REI Shuksan Shell Jacket

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

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.

Backcountry skiing clothing.
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.

Shop for REI Shuksan shell jacket.

(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.)

Comments

21 Responses to “REI Shuksan Shell Jacket”

  1. jerimy July 22nd, 2008 1:44 pm

    When Dostie refers to Goretex, is he referring to the old XCR stuff or the new ProShell? I have no experience with either eVent or ProShell, but am in the market for a new hardshell and would like to know how ProShell compares to eVent.

  2. Dostie July 22nd, 2008 1:58 pm

    jerimy,

    Can’t say for sure on the version of Goretex I’m comparing against, seems they come out with a new version every two years or so and I don’t keep track of the myriad names. My basis of reference is a one year old Arcteryx jacket AND a four year old Marmot jacket. Both were used extensively throughout this last season for blowing snow from my driveway. In that scenario, I eventually get pretty soggy. Received the REI jacket AFTER the storm season so I can’t compare that directly, only the noticeably reduced build up of sweat between eVent VS Goretex when skinning for freshies.

    In the long term I suspect the most important difference will be how well each (eVent VS Goretex) sheds incoming water since a “hard” shell is typically better for shielding outside moisture, and “soft” shells are better for venting internal moisture. Don’t know the outcome of that at this point. It will be interesting to compare down the road.

  3. Matt July 23rd, 2008 4:45 am

    Jerimy,
    My experieince with Gore ProShell is that it definitely breaths better than previous incarnations. I’ve however have never used eVent, so I can’t give you a apples to apples comparison.

  4. Paul S. July 23rd, 2008 5:56 am

    I started working at a shop recently, so I’m still learning the company line. What they _tell_ me, is that eVent is similar to original GoreTex without the lining. This causes it to breathe much better, but without the lining, it can pick up oils and chemicals from your body, your other clothes, and the surrounding environment. The eVent supposedly loses waterproofness much more quickly than any of the Gore products due to this.

    Anyone have experience with eVent shell wear times? I know it’s been more popular in Europe for a while.

    Thanks,
    Paul

  5. Stephen July 23rd, 2008 7:27 am

    Paul S. –
    Congrats on getting a job at a shop! I’ve worked in outdoor retail for 12 years and trust me, it takes some effort to wade through the company line B.S. and you will do your customers a service by teaching them the facts, not selling the spin.

    All WB fabrics will pick up oil, dirt, etc., but this has no effect on the waterproofness of the fabric, only the breathability. Think of WB fabrics (and coatings for that matter) as sheets of porous material stretched to the point that tiny little holes are created. Water vapor (perspiration in gas form) is a small enough molecule that it can pass through the little cone from the inside out, but rain (water in liquid form) is a bigger molecule and cannot pass from the outside in.

    (not entirely sure on this, so please feel free to correct me)
    When W.L. Gore released Gore-Tex XCR, it stated that XCR was 13% more breathable than classic Gore-Tex. This is because the fabric was stretched further and the holes became bigger, but not so big as to allow liquid water in.

  6. Lou July 23rd, 2008 8:08 am

    Thanks all for the comments about WB fabrics, indeed an ongoing issue that’s good to track.

    I’d agree that the newer WB fabrics are way better, but in our relatively dry climate here in Colorado they still stay in my pack most of the time during any uphill because they’re too uncomfortable to wear unless it’s really storming. Thus, my main goal has been to find shells that work well as backup for a soft shell. The unlined lightweights work well for that.

  7. Jens July 23rd, 2008 10:24 am

    I have had a Helly Hansen jacket with eVent for almost four years now. I have loved it. I’m usually the type of person who wants to buy a new jacket every few years, but this one I’m holding on to until it’s in threads. In response to the waterproofness over time, etc. I personally haven’t had a problem with it. Obviously, I’m sure it has lost some of it’s waterproofness, but not enough for me to think about replacing it yet. It’s still going strong. When (or IF) my Helly Hansen succumbs to old age, I will be looking for a eVent jacket.

