Gore-Tex vs. eVent: Two Waterproof/Breathable Cycling Jackets Go Head-to-Head

Health, Writing

showers pass Elite 2-0

What I’m interested for this post is the waterproof/breathable (WP/BR) fabrics of two different jackets I own: Gore-Tex vs. eVent.

I’m actually not going to review the jackets, per se.  What I will do is save you all from the fatal mistake I’ve made, an honest mistake that has ruined one of these two jackets.

Pictured above is my Showers Pass Elite 2.0 jacket, $250 retail.  At the bottom you’ll find my Patagonia Super Alpine mountaineering jacket, $600 retail.  Very different market segments, I know.  The WP/BR laminate in the Patagonia is the high-end Gore-Tex Pro Shell, while that of the red, Showers Pass jacket is an unspecified, entry-level product from eVent.  So, not apples and apples.  I can’t offer up the definitive Gore-Tex vs. eVent head-to-head competition.

Or can I?

Both Gore-Tex and eVent fabrics are laminates, both using an active layer made of PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). The best known PTFE product is Teflon. The PTFE used in WP/BR fabrics is manufactured by stretching a PTFE solid to be a very thin, microporous membrane. The micropores are what make the membrane at once breathable yet waterproof. The micropores are too small to let in liquid water, such as rain or melted snow, yet large enough to allow moisture vapor to pass through, such as perspiration evaporating from your skin or baselayers.

The PTFE membrane must be protected from contamination. Contaminants such as skin oils and dirt will permanently clog unprotected micropores.  Just how to protect the PTFE layer is where Gore-Tex and eVent part ways.

  • Gore-Tex covers the PTFE membrane with a protective film of polyurethane (PU) on the interior side of the jacket.
  • Rather than covering the whole PTFE membrane, eVent uses a proprietary method to somehow coat the interior of each micropore with an oil/dirt resistant chemical.

Wet System vs.  Dry System

Gore-Tex is the so-called “wet system”: it vents perspiration only after vapor has collected as liquid on the inner surface of the jacket. As liquid, the moisture necessarily seeps through the PU film by basic diffusion, from the area of higher pressure (inside the jacket) to the area of lower pressure (the outside air). This diffusion forces the liquid water through the PTFE layer. So for Gore-Tex, venting is a two-step process: body moisture (vapor) must first condense on the inner surface. Only then can it diffuse through the membrane.

On the other hand, eVent is the “dry system”: sweat vapor vents “directly” through the membrane. It need not collect as liquid, first.  In that sense, eVent is the “more breathable” of the two products.  The two-step process of Gore-Tex venting definitely takes more time.

The problem with eVent—and this is essentially why I’m writing this post—is that its micropores are still vulnerable to contamination by skin oils and dirt. Yes, the micropores are treated with an oil- and dirt-resistant chemical. But get it dirty enough– i.e., clog the pores really badly—and the PTFE loses its breathability. Permanently.

Thus, eVent garments require laundering way more often than you’d think. We’re talking cycling garments, so, “regularly” means laundering after heavy use.  Read: every, or every other, hard ride. If you ride through the winter, this means washing the jacket two or three times a week.

Washing it often isn’t a terrible hassle. But as everyone knows, washing machines are hard on clothes. So we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Care for this jacket properly, and shorten its lifespan. Or, launder it less, and risk clogging the micropores.

In my ignorance, I managed to do both types of damage. First, I simply didn’t know of the need for regular laundering. I treated my Showers Pass jacket like a jacket. I washed it about once every four weeks. Micropores? Pretty damn, well clogged. Breathability went to near zero. When I learned of my mistake, I began washing the jacket weekly. Just one Wisconsin cold season meant laundering the jacket probably twenty times. Some of the breathability returned (though, mostly not). All the washing totally destroyed the DWR coating on the jacket exterior. Now the jacket no longer sheds water. Rain and snow don’t get through to the inside, blocked by the PTFE layer. But they do saturate the outer fabric of the jacket, sapping warmth.

