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  • adventurealan
    URL: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BackpackGearTest/files/Rain%20Gear/Red% 20Ledge%20Thunderlight%20/Alan%20Dixon/Field%20Report%20for% 20Thunderlight.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2001
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      Field Report for Red Ledge AO81 Thunderlight Parka
      and AO83 Thunderlight Full Zip Pants
      Alan Dixon, BackpackingGearTest

      Summary of Thunderlight Field Performance

      By field measurement the Thunderlight Parka has some of the lowest
      moisture accumulation of any rain shell on the market. If you are
      working hard and generating a lot of heat and sweat this is the shell
      you want. The Thunderlight Parka will keep you dry from the inside as
      well as the outside. The Parka has a generous fit and almost every
      design feature one could want while still keeping weight under 13
      ounces. It is not surprising that the Thunderlight Parka won
      BackpackingLight.com's Trail's Best Award.

      In my high exertion field tests, the Thunderlight Parka accumulated
      the least moisture of any shell tested — waterproof or non-
      waterproof. The Thunderlight Parka accumulated less moisture than
      GoLite's Bark, a non-waterproof windshell. This was due to the
      excellent ventilation design (core venting pockets and pit zips) of
      the Thunderlight Parka. The Parka's shell material, while not as
      breathable as some of the newer polyurethane coating technologies was
      sufficient to reduce moisture accumulation in non-vented areas such
      as forearms and upper back. In comparison, tests a fully waterproof
      shell generated so much moisture that I had sweat dripping out to my
      sleeves by the end.

      As measured in the BackpackingLight.com's Test Lab, Red Ledge's TH4
      fabric's 14% breathability was in the same range as GoLite's GoDri
      shell. In comparison, Frogg Toggs shell has a breathability of 45%
      and Montane's Pertex Tri-Activ and Rain Shield's Propore shell
      fabrics are in the range of 90%. See BackpackingLight.com's
      Breathability Specifications & Testing.

      The only significant improvement to the Thunderlight Parka would be
      to use a lighter and more breathable shell material like Pertex's Tri-
      Activ. With this fabric, weight would be reduced to around 10 ounces
      and breathability would improve. With this change the Thunderlight
      shells would be close to the ideal rainwear and would probably
      outperform most windshells for moisture accumulation. One could use
      them as both rainwear and windshells saving a bunch of weight.

      Overview of Thunderlight Field Testing

      This was a very dry fall. I had little chance to test the
      Thunderlight Parka and Pants in the rain. Tests in my shower at home
      confirmed what I already suspected, which was that the raingear is

      What interested me more was the breathability of the Thunderlight
      shell material, especially under high exertion activities like
      running or hiking steeply uphill. As such, I set out to test
      Thunderlight rain shells under controlled field conditions to
      determine just how wet I would get working hard. I did this testing
      in conjunction with an article I wrote for BackpackingLight.com, High-
      Exertion Moisture Accumulation in Rain and Wind Shells.

      More Detail on the Field Testing

      In a 6-week period I did 20 field tests with various shells to try
      and understand and quantify how moisture accumulates in shells under
      high exertion activities. Two of these tests were done with the
      Thunderlight rainwear provided by BackpackingGearTest.
      In each of the field tests I weighed the amount of water in my wool
      undershirt (baselayer) after about 50-55 minutes of controlled
      exercise (measured by the percent of my maximum heart rate). I also
      recorded the temperature, humidity and wind speed for each test. I
      feel that this is a more accurate way to compare garments than the
      usual "soaked my baselayer" or "bone dry while working hard" reports
      one usually gets back from the field as hikers either curse or extol
      their waterproof/breathable shells. The data from these field tests
      are presented in BackpackingLight.com, High-Exertion Moisture
      Accumulation in Rain and Wind Shells LINK to Data Table.

      Most testing was done within 3 miles of a major airport. Tests were
      started on the half hour and run for approximately 52 minutes. The
      mid-test hourly readings at the airport were used for temperature,
      humidity, and wind speed. Test course was a little over 6 miles out
      and back — mostly flat with a few small hills. Run times varied from
      50-55 minutes depending on wind speed, how fresh I felt, my level of
      caffination, and general inclination. Measured and subjective this
      equates to an exertion level of about 80 to 85 percent of my maximum
      heart rate. My wool baselayer was weighed before the run and within 3
      minutes of completing the run on a digital postal scale accurate to
      0.1 ounce. The difference was reported as accumulated moisture.
      Results of Thunderlight Field Testing

      The Thunderlight Parka uses a multi-vented shell design with both
      core venting pockets and pit zips. This proved amazingly effective in
      venting excess moisture out of the shell. In field moisture
      accumulation tests it outperformed GoLite's Bark, a non-waterproof
      microfiber polyester windshirt. In a 52 to 55 minute, 7.5 mph run (80-
      85% of my maximum heart rate) under similar field conditions (48-53
      degrees F, and 45% relative humidity), the Thunderlight Parka
      accumulated 3.9 ounces of moisture and the GoLite Bark (windshell),
      in 5-degree cooler temperatures, accumulated 5.2 ounces of moisture.

      In a control running test the same wool baselayer without a shell
      accumulated 1.1 oz of moisture.

      In a brisk (4.5 mph) 53 minute walk, temp 58 F, RH 29%, the
      Thunderlight Parka accumulated only 0.8 ounces of moisture. One would
      have a hard time telling this amount of moisture from a completely
      dry baselayer.

      Fit and Function

      The Thunderlight Parka has about every design feature one would want
      on a rainshell (see features in BackpackingLight.com's Raingear
      Roundup tables) but the best design feature of the Thunderlight Parka
      is its excellent ventilation. I believe that the Parka's core venting
      pockets and pit zips complement each other. The forward momentum of
      running or hiking fast forces cooler, drier air into the shell
      through the front facing core vents. With the a neck zipper a bit
      open and pit zips wide open, the incoming air exits at your neck and
      armpits creating a chimney effect that allows warm humid air to rise
      upward and out. This keeps the front of your base layer dry.

      Fit on the Parka and pants are a near perfect for me. Mobility of
      head an arms and legs was almost unrestricted. There was plenty of
      room to withdraw my hands into the sleeves for protection. The
      Thunderlight Parka and Pants are somewhat noisier and stiffer than an
      uncoated microfiber like the Silmond on GoLite's Bark or even a
      silicone encapsulated microfiber fabrics like Epic or Encapsil. It
      was still pleasant enough to run or walk in these garments. My only
      gripe is that it would be nice to have a brim on the hood and that
      the hood's drawcord be elastic instead of rigid nylon cord. The 3.2
      oz nylon fabric should provide durable resistance to abrasion and

      In summary, the Thunderlight Parka and pants are an excellent choice
      for durable, waterproof, breathable, and fairly lightweight rainwear.
      The Parka is well ventilated enough that it could probably do double
      duty as a windshell in many circumstances. The Thunderlight Parka is
      probably the best all round choice on the market for a shell that
      will handle almost anything you and the weather can dish up. At the
      $50 street price for the Thunderlight Parka nothing even comes close.

      The AO83 Thunderlight Full Zip Pants at 11.1 oz (men's med.
      advertised wt. 8 oz) are still solid performers and a great buy at
      the $30 street price. But the pants will have solid competition from
      other manufacturers in both weight (Marmot's PreCip pants are 3-4 oz
      lighter); and performance (given the limited breathability of the TH4
      fabric — some of Montane's pants use fabric that is 6x more
      breathable and are lighter).

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