Tahoe Mountain Sports, in partnership with Diamond Peak Ski Resort and Dynafit, are proud to announce the 2014 Backcountry Experience. This guided backcountry tour will explore terrain in Diamond Peak’s Golden Eagle Bowl. Open to intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, the Backcountry Experience Series is designed to provide a safe and welcoming introduction to backcountry skiing and boarding.
Never used backcountry equipment before? This is your opportunity to try out Dynafit touring gear before purchasing. Want to learn about avalanche hazards and techniques for avoiding them? Interested in learning the most efficient uphill skinning methods? Or, perhaps you simply want to meet new people and enjoy unskied terrain in a fun, controlled environment. A Backcountry Experience tour in Diamond Peak’s secluded Eagle Bowl is a great way to earn your turns and experience Diamond Peak in a whole new way.
Feb 22, 2014 Tour: 9am-1pm – $90
*$90 tour package includes a partial-day lift ticket, full Dynafit backcountry ski equipment rental and professional guiding services.
Any changes made due to winter weather will be announced within 24 hours of tour departure.
Your guide, Brennan Lagasse, has been skiing since he was two and has spent many years traveling and guiding ski expeditions world-wide. Brennan has training in Crevasse Rescue and Glacier Travel, along with Wilderness First Responder and AIARE Level I & II certifications.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort is located in Incline Village, Nevada on the scenic north shore of Lake Tahoe with amazing views of world famous Lake Tahoe. Diamond Peak offers skiers and boarders 30 runs and a 1,840-foot vertical drop with beginner to advanced terrain. Connect with Diamond Peak on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, visit www.diamondpeak.com or call (775) 832-1177.
For the remainder of the 2013/14 winter season, you can rent snowshoes in Kings Beach for FREE on Wednesdays!
Tahoe Mountain Sports has the best snowshoes for trail hiking and backcountry travel in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to Tahoe in the winter or you’re a seasoned Tahoe local, you should try renting snowshoes. Nothing compares to the tranquility felt when surrounded by a magical winter wonderland. Snow absorbs sound, so the woods are wonderfully quiet and peaceful on a nice winter day. When it’s snowing, wander into the trees for shelter from the storm. To spend time enjoying the huge winter playground that is our Tahoe backyard is an experience that will live inside you forever. I highly recommend getting out in the snow and wandering around a bit. It’s good for you! As Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.”
Free snowshoe rentals come with ski/trek poles to simplify walking through snow. However, we also rent backcountry ski equipment, so please try to understand if we have overlapping business and there are not enough poles for every hiker in your party. Poles can help, but are not mandatory.
MSR snowshoes at the TMS tent during National Winter Trails Day, Mt. Rose Meadows, Nevada
Between February 1 and 14, you can win brand new winter gear by simply entering your e-mail address!
Just visit this link - http://woobox.com/ear9sj - and enter your e-mail address to win a pair of Smith I/O Goggles ($175) or a Smith Vantage Helmet ($220)! I/O Goggles have a Black frame with Green Sol-X Mirror Lens and a Free Bonus Red Sensor Mirror Lens; Vantage Helmet size = Medium, color = Matte Gunmetal.
Two random winners will be be selected at random! Winners will be contacted via email on February 15. One winner will receive a brand new Vantage helmet, our favorite Smith snow helmet, and the other winner will get a pair of I/O Goggles, the industry standard for snow goggles with interchangeable lenses.
Don’t need new gear yourself? Give the gift of safety, comfort and top-performance! Either of these items would make a great birthday present, or just a sweet gesture for someone you care for.
Don’t worry…we won’t overload your inbox. We’ll only contact you if you WIN, or to send you cool updates about the outdoor industry and let you know when we’re having huge sales on outdoor gear and clothing.
Sweepstakes runs February 1 – 14, 2014. Only one entry per user. Must be 18 years or older. Winner pays shipping outside continental U.S.