Conclusion

I love my Patagonia jacket, while my Showers Pass jacket makes me sad. The Showers Pass jacket no longer performs. I’m pretty angry that the care tag didn’t alert me to the need for special care. I only learned of it on the web, after the damage was done. I wonder what percentage of eVent users know they should wash an eVent jacket as if it’s a sweatshirt? I also wonder, if laundered as often as necessary, will an eVent jacket survive even a single season?

On the other hand, I’ll be wearing my Patagonia jacket for years to come. It seems completely unfazed by three winters of serious abuse. And Gore-Tex requires no special care. So I won’t be laundering it to death.

layers vert

Surviving Wisconsin Winters, Part 1: High Performance Business Casual?

Entrepreneurship, Health

Image

High performance work clothing? Does such a thing exist? And I don’t mean flame retardant electrician’s pants or stretchy business-bombshell blazers.

Answer:  Levi’s 511 Corduroys.

Although wool is my new favorite fabric for activewear, there are two applications for which synthetics still rule:  rain gear and winter work/weekend attire. I’ve already written a post on rain gear. As far as business casual goes, Levi’s 511 Cords are a surprising fabric that can double for winter cycling.

Especially good for winter bicycle commuting, their 66%/33% blend of cotton/elastane creates surprisingly efficient wicking of perspiration. Then, when the moisture is drawn up into the corduroy, the corded channels evaporate it to the outside air. Think radiator fins on an air-conditioning unit — the greater surface area vents moisture fast. That makes these pants high-performance street clothes. (Just FYI, the tag says “polyester.” But I verified it to be elastane.)

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  See bottom for the bad news about more recent specimens of these cords.]

Jeans used to be my mainstay winter-biking pants. It’s only denim, so I didn’t stress out when the cuffs got crusted with salt or blackened with road slush. But getting sweaty in jeans meant the denim staying damp for hours, afterward, a.k.a., cold and clammy. By contrast, Levis cords dry out in minutes.

My ideal setup is to wear a wool base layer beneath the Levis cords. The wool breathes really well, too, moving perspiration to the corduroy, which then evaporates the moisture quickly. The wool also acts as a barrier to odor causing bacteria, allowing me to wear the same pair of cords for three-plus days between washings. How’s that for high performance?

[Image credit: Wikimedia]

[UPDATE 10/23/2016:  Sadly, I’ve just bought a new pair of these cords. Levi’s has changed the fabric, reducing the elastane content to a mere 2%. That’s 98% cotton and 2% elastane. I don’t know how long ago they changed up. Too bad. I predict this new pair won’t vent anywhere near as well as my three old, now threadbare pairs bought back in 2012. Curse you, Levi’s!]

The Heartbleed Bug: How to Keep Your Passwords Safe

Entrepreneurship

lastpass logo

As an entrepreneur, one of your most important tasks is securing your financial information.  In the wake of the Heartbleed Bug, I’ve been fine-tuning my digital security. I’ve especially been fortifying my passwords.  I already use a password manager called LastPass, which I highly recommend.

Though I’ve used LastPass for several years, until Heartbleed, I wasn’t utilizing LastPass to its full potential. The latent Luddite in me was on the fence about fully entrusting my most sensitive accounts to any password manager. But this past couple of weeks has shown me how important it is (and that it truly is safe) to use LastPass for even my bank accounts, PayPal, and other highly sensitive sites.

I’d been using LastPass for dozens of less sensitive sites, while continuing to use easy to remember, “secret” passwords for my bank accounts and Paypal. Not smart. By “easy to remember,” I mean actual words whose significance I believed to be too personal to be deduced by strangers.

How foolish.  Today’s password-cracking software can test out tens or even hundreds of millions of possible passwords per second. Against such brute-force juggernauts, my poor, easy to remember passwords would last mere minutes, if that.

Enter LastPass. LastPass is widely considered the best password manager out there.  You have one master password to log in to the LastPass browser plug-in. Whenever you visit a web service, the plug-in logs you in securely.  As long as your master password is chosen well (i.e., long and complex), LastPass offers excellent security. There’s even a multi-factor authentication feature to make remote hacking virtually impossible.  (Multi-factor authentication is like Google Two-step Authentication, which, if you aren’t using yet, I also highly recommend.)

