Learning Curve

Aug 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

IN THE STORE If you're into bushwhacking, look for a shell with abrasion-resistant rubber or silica bonded to the elbows, shoulders, and cuffs instead of old-school reinforced-fabric patches. You'll also want welded seams rather than heavier—and more leak-prone—stitched-and-taped panels. Once-baggy storm shells are finally catching a contact high from the stylish new soft shells. Choose a waterproof piece with a more flattering, fitted cut—there's less fabric to flap around, air won't sneak up around your core, and in a pinch you can wear it to happy hour.

IN THE FIELD Sit around the campfire in your shell and you'll be risking more than just molten-marshmallow stains; smoke can clog the fabric's pores, compromising a jacket's breathability. Your jacket's durable water-repellent (DWR) coating will eventually need a jump start: Washing with a mild powder detergent and ironing—steam on a warm setting—will restore its effectiveness. You can redistribute a jacket's DWR coating by tossing it in a warm dryer. Skip the Bounce, though: Fabric softeners can undermine water repellency.

IN THE FUTURE Following in the footsteps of W. L. Gore—which cut all toxic chemicals from its production lines back in the eighties—Patagonia will release the Eco Storm this fall. This waterproof shell will be made of 100 percent post-consumer polyester, with a solvent-free waterproof finish: the first fully nontoxic recycled jacket on the market—and, we hope, not the last.

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