On test – A Rab Polartec© Neoshell© jacket, a merino mix baselayer and eVent® bivvy

Sample garments from Rab

Postman delivered a couple of bits and bobs from Rab today which are interesting.

First up a sample waterproof jacket featuring Polartec© Neoshell© and a new baselayer made up of merino wool and Cocona®.

I’m heading off back out to the Peak District in a couple of days and the weather’s looking a bit damp, shall we say – so it will be good to test the sample garments out.

The Stretch Neo jacket features Polartec© Neoshell© fabric, a waterproof and breathable shell which looks like a rival (on paper at least) to eVent® – so, I’m not too sure where this all fits in with the rest of Rab’s range of waterproof shell products seeing as they are made up of the latter.

Better than eVent®?

The jacket is only a sample but it’s got a nice cut and shape, fits just right (size large for me), and the usual Rab features. Wired peak hood, waist drawcord, long at the back, deep storm flaps under the main zip and useful pockets which sit almost up on your chest. Plus, the slightly over long sleeves for ease of movement etc along with velcro cuffs.

I’m a big fan of eVent® – so it will be interesting to see how the two fabrics compare.

Next up, is a new baselayer from Rab – long sleeves, collar and chest zip – made up of 65% Merino wool and 35% Cocona®. You can see the thinking behind it – a top to keep you cool or warm while regulating your body temperature better and keeping you ‘dry’ shall we say. ie, a quick drying merino wool top.

However, I’ve been using a long sleeved top from Chocolate Fish over the past couple of months – which is 100% pure merino wool (bloody good top, too). I think Amanda would probably have a lot to say about this Rab baselayer (you can read a feature on the subject of merino wool here). Her thoughts are that such garments where merino and synthetics/alternate fibres are mixed amount to cost cutting (in many cases) along with the question of whether the merino wool is the real deal from New Zealand (a la the likes of Icebreaker). Arguing that merino wool – the real thing – doesn’t need  any outside influence whatsoever. That the wool works fine on it’s own and those who have had concerns or problems have been victim to – well, you can guess the rest.

I shall note the thoughts of both sides of the argument, for sure. I can see Rab’s thinking behind the top – after initially pulling it over my head, it’s body hugging and feels good on the skin. So, again we shall see.

And finally, I’ve been testing out the Rab Ridge Raider bivvy for the past couple of weeks or so. So, far it gets the big thumbs up from me. I have some quibbles with it (always some on shelters!), though. It’s not perfect by any means – but it’s performed it’s duties better than I anticipated, even in piss poor weather.

Absolute bliss last Saturday morning

So, bring on the rain – I’m filming mostly indoors for the next few weeks, some showers from the heavens above will only do this testing some good!

Oh! By the way, no weights listed – these are only samples. Some changes are likely before the final production line is put into action.

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry, look forward to the reviews in due course. Will be interested in particular the Polartec product.

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  2. terrybnd says:

    @markswalkingblog – Me too, mate. It's a sample jacket but it's about the fabric. Beads well (took it out in rain earlier). But we'll see when up on the moors in the next week 😉

    If it keeps rain out I'll be happy. If it's breathable as eVent I'll be very happy.

    Feeling the fabric it feels like a 3 layer eVent, flexes well and quite light. It's nice but of course it's all in the action eh? Strong winds, heavy rain and my hot sweating body for a few hours will give it a good test 😉 LOL

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  3. Zed says:

    If Amanda was to compare early, pure merino Icebreaker with more recent mixed merino products from them, she would notice a significant difference in comfort – both softness and fit.

    Some time ago, Einstein X re-analysed BPL.com statistics and posted his conclusions on their forum. The stimulus had been an article on baselayer drying times. Einstein X pointed out that the BPL numbers showed wool swatches drying more slowly because they were thicker and not because they were made of a different fibre.

    Why were they thicker? This is a bit technical for me, so I may have this wrong, but man-made fibres have greater tensile strength and abrasion resistance. Please be kind if I have got this wrong.