LastPass generates a different, completely random, character-string password for each of your online logins. Randomness is the key. Randomness actually resists brute-force attacks, unlike actual words. This is how to leverage a single master password while never using the same password for more than one site.

LastPass stores only 256-bit encrypted versions of passwords on its servers. That way, if their servers are ever hacked, the thief would have a monumental task of decrypting just one password, not to mention any others after that one.

Also, LastPass doesn’t store your master password.  Only you know your master password.  That’s how they thwart the potential “inside job” by an unscrupulous Lastpass employee. (Inside jobs are actually the most common form of security breach involving passwords.)

Plus, the LastPass plug-in only decrypts your passwords on your local machine; it never sends an unencrypted password across the Internet. All individual passwords remain encrypted until the moment you use them.

And even then when LastPass decrypts a password to log you in to a site, the password fill-in remains masked (just asterisks), in case a hacker is mirroring your screen. (By the way, your master password is masked when you use it to log into the LastPass plug-in.)

 

My First-ever Beer-industry Publication

Entrepreneurship, Food and Drink, Media, Wisconsin, Writing

screenshot - chocolate chili stouts

Big announcement. Da, da, DAAAAHHH!

I’ve recently published my first-ever piece of actual beer-industry writing. Please go have look!

Totally excited about Mobcraft, a real up-and-coming, two-year Madison brewery, ready to break ground on their $2 million facility.

I’ll be freelance blogging for them. This first post of mine is an article on chocolate chili pepper stouts, in advance of their newly-bottled beer No Stout About It.

My next piece for them will come out in the coming days. Stay tuned . . .

Wisconsin Friday Fish Fry — Japanese Style

Food and Drink
The Spot cobia2

Seared cobia and a snifter of Louie’s Reserve Imperial Scotch Ale

(Before I start, I should mention this isn’t a fried fish review.)

Lately, the Friday fish fry menu has been the draw for us at The Spot. While I enjoyed the fried walleye last week and the grilled salmon the week before that, tonight the seared cobia gets my vote.

Cobia is a firm, fairly fatty, flavorful white fish. The Spot flash sears it: the skin side comes crispy, the meat side, bronzed, and the core, wonderfully raw.

Think sashimi, but add carmelized fat (if you eat the skin) and a more succulent lusciousness. Searing collects the juices and drives them inward, concentrating the moisture and fat to boost the flavor into the realm of the highest-quality toro. The Japanese call seared fish or meat tataki. But rather than pounded flat or sliced thin as in tataki, the Spot’s seared cobia is an inch-and-a-half thick.

What a surprisingly adventurous dish for such a straight-ahead, casual restaurant. Anyone squeamish of sashimi or tartare might want the grilled salmon or fried walleye, instead. But I’m sure the palates of Madison’s Near Eastsiders will take to it, no problem.

I’m not used to any sauce on a seared piece of fish. But the chef adds TWO: a) a pesto cream, which seems a 21st Century update of the traditional mustard-mayo on tuna carpaccio — perfect for this mostly raw fish; and, b) a balsamic reduction. But, wait! There’s more. The fish floats atop a fluffy cloud of Parmesan risotto. Sound like an overwrought train wreck? Nope. It’s an ingenious amalgam of surprising textures and flavors that scores brilliantly. The sweet/tart drizzle of the balsamic reduction weds the rich sauce to the fatty fish perfectly. And the humble Parmesan risotto, which rivals the best I’ve had anywhere, causes no confusion with its only moderately-rich, mildly salty cheesiness. (I actually don’t love the Vegetable Quinoa Risotto elsewhere on the menu.)

Just a side note: at first blush the piece of fish seems small. But one feels that mild disappointment only relative to the portions of restaurants charging twice the price of this dish. There may not be a lot to take home in a doggy bag. But with the risotto and the nice pile of broccoli, it’s plenty substantial, especially at just $17. I actually do have some left over and look forward to my midnight snack.

We then totally enjoy dessert: a savory, pumpkin cheesecake. The muted sweetness of the filling leaves the pumpkin really prominent. The dish gets its sweetness instead from candied pepitas (so flavorful and chewy, they’re clearly fresh-roasted) and a dollop of sugary fresh cream. The bartender tells us the pastry chef is formerly of the fancier restaurants Harvest and Graze.

