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Breathe in, breathe out: Hardshells focus on battling sweat generated by high-energy pursuits

At Winter Market, brands kept chipping away at the breathable side of the puzzle, aiming to keep customers dry on the inside without sacrificing protection on the outside in hardshells. SNEWS recaps the new products and trends in the category we encountered at the show.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Waterproof-breathable is a term thrown around loosely in the outdoor industry.

Sure, most hardshells protect from the elements, but many users still get soaked by sweat due to a lack of breathability.

At Winter Market, brands kept chipping away at the breathable side of the puzzle, aiming to keep customers dry on the inside without sacrificing protection on the outside.

“Fall ’13 is about thermo-regulation.” said Lynette Steiger, divisional merchandise manager of winter sports and trail for Columbia Sportswear. “We’re keeping wearers cool and dry when they’re going after that anaerobic state.”

By altering textile blends, utilizing ultra-breathable waterproof/breathable membranes from Gore-Tex and Polartec and creating proprietary membranes to undercut bigger-name players, companies are aiming to keep wearers dry from every angle.

Touting its combination of breathability, stretch and waterproof performance, Millet introduces Polartec’s NeoShell to its backcountry ski collection with the Touring Neo Jacket (MSRP $450). Following its debut at Winter Market 2011, Neoshell is gaining ground thanks to its breathability performance. For 2013, you’ll see it in Brooks-Range’s tricot-lined Armor Jacket (MSRP N/A) and Rab’s lightweight (20 ounces for the men’s large) Wasatch backcountry ski jacket (MSRP $425). Mountain Equipment adds Neoshell to several pieces in its line, boosting breathability for fast, high-output ski touring pursuits in items products like the lightweight Arclight jacket (MSRP N/A), available in men’s and women versions.

Millet Touring Neo

Gore debuts a new version of its top-of-the-line waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex Pro membrane, said not only to be more breathable than the company’s current Gore-Tex Pro membrane, but also the more rugged. The company claims 28 percent more breathability with the same level of waterproof protection thanks to a new patent-pending, 100 percent ePTFE-based multilayer membrane system.

Patagonia puts the updated Gore-Tex Pro to work in its big-mountain offering, the Super Alpine Jacket (MSRP $599), and Arc’teryx features it in its Caden (MSRP $650) big mountain jacket. Outdoor Research redesigns its Maximus Jacket (MSRP $495) with the new Gore-Tex Pro, protected by a tough 70-denier shell, while providing stretch Gore-Tex panels in key areas for mobility.

Patagonia Super Alpine

Outdoor Research Maximus

Other manufacturers look inward, as their product developers design waterproof, breathable membranes of their own. Designed to work as both a shell and a snowsports jacket, Marmot’s Big Mountain Jacket (MSRP $385) uses the company’s in-house MemBrain FusionDri technology to keep wearers dry. The fabric is said to be extremely waterproof and breathable (50,000mm), but available at a lower price point than rivals. Bergans of Norway’s Hodlekve freeride jacket (MSRP $499) is made of its proprietary three-layer Dermizax NX, a waterproof-breathable membrane with four-way stretch. In a similar vein, Canada Goose launches its new technical shell line, including the Ridge Shell (MSRP $650), with its TriDurance HS waterproof-breathable fabric with four-way stretch.

Marmot Big Mountain

Bergans of Norway Hodlekve

Canada Goose Ridge Shell

Black Diamond focuses on stretch for active users as the climbing and ski brand makes its first foray into apparel with a collection of outerwear, including the Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell (MSRP $349), which employs a Schoeller StretchWoven nylon shell with a body-mapped, three-layer waterproof laminate and tricot backer.

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid Shell

New materials aren’t the only way that manufacturers are making their shells stand out. There are also some design innovations catching our eyes on the Winter Market show floor.

The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Advanced shell (MSRP $550) ups its breathability quotient with the new Gore-Tex Pro and is designed to combine the feel of an active shell with the durability of a storm shell at cold, windy, high-altitude conditions. In the interest of providing full protection against the elements, the Terrex Advanced includes a moldable facemask that pre-warms inhaled air to keep the face comfortable and tucks away when not in use. 

Adidas Terrex Advanced

Columbia’s Triple Trail III Shell (MSRP $325) serves the dual purpose of waterproofing and venting by incorporating a Frankenstein mix of several of Columbia’s in-house technologies in one jacket. Omni-Tech, Columbia’s waterproof/breathable membrane, sealed seams and waterproof zippers keep rain out, while breathable Omni-Wick EVAP material in the armpits and back panels and two-way pit zips vent excess heat and moisture. And, since this is a winter shell, the interior is lined with Omni-Heat reflective insulation.

Columbia Triple Trail III

Quiksilver adds a season to its lineup, debuting its winter technical apparel line, which features a functional and fashionable mix of Gore-Tex and denim, and innovations such as a hidden hydration reservoir pocket in pieces like the Animal Jacket (MSRP $150).

“We want people to be comfortable,” said Mike Nusenow, vice president and general manager of Quiksilver’s Mountain Division, “whether they’re riding their bike to work or taking the wife to dinner in the city.”

Quiksilver Animal

–Billy Brown