Essenshell, examined

Amber dropping a knee last weekend.  I should also note that today, below 5300′ or so, was the very first breakable crust day of the year.  Fairly mellow icey rain crust, which I’m happy to report the Marquettes made absolutely inconsequential.  Rocker is the shit.

My quest for the best shell for ______ continues.  Early this past week a large Patagonia Essenshell pullover came up for sale on BPL, and without hesitation I grabbed it.  The Essenshell is an early-mid 00’s vintage, made of a nice polyester micro ripstop fabric with Encapsil treatment, Patagonia’s branding of the Epic fabric treatment.  Waterproofish (at a very low PSI), quite breathable, and because the DWR is structural, needs no reapplication.  Best of all, the ripstop has a surprisingly soft hand, and based on testing (ski touring) today, the Epic coating is quite breathable (not all Epics are created equal).

Good stuff: the fabric, belly button length zip, nice big pockets, enormous hood which swallows a helmet with ease, cuffs with both elastic and velcro.

Bad stuff: waterproof zips, front pocket backing material.

The pocket size is awesome.  Big, but just above hipbelt level.  Waterproof zips are, I hope, dying out.  Their durability and (lack) of ease of use beats out the hype.  What’s unconscionable, is the use of thick, fuzzy mesh as the pocket material.  It seems destined to suck up tons of moisture.  I may have to replace it.

One handed hood pull: very good.  Tough but not stupid heavy fabric: excellent.  (Pullover is about 11 oz.)

The large size was enormous on me.  Fortunately, a simple side seam ran up the middle edge of each side and out each sleeve.  I turned the pullover inside out, ripped some of the stitching out of the hem, took 2 inches off each side, 1.5 inches out of each sleeve (dimensions based on my Arc’teryx Paclite pullover), cut the excess off, then resewed the hem.  A simple 20 minutes work.  As a bonus, the sleeves and body are extra long, good for sealing out snow during particularly athletic faceplants and tomahawks.

Inside fabric detail.  Feels nice against the skin.

I anticipate this becoming the go-to skiing shell.  What will be more interesting is to see how waterproof and quick drying it is, and how successful the just-get-wet strategy will be come spring.  I’ve got a new tarp on order that might help in that goal.

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7 thoughts on “Essenshell, examined

  1. This is a great shell. I have the 2003 version that is full zip and it is still doing great. Awesome for any high output winter activity. The huge chest pockets are amazing for ventilation.

  2. It’s certainly working very well thus far.

    I owned the Essenshell/Krushell succesor, the Ready Mix, back in the day. Bought the first gen, in fact. The zip died in 2008 and it disappeared (uninsured!) en route to Patagonia repair headquarters.

    The Essenshell’s performance thus far makes me question why they “improved” it in the first place.

    1. I am guessing they took it out of the line up as it is not as stylish as some of their newer offerings. Seems like Pata is steering away from their core users that want simple functionality in favor of TNF type mass marketability. That said they do still make some great stuff.

  3. I owned mine since it popped out. I’m still cursing myself to do not have bought more while it was available.

  4. I have a silver-gray Essenshell Anorak of the same early -00s vintage, and it is still a go-to piece for 3-season hiking, mountain biking, and Spring skiing. Unlike the fabric in a lot of high-priced models that ostensibly replaced this jacket (H2NO, Gore-Tex Paclite), there is no liner to rip, snag, or just wear out after countlessly donning and doffing the jacket over wool sweaters and fleece jackets. Another feature that seems fairly rare in today’s offerings is the combination of elastic and Velcro at the cuffs, which allows you to set it and forget it. This too adds to the jacket’s durability as the constant ripping and sticking at the cuffs makes the Velcro the weak link that sends many a jacket to the recycling bin before their time.

    Patagonia has been promoting the “repair first” mantra, so when one of the pocket zippers finally failed, I sent it back and they replaced both of the pocket zippers (keeping the styles symmetrical) for no charge. Sweet.

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