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Vaude - Ducan Soft Shell Jacket

posted Oct 23, 2014, 4:15 AM by GoOut Project   [ updated Oct 27, 2014, 1:03 AM ]



What is the highest degree of protection that a Soft Shell can reach before converting itself into a Hard Shell? ...The answer is obvious: a Soft Shell with a windproof membrane! The Vaude Ducan Soft Shell Jacket is a perfect example of such a garment! We tested it for more than 6 months and here are the results.

Technical Description

The Ducan is a Soft Shell jacket for generic use in the mountains. It is a laminated jacket with a windproof membrane developed by Vaude. The Ducan jacket features:
  • Ergonomic cut 
  • Adjustable cuffs with velcro
  • 2-way front zip with back flap 
  • Elastic drawcord at the waist adjustable through the pockets 
  • Underarm ventilation zips
  • Two front pockets that also function as extra ventilation, plus one chest pocket (men's version) or arm pocket (female version) 
  • Hood with visor and adjustment cords
Materials
  • Outer fabric: 100% Polyester 
  • Windproof membrane: "Windproof 100" - 100% Polyurethane 
  • Lining: 100% Polyester 
  • DWR Eco-Finish*
Weight: 605 ​​g in size M, men's version 

* Unlike the majority of the DWR treatments used today on outdoor garments, the water-repellent treatment Eco-Finish contains no fluorocarbons. This means no non-biodegradable,
bioaccumulative, or toxic substances. And Go Out Project really loves this!

Our Test


We tested the Ducan jacket for more than 6 months mainly in the mountains but in very different conditions: from the cold alpine winter to the milder summer in the valleys of the Dolomites, from sunny days to heavy rain showers. We used it for skiing, mountaineering and climbing at high altitude, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, hiking in the woods... and picking berries!


First Impressions

Some of the comments of our testers after the first few field tests of the Ducan: 

  • "A little heavy, but it gives you the same level of protection of a German panzer!" 
  • "It impedes a bit the movement of the arms." 
  • "I found it especially good for short hikes in the mountains, in days of moderate cold and uncertain weather." 
  • "Annoying tinkling of zip cursors and not very comfortable pockets."

Lightness & Packability

It is certainly not a lightweight jacket, you notice it immediately when you grab it in your hand. With approximately 600 g in the men's version in size M it is closer to the weight of a Hard Shell ... and not one of the lightest! When you wear it, you notice its weight and sometimes you wish you could throw a few hundred grams of cloth away. But it is clear that the design is aimed firstly to protection and durability, not to lightweight. Obviously compressibility goes hand in hand with lightness. In the backpack it occupies a volume that is far from negligible. Probably it's better to wear it rather than having to stuff it in your backpack!

Cut & Fit

The Ducan follows fairly well the shape of the body, better in the
female version though. The fit is not too tight and it leaves enough room for additional layers underneath the jacket, as a light insulator or a fleece for example. The length on the waist and hips is enough to keep them well protected and it doesn't interfere with the harness, when you are wearing one. The fabric is a bit poor in elasticity and does not always help during activities that require ample movements. The hood is not intended for use with a helmet: the volume is relatively small and able to accommodate only some small mountaineering helmets in case you really need to. However, the hood has a good cut and it never bothers or obstructs the view when you rotate your head.

Comfort

The fabric of the Ducan is not extremely soft or stretchable, but the texture of the material composing the lining makes the jacket overall sufficiently comfortable. The feeling you get when you wear it fully reflects the nature of this garment: it is not as soft as a classic Soft Shell without membrane and it is not as stiff as a Hard Shell, but rather a good compromise in between the two. The knitted honeycomb lining, slides smoothly over the skin and over other layers, it favours the transport of moisture, and it gives a pleasant
feeling of "warmth".

Breathability

Compared to a classic Soft Shell, the presence of a membrane, obviously, inhibits air circulation, but despite this the Ducan has a satisfactory level of breathability. The combination of a fairly breathable membrane and a good open-weave outer fabric helps the garment to function adequately even when the physical effort is more intense. Only in the most extreme situations, such as high humidity and downpours, we noticed some problems of condensation inside the garment. To tackle this, however, the large underarm ventilation zips and the hand pockets, lined with an open mesh, provide free air circulation, therefore in most cases you don't need to take the jacket off.

Weather Protection

Considering that it is a Soft Shell, the Ducan offers a more than satisfactory level of protection form the elements. Obviously, the membrane makes the difference and in the most extreme
weather conditions it is undoubtedly an advantage to have it
. The Ducan protected us well for a few minutes even under strong downpours. If you tighten the hood, the cuffs, and the hem on the waist the jacket seals quite well, maintaing the body heat inside. In high mountain environments, when exposed to strong winds, sometime we noticed a few drafts. Is this a flow or and advantage? It depends on the situation! The range of temperatures for which the Ducan is best suited is toward the colder ones. The DWR works well, but it does not have a long life. We recommend reactivation every two, maximum three washes.

Durability

It is thick, tough, and durable! The Ducan does not fear abrasion and tearing. Accidental touch with sharp tools or with sharp rocks are not a problem. The only weak point are the seams, that in some places are exposed and vulnerable. Overall, however, it is a garment that is little affected by wear over time compared to an average Soft Shell. At the end of our test the cuffs, which are usually more subject to wear, are still almost perfect! Certainly, the Ducan is a good investment in the long run! In fact, high durability also means delaying the need for a replacement and the need for a new 
purchase, so less waste of resources and energy and less waste into the environment. This is something that Go Out Project fully supports!

Versatility

The fact that the Ducan has not been designed for a specific use, actually broadens the range of activities for which it is well suited. Mountain environments with cool/cold temperatures are ideal, while at intermediate/warmer temperatures and in more humid climates, due to the windproof membrane, the Ducan is not the best choice. For climbing in winter, dry tooling, ice climbing, or demanding alpine routes the Ducan is an excellent companion. It functions very well also for less demanding activities such as hiking in cold environments or skiing in warmer days.

Our Verdict


If you're looking for a jacket that offers very good protection from the elements, but you think, as we also do, that in most
situations
a Hard Shell is actually superfluous
, then the Ducan could be the right garment for you. If you also require a high level of durability, then with the Ducan you certainly hit the spot! When it's starting to get chilly and it's time to work hard out there, the Ducan is ready to protect you!

PROS

+ High level of protection

+ High durability


CONS

- Definitely not a featherweight - Limited freedom of movement - Some details can be improved


 Lightness & Packability    5/10
 Comfort    7/10
 Fit & Cut    8/10
 Weather Protection    8/10
 Breathability    7/10
 Versatility    7/10
 Durability    9/10
 Total Score  7.2/10