Monday, March 5, 2012

Lightweight Midlayers: My Favorites

I love gear that impresses me the first time I try it on or use it, and then continues to impress me for the life of the product.  The following jackets are that type of piece:

Marmot Driclime Windshirt-  This jacket has been my most-worn piece of clothing over the last 9 years that I have owned one.  It used to accompany me on almost any trip, summer or winter.  Now, it usually goes with me on late spring, summer, and early fall trips, but I have phased it out of my winter system.  The only complaint I have had about this jacket is that it didn't come in a hooded version.  Marmot fixed that with the Ether Driclime Jacket ($110).  Can't wait to get my hands on one of those!

This is my original Driclime Windshirt.  It's 9 years old and I still wear it often.  It has one napoleon chest pocket.  This one is still my favorite.  Size Medium.

This is my newer Driclime, now about 2 years old.  This is a size large.  Same length as the medium though baggier in the torse and longer in the sleeves.  Not sure if they changed the liner fabric or not, but the liner in my old one is a bit softer than the new one.  I thought that may due to more use, but the newer one has been used a ton in the last couple years and the liner feels the same as when it was new.  I still love this jacket!

This is the Ether Driclime Jacket.  Same jacket essentially as the windshirt, just with a hood and handwarmer pockets.  My life is now a bit closer to complete. 

Struggling to get into the Cirque of the Towers before the mosquitoes do.  Windshirt kept me warm when the wind blew and I didn't overheat when the temperature rose.

NWAlpine Black Spider Light Hoody($90):  Though I haven't had it as long as many other jackets, it has quickly become one of my very favorites.  Initially I thought that NWAlpine had simply copied the R1 Hoody from Patagonia and then were selling it at a cheaper price.  However, as soon as I got my hands on one, I realized that it is a lighter, thinner material and the opening of the hood is a little bigger.  I love the R1, as do most people, but I think this is a more versatile piece.  When Phil and I went climbing a couple days ago, I wore my NWA, he wore his R1.  I was comfortable the whole time, he overheated a little bit.  I'm not saying the NWA Hoody is better than the R1, but the lighter fabric means that it is more versatile in slightly warmer temperatures.  The larger opening in the hood means that the hood fits under your chin instead of over it, like the R1.  I find this works a little better with a helmet strap because you can still zip it up or down without unbuckling the helmet.  The R1 hood is warmer though.

Other features that I love are the thumb-hole cuffs and a deep zipper for venting that also zips up to the side of the chin for comfort.   

There are only two complaints I have with this jacket, and they are very minor.  I wish the hood came down a little lower on the forehead, and I wish the cuffs were a little tighter and thumb holes a little bigger.  Other than that, the jacket is great.  Well worth $90.

Long in the torse and sleeves.  One zip chest pocket.  Hood fits under chin which allows for easy zipping up or down with a helmet on.

Deep zip is very efficient at dumping heat.

Cuffs could be tighter, thumbhole is kinda small
Even though I wear this hoody on almost every outing, this is one of the few pictures I have of it in action.  It is usually layered under another jacket.

There is a new jacket on the market that I predict will be fairly popular among the fast and light crowd.  This jacket is the OR Centrifuge Jacket.  Though I haven't yet had the chance to use it much myself, my brother-in-law has and loves it.  I think it will offer much of the benefits of the NWA Hoody, with some of the wind-resistance of the Driclime Windshirt.

The light blue color in this picture is a non-insulated wind-resistant fabric that is not stretchy.  The dark blue under the arms, on the back and the chin are a light, grid-fleece fabric.  This grid fleece about half the thickness of an R1 and about the same thickness as the NWA Hoody.  Two handwarmer pockets and one chest pocket and thumbloops round out the features. 

Tyson here is about 6' tall and weighs about 160lbs.  The medium fits him quite nicely.  I am 6'2" and 185lbs and it was too small on me.  I would need a large.

Anyway, there are a lot of great offerings out there.  I doubt you can go wrong with any of these jackets.  Heck, if you have the money, you'd probably be happy owning all three.

