/ NEW REVIEW: Polartec NeoShell and the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

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Sarah Stirling Testing the Rab Stretch Neo in Coire an t Schneachda, 4 kbPolartec NeoShell: hard shell, soft shell or a new kind of shell altogether? Sarah Stirling reviews a new Rab jacket (in men's and women's) and a much-talked of new Polartec fabric.

Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=4487
Wee Davie - on 12 Mar 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

Another good review of the Neoshell stuff. I reckon I'll be replacing my old Rab Fusion with a Stretch Neo.
Merlin - on 12 Mar 2012
Hmmmmmmm.

Hydrostatic head is low, so a Neo-Shell garment is not going to be a do-it-all item for your average day in Scotland, but perhaps suited to colder drier conditions and alpine climbing.

Although Gore-Tex is so good that I can't understand why you'd want to semi replace it with something that is only waterproof in drizzle or light snow.

And if it is really going to be dry/cold I'd prefer to have a proper softshell with better breathability and ditch anything that relies on a membrane.
In reply to Merlin:
> something that is only waterproof in drizzle or light snow.

But that's not true. I've worn mine for hours climbing in pissing rain and it doesn't leak. I don't know how wet you have to get for it to leak, but I haven't found it yet.
Nick Harvey - on 12 Mar 2012
In reply to TobyA: So Goretex withstands 28m of water, presumably per sq metre. So thats 28 tonnnes per sq m? So Neoshell 'only' withstands 10 tones per sq m...

A bit more than sitting in a puddle i would have thought.
Wee Davie - on 12 Mar 2012
In reply to Merlin:

I'll never go back to Goretex unless the breathability of their stuff gets much, much better. I've owned a number of Goretex jackets in the last 20 years of hill- going life. They were ok until it started raining, snowing or the temperatures rose above freezing!
The Hydrostratic head of Neoshell looks perfectly adequate for Scotland to me. I don't expect miracles from Neoshell but most reviews I've read of it indicate this is a big step forward from Gtex, and for that reason- I'm in.
Merlin - on 12 Mar 2012
In reply to TobyA:

But how long have you had it? Is it still relying largely on a fairly new DWR?

I'm sceptical about any hydrostatic head lower than Gore-Tex, for added breathability, as I've whitnessed several eVent (specifically Rab) garments leak in heavy rain.
Sarah Stirling - on 12 Mar 2012
In reply to Merlin: I've been surprised by how weatherproof NeoShell is and have come to rely on it more and more. Like Toby I've been out in pretty heavy rain and snow and it's never got through yet. I've had mine since last summer and this autumn/winter I've usually reached for it over any other shell. I would actually say it's an ideal do-it-all fabric for your average day in Scotland.

Sarah
In reply to Merlin:

> But how long have you had it? Is it still relying largely on a fairly new DWR?

It's been worn virtually daily for four months now, including plenty of climbing trips - but I guess you rely a lot on the DWR with all waterproofs. I've only washed it once so far, but will use a spray on repellent probably before next winter - as I tend to do with goretex jackets.

So I guess it will leak before GTX, but then the other side is I get less wet in it anyway because I don't get sweaty in it and/or don't need to keep taking the hood down/undoing pitzips etc.

Having said all that, for years I only had a paclite gortex, and then a second paclite, and always thought they were crap for breathability - but was ice climbing hard all day sunday in pretty warm temps (1 or 2 degrees) in the Marmot Alpinist jacket that I reviewed here last winter - and didn't get sweaty. So modern pro-shell's breathability isn't to be sniffed at either. Not like my early 90s goretex anyway!
In reply to TobyA: BTW, a really interesting look at the politics and economic competition of waterproof/breathable here: http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-gear/Insane-in-the-Membrane.html all should read if interested in this debate!
Paul035 - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

I'm a big fan of Rab gear, really good performance and fit. But you touched on something that I think is common to all Rab stuff I've bought, and that is their zips.

They stick on all 3 jackets and down sleeping bag I have, and very rarely does it just zip up first time without catching or sticking.

Having said that, definitely not enough to stop me buying Rab as its a minor inconvenience compared to the quality you get, just an aspect they could improve upon in my humble opinion.
Gene00 - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to UKC Gear:

Tiso in Glasgow were selling them at a knock down price of 180, a couple of mionths ago. An absolute bargain.

I wore mine winter climbing on Ben Nevis last week, The weather was horrendous as you could imagine. However, the Rab Stretch Neo jacket didn't let me down.