  8. Clyde July 25th, 2008 3:55 pm

    I’ve tried pretty much every generation of Goretex since 1978 (yes, oils did make it leak back then and we had to seal the seams). I also have a nicely designed Westcomb eVent shell. Hands down, the Proshells I’ve tried are better performers than anything (so far) for comfort. But the mistake that everybody continues to make is lump all ProShell together (and XCR before that, and the Paclite before that, and…). Can’t be done. You have to consider the face fabric, DWR, and garment design since they are each as important as the membrane. I’m sure there are some poorly-designed ProShells that don’t work very well (even if they cost more) just as there as some well-designed other fabric shells that work pretty good. After all the internet hype (and tradeshow science demos), I was expecting the eVent to be as superior to XCR as that was to all the wannabes (membrain, hellytech, etc). My eVent shell is only so-so in my experience but perhaps the REI is a better design. The lining material of 3-ply Proshell is certainly nicer next to the skin than anything else so that’s what I prefer in the summer months with a t-shirt.

  9. Lou July 25th, 2008 4:52 pm

    I’d agree with Clyde that the design of these things makes a big difference. For example, I’ve found that some front pockets help so much with venting they make the jacket feel much better than others with less vent action. Stuff like that.

    Dostie is super experienced with using hard shells, years of skiing… so I trust his take. But how much of the performance is the eVent rather than fit, venting, and even weather conditions? Would need more testing I’d think.

  10. Scott B July 28th, 2008 10:50 am

    Luckily, there is an objective measurment that can be made which will definatively tell us which fabric is more breathable. I’m sure the test result data is available too, but I’m not worried. I haven’t even carried a dedicated harshell into the backcountry during winter, early sping, or late fall in three years.

    I only carry one if I expect heavy rain, which just makes me turn around anyway. And I always get a little wet when it is that humid.

    I do wear a heavy hardshell for lift served. It isn’t very breathable, but huge vents and 30mph downhill make the breathability of the fabric much less important.

  11. Lou July 28th, 2008 11:41 am

    Yeah, I remember when I’d instruct a whole NOLS course and all I’d wear would be my wool shirt, rain or shine. Modern soft shells work the same way, frequently better (unless you’re tending a fire).

  12. Eric Thompson October 21st, 2008 12:08 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi0DaHQ5ro4&feature=related

    Follow the above link to see the eVent bubble demo. I have a new eVent Shusksan Shell and it stomps a mud hole in my old Goretex Shell as far as breathability goes. GE developed this stuff and they are the largest corporation on the planet. It will take time to shake Gores market dominance; but if any corp have the pockets and time to do that, GE does. It’s funny because I have a few friends that won’t even turn their heads from G-tex to take a look. People will stick with brands and brand names and it will take time for the sheep to come over, but I will be enjoying the next level in Shells now….

  13. Jesse September 19th, 2009 1:25 pm

    Guess I’m about a year late with this one, but what the hey:

    http://www.shelby.fi/tips/breathability.pdf

    Here’s a link (PDF) to a study done on breathable waterproof fabrics done by the US army. It shows eVent to be the most breathable of the fabrics tested, blowing Gore-Tex classic and XCR out of the water in both vapor diffusion resistance and water vapor flux (how much water per day can pass out through the membrane). It even ekes ahead of the Schoeller Dryskin extreme in diffusion resistance, though the Schoeller does slightly outperform it in total vapor flux (it is a softshell, after all).

    The expanded PTFE (the overall highest performer) is used as a basis of comparison because its performance is the holy grail of waterproof breathability, and it’s the basis for almost all waterproof breathables though it’s not a fabric per se. The problem is that it can’t be used on its own because skin oils, the salt in sweat, etc. all render it no longer waterproof, so some breathability has to be sacrificed in order to protect it from those factors.

    Can’t find any studies comparing durability, but I’ll keep looking.

