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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > GoLite Wisp > Owner Review by Roger Caffin
|63 kg (139 lb)
|166 cm (65")
|r dot [surname] at acm dot org
I started bushwalking (the Australian term) at 14, then took up rock climbing at University with the girl who became my wife and is my walking partner. Later on we took up ski touring and canyoning. Winter and summer, we prefer long hard trips by ourselves: about a week in Australia, up to two months in Europe/UK. We prefer fast and light in unfrequented trackless country. We would be out for at least three months a year. Over the last four years we have reduced our pack weights from 18 - 20 kg (40 - 45 lb) each to about 12 kg (26 lb), including food, for week-long trips. I designed and made much of our lightweight gear myself.
I am also the maintainer of the Australian aus.bushwalking FAQ web site www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/.
|Wisp Wind Shirt
|Year of manufacture:
|Country of manufacture:
|22-denier ripstop polyester taffeta with DWR on the outside
|70 g (3 oz) *
|Medium: 80 g (2.8 oz)
|Pullover with short neck zip
|Orange & Blue
* The GoLite web site gives 3 oz weight for an unspecified size on the main page, but in a side box says the Wisp weighs 2.5 oz. Converting 70 g gives 2.47 oz. However, see Measured Weight. Caveat Emptor.
I have reproduced some of the claims listed on the company web site here. Not all the claims seem strictly correct.
This is a fairly simple pullover-style top, with a 280 mm (11 ") zip at the neck (with matching colour), a simple wrap-around high collar, and elasticised cuffs and hem. All this is visible in the picture above. There is a small zipped pocket set into the seam near the hem on the right side which GoLite refers to as a security pocket, and the Wisp can be stuffed into this pocket ('self-stowing'). There is a little loop of tape inside the pocket which GoLite says can be used to hang the packed shirt from a carabiner: this seems a silly idea to me. However, the loop did make a good secure key holder for when I pulled my handkerchief out of the pocket. Otherwise there are very few features apart from the ultra-light weight and the fabric.
The company describes the fabric as 'a 22 denier polyester taffeta with DWR, WispHP™ is ultra-lite, highly breathable, wind-resistant, water-repellent, and extremely packable'. I would add that the colours are bright and shiny. I agree that the fabric is very light, but the other claims need examination.
From mid-May in 2007 my wife and I spent three months walking several trails in France. While planning the trip we were extremely concerned about keeping our pack weights down - you may note my age. We normally wear shirts or smocks made of Taslan fabric which I make myself, but these can of course get wet and/or dirty. They function only moderately well as 'wind' shirts: the Taslan does breathe quite well. For a start I wanted something a little more wind-resistant which could go over the Taslan to shed the wind. I was also hoping to get something which could be worn instead of the Taslan when we were in a town where we could use a self-serve laundry to wash all our clothes. On the other hand whatever it was had to be very light as it really was a bit 'optional': I could live without it. A saving grace was that it did not have to be as strong as the Taslan fabric as it would not be taken into any scrub. I contacted GoLite about these requirements and they were kind enough to donate two GoLite Wisp shirts for myself and my wife for the three month trip. I got the orange one and my wife got the blue one. Other colours are available.
What was unexpected about the three months in France was the sheer amount of wet weather we encountered. It turned out to be an exceptionally bad spring and summer. However, that did give lots of gear testing opportunities.
The first and most prominent finding was that the DWR treatment on the Wisp fabric is not very good against any sort of sustained rain. Well, it is only a DWR (not a coating) and the fabric is extremely light after all, but this meant that the Wisp was not a lot of use against the bad weather we encountered. I usually wore my silnylon poncho instead - especially as it was clipped to the tops of my pack and could be pulled over my shoulders in a few seconds while I continued walking. In very light cold misty windy weather the Wisp was able to stay fairly dry while I was walking, but we had little of that.
Once the weather warmed up and dried out I found wearing the Wisp over my Taslan smock was too hot. The fabric is not a plastic bag, but it certainly does trap a lot of air inside. I also found that the fabric did not breathe well enough for me to wear just the Wisp with nothing underneath while I was walking. I quickly got too sweaty. It wasn't that the fabric clung to my skin - it didn't, but just that I quickly got hot. The inside face of the fabric looks 'cir' or slightly glazed: this is a heat treatment which flattens the threads a bit to increase the wind-resistance. Well, the fabric is very wind-resistant, but this means it does not breathe very well, despite the claim. But this is reasonable: you can't have everything at once!
I did try using the Wisp over my Taslan during meal-stops and in the evening in the tent. It worked very well at meal stops, which were often taken in some scenic position. The trouble is 'scenic' often means 'exposed', or open to a cold wind. I found it very easy to just grab the Wisp and pull it over my head: far easier and faster than putting a thermal top on under my Taslan smock. The difference it made was very quickly noticed. In addition the extremely small volume it packed into meant it was very easy to keep my Wisp near the top of my pack for fast access. (I can't have everything I need at the top of my pack!) So for this application the Wisp performed really well.
I also used the Wisp some evenings in the tent while preparing dinner, to just boost my warmth a little. I had a thermal top and a synthetic duvet (a Cocoon) I could put on, but sometimes these were more than I needed. It was so easy to slip the Wisp on over my Taslan top for a while. This was usually done sitting down, and here I noticed that the tail of the Wisp was only just long enough. An extra inch in length at the back would have been nice. Granted, a Large size might have provided this, but I am normally a Medium and the GoLite Medium was otherwise the right size for me.
The only other real change in design I can think of would be to add a hood. GoLite does have a similar jacket (the 'Ether') with a hood, but it also has a full length front zip and is advertised as being 4 ounces: this is noticeably heavier. A hood could be added to this design for almost negligible extra weight by replacing the high collar. I think the zip length is already adequate. That said, the high collar did work moderately well when I did the zip up all the way. Doing so did not annoy the underside of my chin either.
Well, one of the reasons I took the Wisp was to serve as an alternate top. We did get to do some laundromat washing in the three months - twice in fact. (OK, that's not a lot for three months!) On each occasion I wore the GoLite Wisp top with some GoLite Whims as trousers. This worked just fine. But far more 'entertaining' were the times when my wife and I were forced to stay in a small hotel in a town and were able to dress up in our GoLite Wisp tops. I have to say that we looked reasonably well-dressed as a result! And this for just 80 grams each.
I did not find that my Wisp needed any maintenance on the trip. I did not get it very sweaty, so that meant it didn't need washing (until we got home!), but the very light fabric seemed to handle anything I threw at it. I admit I had some doubts before we left, but this stuff is a lot tougher than I had been expecting.
I did notice that the fabric stayed fairly clean against other problems, like bits of lunch being dropped on it. Food did not seem to stick very well. I do know that typical fluorocarbon DWR treatments are not only used to make the fabric water-resistant: they are also widely used to make the fabric stain-resistant. This seems to have worked here.
The sundries - elasticised cuffs and hem, zip, etc, also survived the trip very well. I have had no problems with any of them.
|DWR not very effective
|Tail could be slightly longer
If I needed a windshirt which would fit into the scope of the Wisp, then yes, I would consider buying another one. In fact, it served quite well both as a windshirt and as a change of clothing.