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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Wild Things EPIC Windshirt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
THINGS EPIC WINDSHIRT
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 62 years old
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week-long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION and DETAILS. This product's name is an apt description; this is a single layer shell intended to protect its wearer from the wind. Wild Things sells its EPIC Windshirt in two models: a full-zip, cardigan-style model with hand warmer pockets and a hood, and a half-zip pocketless and hoodless pullover. At a customer's request Wild Things will make a hybrid, and that's what I bought, the pullover version with a hood added.
This shirt has a separate fabric panel for the zipper, a seam across the front at the bottom of the zipper panel, and shoulder seams.
Wild Things has this to say: "These windshirts provide versatile comfort and protection in all but the most severe conditions. With amazing water repellency and breathability, these are the ideal choice for more typical conditions."
Manufacturer: Wild Things Inc., North Conway, New Hampshire USA
Website: www.wildthingsgear.com. Though this site, which the company has recently updated and improved, contains very useful information about Wild Things products, a customer cannot order online. The site does include a link for email order inquiries and contact information for the company's retail store.
Year Purchased: 2008
WHY I BOUGHT IT
I went looking for a wind shirt to fill a very specific niche. On all but the warmest ski days I wear or carry three layers: base layer (underwear, usually merino wool), insulating layer (wool or down), and outer shell (usually with a light liner). For spring ski days I couldn't find any combination of these three that provided enough warmth yet didn't cause the sweat to roll out when cross-country skiing or skinning uphill. A base layer was never quite enough and a base layer with either of the other two was always too much. Wind and spindrift are common in the mountains, so a wind shirt was an obvious choice. I turned to my friends at Wild Things, who offer a hooded wind shirt in the breathable EPIC fabric. The reader may note that I have reviewed two other Wild Things products for BackpackGearTest.org. This small, customer-friendly New Hampshire company has a climbing flavor to its products, which I have always found to be of high quality.
My choice was a happy one. For its originally intended purpose the Windshirt has met my expectations. When spring skiing on a sunny day when temperatures above freezing are expected it can replace either my mid-layer or outer layer, or both. It packs small enough that I often bring it along in colder conditions, and wear it with just my base layer, or over my mid-layer in place of a parka, when ascending or traversing, or when the winds are fierce. Four seasons' good service has revealed many other uses for this simple pullover. I now regard it one of the most versatile backcountry garments in my closet.
Skiing. Just after the Windshirt arrived (after a three-week lead time to make up the hybrid and re-stock the orange EPIC) I wore it in place of a parka when skiing at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Due to an inversion temperatures approached 55 F (13 C) under sunny skies at the bowls at the top of the mountain. I have worn the Windshirt this past winter on backcountry days at Jackson Hole, Alta (Utah), and Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming), temperatures ranging from 10-30 F (-12 to -1 C), usually when going uphill or skiing Nordic-style. I wore it inbounds thanks to another inversion, this time at Snowbasin, Utah, on a sunny, 50 F (10 C) day.
Backpacking. Each summer I do a week's backcountry work as a Forest Service volunteer. Last year my trip took place the second week of September, in the Spotted Bear Ranger District, Montana, not far from Glacier National Park. Base camp altitude was about 6000 feet (1800 m). It rained some every day, with temperatures rarely above 70 F (21 C) during the day, and close to freezing at night.
Last November I wore the Windshirt on an overnight backpacking trip in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, West Texas. At the base of the mountains, altitude about 5700 ft (1800 m), we spent the first day hiking the McKittrick Canyon trail. Winds gusted up to about 20 mph (32 km/hr), and temperatures were in the low sixties F (~15 C). After camping overnight we started early in the morning up the trail to the summit of Guadalupe Peak, a ten-mile (16 km) out-and-back hike to the highest point in Texas, 8749 feet (2667 m). The temperatures never rose above 40 F (4 C) until we reached the sunny final descent early in the afternoon. This hike winds through forests and one relatively wind-protected canyon, but most of the route left us exposed to West Texas's ferocious winds, estimated that day by the Park Service to have reached 50 mph (76 km/hr) at times. I wore the Windshirt over a mid-weight merino layer when hiking, adding a down sweater or rain shell (or both) over it for warmth at rest stops and lunch.
Day Use. For reasons discussed below, the Windshirt has often been in my pack on day hikes in North Texas and the Rockies. I also can stow it in the back pocket of my fishing vest as emergency rain gear.
Fit. Just as I like it and just as I've come to expect from Wild Things – trim and athletic. Over a merino base layer the wind shirt fits a bit loosely, but it's snug when I add a mid-layer of down or wool. The hem sits about four inches (10 cm) below my waist, making it longer in the torso than any sweater I've used with it. The photo at right shows a couple of inches' leeway when I donned a down sweater over it for warmth atop Guadalupe Peak. One design feature I like is that the seam across the shoulders lies at the back rather than along the top of the shirt, rather like the rear seam on a raglan sleeve. This means less discomfort when the shirt is under a pack.
