For years I’ve been hearing about how much more breathable eVent is compared to Goretex. As luck would have it, back during my magazine publishing days the samples that floated through the office always ended up covering another editor’s body. Frankly I was perfectly satisfied with my Schoeller jacket for most days since it was clearly more breathable than Gore, and in the sunny Sierra the necessity of allowing sweat to escape is more common than preventing moisture coming in. By virtue of its comparison with Goretex I assumed that even if eVent were more breathable, it would be a marginal improvement.
You can drop that myth in the round file.
|Dostie rings out the Shuksan shell jacket at Mammoth, CA, spring 2008. Photo by Mitch Weber.
During a spring backcountry skiing trip to Alaska’s Chugach range the weather was unsettled. A combination of wet snow and fog required both waterproofness from outside precip and superb breathability. Yep, saunas are fun back at the lodge, but not inside your jacket. It seemed like a perfect torture test for the Shuksan shell, made by R.E.I. with eVent.
Perspiration flowed as expected while I skinned up south Odyssey at Thompson Pass, but I was never drenched in sweat as I normally would have been with Goretex. What is more, the Shuksan jacket is without pit zips, a vestigial feature with something like Schoeller fabric, and I would say the same for eVent. I won’t claim it vented as well as a Schoeller soft shell, but it was close. Nor was it like my undershirt didn’t get wet with sweat. It’s a matter of degree. Wet is noticeably different than drenched and I was the former, not the latter.
The construction of REI’s Shuksan is fully up to snuff with other mountaineering shells. Zippers are the waterproof variety, well placed, but typically difficult to move. You can’t just yank on ’em without holding some material to pull against. Napoleon style zippers are mid-chest, with angled zippers on either size. The left pocket has a separate sneaky pocket for an MP3 player along with a slot to feed your headphone wires up to your head inside the jacket. The Napoleon pockets are big enough for stuffing small climbing skins in, but not the more common, shaped and fat, variety. A better place for them would be the mesh lined stuff pockets adorning the inside, also ideal for stashing snacks or a small drink bottle.
Velcro cinch straps around the wrists worked beautifully. Unique to this jacket is a sleeve that is longer on top than the bottom, giving a bit more protection to the back of your hand from wind or rain. A subtle change from the norm, but a noticeable improvement.
The hood comes with a brim for keep precip out of your eyes, with elastic draw cords on either side and around the back to snug it up to your noggin. These required a bit of fussing to get adjusted right, so I would advise you deal with this at home, not on a ridge in gale force winds. You’ll also be pleasantly surprised at the noticeably light weight of the Shuksan.
Lou asked me to balance out my review with some crit, but I rebelled. Except for perhaps making those Napoleon pockets a bit larger, I can’t come up with any negatives. Thus, if you are looking for a new shell that does new math with the waterproof/breathable equation, and is designed with ski mountaineering functionality in mind, you won’t go wrong with the REI Shuksan.
(Guest blogger Craig Dostie coined the “earn your turns” mantra and founded Couloir and Telemark Skier magazines to promote ski mountaineering and backcountry skiing. He currently spends time tinkering on the Dostinator, a do-everything backcountry binding that weighs 10 pounds per pair (training weight), and developing a lightweight, pinpoint electromagnetic pulse gun to selectively nuke the electronics controlling ATV’s, snowmobiles, or any other motorized vehicle that crosses his path.)
Craig Dostie is well known in the backcountry skiing world as founder and publisher of Couloir Magazine (1990-2007), the publication that led the way in making it legal for mainstream ski magazines to cover subjects other than resort lodging and how-to-snowplow tips. Along the way he coined and promoted the phrase “earn your turns.”