Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tech: Comparing Breathable Fabrics

Anyone who has gone into a reputable outdoors shop looking to purchase a technical hardshell will encounter a mind-boggling world of waterproof ratings, breathability ratings, and too many options.

Even for someone working in the industry, where we are trained on this kind of thing, it is an intense amount of info.

Extremely Brief History (based entirely on what I have been taught):
Gore-tex has been the leader in the waterproof-breathable business since W.L. Gore produced the first membrane way back in the olden days.

...That's it. Seriously, I said it was brief. Anyway the more interesting stuff has happened more recently. (Warning: this may get a little technical...ish)

So as more membranes entered the game from more manufacturers, all claiming outstanding waterproofing and outstanding breathability, some method had to be devised to test these membranes. It was, and it was used to test some membranes. The results of these tests are available, summarized in from Natick Soldier Research (the US army has good reasons to want excellent waterproof-breathables). Yay! They are publically available over the intertubes by searching: "Breathability Comparison of Commercial Outerwear".

It's a pretty comprehensive test that rates pretty much all of the leading membranes in the industry. Some membranes show a humidity-dependent curve, the others (scoring better in general) showed a constant level of breathability across humidity differences. It rates Expanded PTFE as the most breathable, followed by eVent, Schoeller dryskin (softshell), and Entrant GII. My understanding is that Gore-Tex Pro Shell is based around expanded PTFE. The test also tested Gore's XCR and their original membrane, which fared much worse (only reaching moderate breathability levels at the highest humidity difference).

And yet, in real-world tests? The magical internets say, among other things, that eVent is more breathable than Pro-Shell.

So what's the deal? I'd argue that pretty much every membrane out there is going to work, otherwise they wouldn't make it into clothing. Pretty good, that you read this far without a definitive answer eh? Awesome.

Today I was trying to find a more recent test and I came across an OLD paper about a pretty interestingly real-world way to test these fabrics. It simulated rain falling on the fabric as the test occurred, unlike the other tests usually cited by manufacturers. The most intriguing part of the test was the effect that the rain had on the breathability: cooling the air next to the fabric, raising the humidity on the outside, and actually causing vapour to condense on the inside of the fabric! (a common complaint with most membranes).

Very interesting the difference rain makes!

Current Lusts: Patagonia R3 Jacket, Patagonia Speed Ascent Jacket, Cloudveil Koven Plus Jacket

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gear Loft.

My room is a mess. was a mess. well, is a mess.
But it was much worse before. Crash pads on the floor, clothes everywhere, backpacks taking up walking space...just ridiculous. So I'd been trying to figure out some way to get the gear off the floor and above my head for a while. I'd thought of running rope along the ceiling, and hanging things from it, but that ended up looking pretty expensive (rope, cordage, carabiners...) to do it well.

Then the other night I was experimenting with psychotropic drugs and wound up comfortably resting in mid-air in my room, suspended by a magical hammock made of glowing blue silk. (disclaimer: may not have actually happened)

Eureka! a hammock would make the perfect gear-storage-device! They can hold a ton of weight, would definitely reach between my walls, and have plenty of places for clipping carabiners if i wanted to!

So, off to Crappy Tire...2 hours later the gear loft was installed and the room was already much cleaner. EXCELLENT!

This is severely recommended to anyone with things they want to get off the floor. Be advised though, you need to be careful about how you secure the hammock...the last thing you want is for the gear to come crashing down in an awesome outdoor-preparedness-avalanche and crush you to death with irony.

Total cost of materials: Hammock = $15+tax (sale @ CT), Eye-bolts x2 = ~$2.50

Current Lust: Cloudveil FirsTurn Hooded Softshell, Cloudveil Koven Pants

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shoe Demon update: 48 hours later

OK so it's not actually 48 hours's really more like 60 hours later, i think.

This is kinda like a mini-review of the Granger's stuff, but definitely not especially comprehensive. I attacked the demons in 3 pairs of shoes:

FiveTen Jet7's - My main shoe, as I do a lot of bouldering, these work great. Very tight, size 7.5. Smell factor was around 4/10, recently it jumped to 6/10
Evolv Predator's - Had these before the Jet7's, wore them a TON. Quite tight, size 8.5. Smell factor at about 8/10
FiveTen Anasazi Verde's - My 2nd pair of shoes ever, technical lace-ups. When I started bouldering more seriously, I preferred the aggressive velcro of the Predator to the laces of the Anasazi. Tight but comfortable, size 9. Smell factor also at about 8/10 maybe 8.5/10
All the shoes use synthetics in the uppers and inside the shoe.

So, the treatments went like this:

Jet7: Sprayed once over 60 hours, worn once after 48 hours, shoes stored in trunk of car.
Predator: Sprayed 3 times over 60 hours, never worn, shoes stored in basement.
Anasazi Verde: Sprayed 3 times over 60 hours, never worn, shoes stored in basement.

Smell verdicts:
Jet7: Little or no change, still about 6/10. I just sprayed them again so we'll see what's up after another few hours.
Predator: Distinct improvement. 5/10.
Anasazi Verde: most surprising improvement to around 4/10.

All in all the Granger's stuff works pretty well. I'm pleasantly surprised by the Anasazi Verde's result though a little disappointed the smell isn't gone completely. The one caveat I must mention is that I didn't climb in these shoes (with the obvious exception of the Jet7's) while I was treating them. I think this is an important detail that was key to the spray working.

Next up, Nikwax Sandle Wash.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ME vs. Shoe Demons: The battle rages on

12 hours into the battle and the reinforcements I brought in yesterday appear to be weakening the Shoe Demons. Their defenses are strong, though, so I executed a second attack.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shoe Demons

I am a climber. I cram my feet into tiny shoes covered in especially sticky rubber and then try to get on top of boulders, or up a rock face, in usually the hardest way possible.