    Hope this helps,
    -j

  14. Joss Smith October 31st, 2009 12:47 am

    So I too am in the market for a new shell, and the REI shuksan is at the top of my list thus far. I own a Loki Myth softshell with eVent for snowboarding, but i want a hardshell that is lightweight enough for alpine backpacking and such. Most of the comparisons that I have read say eVent is better than Gore-Tex XCR, but is Proshell really the top of the line? Can anyone give me some advice?

  15. Lou October 31st, 2009 7:37 am

    Clyde?

  16. Clyde November 1st, 2009 9:15 am

    I’d still give the nod to Proshell for best available hard shells. The woven backing is far superior to tricot-backed or unbacked fabric packages, particularly in the context of a functional clothing system. No doubt, the higher-end products from the likes of Arcteryx, Marmot, and Mammut are pricey but I think they are a better value in the long run considering performance and durability. As said earlier, not all Proshell fabric packages are the same so you have to be careful about making apples to apples comparisons and look carefully at cut and features as well (Arcteryx has lousy hoods for example).

    It gets even more complicated now because eVent no longer exists as a brand name. Instead GE is licensing their laminate to each manufacturer so they can call it what they want and use it however they like. So if you think things are confusing now, wait till next year! At least with Gore, there is a modicum of consistency on naming and testing (could be better but still leads the industry).

  17. Seth the sweater February 2nd, 2010 8:48 pm

    So I recently got the Shuksan and must say it works better than anything else I have tried. After skinning to the top of a mountain recently in VT I was so wet in my North Face Mountain Light shell water was dripping from the inside of my shell down my pants. I thought my water bottle in my pack had sprung a leak.

    I did a test recently running for 1 hour in all my respective shells in the same weather (different days) with the same layers underneath. Here is how they all did:

    -North Face Mountain Light (Gore Tex)-shirt mostly soaked, shell partially soak and saturated

    -Columbia Titanium soft shell- completely soaked shirt, partially soaked and saturated shell

    -Marmot Precip Shell- shirt mostly soaked, shell dripping with condensation but not saturated like the other two

    REI eVent Shuksan- lower front of shirt damp, top front dry, upper back of shirt very damp, shell damp in upper back but the rest of it was mostly dry to slightly damp

    In summary the only thing I own that is better at breathing is my cycling shell and running jacket. Neither is waterproof or windproof and both are one layer design. They obviously both breathe better but not significantly which is impressive considering.

  18. Scott February 6th, 2010 10:31 pm

    I was wondering how HyVent Alpha compares in all this. I was looking to get the TNF Heathen or Lightspeed but wondered what the real difference in the fabrics were. Are they similarly waterproof and durable? Sorry this has absolutely nothing to do with eVent.

  19. Jim June 7th, 2010 9:31 pm

    I spent a week biking Tibet in an Integral Design eVent jacket and pants and will testify that they work much better than Goretex. The rain pants kept pouring rain out for hours, let zero water in, no condensation even while biking, and dried in minutes and were comfortable enough to wear all evening after with no clamminess. The jacket is light, totally waterproof in constant hours of hard rain, and cycling, yet breaths almost better than my Cloudveil light softshell. Really mind boggling. I’ve used all the evolutions of gortex since it was first developed up to the latest. I won’t go back.

  20. Jon Moceri June 8th, 2010 12:22 am

    I bought an Integral Designs Event jacket several years ago. I was amazed at it’s waterproofness and breathability. However, after several years of use, it lost its waterproofness despite washing with Nikwax Tech Wash and then treating with Nikwax Direct Wash-in water repellent.

    My sister had the same problem with her Event jacket, so mine wasn’t an isolated problem.

    I still love the jacket and use it for skiing all season. Just not on the rainy days.

  21. doug February 20th, 2011 10:52 pm

    i just ordered a shuksan and then read the reviews on rei site. they both said it’s not waterproof at all. i called rei a few hours later and they said too late, they might be able to stop shipment in the morning. if they don’t i will receive it and am trying to decide now whether to refuse it or give it a try.i was excited about event fabric but maybe it’s just hype?

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