When we first started eating at The Spot, I was addicted to the burgers. I’ve tried all three of the burgers on the menu and would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. They’re all half-pound (I think) patties, grilled to order on a beautiful roll, with a side of wilted mustard greens (or any side dish). $8 for the basic burger, including the side dish? No wonder I was addicted.

I have tried the pork tenderloin and the sirloin steak. But I return again and again to the fish. I love the salmon from the regular menu. And another standout special has been the escolar.

Fish. That’s the chef’s strong suit.

Check out their menu, here.

Beer Roundup #10: Three Coffee Stouts

Food and Drink

Lagunitas Cappucino Stout coffee beer

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

 

A Note on the Style:  Coffee Stout

Coffee Stout is actually not a style you find described in the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program).  A coffee stout is essentially an American stout in which the brewer has added coffee beans or grounds to the boiling wort.  The result is generally a beer of middling alcohol content (say, 5% – 7% ABV), low to middling hop bitterness (30 – 60 IBU), and a pronounced roasted coffee flavor.

Cappuccino Stout, Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.2 / 5
22 oz. bottle, 9.2% ABV, 82 IBU.

This is a double stout, by the way.  The other two beers in this roundup are regular stouts.

A nice looking pour from a bomber into a tulip glass. Somewhat thin-looking, black, to be sure, with a smallish head, and very sticky lacing.

Perhaps this bottle hasn’t benefited from sitting in my cellar for five months. The coffee aroma seems muted.  A lactose smoothness in the nose makes the coffee-and-cream character astonishingly accurate.  (Pretty sure this was not brewed with any lactose, though, so technically it’s not a “sweet stout” or “milk stout.”)  There’s some vanilla, biscuit, unsweetened cocoa, and a grassy bitterness that must be hops.

Coffee flavor in the mouth is highly bitter, a mouth-puckering acid disrupted some by a milky sweetness that renders the burnt flavor a semisweet chocolate. The vanilla comes forward, with lots of dark chocolate and a subtle buttery caramel. Finish dries out a bit . . . No. Scratch that. The finish is pretty dang sweet. Yes, it’s black coffee and sugar.

If not for being a bit watery in body, the lactose-seeming creaminess makes the “capuccino” element awesomely spot-on.

I used to be in love with this beer. I’m wondering, it should be noted, if five months sitting has hurt this beer. I’ll have to wait ’til next year to see if a fresh specimen recaptures that old magic.

Jingle Java, Bent River Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.55 / 5
12-oz. bottle, 6.5% ABV, 29 IBU.

How lucky to have found this winter holiday beer still lingering in the singles cooler of my neighborhood bottle shop.  It’s fabulous.

This is the most stunning coffee flavor I’ve ever had in a beer. It really is an iced-Americano, with carbonation. The aroma is pure cold coffee with milk.

Flavor in the mouth is uncannily straight-up fresh-brewed iced coffee. There’s a tart, tinny hop bitterness that tries to remind one this is beer. But the aggressive French-roast flavor resists such a notion. There’s a nice sweet vanilla in the background that helps a milk chocolate undercurrent emerge from the dark depths.

Best coffee stout I’ve ever had. Blows doors on New Glarus Coffee Stout. While there are better coffee-infused stouts of imperial strength (Central Waters Brewhouse, 8.2%; Southern Tier Mokah, 10%), Jingle Java beats anything in the 6% – 7% alcohol range.

I wonder how much the low bitterness (29 IBU) plays a part in this brew’s success?

Java Lava, Pearl Street Brewing Company
Rating:  3.9 / 5
12 oz. bottle, 6.0% ABV, ? IBU

Wow, a third really good coffee stout in one night. USA! USA!

Earlier I had Jingle Java, by Bent River, out of Rock Island, Illinois. I’ve heard Bent River has an amazing imperial stout festival. The Jingle Java was actually a cut above this one, but this is still rather decent.

It’s not over the top amazing, like the Jingle Java. But this beer has an excellent demitasse essence.   Great creamy mouthfeel, despite the high carbonation.