Features. There aren't many. The pullover version has a 14.5 inch (37 cm) zipper and elastic at the wrists. As on the regular pullover there are no pockets. Also no draw cord at the waist, which apparently is a feature only on the jacket style. Each cuff has an elastic band that holds the fabric tight to my wrist. The hood can be stored in a zippered pocket on the back of the collar.
Protection from the elements. I have never thought wind shirts to be very useful, considering them an extra layer that didn't add much beyond what a rain shell could do. I usually find that a rain shell works well enough at blocking wind that I'll make it do double duty. The performance of my Wild Things Windshirt, particularly on my service trip, has brought about a change of mind.
On that trip the Windshirt was invaluable when plowing through the brush on our backpacks to and from our base camp, and on daily hikes to the work site as we cleared brush and downfall up the Inspiration Creek Trail. Inspiration Point, atop the trail, is more commonly accessed from the other direction, and this steep trail hadn't been maintained for two years. We spent two-and-one-half days lopping underbrush that had grown over the trail and cross-cutting blown down trees (such as Big Momma, at left), then rolling them aside. Everything was wet when hiking or working; rain gear was necessary even when it hasn't raining. But thanks to my Windshirt (and rain pants) I had only to worry about perspiration, without fear of a chilling from the rain and dew.
EPIC is not sold as waterproof; as with other garments and gear that use this fabric there's the more conservative "water repellant" description on Wild Things' website. Based on several years' experience with EPIC tents, clothing, and other gear I believe that this is unduly modest. Even Nextec is inching forward from this; its website now states: "EPIC by Nextec® fabrics are highly water resistant. This means they resist penetration by water under all but the most extreme conditions." I agree and treat the Windshirt accordingly. All-day downpours are rare in the Northern Rockies in summer and fall, and they can usually be foreseen at least a day in advance. When sustained rain isn't on the horizon I often pack the Windshirt instead of a rain shell for a day hike. It's lighter and packs down smaller than my lightest rain jacket (made of unlined eVENT), and to date it's repelled all the rain (falling from the sky and clinging to the flora) that has come in contact with it. I've been caught in afternoon thunder showers and walked many miles through damp brush wearing it without the EPIC becoming waterlogged or my t-shirt rain-soaked.
I don't plan on determining EPIC's saturation limit, except maybe someday at home in the shower, and I still take true rain gear on any trip involving an overnight. But this Windshirt is now a realistic and more packable alternative for my day pack or fishing vest in all but the stormiest weather.
This is a wind shirt, and it does keep out the wind very well. I've noticed this most when ski touring, as the wind on a ridge in winter usually includes spindrift or worse. By keeping the wind from my core it serves almost as an insulating layer, in the same manner as a rain shell, especially when I've worn the hood over my hat.
Breathability. I don't believe that EPIC is as breathable as other fabrics I have seen used for wind shirts. This hasn't been a problem for the purpose I bought the Windshirt. For skiing it's a good thing, adding insulation while keeping out the winter wind. I don't miss a means of cinching it up at the waist, as I can tuck it inside my bibs or trousers for the same effect.
When wearing it hiking, however, I start to get sweaty when moving uphill at about 75 F (24 C), or even lower temperatures on a bright sunny day, so when it's warmer than that the Windshirt is relegated strictly to emergency rain gear service and occasional use at rest stops or when the wind really starts gusting. About the only time I won't pack it on a day hike is when it's chilly or the humidity is high, or when extended rain is forecast. Then I'll take a bit more weight to get better breathability and guarantied waterproofing.
Durability. It's held up wonderfully so far; it looks almost as good as new with all stitching and zippers intact. An impressive performance, as I gave it hard use, particularly on the service trip, when it was exposed daily to shrubbery, overhanging branches, sawdust, and tree grime. I have almost always worn it under a pack of some kind, even when skiing, and there's not even a nick on the fabric from straps or buckles.
I wash the Windshirt in my front-loading machine, separately on the "Delicate" cycle with an extra rinse, and air-dry it on a hanger. After several washings I haven't detected any decline in waterproofing.
Appearance. The good fit makes me look trim when I'm wearing it. Creamsicle orange may not be stylish or environmentally correct but it's functional. In winter it might make me more visible after an avalanche; in the fall it might distinguish me from prey in a hunter's sights.
WHAT I LIKE
Simple yet multi-functional
Small pack size
Weather-worthy. Windproof, and waterproof in anything but an extended downpour.
WHAT I DON'T
Not as breathable as other wind shirts I've tried, which limits its use in warmer weather.
Read more gear reviews by Richard Lyon
Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Wild Things EPIC Windshirt > Owner Review by Richard Lyon