Use your membrane
19 September 2010
Strange things have happen to waterproofs recently. We all know how fantastically waterproof they are (30,000 mm of hydrostatic head.. wow) and how unbelievably breathable they are (21,000g/m2/24hrs ... phew) but despite these awesome figures we are all starting to realise they will still not keep us completely dry when we're slogging up a hill carrying 3 days worth of supplies. All waterproofs jackets have a saturation point.
So, what do you do to keep the sweat at bay but also keep the rain off?
The good old fashioned layering system is still the key. Use your highly breathable soft shells or windproof tops in light rain or wind and only don the waterproof if you're really going to get satched. This means your fancy jackets is going to spend a lot of time in the old rucksack, so it needs to be lightweight and still have the breathability.
To aid breathability you need to be able to vent. To vent a jacket you've got the front zip, you have the cuffs, your have mesh lined pockets or underarm pit zips. How you like to vent is up to you, some people prefer the front zip and cuffs, others the pits. One thing to remember is that extra features usually mean extra weight. Also if you have too many zips you may never find your sarnies.
Nothing worse than icy drips down your neck or a hood that blows off when your fellow hiker sneezes. You need a good hood.
A hood should be adjustable to seal around you face. It should have a peak to keep the drips off. It should move with your face so you can look back to see you've finally out ran that vicious looking sheep.
Chris Townsend from TGO loves the hoods on Montane jackets (FYI)
Like me, you probably don't feel at your best with damp underwear, so get a jacket that at least covers your bum.
Light and waterproof jackets are commonly made from eVENT or Gore-Tex Paclite, but there are many variations and many companies are using their own fabrics to good effect.
Thanks for reading.
Quote from TGOs Chris Townsend May 2006 about the Montane Venture
'Voted TGO Best Buy
Montane's latest eVENT jacket is excellent for year round hill walking, being tough enough for winter and light enough for summer. I like the hood, which moves with the head and gives good protection. The pockets are roomy enough for maps, are at the right angle to be used for handwarmers and are accessible when wearing a pack hipbelt... The Venture is reasonably long with a very long drop tail that easily covers my backside.... The price is excellent for a full spec eVENT jacket'