    However, I vaguely recall Icebreaker announcing a little while back that they were adding some man-made fibres to their merino, bringing them in line with the likes of Smartwool. That is probably why my newish Icebreaker longjohns are close-fitting and luxurious while my old Icebreaker top is scratchy and heavy. With a little lycra, merino can be made into thinner garments which are just as durable as the old ones.

    Apart from one thing. The old garments are uncomfortable so rarely get worn. They should last forever – or at least until I become homeless as a result of Cameron dismantling my pension.

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  4. terrybnd says:

    @Zed – Well, the impression I've got is mixing merino with synthetics is more of a cynical cost cutting exercise in the main. Don't get me wrong – I've no doubt whatsoever that Rab have genuine aims with this particular top (see below). But other companies I suspect not (not all of course).

    Thing is though, and what folk often forget in sports (be it walking or even running) there's a reason we sweat. It's our body trying to keep cool. It needs to maintain it's ideal temperature to perform correctly – or at it's worst if it can't/doesn't you could possibly die.

    My point is – that though those results may say that the wool may have been slower to dry, the effect of this as a garment is it's keeping you cool as you're active.

    Quick drying fabrics have got to the point where they've forgotten the basics of human biology, in my opinion.

    eg, I prefer to wear cotton shirts in the summer, Aye I might be damp with sweat but I'm cool. And I feel more comfortable as a result.

    Consequently when we're not active then quick drying garments can be of immense value if not a life saver.

    So, perhaps with this Rab baselayer it's endeavouring to give the user the best of both worlds? ie, the thinking behind it?

    Either way, it's all very interesting (the science and practical side of it all).

    Even so, if the garment performs as designed and I'm happy, then that's what really matters at the end of the day. Is it fit for purpose. So, we'll see 🙂

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  5. I have – and I haven't. The absolutely original NZ Icebreaker used fabric from Designer Textiles. It was smooth and comfortable – almost as smooth and comfortable as ours 🙂 After the move to China, inferior Chinese yarn and fabric was used – the result was itchy and unpleasant. That's the result of poor quality wool, yarn and fabric. Only 2 alternatives to solve the problem – use better quality fibre, yarn and fabric – which is expensive, or add lycra or elastane – cheap.

    You can indeed spin a petro-chemical material into exceedingly fine fibre. And yes, it can be more resistant to abrasion but may or may not have more tensile strength. However it is inert. It dries fast because it is solid and doesn't absorb anything. It dries fast because of gravity.

    Wool fibre is simultaneously both hygrophilic and hygrophobic. It absorbs moisture and then releases it gradually. Yes – it takes longer to dry – but not that much longer, and will still keep you warm when wet. Wool is naturally anti-bacterial, which is why it doesn't develop the stink of synthetics. The more synthetic added to the wool, the more chance of the stink developing. The more synthetic added to the wool, the less it becomes biodegradable and recyclable etc.

    Wool is also sustainable, renewable, biodegradable and recyclable. Petro-chemical products are not sustainable, renewable, or biodegradable, and only some may be recyclable. It's not just about performance, it's about the environment as well. We have less than a handful of years of landfill available. Our seas are polluted with rubbish. What price synthetics?

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  6. Maybe worth pointing out that Cocona isn't a petrol-chemical product – it's made from recycled coconut shells.

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  7. terrybnd says:

    @Chocolate Fish – Thanks for posting and contributing. Your in-depth knowledge and passion on the subject is much appreciated, it's very enlightening.

    I agree with you on the environment front. It's something I'm much more considerate about nowadays.

    However, I'm only trying to be fair to all concerned but I do find the thinking and science behind these things fascinating.

    Saying that, the mix on the baselayer is not a 'synthetic' in the sense we're normally used to seeing. But “recycled coconut shells – a natural and renewable source” as Cocono® themselves describe.

