|Polartec© Neoshell© – Here to stay?|
“For all the hype, and impressive lab figures – the Polartec© Neoshell© fabric on this sample jacket has performed exceptionally well. In fact, it’s exceeded all my expectations. Make no doubt, it’s here to stay – I’ll be very surprised if otherwise!”
Well, I’ve had a sample of the all Rab Neo Stretch jacket for a few months now, which uses the all new Polartec© Neoshell© fabric – and here’s a wee blog post from myself sharing with you my thoughts on this highly anticipated waterproof material. The jacket’s been through it all. From showery days, to wind battered summits, prolonged spells of rain to cowering behind rocks waiting for conditions to improve. It’s been scraped on rock, used as a mat on damp dirty ground and even a make shift pillow at camp. All the usual basically!
Though I wouldn’t count this as definitive review of the jacket because it is after all a sample, I do know that the final production only has a couple of cosmetic changes. Nothing spectacular and nothing that changes the fabric or design of the garment in terms of performance.
|The calm before the storm|
Rab are well known for using eVent® in their waterproof shell products. It performs better than most and is renowned for it’s ability to ‘let the sweat out’ when in use – effectively keeping any downpours at bay while the user remains dry inside.
Of course, certain factors can affect the performance of eVent such as how filthy the fabric is (it needs a good ole clean from time to time), being overwhelmed with perspiration along with unfavourable air pressure inside and outside the garment and so on.
There’s lots to consider if you want to get all ‘scientific’ about it. But to us mere mortals, what’s great about eVent is it keeps you dry, is not too warm in active use and get’s rid of your sweat better than most other shells – ie, you don’t tend to get too clammy inside or overheat.
|New kid on the block|
I’m a big fan of eVent along with the likes of Paramo, too. The latter being my favourite type of garment to wear in wintry climes – bar your skin, it’s hard to beat on performance. It’s extremely breathable, comfortable to wear, quick drying, continues to work if damaged and warm (not so good in summer, though).
So, where does Neoshell fit in with Rabs product range?
They’ll still be using eVent. Quite simply, the design team are keen to take advantage of some of the technical benefits of Neoshell with certain activities in mind. And it’s this thinking where you’ll see the use of the fabric with particular garments.
You can take a look at this handy info blurb Rab have put together on their website extolling the merits of Neoshell HERE.
There’s some impressive statistics in there. Namely the breathability of the fabric and the fact it can stretch – so, pretty handy for the likes of climbers or those on expeditions and so on.
But for us backpackers? How did I get on with it?
|‘Waterproof’ and highly breathable|
Well, bearing in mind all of the above – I think Neoshell is bloody brilliant. I’ve had it out in hot and humid conditions which involved drizzle to heavy and prolonged downpours. And all the while I’ve been taking notes of ambient temperatures, dew points, wind speeds and so on. The latter is worth noting because of the effect of air pressure will have on the garment if you’re out in rain and plodding head down for miles on end. All fabrics will wet out at some point be it inside or out. Most Paramo users will admit even that wets through on a windy day.
I have to say, on the whole I’ve been really quite surprised at how comfortable I’ve been when wearing this jacket. It’s a little softer than eVent and so doesn’t make that annoying ‘crispy crackle’ noise you can get with such membrane fabrics. And it really does stretch, too. Not loads like an elastic band, of course. But you notice it if you’re all zipped up and doing some scrambling or clambering over stiles with a heavy pack on.
Whereas I’ve expected to feel clammy and a little hot at times, instead I felt cool and dry – and the rain be it a heavy downpour or a prolonged spell of drizzle has always been kept at bay. There has been the odd occasion where I honestly thought I’d had unzipped the jacket to regulate my temperature within and realised I was all enclosed!
I’ve experienced some wetting out of the fabric around the wrist cuff area – which is kind of expected – but never once felt like the jacket was being overwhelmed. It certainly didn’t feel wet underneath at my wrists, unless of course I held my arms aloft in the rain.
|Quick break in the sun and checking for dampness inside|
If anything, Neoshell has exceeded all my expectations.
It’s perhaps not as windproof as some other membrane fabrics but in reality I’ve not noticed any difference whatsoever. Not when layered up at least.