Part 3 – Feb. 6 – Read, Interpret, Decide – Analyzing Avalanche Reports with the Sierra Avalanche Center
As the third and final installment of our three-part 2014 TMS Avalanche Education Series, representatives from Sierra Avalanche Center, a Lake Tahoe Region non-profit dedicated to providing a free daily avalanche advisory for the central Sierra Nevada, will lead an extremely useful presentation about how to properly read and interpret the avalanche report.
Participants will have the opportunity to discuss technical and situational issues that arise in the field to create a good platform for safe decision making in the backcountry. There will be a HUGE raffle at this event and everybody is sure to walk away with something. All raffle proceeds and a portion of sales from this evening will benefit Sierra Avalanche Center.
This event is FREE and open to the public. Come get some free tips to help properly read and interpret the avalanche and snow conditions reports in order to make better decisions and keep safe in the backcountry!
This event will take place between two different locations: Tahoe Mountain Sports (8331 North Lake Blvd, Kings Beach, CA 96143) and across the street at the North Tahoe Event Center (8318 N. Lake Blvd)
In case you can’t make the full event or just want to stop by for part of it, here’s the event schedule:
5:00 – 6:00 – Reception with S.A.C. and Backcountry Gear Specials at Tahoe Mountain Sports 6:00-7:15 – Formal Presentation with Sierra Avalanche Center at North Tahoe Event Center (NTEC) 7:15 – 8:00 MEGA Raffle to benefit Sierra Avalanche Center (at NTEC)
Many backcountry enthusiasts came to Tahoe Mountain Sports on November 20 to learn the basics of beacon use and brush up on their avalanche expertise and transceiver techniques. Experienced mountain guide and Level 3 AIARE instructor Tom Carter, and Ortovox Rep Jared Rodriguez, were present to lead a discussion about the basics of companion rescue gear and techniques. Tom also led a hands-on lesson on how to properly and efficiently use your avalanche transceiver. Participants brought their own avalanche gear to practice with, and others demo’d some of the newest Ortovox models.
Part 2 – Dec. 20 – Avalanche Airbag Party Sponsored by ABS featuring Pro Skier Elyse Saugstad
As the second of our three-part 2014 TMS Avalanche Education Series, we filled a large room at the North Tahoe Event Center with a bunch of Tahoe backcountry enthusiasts for a free, community-oriented, fun night. Elyse Saugstad, a professional skier and airbag backpack advocate who was saved by her pack in a large avalanche near Stevens Pass, WA (Tunnel Creek, 2012), and ABS backpacks Rep John Clausen were on-site to lead a technical discussion about avalanche airbag backpacks, how they work, survival rates and statistics, personal accounts and learning experiences from the field.
Lake Tahoe is usually a snowy paradise featuring spectacular resorts filled with fun adventures for the entire family. With between 300 to 500 inches of snow in many years, this family-friendly ski destination is always ready to be enjoyed all season long. As California’s premier ski destination, there is no shortage of stunning scenery and world class resorts ready to welcome your family and their love for snow sports. However, it is important to remember that while most resorts welcome kids and offer skiing for children, there are some that are able to cater to specific needs better than others. To help ensure that your family enjoys a memorable vacation in the mountains, we’re highlighting some of Tahoe’s favorite family ski resorts.
Resorts for Families with Younger Children
If you can’t wait to get your little one on skis for the very first time, a number of the Tahoe ski resorts offer schools for the tiniest of tots. Squaw Valley Resort features a program that can teach kids as young as three. Each child learns on the flats and is in a class that has 3 students for every teacher. As learning can be tiring, it is recommend to only enroll your child for a half-day and then place them into daycare for the rest of the day while you enjoy personal time on the slopes. When it comes to daycare, it’s hard to beat Minor’s Camp at Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort. Not all resorts offer on-site child care in Tahoe and Northstar’s Minor’s Camp accepts children between the ages of 2 and 6. The facility is licensed by the state and boasts a ratio of 1 adult to every 5 children. There are plenty of activities for the children and the best part is that parents can get a free adult lift ticket when they book their child for an entire day. In addition to Northstar, the Child Ski Center at Diamond Peak Ski Resort teaches kids between 3 and 7, also at a ratio of 5 kids to each instructor, and their separate learning area with a surface lift is a great place to learn.They’ll also have access to activities only available in the Child Ski Center, like tubing, sledding, crafts and fun games. If your children are younger than 2, the only childcare available is at Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, which will accept children 2 months and older.