Hmm.  As the level in my glass recedes, I see it’s actually nowhere near as good as the Jingle Java.  But it’s a solid brew.

New Panniers Even Better Than I Thought

Health

IMG_3532

 

I’ve actually been using this pair of panniers for almost a year.  I got caught in a downpour last night, which was fine since the bags are waterproof to their interior volumes.  However, the zippers are not water resistant.  The zippered pockets can get pretty damp in heavy rain.  So I’ve never kept anything water sensitive in the pockets.

Until now.

Last night after that torrent of rain, I discovered a hidden feature of the bags:  each bag has a rain “poncho” to cover itself when needed.

2-IMG_3533See that bulge towards the bottom?  That’s the poncho tucked away in a zipper pocket of its own.

3-IMG_3534Not only does the poncho keep the zippered pockets dry.  It also keeps the outer fabric of the bag from getting soaked.

4-IMG_3535

5-IMG_3536These bags are the Bontrager Interchange Urban Commuter Panniers. They’re sold as a set of two, $179. (Bontrager has been one of Trek’s component & accessory divisions since 1995.)   Each bag contains the volume of a paper grocery sack.   http://store.trekbikes.com/product/bontrager+interchange+urban+commuter+pannier.do

Easton Bell Sports: Now That’s Customer Service

Entrepreneurship, Health

Easton Bell $0.00 highlighted

Just wanted to send out some well-deserved praise for a company with excellent customer service.

Last December I damaged my Giro snowboard helmet.  I bent the metal snap of the goggle strap on the rear of the helmet.  (I mean the strap at the rear that clamps down over the strap of ski goggles).  After unsnapping the strap to remove my goggles, I found I could no longer close the snap.

I use this snowboard helmet for winter cycling.  As I don’t have a car, I need it on a daily basis.  This was an especially cold winter here in Madison.  I generally switch from wraparound glasses to ski goggles below 15°F.  While I don’t use goggles everyday, this is Wisconsin!

So, I emailed Giro, asking where I could buy the replacement parts.  I wasn’t optimistic.  In this age of disposable products and terrible customer service (I’m looking at you, AT&T, major airlines, Chase Bank, etc.), I half-expected to be told there are no replacement parts, if I were to be answered, at all.

They actually got back to me the very next day.  It was Customer Service Rep Amber Thomas, from Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Giro.  She said she would put the replacement strap in the mail, and I should receive it by the end of the week.  Sure enough, the strap arrived two days later.  I was thrilled to be able to use my goggles the rest of the season, without having to buy a brand new helmet.

(For those of you who say you don’t need the helmet strap to use goggles:  while running errands around town on my bike, I’m constantly removing my goggles and putting them back on.  This is much, much simpler to do with your helmet’s goggle strap latched to your goggles, as if the goggles were an integrated part of your helmet.)

When I wrote Amber back expressing my gratitude, she replied, “We just want you to have a fully functioning helmet.”

What you’re looking at in the image above is the packing list that arrived with the replacement parts.  Notice the figures listed in the “price” columns.  That’s right, “$0.00”

But, wait.  There’s more.

Several years back, I had a great little micro-light for the top of my skating helmet.  This was back in Houston, where the heat and humidity made Rollerblading at night the natural choice.  You need a light to skate at night, obviously.  Some of you may know this micro-light I’m referring to, called The Flea, by Blackburn.  They still make the Flea, but back then the Flea charged off of any battery via a little charging device.  My charger had a wire break loose.  I emailed Blackburn about it.  Same as with my helmet, Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Blackburn, sent me a replacement charger at no cost.

We’re talking a company with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.  So how do they succeed while giving away equipment at no charge?  By making lifelong customers like me.  That’s how.

Just FYI, after selling one of its several manufacturing divisions, the company has recently rebranded itself as BRG Sports.

Beer Roundup #8: Three American Barleywines

Food and Drink

Old Horizontal - Victory

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

 

A Note on the Style:  American Barleywine

(This style note is essentially the same as the one from my post “Beer Roundup #7:  Three Midwest English Barleywines.”)

