Enzo

    Enzo Thru Hiker

    I think the environment your usually in plays a big roll.

    But one reason to use a windproof is that they normally have a breathability a factor of magnitude greater than a good waterproof. Almost all prioritize windproofness over breathability though, which for me then kinda undermines the point of wearing one.

    The tension for me is between taking a windproof and wpb or just the wpb. Weight wise the fauxini is the only light WP that I know of that breathes well, but it does everything else poorly so it's out.
    I like the MH kor preshell, does everything well Inc breathe, but it weighs as much as an ul wpb....

    Question is, is 140g a weight your prepared to carry to lengthen the life of your wpb and be more comfortable when generating sweat?

    For me depends on the trip/environment, but generally yes. 140g is not much for increased comfort.
    But it feels odd to bring a 140g WP to save wear on an 85g wpb!
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  5. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    This is a subject that comes up again and again on Hiking forums.

    It depends on the individual. And the Waterproof.


    For me, pretty much what Robert says.

    Happy to only use my waterproof only when raining.

    On cost.
    A wonky analogy I have made from experience of using many jackets , is that a lightweight membrane or 2.5layer waterproof when new, is "Fully Charged" with "waterproofness" (and beading ability/DWR) .
    Wearing it (especially with a pack), stuffing it, throwing it in the back of the car, all contribute to "discharging" it . In the end, even if "recharged" by reproof ing, if the membrane/coating fails its duff as a waterproof.

    I want my expensive lightweight jacket's "charge" to last, and be available for "proper rain". So it's treated nicely, stored dry in a light stuffsac and only used in Rain, and doesn't see the light of day until needed.

    I have a Rab slipstream (pertex shield bought in 2009) that is a little frayed round the cuffs, but is pretty sound. Partner and friends seem to have killed 2 or 3 similar style jackets in the time, by the way they wear or treat them.





    I see my windshirt as a warm layer too.

    My 2 "warm season" windshirts are less windproof (more air permeable) than the light 2.5layer waterproofs I carry. And 85g

    My Cold Season (-windchill) Windproof (160g) is more windproof than the waterproof jackets I wear or carry then (Paramo or eVent). I may not take it if windchill not expected.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  6. Teepee

    Teepee Thru Hiker

    There are times when the windproof stays at home but it's not often.

    Windproofs are my workhorses. A hooded windproof layer traps a massive amount of heat and I very often sleep in it. It'll deal with a good majority of the rain and doesnt suffer with wearing out it's DWR like (as Mole points out very well) a waterproof jacket does.

    Windproofs suit our UK climate quite well. We live on a windy island subjected to a lot of weather and very often it's the windchill that has the largest effect on our perceived comfort.

    Personally, I try to wear my windproof as often as possible, whereas the opposite applies to the waterproof jacket.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2020
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  7. Baldy

    Baldy Thru Hiker

    Same :thumbsup:
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  8. Robert P

    Robert P Ultralighter

    My experience on durability of windproofs is similar to Mole's - I don't take any special care but am yet to wear one out. Been using the same Montane Jetstream (at the light end of the scale) for backpacking since 2008. I'm sure you could destroy them if you try...
    Chiseller likes this.
  9. cathyjc

    cathyjc Thru Hiker

    Me too. Plus what @Mole and @Robert P say.
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  10. Rog Tallbloke

    Rog Tallbloke Thru Hiker

    This is a good option for people who can buy an oversize jacket which will go round their body plus kit. I'm maxed into XL already so it's not an option for me.

    I know capes don't get much love around here, but my 210g 1.5mx2.2m cape gets use in the daytime as a cover all waterproof for proper rain, and then chucked under the tarp as a puncture resistant groundcloth at night instead of carrying a bathtub. The way I count weights in my system, this means I have a 105g waterproof, and a 105g groundsheet.

    Yes, capes can be a bit flappy in windy driving rain, but to be honest, continuous windy driving rain has me looking for a place to pitch and settle down for some rest until it stops.
  11. Rmr

    Rmr Section Hiker

    My wind proof is always to hand no matter what the weather's like.
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  12. Enzo

    Enzo Thru Hiker

    From what I've read on bpl dwr is degraded primarily by abrasion, so I do as Mole suggests.
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  13. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Anyone wear a windshell over a WP shell?
  14. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    I do sometimes in winter over my Paramo Alta3 if strong winds and cold. (Old montane litespeed)
    Not if raining though.
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  15. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    Breathability would be less of an issue with your paramo. I may try a windshell over a membrane shell.(for research purposes in a safe environment) .. Worst case I'll be like findus boil-in-bag beef :facepalm:
  16. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    I use it over the Paramo, because the Paramo outer fabric isn't as windproof as pertex microlight.

    What advantage would you hope to get over a membrane shell which is windproof anyway?


    An aside.
    I know of some Mountain Leader trainers who use 2 waterproofs. When the going gets tough, they just chuck another hardshell over the first.
    Sounds warm. And sweaty.
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  17. MonkeyBusiness

    MonkeyBusiness Trekker

    Pretty much this. I like going up high and naturally get a sweat on.
    I haven't found anything that is truly breathableb but plenty that are 100% waterproof.
  18. Cali

    Cali Backpacker

    Yes, I live in a semi-arid climate and so prioritize breathability over waterproofness. I'm using my wind/soft shells (e.g., Kor Preshell, Alpine Start) far more often than my WPBs (Kinetic Plus, Marmot Bantamweight, Zeta FL). I find that they are just better active pieces over a wider range of temps here.

    If it's more than a light rain I go with the WBP. Trips I generally take both options. I tend to only have use for the WPBs in cooler weather, the wind/soft shells I use all seasons. Example, yesterday I comfortably wore the Kor Preshell over my cap air crew in overcast 64F weather. At 54F I might layer it over a thin merino base and light fleece or alpha mid. Warmer weather I often use over a light tee. Just a lot more versatile than the WPBs in my climate.

    Of course, a WPB with the same comfort/breathability as a wind/soft shell would be great. The Kinetic Plus has the softshell feel and pretty good breathability for a WPB, but I still wouldn't wear if it's not raining. Maybe Berghaus Hyper 100?
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  19. tallest of pauls

    tallest of pauls Ultralighter

    I heard about that too when doing my summer ML. You do move like snails on nav legs so, drier the better...

    I did wonder when doing winter ML training if I could vary this option. I thought about a shell over my paramo giving me a double whammy as Paramo has no membrane. I've still to figure out the ultimate stand around in rubbish weather option in winter. They are very keen on hardshell as standard all day wear on winter ML.

    My problem is I tend to overheat going uphill after 40 mins with a shell on even if I 'Be bold. Start cold'
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  20. Mole

    Mole Thru Hiker

    For stair-rod conditions in winter, I've been occasionally using a 180g Decathlon Waterproof Smock over my Paramo during the worst episodes. It's not that breathable, but a welcome extra barrier when moving slow in cold aquatic situations. I hate having to take a top layer off to get another midlayer on if cold.

    I carry 2 anyway (as emergency gear) when leading/teaching nav to Explorers in winter. We go out most weathers. Sometimes, the waterproofs their parents send them out with often aren't as waterproof as they think...

    I use the xl/2xl, and also carry the m/l
  21. tallest of pauls

    tallest of pauls Ultralighter

    I have one of those to chuck over on ice axe sliding sessions to save the dwr on my main WP.

    I also have cheap cut off to shorts length work wear helly hansen wp bottoms for sitting in bucket seats. I look a proper mountain tinker compared to some!
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