The Verdict

5 out of 5 stars on the Marmot Driclime Windshirt and the NWA Black Spider Light Hoody.  The fact that the post is titled "My Favorites" should have given that one away.  But the reason why I decided to write a post about these two jackets in particular is because these jackets continue to impress me, even after years of use.  Either of these jackets are well worth the money, in my opinion.


  1. Hi,
    I also love the DriClime Windshirt; but you should check out the Rab Alpine Jacket! It replaces my DriClime Windshirt now and the hood really fits over a helmet. Also Rab got the Boreas Pull On, which looks like to be nearly the same product as the OR Centrifuge.
    best regards form austria

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. The Alpine Jacket is one that I have been eyeing for a while. I haven't had the chance to use Pertex Equilibrium and I'm curious to see how it works. From your experience, how does it compare to driclime? From what I understand, it breathes extremely well, is quite weather-resistant (more so than Marmot windshirt), and dries quickly. The only place that I think the Driclime windshirt/Jacket may have the advantage is as an insulating midlayer under a shell. Maybe a little warmer than equilibrium? Thoughts?
    The Boreas is a really lightweight softshell fabric throughout the whole body, the centrifuge has a wind-resistant, water-resistant material on the front and hood, but a super breatheable lightweight grid-fleece back and under arms. I'd favor the Centrifuge for high-octane/moving really fast activities in cold and bad weather (trail running, fast approaches, etc) and the Boreas for more moderate-exertion activities like hiking, backpacking, long multi-pitch days on rock, etc. Any thoughts from people who have used both?
    Thanks for the comment Karl!

  3. The Pertex Equilibrium is a little bit thinner but as it has a hood, the overall warmth level is quite the same as my marmot windshirt. In most instances it matches up with the DriClime material i think. But you are right as an insulating midlayer the Windshirt is what i would use too, because i don't like the fact of all the hoods getting in each others way..
    I haven't used the Boreas myself, just thought that it would be quite the same. But for the Rab Alpine Jacket just rocks i don't see any place i would use the Boreas instead.

  4. Any thoughts on the practical applications of the Ether vs the ArcTeryx Acto? I'm very happy with the Marmot windshirt I've owned for years, and have been considering the Ether. I imagine that what I'd be using it for would be mostly the same intended uses as the Acto, which I've also been considering since your review. The Acto seems like it would have the advantage if you were scumming up some chimney (the outer material of the windshirt is quite thin and would seem relatively delicate), but other than that, the wind resistance, very light insulation, excellent breathability and moisture management seem to be roughly the same for both garments. Of course, the cost is significantly different...

  5. Either of the jackets would be a great option, in my opinion, but the Acto would be more durable (as you suggested) and also more water resistant. I have been in some pretty nasty weather with the Acto and it stays dry much longer than any of my driclime windshirts ever have. The Ether would have the advantage of being more wind resistant and lighter weight. The jackets themselves both dry very quickly and breathe extremely well, but the Acto does let a little wind through (roughly 10%) which helps to dry the climber/hiker faster, but also can be a little chilly in sustained cold winds. If you're looking for a good climbing shell that can replace a waterproof shell in most instances, I would choose the Acto. If you would still be taking a light waterproof shell and it would mostly we used in drier weather, the Ether may be the better option. Hope this helps.

  6. Greg, you should totally check out the Marmot Atomic. They released it this spring, and it's the exact same thing as the DriClime windshirt, but it uses stretchy Pertex Quantum on the outside, and is more athletically fitted. I'm in love.

  7. Yeah, I've looked a bit at that jacket. Looks super sweet! I've never cared much that my driclime isn't stretchy, but I could see it being really nice for climbing. The main thing I'd like is a driclime-like jacket with a hood that is slightly more water resistant than the original driclime. I think the Rab Vapour Rise Alpine looks like a good option.

  8. Thanks for sharing about your favourites. Your post can be really helpful for those who are looking for the jackets that can match with their needs and preferences. Cheers!