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Is DWR down worth while?

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  • Is DWR down worth while?

    I've always been a fleece guy, but thinking of buying a down mid-weight. I've narrowed to the Montbell Alpine Light and the Marmot Zeus. I've tried them both on inside and they seem very comparable from most performance perspectives. The Zeus is DWR and the Montbell is not. Thinking of it mostly as a winter hiking jacket - definitely under a backpack and maybe under a shell. Thoughts on if DWR is meaningful here? I won't wear either during rain, so am thinking mostly about sweat from a good vertical effort. Cost difference is irrelevant to me. What do you all think?

  • #2
    I bought a DWR down jacket and it does seem to perform a little bit better in damp conditions. But for what it's worth, I never use down jackets as anything more than an "in camp" jacket for added warmth when not hiking, so I don't exactly have experiences to use for comparison where I've gotten my down jackets really wet. It would take some serious sub-zero temperatures before I'd consider wearing one on an ascent especially. I find that I'm fine down to about 0F with just long underwear beneath a shell. Even when I do feel a need for an added insulation layer, I still pick wool or fleece for active movement over down.
    Last edited by DSettahr; 01-26-2017, 10:28 PM.


    • #3
      I'm with you DSettahr. I normally wear a thermal/capaline, a vest and shell when hiking, and add a long sleeve fleece under the shell at the summit or lunch break. I sweat a lot with just the thermal/vest/shell. My hope was to stow the shell in the pack and use the new down jacket instead - i know its a lot warmer than a shell, but was hoping a lot more breathable as well and hence less sweating, but don't know if this is true or not..


      • #4
        In my experience, wool and fleeces are a lot more breathable than down jackets are. Have you considered a soft shell?


        • #5
          I do have an old soft shell. I should probably look into the newer ones. my current version is very heavy.


          • #6
            Originally posted by mga56grg View Post
            ... My hope was to stow the shell in the pack and use the new down jacket instead - i know its a lot warmer than a shell, but was hoping a lot more breathable as well and hence less sweating, but don't know if this is true or not..
            Sweating is your body's attempt to regulate its core temperature through evaporative cooling. However, there are those among us (myself included) who sweat when exerting regardless of cold temperatures. Adding any form of insulation, such as a down vest or jacket, isn't likely to reduce sweating but exacerbate it.

            ​Don't confuse a down jacket's "absorbency" with the property of "breathability"; down can absorb and retain a lot of moisture. In very cold temperatures, your sweat will condense at the "frostline" which will be on the jacket's surface or within the insulation (depending on air-temperature, insulation's R-factor, your level of heat and sweat production, etc). The only way to avoid this is to wear as few layers as possible while exerting in order to minimize the production of sweat and to drive whatever humidity you do produce out to the garment's surface (for evaporation or freezing, depending on ambient air-temperature and humidity).

            ​Although I've done two winter rounds (others here have done many, many more), I've tried to avoid hiking on days when temperatures were in the negative double-digits. Nevertheless, here's me testing my gear at sub-zero temps (windchill -40 F on the summits).

            More pics:

            The left hand photo shows what I wore during the ascent to Porter: one baselayer and a nylon windshell. I spent only about 5 minutes on the summit (more than that and I'd need to add layers). The surface frost is a product of my body's insistence to sweat despite sub-zero temperature and wearing only two layers. In contrast, the right hand pic is me loafing on breezy Cascade for about a half-hour. Exposed to the wind, and expending little energy, I'm bundled up in a box-baffled down jacket.

            ​One last thing: don't underestimate the ability of a simple nylon windshell to keep you comfortable. I usually try to hike wearing just a baselayer (or two) but cooling breezes can make it difficult to maintain comfort. A nylon windshell blocks out breezes but is substantially more "breathable" than even the best "waterproof-breathable" membranes. They also do a decent job of shedding snow which keeps your baselayer drier. FWIW, I still bring a "waterproof-breathable" jacket in case of brutal weather, especially on exposed summits.
            Looking for Views!


            • #7
              Trail Boss, I was under impression that non treated shells are extinct now.
              Where can I find one?

              My no-name wind jacket is 7 years old and I want a new one.


              • #8
                Just search a manufacturer's site for "windshell" or "windproof". OutdoorGearLab reviewed ten jackets and their list provides an overview of what's available:

                I've used a Rab Vapour-Rise Alpine Lite jacket many times (that's what I'm wearing in the left hand photo above). It's like Marmot's DriClime line of clothing, namely two layers where the outer shell is lightweight nylon and the inner lining is microfleece (no thicker than the lightest baselayer fabric you can imagine). It can be worn as a shell or as a mid-layer (under a hardshell) as seen in this photo atop Colden.