Resorts for Learning to Ski
When it comes to teaching kids how to ski, parents have two choices: to enroll in ski school or teach their own kids. If you want a school that is cost-effective and offers good value, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort is a great place to go. Located on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, this smaller resort has a great program for kids learning to ski. The full and half-day programs at Alpine are designed for children as young as three years old. The cost is highly affordable relative to other resorts in the area with lunch and kid’s ski equipment rentals included and the resort itself is less crowded, creating a comfortable environment for families. Each child is also tracked with a Falk GPS tracking device to ensure that they never go missing.
If you would rather teach your own kids to ski, Soda Springs Resort is not a bad place to start. Designed with children in mind, this resort features an area known as “Planet Kids” for children 8 and under that enables parents to coach their kids as they learn to ski or snowboard. The area features a number of small bunny slopes and the best part is that it comes with a magic carpet that will slowly and safely take your kids back to the top of the hill. It’s incredibly affordable and if your child gets bored of skiing, there are snow tubes and the popular tube carousel to enjoy.
Resorts for All-Inclusive Family Adventures
Although it’s likely the most expensive ski resort in Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley Resort is a favorite among families for the stay-and-ski experience offered. The best part for most families is that it’s a one-stop-shop filled with upscale stores, restaurants, luxury hotel rooms and plenty of snowy adventures. Once you arrive at the resort, you never have to leave…except to visit Tahoe Mountain Sports and get an up-close view of the lake, of course! The entire experience in all aspects of resort life is consistent with what you would expect at a luxury hotel. Families have a number of activities to enjoy including ski school, ice-skating, hot tubs, and a heated pool. There is also the ever-popular tram (cable car) ride that boasts incredible views of Squaw Valley and even a climbing wall.
Resorts with Fun for the Whole Family
If you’re looking for a resort that can offer a great time for all members of the family, Heavenly Ski Resort is a good choice for your family. You won’t need any divine intervention to enjoy this resort that boasts the highest elevation and most vertical feet of any ski resorts on the West Coast. For the younger children, skiing and snowboarding lessons are available while others can check out the wide array of other snowy activities including snowshoeing, snowmobiling, tubing, and snow-biking. The Gondola is a highlight for almost everyone featuring amazing views of Lake Tahoe from a fully enclosed lift. In addition, there are plenty of intermediate runs for families to enjoy skiing and snowboarding together as well as the only day care that can accommodate children as young as 2 months old. The daycare also features ski-play programs for children that need to be gradually eased onto the slopes. Although there is no accommodation on-site, there are plenty of dining choices scattered along the mountainside including healthy options, gourmet cuisine, and tasty burgers. The staff bring the resort to life while the competitive prices make it affordable for many families, leaving plenty of opportunities for wintry adventures in 2014.
Tahoe is just filled with family-friendly ski resorts that offer something for your entire group of loved ones. For those that want added adventures in the snow beyond traditional snowboarding or skiing, there are always plenty of places to check out, including snowmobiling at Kirkwood Mountain Resort as well as tubing and sledding at Boreal Mountain Resort. It’s just a few of the many reasons to come on a ski vacation in Tahoe this year!
Not only are we backing the Ortovox ski packs for 2014, but their avalanche transceivers, backcountry shovels and snow probes are also a favorite here at the shop. Their transceivers feature Smart Antennae and Third Antennae technologies that pinpoint multiple burial victims and give the most accurate distance and directional readings. Their shovels are super-strong, rigid and lightweight so you can pierce through tough crusts and move lots of dense and heavy snow quickly and efficiently. Ortovox probes are also light and strong, and you can count on them during emergencies to deploy without delay and penetrate snow without snapping or fracturing under pressure.