All that’s buzzed through my head when walking along was how comfortable I was and how I could swear I was in an eVent garment. Yes, Neoshell is that good in my experience.
I can’t even recall any noticeable damp on the inside of the fabric either. I’ve noted a little clamminess around my arm pits and back area – but it’s never been overwhelmed due to the fabric not performing as it theoretically should.
It’s proven to be durable too. Knocks and grazes on Peak District gritstone have been of no concern, dirt is repelled with ease and even though I’ve yet to give this regularly used jacket a wash – it’s still as good as new.
|Casual pose from a casual guy|
I’m not wanting to sound like a salesman here, or even a sponsor of Polartec or Rab (I’m none of these) but I’ve been truly flabbergasted by how well Neoshell has performed (even when the jacket is fully sealed for a good few hours). I won’t be too surprised if the actual sample jacket hasn’t many alterations compared to the one that’s now in stores. Granted, the design of a waterproof jacket is crucial to take advantage of any of it’s fabrics merits but even so, on the worst designed of jackets you can see how good it could perform.
Saying that this jacket has a clean and simple design, though it’s not particularly lightweight. But you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, no? You want a waterproof jacket that keeps the wind and rain at bay and is going to last you a few years of regular use?
Neoshell is it, in my humble opinion.
Is it worth the money for us backpackers?
Well, if I’m honest – yes and no.
Neoshell is bloody brilliant, don’t get me wrong – and it’s no surprise that Rab have taken to using the fabric in it’s range. Continuing to use both membranes – they’re clearly thinking of what tools in their arsenal will give them the best results for a given product and it’s related activity.
Which is no bad thing, of course. We all want gear companies to have that mentality.
But the only real advantage to walkers, backpackers in my opinion, is it’s breathability.
Even so, overall to most folk this will be a negligible difference when compared to eVent. What harm is a little sweat to most outdoors people anyway? For such garments how active you are, the temperature and air pressure within the product and outside etc affects how well it performs.
Across a broad range of conditions, the jacket has been exceptional but could I honestly say it’s way ahead of anything else out there? No not really.
Granted, the ability for Neoshell to stretch is not something to be scoffed at – but I can’t really see how that is of any real benefit for walkers and backpackers. In which case, they ought as well stick with an eVent garment. I suppose it’s worth considering for those who heat up and sweat easily on the gentlest of walks – I fall into that category in which case I’d likely go for Polartecs new membrane fabric.
But we have some time to go before we see garments like this reduce in weight. It’s not a problem of course to some people, me included but it is for others. A lightweight jacket featuring Neoshell could prove to be a best seller for mountain marathoners, for example.
It really is swings and roundabouts and I make no apology to anyone who may read this and wish for me to drum up a personal definitive answer. There isn’t one to be fair. There’s no point in being anal about it.
It’s like most gear out there – there’s always a compromise down the line. There is no one size fits all product in whichever field you may seek. We all have different bits of kit for different activities and times of year – and it’s no different in this case concerning Neoshell. It’s clearly suited for particular people performing specific activities.
Overall, I really like Polartecs new fabric. It’s a winner, make no doubt.
For all the hype, and impressive lab figures – the Polartec© Neoshell© fabric on this sample jacket has performed exceptionally well. In fact, it’s exceeded all my expectations. Make no doubt, it’s here to stay – I’ll be very surprised if otherwise!
Well, I’ve continued to hammer this jacket and it’s still performs as well as the day it arrived. No joke. I’ve yet to wash the garment (still!) – and despite being stained and soiled it’s still doing it’s job brilliantly. So, unlike eVent it doesn’t require so much care to ensure performance. That’s a given. Alas admittedly, it does need a clean now. It looks absolutely filthy! And only because of appearances.
The Rab Neo Stretch jacket has become my go to ‘day after day’ waterproof jacket now. And particularly for winter use too. With it being a little heavier than your usual of this ilk, and despite how breathable Neoshell is, I’m yet to really feel any cold biting winds come through.
Consider the Rab Neo Stretch a worthy investment in your arsenal against the elements outdoors. I love it.
Thanks to Martin at Summit and Valley for noted photos above. It’s a bit tricky taking pics of yourself when out on the hill – for me at least.