Outdoor Research Interstellar Jacket
Lightweight and highly breathable waterproof protection.
The Women's Neo Guide Jacket is described by Rab as ‘a premium waterproof jacket, in a highly breathable Polartec® NeoShell® stretch fabric, designed for Scottish winter and alpine conditions’.
To be honest, I’m fairly cynical about waterproof jackets. I use them a lot, and where it really matters for me is not partaking in extreme pursuits in extreme environments, but when you just have to be out in driving rain all day. Working as a mountain leader means there are grim days when I have to get from A to B despite knowing we will all end up soaked through - and pretty miserable as a result!
The jacket is mid-weight at 550g for a size 12. This sets it up well for a range of mountain activities, being a good compromise between weight versus function. There is heavier-weight fabric to reinforce the shoulders, elbows, hips, and cuffs. This seemed to do the trick, as I wore the jacket with a rucksack 90% of the time and the shoulders didn’t become an area of wear or weakness in the jacket as is often the case.
The sizing comes up fairly large, but it is designed to allow space for lots of mid-layers (bear in mind it is designed for Scottish winter!). As you would expect, there is an easy to use hem draw cord to tighten it up as much as you like. The arms in particular are pretty long, which is certainly better than too short on a waterproof, and they can be easily tightened using the velcro cuffs anyway.
The jacket has two large side pockets in the chest so that wearing a harness won’t affect access. These have water resistant Aquaguard zips which have so far kept the contents dry. Along with two mesh-lined inside pockets, it was great to be able to carry map, phone, food etc in the jacket without worrying about running out of space. All zips have curved tags which are large enough to grab with gloves on.
There is a large hood, designed to be helmet compatable and which therefore works well with a thick wooly hat when it is both wet and cold. The hood peak is wired which is really useful in maintaining a good field of vision. It’s very easy to adjust the hood; at the sides to draw the hood down or at the back of the head to reduce volume. Although I personally can’t really work out when I’d do this, the hood can be rolled away with the tab-down hood.
A final bonus was the underarm vents. I’m a real fan of these and feel you may as well incorporate them in a jacket if weight-saving isn’t the main goal.
Over the last three months I have used the jacket for piste skiing, ski touring, snowshoeing and hiking. I normally use a fairly thick soft shell for piste skiing, but the Women's Neo Guide Jacket was really useful towards the end of the season when it was warmer and snow sadly became rain at the bottom of runs. The jacket worked well for ski touring, including multi-day hut-to-hut tours as it is fairly lightweight. Plus, because of it being so comfortable, I knew I was more likely to wear it when it wasn’t raining than a ‘normal’ waterproof, so was happy to throw it in just in case.
I spent a whole day snowshoeing whilst it was snowing, which would normally pose the problem of choosing between a more comfortable soft-shell (and running the risk of getting wet or too hot) or a waterproof which wouldn’t be so comfortable. So the Women's Neo Guide Jacket fitted the bill well here. More recently I’ve been able to hike all afternoon in torrential rain and not get wet which is quite a novelty! I expected at least the usual wet shoulders, but last weekend I was the only one out of our group still dry inside my jacket by the end of our hike.
The most important aspect of the Women's Neo Guide Jacket is that is the most waterproof jacket I have ever worn.
The two-way Vislon zip is fairly chunky and very robust. However, to start with, sometimes the ‘dual internal storm flap system’ got caught in the zip. I can’t help thinking this would work better if the flap closest to the zip was a bit wider. After wearing the jacket a few times however this ceased to be an such an issue as the zip flaps had kind of been bedded-in.
I’m really into the underarm vents as I normally get too hot when doing anything more than a stroll in a waterproof, so even though this jacket is extremely breathable it’s good to be able to get a little more air in.
Whilst I liked the ‘Juniper’ colour of my trial jacket, Rab seemed to have followed the trend of making any women’s product pink; the colours of the jacket are undeniably girly, with pink featuring on each of the three colour choices.
Rab have designed this jacket to be fairly roomy in order to accommodate mid-layers. However, even bearing that in mind, I did find the sizing on the large side, so you might need one size down from your usual size.
For someone looking for a mid-weight jacket for various mountain pursuits, I have yet to try a more waterproof jacket, which I feel is impressive considering there are many heavier jackets out there aiming to do the same thing. The price is towards the higher end, but competitive compared to the other big name brands/brands in its class. The combination of helmet compatible hood, above the harness pockets, two-way zip and more stretch than conventional waterproof jackets makes this jacket an excellent choice for climbers.
The Polartec Neo shell has soft and stretchy element of a soft shell whilst being 100% waterproof.
Although Rab have successfully taken features of a softshell, this jacket is still more of a waterproof - but definitely a new improved version in terms of comfort and waterproofness. I would certainly recommend this jacket as a very reliable all-rounder for the mountains.
The Women's Neo Guide Jacket is a premium waterproof jacket, in a highly breathable Polartec® NeoShell® stretch fabric, designed for Scottish winter and alpine conditions.
Heavier-weight Polartec® NeoShell® reinforced patches on the shoulders, elbows and hips increase durability and abrasion-resistance when wearing a pack, lending the Women's Neo Guide Jacket to alpine style climbing trips in unpredictable conditions. Loaded with technical features, the Women's Neo Guide Jacket offers a helmet-compatible hood, 2-way YKKAquaGuard® front zip and 2 YKK AquaGuard® napoleon chest pockets for easy access when wearing a harness. The stretch nature of the NeoShell® fabric offers softshell levels of freedom of movement and comfort, but with all the protection of a hardshell.
MORE INFORMATION: Rab Website