When we leave the house, the hut, the tent or the trailhead, we all hope that unless we’re going out to practice our backcountry safety skills, our emergency snow equipment will never have to leave our backpacks. When the time does come to use that gear, we have to know we can depend on it. Our lives and our friends’ lives will depend on it. Practice all you want; if your gear can’t be trusted you’ll be no good in the field when disaster strikes. That’s why we only carry the best avalanche safety equipment in our fleet, and why you see Ortovox throughout the shop and our online gear store.
Thanks to Ortovox and the American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education (AIARE) for providing the slides for this instructional avalanche safety video:
Check out these top contenders in the snow safety category for 2014:
Ortovox M.A.S.S. Modular ABS Airbag Safety System
Weighing less than three pounds and deploying in about three seconds, the Ortovox ABS system is compatible with all Ortovox avalanche packs. With twin airbags, you’re protected from the head to the torso. Ortovox couldn’t have made a better decision than to team up with ABS’s 28 years of airbag expertise and Twinbag technology.
Ortovox Tour 32+7 ABS Ready Backpack
Back, hip and shoulder muscles are relieved by the Vent-O-Flex back system and an O-Shaped frame, and an extra 20% of space can be added for larger tours by simply unzipping the middle section. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 is ready for you to add the airbag system, but if the terrain or conditions don’t necessitate airbags, just leave them behind save a bit of space/weight. Securely attach your skis diagonally or strap your board vertically, stash your skins and crampons in a separate pocket, and rotate the activation handle from left to right arm depending on user-preference. This is one really, really versatile backcountry pack.
Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Transceiver
The Ortovox S1+ is super-smart. Users can now see a display screen with the relative location of burial victims and be directed toward them along the fastest route. This beacon also features the Smart Antennae, which gives you 43% more range than other transceivers by choosing the best signal to transmit based on the body’s position in the snow. Multiple burials? No problem. Well, that’s actually a major problem, but the S1+ will locate up to 4 buried victims and mark each individually so you can continue searching while your partners dig. Also includes built-in slope Inclinometer and will automatically revert back to transmission-mode if it doesn’t move for over one minute during search mode (think ‘follow-up’ or ‘secondary’ avalanche).
Ortovox Beast Saw Shovel
High sidewalls and a robust aluminum scoop provide ultimate strength and rigidity in a pack-friendly, collapsible snow shovel that weighs less than two pounds. Inside the shaft lives a snow saw, ideal for carving Rutsch blocks during snow-stability tests and cutting firewood when you end up in survival-mode. The Beast Saw Shovel is ergonomically advanced: a T-handle and lower-hand-grip improve efficient digging in wet conditions, and the oval-shaped, aluminum shaft is stronger than standard snow shovel designs. Don’t need a blade? The Ortovox Beast offers all the same great features and strength, minus the saw for $20 less.
Ortovox 240 HD PFA Probe
A PFA quick-release tension system deploys in seconds so you’re not stuck wasting any time during a rescue. It also packs back up really fast in case you need to book it out of the backcountry after the rescue. It only weighs 0.7 lbs and is one of the strongest avalanche probes on the market, with a piercing tip that penetrates hard snowpacks with little effort. AL 7075 TS aluminum light and stiff, thus the best choice for probe construction, and an EVA grip is easier to manage and keeps your hands warmer so you can dig more efficiently.
It seems there were some popular terms used frequently in this post: “safe”, “strong”, “efficient”, “lightweight”, “smart”. Do those words mean anything to you, as a backcountry traveler? This is not a coincidence. You can trust in Ortovox Avalanche Emergency Equipment.
Tahoe Mountain Sports also does Ortovox Firmware upgrades for Ortovox transceivers, updating them with the latest versions of Ortovox software to keep you as safe as possible with each passing year. To update your Ortovox beacon, click here: Ortovox Beacon Upgrade - you can either send your beacon to us, or bring it into the shop, and we’ll turn the update around within 24 hours.
