softshells have always had weaknesses that limited them, amongst them the matrix of stretch and durability. schoeller resolved this in a way but the results were heavy and very warm, which limited things to a certain part of the climbing spectrum.

do that with an old-school softshell: new Power Shield Stretch Woven does this without the use of regular stretch components

as part of their systemization, Polartec worked to solve the gap, developing a range of fabrics that are wind-blocking, warm to the touch, weather-faced, super stretchy, durable and light – ie a combination that many climbers never even knew they were missing out on.

the key here has been the STRETCH WOVEN element.

until now softshells used a lycra component to achieve stretch. this functioned ok, with reasonable stretch capability but limited durability. over extended use the fabrics either stiffened up or lost some of their expansion-contraction range. not always welcomed for expensive garments, and a process often exacerbated by extended use in very cold temperatures.

now comes Power Shield Stretch Woven.

mechanical stretch achieved by the weave of the fabric isn’t that new, but what is is the way its developed into a softshell fabric, most of all just how much stretch there is and how light those fabrics can be. where softshells used to be the domain of winter-only use, the new powershield stretch woven variants are creeping ever further into warm weather use. in part due to remarkable breathability, the lighter end of the range is on par with many other flimsier shelling fabrics – yet another holy grail in textile development; light, stretchy, durable and breathable. needless to say this appeals favourably to pairing with ALPHA insulation (for the first true stretch insulation designs).

Power Shield Stretch Woven + Alpha insulation: the alchemy of true stretch insulation, allowing for full cover weather protection with seamless garments

who wants super stretch, summer-weight softshells? anyone demanding a combination of weather resistance, protection, range of movement and adaptability. this would include mixed climbers, big wallers, boulderers, trekkers and expedition climbers, but now due to the non-lycra stretch – which means much reduced environmental deterioration – these fabrics excel in water use, opening up uses by surfers, sailors, river guides and those who work around water.

seasonal testing has shown that when combined with smart baselayers (more on that soon) even the lighter powershield stretch woven fabrics work in winter, resulting in the beginnings of true multi-season shell garments.

the attributes of high stretch, tough and super-breathable softshells become obvious with use across multiple demands – just the way alpine pursuits are going. stretch woven softshells are resolving many of the elements that lead to real ‘second skin’ garments, ones that protect, regulate body temperature and move effortlessly with the body across a wide range of conditions.