                I also have a Marmot Trail Wind Hoody (discontinued) that zips into its own pocket (weighs ~5 oz). I've used it for a few hikes and it works well when conditions are a little breezy and/or there's light rain/drizzle/snow. Both garments are more "breathable" than my eVent hardshell.
                Looking for Views!


                • jkauff73
                  jkauff73 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I have the Eddie Bauer Sandstone jacket (50% off right now). I can't compare to other brands but I've been very happy with it. I only wished I would have been smart enough to bring it along on the Santanoni hike in November. I was too warm (and sweaty) wearing anything other than a base layer and t-shirt. But the trees were wet and it was misty all day. The Sandstone would have been perfect to help keep me dry.

                • Trail Boss
                  Trail Boss commented
                  Editing a comment
                  50% off; good deal!

                  To be clear, "softshell" jackets, like the EB Sandstone, are typically made with beefier materials than what I've described. They're more abrasion-resistant and often use some Spandex to make them stretchy. It's all good but the resulting garment typically weighs twice as much as the windshell I've described (and 3-4 times the volume when you pack it away).

                  The first softshell I bought proved to be insufferably "un-breathable" during any exertion so it's relegated to "around town" use. The second one I bought has been used for bushwhacking where abrasion-resistance is a very desirable quality.

                  For trail-hiking, a lightweight nylon jacket is adequate and stuffs away into the size of a softball (or smaller). Check out OutdoorGearLab's review. The majority of them weigh between 3-6 ounces.

                  Look for sales. I bought my Trail Wind Hoody for $45 a few years ago. The Rab VR jacket was a bit spendier at $125.

              • #9
                I agree with the others. Down jackets are not for hiking, they are for standing around. I have a Mont Bell light jacket which stays in the bottom of my pack for emergencies or long delays (or to help someone else). I even got hot snow blowing the driveway in it.


                • #10
                  I think DWR down is bull****. At some point it'll wear out, get wet, and ruin your trip. My personal belief is that down of any kind should never get wet. I own a Montbell Alpine Light, and it is better than any down coat I've seen.


                  • #11
                    What is a down jacket ?
                    ​I have down sleeping bags.
                    ​down crushes down and looses loft under pack, and still WAY too warm.
                    ​Thin light synthetic such as the Mt. Hardwear thermostatic jacket at under 8 oz for men's small !!! I have found it = a 1lb fleece jacket and was warmer more use full than my super warm monkey fur fleece. I have both the regular jacket and hooded one. I still only wear to warm up in am, on summits, or stops.
                    ​for emergency I have an old school 1lb polar guard puffy 1 size larger to put on over everything.

                    ​SUPER WARM TRICK for over damp / wet thermal and soft shell is a 4 oz golite nylon shell then mountain hardwear monkey fur with a Patagonia 4 oz Houdini nylon shell over all. This is warmer more durable than down
                    ​I also would layer monkey fur directly over damp stuff with shell over all and wear for 15 - 20 min and let monkey fur act as a giant sponge to warm up and absorb moisture.

                    ​Think thin primaloft jackets


                    • #12
                      +1 for the theory of down garments generally being used as an external insulation layer for static activity. Down garments, even ones made with hydrophobic technology, are not made, nor, designed to be used like a fleece midlayer. Hydrophobic down will absorb *some* perspiration when worn close to the body and especially under any sort of shell while actively hiking, climbing or moving for that matter.

                      From personal experience, I think, undoubtably, that hydrophobic down is well worth the investment. I also support that any midlayer should be fleece, an active insulation (Polartec Alpha, FullRange, etc.,) or PrimaLoft. Either should be chosen depending on your level of activity. For example, an ice climber will wear a different midlayer(s) due to the general start/stop nature of climbing. A winter mountain hiker is generally on the move most of the day generating body heat and will not require the amount of insulation designed for stop/start activity in winter.

                      A waffle-grid fleece, like an R1 or similar, or thermal weight Capelene will be some of the better fleece mid layers. Only issue with fleece is you pay a weight penalty and when not in use, they take up more room in your pack vs. anything "puffy." Fleece breathes better than *most* synthetic insulations and any/all down insulated garments.

                      For ice climbing, I switched from an R1 Hoody to Patagonia's Nano-Air Light Hoody, which is the new-breed of active insulations. I haven't felt the need to wear any sort of shell with this piece because it's generally warm enough on its own, it breathes incredibly well and when hit with snow or water from dripping ice, it dries almost immediately. I had this hoody saturated by a dripping, slushy ice route in the Cascade Pass this December and it was bone-dry after the first pitch. It was incredible and I was thoroughly impressed.

                      My thought process: Down jackets should be worn as static insulation over your entire "action suit" when stopped for a break while hiking or during a belay when climbing.