I don’t need to tell you. If you’re here, you know it. If you’re not, you’ve probably heard. The snow conditions are seriously pressing on our nerves in Tahoe. It hurts. It hurts the bottom of your skis, it hurts local businesses and it hurts the local morale.
This is where I could mention some hurtful stats about this year being California’s driest winter on-record or drop some depressing figures regarding snow- and tourism-related economics. Instead, I’ve got some great news! Lake Tahoe has more year-round outdoor fun than any other ski town…probably anywhere. The lake itself offers a plethora of activities, from stand-up paddling, kayaking and boating off-shore to countless foot paths and bike trails on-shore. Although, you may need to stay closer to lake-level to find completely dry and clear trails. If you’re into fishing, the local tributaries will offer you a challenge in beautiful terrain. If you climb, you’re in luck; we’re completely surrounded by granite. You may not find as much ice to climb this time of year, but there are plenty of frozen ponds to go for a skate.
When you’re fortunate enough to see the views that I do every day, it’s possible to eventually take advantage of the fact that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m not saying that I do, just that it’s possible! Since I make it a point to Do Something Awesome Every Day, I figure sharing some ideas for adventure would be appropriate. Especially given these “winter” conditions and the notion that we’re all thinking the same thing: “What do I do around Tahoe when there’s no snow?”
Run On The Beach The fact that a sandy stretch of shoreline is available to our free use is almost unbelievable. In the winter months, when the sun’s shining and the temps are in the 40′s, the weather is perfect for running and you’ll often have much of the beach to yourself. So get into some cold weather running clothing, seek out a public access point and take a jog. If the amazing views, solitude and the pleasure of an aerobic workout aren’t enough to keep you moving, then think of it as “late-season ski conditioning”.
In-Bounds “Backcountry” Skiing You got all your backcountry skiing gear ready for the season, and now you have no powder fields to explore. Sure, the lifts are running from 8:30-4:00 daily, but that’s just not good enough. You want a workout, and you want to slap on those climbing skins that hung out in your closet the past nine months. Skin up the resort! Most ski resorts let the public use their groomed runs during non-operational hours (4:01 p.m. – 8:29 a.m.) *If you have information that proves me wrong, please correct me before you fine me for doing something awesome every day. So, if you want to get some exercise on your touring setup or you’re itching for some softer snow, take advantage of the man-made morning corduroy at the local resorts. Bonus: Starting a little after 4 p.m. and climbing an hour or so to the top usually rewards with a killer sunset. Pack a headlamp for skiing just in case; if you want to be off the mountain by 8:29 a.m. and don’t want to move too fast uphill, or you want to take your time watching the sunset before descending, you may be required to travel in the dark. And once again, Leave No Trace so we don’t ruin our reputation with the resorts. In my case, I bring extra doggy bags.
My job is to pick the best gear to present to the TMS customer base, and with the growing popularity of the Avy Airbag category, these packs have been hot topics of conversation around the shop the past couple of weeks, both in the store and through our online customer service channels. So, here is my take on the pros, cons, ups, downs and all-arounds of this dizzying category of backcountry ski gear.
I am going to break this up into a couple sections and parts since its a deep and intricate topic with lots of info. So, this first post will focus on the differences between the ABS and Mammut systems with a brief discussion about the packs and options for each system.
Twin Airbags situated on side of backpack/body – Provides redundancy in case one bag gets punctured. Airbags are long (ranging from about knee-height to above the head). This keeps your entire body above the snow and provides the flotation needed to “ride” out a slide and remain on top. 170 liters of volume is the most offered by all airbags on the market.