It's darn fun, but it's also darn hard work. What happens when you work hard? Unless you're Evan Sharp, you sweat. When you're climbing, your feet tend to sweat, a lot. All that sweat crammed into those tiny shoes...well...that can lead to the growth and reproduction of...SHOE DEMONS! And when you remove the shoes, either between climbs or at the end of your night, those demons get released and they go attacking anyone within a 10 foot radius.

Getting rid of the demons is exceedingly difficult. I've washed one pair of shoes numerous times with little success. Plenty of people just live with it and accept that this is how it is with climbing shoes...and I have done that for as long as I have been climbing...

However, today I saw something called G-Max Odour Eliminator made by Granger's. This spray promises to effectively eliminate odour on all footwear. I figured I'd give it a try, as the little bottle was well within the 'try-it-out' price range ($5.50 @ MEC).

I'm excited...all 3 pairs of shoes have been sprayed...shall report back with results!

If this doesn't work, i'm going to try out a magical paste i am concocting of fairy dust and 190 proof grain alcohol...

Current Lust: Patagonia Ranger Smith Waterproof Mid boot - deliciously comfortable, warm, stylish, waterproof.

Review: Arc'teryx Miura 50 Backpack

So I've had the Miura all summer, and I've taken it bouldering, car-camping, hiking, and even used it simply to transport my clothes when visiting my parents.

The bag is marketed as a climbing pack for transporting all your gear to the crag. There are gear loops inside for clipping all manner of business to, and the bottom is shaped to perfectly fit the Arc'teryx rope bag, the Pali. It fits my own, much less cool rope bag too, if i take more care in packing. The main selling feature of the bag is the fact that - by way of two full-length zippers - the front flips open completely to reveal the contents.

OK. The roll-top closure on the bag is different and takes a little getting used to. Once I had it, though, it was great and allowed for a super-fast pack/unpack. The flip-down front was an amazing feature that made organising a breeze because I could access everything I put into the bag at once, no digging required. I absolutely love this feature and would definitely like to see it on other bags. That being said, this bag is more for folders, not so much stuffers. Even with the side zippers done up, the stiff edges of the roll-top make stuffing a little hard.

The nature of the roll-top also means that if you ride a bike with this bag, unless it is a relaxed cruiser bike, the top of the bag will press into your head. If you wear a helmet, definitely don't wear this bag because it'll just be too hard and annoying to properly see the road.
The zippers and not at all waterproof, and although the face fabric is a little water repellant, the bag is definitely not made for rain. The bottom of the main compartment is coated on the inside (probably with polyurethane) for durability and waterproofing...the catch is that if water gets IN, it just pools on the bottom.

The Miura has the outstanding quality of construction you would expect with an Arc'teryx product and excellent attention to detail. The pack is comfortable to wear and an easy-carry for hiking with. I would say that day trips and weekends should be a breeze, and you would love the flip-open feature for these shorter trips. For longer excursions though, or heavier loads, a dedicated trekking/backpacking pack would definitely serve you better.

All-in-all, the Miura is a wicked cragging bag and the 30L version would make a seriously pimp (though pricey) day-to-day bag for doing anything. The flip-down front is a delicious feature that you will definitely come to love. The cons I listed above are mainly due to me using it for things it wasn't really designed for, though the water resistance is something I would still gripe about.

Arc'teryx Miura 50, I give you 8 locking 'biners out of 10.

Tech: Schoeller C-Change

The other day, I decided to check out the Schoeller Textiles website ( to learn more about their fabric tech. At MEC we sell a variety of softshell jackets and pants and many of them use Schoeller fabrics. If I want to advise any members about the stuff, I figure I better know as much as I can about it.

So, on the Schoeller site I saw a link to something called 'c-change'.

-- Let me add, quickly, that I had been describing an idea I had a day earlier to a friend of mine, about how cool it would be if there was some way to create a membrane that would have expanding pores to better channel heat and moisture away from your body when you were exerting yourself the most --

That is exactly what Schoeller claims their c-change membrane does. They stole my future idea in the past! In all seriousness, this is fiercely cool technology. A membrane that has temperature-responsive pores that get bigger when it's hot (better breathability) and smaller when it's cold (better weatherproofing)?! Outstanding. All while maintaining a waterproof barrier.

It seems too good to be true! I haven't been able to find any conclusive reviews on the products that have this tech, but I was able to find some extremely lust-worthy items:

Mammut Jannu Extreme Jacket - absolutely gorgeous, only uses c-change membrane

Canada Goose Tofino Bomber Jacket - Canadian, technical, only uses c-change membrane

Cloudveil Koven Plus Jacket - c-change is used only on parts of the jacket

So...if anyone wants to donate to the "get morgan a c-change jacket fund" please, feel free!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gear Lust.

I have a *serious* case of gear lust. It consumes me. It seems I can't go a day without finding out about some wicked piece of gear that, of course, I definitely need.

It's not that I just want lots of STUFF, lots of posessions...I only genuinely lust for something after I've either tried it or read about it, and it has to have some interesting feature or technology behind it.

I'm not fickle, I just have lots of hobbies and I love doing things! And I love trying new things! And, more often than not, I end up loving the things I why not get the gear when I know it's going to be used and used often!??

That is the introduction to me...I am passionate about adventure, the outdoors, and the gear that goes along.

Through this modern, sophisticated interweb-medium, I'll share my experiences, reviews, lusts, and fun finds...for you to read, if you like!

Current Lust: a gorgeous Patagonia Softshell jacket I saw in Europe Bound a couple days ago