American breweries produce both types of barleywine, the malty “English” style and the hoppy “American” style.  As I’m more of a malt guy, I prefer the sweeter English style.  The hoppy American style comes with hop bitterness to rival even the most mouth-puckering IPA.    All barleywines have a stiff malt backbone and generous sweetness, but the hop-forward American-style is often so bitter as to be indistinguishable from a high-alcohol double IPA.  Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are double IPA’s; I love me a double IPA when it’s got intense sweetness to offset the high IBU, like Bell’s Hopslam, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or Dark Horse Double Crooked Tree.  Same with American barleywines:  as long as it’s both bitter and sweet, it’s got my attention.

Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.39 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 10.2% abv, 73 IBU.

A glinting copper pour into a tulip glass, with an inch of off-white fluffy head that plasters lace on the glass.

The syrupy viscous feel in the mouth is too wonderful not to mention first. The first sip comes with a short-lived sugar sweetness. Then bitter grapefruit renders the sugar a memory. The citrus morphs to tarry pine. Whoa, this brew is too bitter. I immediately want to throw this in the cellar to teach it some manners.  That said, there is a secondary sweetness that calls out from the bitter abyss, alluding to a caramel malt sweetness that’s promised with a year or two of cellar aging. But the spicy alcohol heat teams up with the bitter hops to silence such rumors.

Stepping back to take in the aroma, a pungent honey and ripe melon seem to confirm the ghost of the sweetness. As the glass warms, the bloated bitterness deflates a bit, and a moist, grainy bread emerges, allowing that original simple syrup sugar to creep back into the room.

Rough-edged and impressively huge, like Greenflash Barleywine, this brew lacks the balance and polish of my favorite American barley wines:  Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale and Alaskan Barley Wine.

Beer Line, Lakefront Brewery
Rating:  3.96/5
12-oz. bottle (4-pk), 12.5% abv, 52 IBU.

Sticky, two-finger creamy head and lacing. Rouge-brown amber fluid.

My least favorite beer aroma hits the nose first:  leather. Milky rice pudding and wonder bread make up the malt bill. Brown sugar and vanilla, plus a mild booziness.  Very little hop bitterness in the aroma.

In the mouth the leather greets the palate, first, unfortunately. There’s a waterlogged driftwood that seems wedded to a chocolate-toffee sweetness and a nice estery burn.  Finishes with a loamy top-soil earthiness and a floral bitterness.

Medium- to full-bodied. Creamy and slick, a sticky, bitter finish.

This afternoon I was overly impulsive, buying two 4-packs of this brew.  Perhaps my judgment was clouded by the joyous memory of two recent Midwest barleywine discoveries:  1) just last month I cellared three four-packs of the enviable Stevens Point Whole Hog Barleywine (Wisconsin); and, 2) last month I was floored by Schell’s Stag Series BW (Minnesota), on tap at Mason Lounge.  Those two are a cut above this Beer Line barleywine (Wisconsin).  I don’t think I’ll be buying anymore of this one.  (Going by my ratings system, 4.0 is the cutoff point for purchasing any beer again.

Still, this is a fairly delicious barleywine, more English-style than American. I’ll throw the remaining seven bottles in the cellar.  Maybe a year might do good things, especially with the 12.5% ABV.

Old Horizontal, Victory Brewing Company
Rating:  4.41 / 5
22-oz. bottle, 11% abv, [85] IBU (estim.)

A bomber poured into a tulip glass creates a seriously handsome, ruddy copper glass of beer. It’s topped by a finger of fluffy off-white head that stays and stays, with sticky lacing.

Hoppy aroma, though quietly so.  An indeterminate spiciness.  Sweet grain. The alcohol is present.

Flavor in the mouth opens with sweet bread and red wine, plus a spicy alcohol.  Becomes instantly bitter from the citrusy hops, which dominate through the middle palate and onward through the finish. The sweetness rings as an echo on the backend, though sweetness here is refracted by the intense, white-grapefruit bitterness.

A medium- to full-bodied, luxurious mouthfeel, with a lively carbonation.

Classic American barley wine, very much like Bigfoot, though even bigger (except for the aroma). Intensely hoppy and spicy. The one drawback might be the near eclipse of malt sweetness by the tannic wine and citric bitterness. Nothing a bit of cellaring won’t cure.