Compressed Nitrogen w/Pyrotechnic Trigger Mechanism (Activation Unit): Compressed nitrogen is housed in a smaller canister than compressed air and therefore takes up less room in your pack. It must be filled at ABS headquarters or swapped out with an ABS canister exchange at a certified ABS exchange center (Tahoe Mountain Sports does this!). The Pyro trigger is easiest to pull when under duress as there is no physical puncturing that takes place. The handle can also be switched from side-to-side for use by lefties, righties, or snowmobilers who wish to keep their hands free for throttle-access. The ABS Activation Unit includes the compressed nitrogen canister plus the pyrotechnic handle.
Here’s a brief rundown of how the ABS avalanche airbag system works:
Single Airbags Deployed from Top of Pack: RAS and PAS systems utilize a single airbag that deploys out of the top of your pack. The RAS system is the first generation of the Mammut (formerly SnowPulse) systems and is the least expensive. It is basically a large pillow behind and above your head. The Mammut PAS system was released to the North American market in the Fall of 2013 and comes down through the shoulder straps as well as above the head. Basically, the PAS system is meant to protect against head trauma. My one con with the Mammut airbag system is that you can still get buried up to your airbag (neck area) and if you were solo, you would likely still be stuck in the debris of an avalanche and not able to dig yourself, given that you even survive the slide.
Compressed Air w/Physical Puncture Trigger: Mammut packs utilize a compressed air canister which is slightly longer and wider than the ABS canister. Compressed air is more readily available in the marketplace as you can get your canister filled at a local filling shop (like Tahoe Mountain Sports!), scuba shops or paintball stores. The only potential problem here is user error when filling. Scuba and paintball shops are usually unfamiliar with the specific type of filling that needs to take place and therefore there could be user error on the filling side. We always recommend coming in and allowing us to fill your canister or just exchange it for a full one that we always have waiting for you in the shop. On the trigger side of things, the Mammut trigger requires a small pin to mechanically puncture the canister. Through testing in the shop, this takes slightly more effort than the ABS version, but not much. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to Cody Townsend for the interview and thanks to www.avanthans.com for filming and editing.
I got a chance to sit down with Cody Townsend, professional freeskier and co-founder of Arcade Belts, and he answered a ton of questions I had about “the most comfortable and versatile belts” that myself, as well as many others I’ve discussed them with, have ever had the pleasure of wearing. Arcade Belts come from Olympic Valley, California, right at the base of Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The idea for durable and stretchy, streamlined and stylish belts stemmed from countless days skiing directly outside what is now the Arcade headquarters, and it shows in every little feature: They’re super strong, even when stretched to the max. Form nor function will alter in extreme weather. They’re easy to adjust on-the-fly. They have more fashion sense than you do. They’re affordable and will outlast the others.
Walk into Tahoe Mountain Sports on any given day and I guarantee at least one of the few employees will be sporting a belt from Cody and his crew. None of us have a dressy Arcade belt yet, but I doubt we return from the holidays without at least a few between the six of us. I notice Meaghen’s The Pacific all the time, and if she’s not wearing that she’s in one of five others from seasons past. Meaghen: I swear I only notice the belts! Dave wears his The Hemmingway to work, and on the same days he rocks it backcountry skiing. I know for a fact because I ski and work with him. I’ve given both The Sedona and The Scout as gifts, and they’re now cherished by their recipients. I rotate between The Midnighter and The Foundation, and I wear them for every single thing I do except trail running, yoga and chillin’ on the couch or sleeping. And that’s not even completely true; I’ve fallen asleep in my pants and an Arcade belt, and specifically recall waking up thinking, “I can’t believe I didn’t wake up to take that off.”
Don’t just take my word for it. Look around…you’ll start to notice a trend at the waistline.
Other than injuries and broken equipment, wet weather has always been the quickest way to a ruined outdoor adventure. But it doesn’t have to be.
Staying under the safety of your tent’s rainfly isn’t the only option when a storm rolls in, unless of course all you brought was that beautiful 800-fill down puffy. That jacket may be the warmest garment in your closet, but anyone who’s spent more than ten seconds in one during a torrential downpour knows it will just turn you into a human sponge under those conditions. Thankfully, dragging around more rubber than a dominatrix isn’t the only alternative anymore!