    Obviously, there's more to be considered on that front environmentally.

    Thank you for your input – it helps show folks to consider more on their choice of kit and the like (perhaps for some).

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  8. terrybnd says:

    @Chris Townsend – This is true concerning Cocona. However, I suppose it's merits on it's 'carbon footprint' are something to be considered.

    Either way, here's an interesting feature to read on the merits of coconut fibre here:

    http://www.tis-gdv.de/tis_e/ware/fasern/kokosfa/kokosfa.htm#feuchte

    Food for thought in there, eh? LOL

    I'm getting all confused with this now!

    All said and done, as I've said before if the garment performs as designed and exceeds, well I'll be a happy man. But all the above points are something to consider, too.

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  9. The problem is that every product has an environmental impact and that to truly assess it you have to look at the whole life from raw materials to final disposal not just manufacturing and distribution. How long will Cocona last? I don't know yet. I do like the Rab shirt though.

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  10. terrybnd says:

    Well, I like the top when worn as it is now – so got high hopes for it. Rab are churning out some blinding kit of late. Feel honoured to have a relationship with them.

    Anyway, my trip this week has been altered – so it's a week long hike/shoot in the Peaks next week for me. So, we'll see how both garments get on 🙂

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  11. Look forward to the review ..they look pretty cool

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  12. terrybnd says:

    @Chris25119600 – Aye, they are. Be good to try them out

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  13. Maz says:

    Each time I move away from merino to try other baselayer tops, I end up going back to Merino – I agree with Zed in that I think the drying-time factor has been the stimulus for people to re-think merino but I have never had a problem with it and sometimes and overly technical analysis does not have a place in the real world as we are all so different. I prefer the feel of it, the functionality and versatility of it and the smell of it. Frankly, I have yet to find anything that suits me better. I am always intrigued by new baselayers as they are so fundamental to being outdoors – that layer is, to my mind, the most important layer. I like Chocolate Fish and I am thrilled that an ecologically sound UK company is doing so well – sadly I cannot justify another merino product right now! I wish Amanda well with her business and her passion is commendable.

    Neoshell also piques my interest – again, I am content with where my kit is right now, but as an alleged “poster-child” for Rab (which I guess is not far off), I too think they have upped their game in recent years – with the Xenon, the Infinity and now these, they are top notch.

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  14. terrybnd says:

    @Maz – Agree on the baselayer front. I tend to sweat a lot – gross I know – but I honestly don't care if I'm damp (in the warmer months at least) cause I'm in effect cool.

    I'd say one thing for merino over synthetics – bad smells. Wool as we know on paper is much better and in real life use it is, too. Handy for me on hikes for 4 days plus. Less clothing to carry.

    The Neoshell feels nice, has a softness to it – the jacket has panels which have a certain stretch.

    I've been digging some more on the technical side of the fabric, use in design etc from Rab today. I'll put all that in a post after a few long trips in the jacket etc. Real interesting.

    And yeah, I agree again too with Amanda at Chocolate Fish – her passion, enthusiasm and knowledge is infectious to say the least. Nice she came on here to comment actually. Mark of her character and company 🙂

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  15. Terry – do you have the weight of the Neoshell Jacket ?

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  16. Zed says:

    That's a great post from Chocolate Fish. Really helpful. I also agree with you, terrybnd, as far as synthetics drying so fast I get chilled. The first merino I ever bought, years ago, is still the one which comes out for backpacking trips. It doesn't get stinky and is always dry enough under eVent.

    I miss those old doormats made from coconut fibre. Presumably, they are quite a price now. If not, does anyone know where I can get one?

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  17. terrybnd says:

    @Markswalkingblog – Apologies for late reply. Missed this. No mate. Why? It's a sample. It is weightier than Gores Active Shell – but this Neoshell has stretch and is meant to be more durable on this garment.

    @Zed – Aye it's good folk like Amanda come on blogs and chat innit?

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