It is an amazing bit of kit.

I read a few reviews before I bought one, some folk stated the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket wasn't fully windproof or waterproof for that matter, this is utter nonsense.
The winds on top of the Ben last week were in excess of 70mph, during the week we endured snow, heavy sleet and horizontal rain. This jacket did not let me down, I remained dry and warm.

It could benefit from a couple of hand warmer pockets, maybe they'll add them to the next model!

Buy one
Marcusk - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to UKC Gear: I'll add my positive side too- bloody amazing. I was a bit sceptical at first, but took the plunge and it is great. Have worn it since October pretty much all the time; on my daily cycle commute, walking and climbing and it breathes very well and is very very water and wind proof. Love it.
The only potential draw back is that washing it reduces the waterproofness but one wash a year won't cause problems in a 5 or 6 year life span...
Marcusk - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to Marcusk: PS also the napoleon pockets are waaay better and more useful than pockets that enter from the other side! I had a Latok Alpine previously and naps are useful! Why need a hand warmer pocket on a functional shell jacket? Wear gloves...
Wee Davie - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to TobyA:

Cheers for that Outside link. Very interesting. It confirmed a lot of what I've suspected about Gtex's market dominance. Brave reporting by Outside mag!
Wee Davie - on 13 Mar 2012
In reply to TobyA:

On aye, and I loved the writer's description of the Polartec models- 'the faces of Meth'. LOL
Sarah Stirling - on 14 Mar 2012
Interested to read other's opinions, particularly on the fabric, but also the jacket. Would especially like to hear if there are any more opinions on how windproof and waterproof NeoShell is compared to Gore-Tex / eVent, or just in general.

Cheers, Sarah
greenroom - on 14 Mar 2012
In reply to Merlin: Hmmm, 10000mm is more than you're average tent groundsheet. I reckon it will do just fine. Think I've finally found a lightweight replacement for my until now unbeatable Paramos.

Well done for an informative review, and that link about the antitrust lawsuit against gore makes interesting reading. Thanks
In reply to greenroom:
> Hmmm, 10000mm is more than you're average tent groundsheet.

Is that really true? Very interesting. I always figured non-breathable nylons would be far more waterproof than breathable fabrics of all types.
Damo on 14 Mar 2012
In reply to Sarah Stirling - UKC/UKH:
> ...like to hear if there are any more opinions on how windproof and waterproof NeoShell is

I find 'windproof' very hard to measure. It depends not just on how cold and strong the wind is, but what you're wearing underneath, and whether or not you're warm and moving, or cold and stationary, or somewhere in between. I think reviewers should include what else they were wearing when they tested the garment, and more precise indicators of the weather conditions.

And when does 'wind resistant' become 'windproof'? People bang on about the old Patagonia Mixmaster pants for winter conditions. I've worn them a lot, but on some occasions - say, -20C, wind 50km/h, moving slow at 4000m - I've felt the wind cut through them like a knife. But in easier conditions and when warmed up moving, they feel fine in the wind. I recently (January) wore Rab Vaporise trousers in Antarctica. The first time I got out of the plane in cold and windy conditions (-25C, 60km/h wind, 3000m ) I thought I might lose my nads. But once moving, as I warmed up, they were fine. In both cases I just had Polartec Powerstretch tights underneath. So are they windproof? Technically, by stats, no, and in some real-life use cases, no. But in general for most of their use, pretty much. Anything more 'windproof' and I would sweat too much. If a garment is not windproof, but you're wearing two baselayers and a fleece underneath, you may not feel any wind coming through the shell garment, so it feels windproof. If you're just wearing a thin synthetic baselayer under a Gore shell the wind pressing cold fabric against you make you feel vulnerable to the wind, so it won't feel windproof, even if the fabric is.


The other thing is fit. I read reviews saying 'the fit is good.' So what? Good for whom? Without either body measurements or general description of the tester's body size and shape, and what size garment they used, it's meaningless. Better yet, what sizes they take in other comparable garments. People rave about the fit of Patagonia garments, but I find them far too baggy around the waist and tight across the back and shoulders. Ditto with Rab, but at least Rab have longer arms.

Also, Polartec made a 'successful foray' into softshell long before 2010's PsPro - with Powershield, back in the 90s.
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Sarah Stirling - on 14 Mar 2012
In reply to Damo: Thanks for the comments and feedback.

I agree that things like wind resistance and fit are relative, and try to make sure I and other reviewers are as clear as possible about factors that affect our opinions on gear. So yes, if anyone has any more opinions on wind and water resistance, it would be useful if you could include details like comparisons with other fabrics / weather conditions. I realise I've not include jacket size / body size and shape in my review, so will add a quick line for any girls interested in buying this jacket. Also thanks for pointing out the Powershield oversight, I've added the missing words 'water resistant'.

Cheers, Sarah
In reply to Damo:

> The other thing is fit. I read reviews saying 'the fit is good.' So what? Good for whom? Without either body measurements or general description of the tester's body size and shape, and what size garment they used, it's meaningless.

Feeling slightly defensive about this :-) I've looked back at what I've said about fit in past reviews (see below). I guess from a reviewers point of view it's a difficult issue. I have to buy various things off the internet and its always a gamble (going through that experience with my new ice boots currently!) and it's the biggest recommendation for going to your local climbing emporium and paying their prices.

the first thing I noticed about the Rab Ascent is the fit. Rab's fit seems to favour the tall and slim. I am pretty average I think, I'm just under 5'10 with 40 chest not slim but also not fat nor particularly stocky. I definitely need a size large for my chest and shoulders, but the arms are longer than they need to be (not really a problem in itself) and the body is long covering my bum well, which is actually an advantage. In comparison, I take a medium in the sizing of many American brands such as Marmot or Patagonia. The Rab fit does seems quite specific so best to try one to see if it suits you. http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=1564

Finally, in the past I've found that Rab clothing didn't fit me very well, seeming to favour the tall and skinny, so I was pleased to find that a medium in these items fitted OK. They are definitely a bit slimmer fitting than, for example, Patagonia or Marmot, and although arm and body length was great for me, with the Pull-On in particular I would need another inch in the chest to fit me perfectly (the Shadow is so stretchy it doesn't matter). Overall, if you are of a stocky build you might want to try before you buy, but for slimmer people the fit should be great.
http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=2685

the fit. The size of the pants and jacket has to be the same for them to zip together as designed, i.e. only a medium sized trousers zips properly into a medium jacket. This means that if you are slightly out of the Marmot's 'ordinary' body shape, you can't mix and match sizes for the best fit. The medium jacket is a good fit for me, although the medium pants are slightly snug over my cyclist's thighs. Secondly the zip-on section to turn the trousers into the salopettes is a bit snug over my stomach. I'm not fat but it feels like that section is shaped according to a medium waist, which must be about 32-34 inch, but my body widens up from my waist toward my chest. Basically it limits what mid-layers I could wear. I have another pair of normal Marmot salopettes in medium that don't have this problem they feel as if they are cut to fit my lower chest, not the waist. http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=3282

I suppose we could write "I am almost certainly not the same size and shape as you, what fits me well might not fit you" at the top of each review, but I guess that's redundant for intelligent readers. I will though try to continue to point out if there something that strikes me as odd about a particular item's sizing and also when I try something from a company I've not reviewed before, how their sizing/shaping strikes me.
In reply to Damo: BTW, totally agree with you on the problems of calling things "windproof". As you say gtx trouser over just long johns are good example of this: they are windproof, but with cold material pressing against just your smellyhellys and on to your dinglydanglies - they can feel bloody cold! Add some basic cheapy fleece trousers to the mix and you can feel very warm or rapidly too hot if moving.

In my review of the NeoShell Zion I also mentioned the impression of cold air coming through the material, but should add that was on a particularly frosty night - maybe -15 - and it was on going out of a warm house into the cold with just a base layer under the jacket. Perhaps the air inside the jkt was cooling by conduction through the material rather than convection? These things are very hard to say without laboratory testing.
Damo on 14 Mar 2012
In reply to TobyA:
> (In reply to Damo)
>
> [...]
>
> Feeling slightly defensive about this :-) I've looked back at what I've said about fit in past reviews (see below). I guess from a reviewers point of view it's a difficult issue.


I guess now's as good a time as any to tell you, Toby, that I've been seeing other people. It's not you, it's me. I guess I'm just not a one gearguy kinda guy ...

Actually, I'd noticed it in your reviews, which highlighted its absence in most others.

Feeling better?

;-)
In reply to Damo:

> I guess now's as good a time as any to tell you, Toby, that I've been seeing other people. It's not you, it's me. I guess I'm just not a one gearguy kinda guy ...

You tart. Rush Limbaugh has some words for you (although I have some for him, like 'tosser':-). Anyway, enough of US politics and back to the politics of body shapes...


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