Tahoe Mountain Sports put this waterproof gear guide together to help you navigate the modern plethora of sleeker, lighter, more-comfortable, water-shedding, moisture-wicking, wind-breaking and all-around-adventure-slaying wet-weather gear out there.
Outerwear fabrics these days almost all have some built-in (or coated on) resistance to getting wet, but there’s a big difference between water-resistant or water-repellent and truly waterproof outerwear. Under harsh conditions, water-resistant/repellent quickly translates to absorbent. It won’t take those types of jackets, pants, boots etc. long to become saturated in heavy rain (e.g., the aforementioned puffy).
How Waterproof is It?
Click here to read about Arc’Teryx’s industry-leading waterproof outerwear.
Legitimately waterproof means sealed seams, welded or storm-flap-protected zippers and waterproof membranes. These items are rated based on how well they resist the entry of pressurized moisture in a laboratory setting. Most are measured in millimeters, but what the heck do those numbers actually mean?
The “mm rating” of a waterproof garment tells how much rainfall the item can withstand over a 24-hour period without any moisture leaking in. The higher the “mm rating”, the more waterproof the garment is. There are just shy of 305 mm in a foot, so a 20,000 mm waterproofing is pretty darn waterproof (withstanding 64 feet of water in 24 hours). Some garments, however, might also (or instead) provide a “psi rating” (pounds-per-square-inch).
A higher “psi rating” means a garment can handle more pressure. Rainfall can range between 1 and 7 psi. So, why do you see ratings of 25 or even 40? It’s because other forms of pressure can try to squeeze that moisture through the waterproof membranes in your outerwear (e.g., pack weight on your shoulders/back or sitting in the snow). That must be why my butt always gets wet when I’m snowboarding!
Breathable vs. Non-Breathable Outerwear
Okay, now that you’ve calculated the pressure of your bottom, let’s talk about those pits. Non-breathable fabrics are going to be the most bomber of waterproof materials, but that’s not going to help much if you’re moving around a lot.
Click here to read about The North Face FlashDry waterproof-breathable technology.
Look at it this way: Breathable fabrics (e.g., Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite) let moisture move from the inside out, but not from the outside in. Non-breathables don’t let moisture move in either direction. That’s why Old Yellow, your raincoat from the 90’s, keeps you dry until you start exercising, then the inside turns into a steam room.
Breathability is measured by how many grams of water vapor will pass through a square meter of your garment’s fabric, from the inside to outside, in a 24-hour period (g/m2/24 hours). The pores the vapor passes through are thousands of times smaller than a raindrop, which is why something waterproof can also be breathable. Waterproof membranes also usually incorporate materials resistant to oils, like those from your body, sunscreen, etc., that might compromise the waterproofing over time.
In summary, the rubber raincoat you grew up with, or a more stylish modern version made from polyurethane-coated nylon, will always keep you the driest if you are only doing things like hanging outside or walking a short distance to school, the store or across town on an errand-run.
photo: Jim Grandy
But if you are backpacking through the Sumatran rainforest, jogging in Seattle or backcountry skiing the Sierra Nevada, you’ll want something that is both waterproof and breathable.
Hey, That’s Not Waterproof!
Leather is not fully waterproof, ever. Neither are water-repellent coatings. But many waterproof products do use water-repellent coatings, because the waterproof membrane is usually sandwiched between other layers. This is generally called the DWR or “durable water repellent” coating/finish. Washing your Levis in some Nikwax, however, does not make them a pair of ski pants.
Nikwax is, however, a great way to extend the life of your waterproof garments. You see, your garment’s DWR will wear out before its waterproof membrane does. And if you revitalize it before that happens, the garment lives on. Once the DWR is completely gone, though, there’s no bringing it back. And the rest of that garment is now compromised. But please, read each item’s care instructions before playing Scientist. Then try either NikWax Tech Wash for in-laundry care or NikWax TX Direct for spray-on pre-wash care.
Here are some of our favorite industry-leading waterproof-breathable membranes: