One of the many benefits of working in the outdoor industry is the access the latest kit; being about to test it outdoors and give our feedback to the manufacturers. You know that when you talk to a member of our staff at Taunton Leisure about a bit of kit it’s likely that they’ve either tried it out or know someone who has. That kind of experience could prove to be invaluable when you in a situation where you need your kit to pull through for you.
So to that end, here are reviews from Brad from our Exeter shop and Liam from Bristol, who tested a Rab Stretch Neo Jacket in differing conditions:
Rab Stretch Neo Jacket – Brad’s Review:
I borrowed the Men’s Rab Stretch Neo Jacket that Nick Baron (our manager in Exeter store) has for when I went to Switzerland last week.
I was handed the green Rab Stretch Neo jacket and was surprised at how light and tactile the jacket is, with a lot less noise than some other shell jackets that I have worn. I packed it into the hood, and threw it in my bag and headed to the airport.
Arriving at Airolo, Central Switzerland I felt at home putting the Neoshell on, quickly blending in with the other skiers and snowboarders in their equally colourful jackets! (I love that bright green) I had a few comments about the jacket and questions about Rab generally (I didn’t see another Rab garment on my entire trip!) Most people were intrigued about the Neoshell, and how it compared to Gore-Tex and the other thicker ski specific jackets most people were wearing.
I was glad to be wearing a thin shell as apposed to the heavier jackets, as once we got off the gondola and into the bright sunshine it was very warm, with a bit of a breeze. I had a pair of M.E. Gore-Tex trousers on over a 200 weight Icebreaker leggings, and on top I wore the Neoshell, a 200 weight Icebreaker and a Meco T-shirt.
During my 6 hours on the mountain (altitude 1750m+) I got quite warm as I was learning to snowboard in bright sunshine, but only my legs got hot and sweaty where as my body was just perfect… I didn’t detect any sweat on my top half at all. I can thoroughly recommend the Stretch Neo, and the NeoShell fabric…extremely breathable and robust…as I did do a few extreme wipe-outs….I just wish that my body was able withstand the same amount of abuse…I came home with 2 suspected broken ribs (and not a scratch on the jacket!)
I also took the jacket on a 3hr Snowshoeing trip in deep powder up in the mountains and trees on the Italian/Swiss border. The jacket kept me out of the windy conditions, and again no hint of sweat, whereas my wife in her North Face Gore-tex was nicknamed stinky-Pete when we had finished the hike!
Brad – Exeter Store
Recently I was lucky enough to go to Aviemore and test out the new Point Five Jacket from The North Face. The Point Five is lined with the new Gore Tex Pro fabric, which is claimed to be 28% more breathable than previous Gore Tex fabric.
However, lately there have been more challengers to the throne, which Gore currently holds. One of these is Polartec. More known for warmth providing fabrics such as Thermal Pro, Polartec have now developed a membrane named Neoshell, and you now can find this membrane in the new range of Stretch Neo, Myriad and Nexus Jackets from Rab. My Test was done using a Rab Stretch Neo.
What is Neoshell?
Waterproofs jackets maintain breathability through diffusion. Moisture and heat builds up inside the jacket and pressure moves the water vapour through the fabric to the outside. The downside to this is that you may be able to feel the build up of water vapour before the membrane starts to work.
The alternative to this is convection. A process typically used in soft shells. Which trade waterproofness for breathability by allowing a constant flow of air through the jacket, which allows the moisture to escape.
Neoshell offers the best of both worlds. A new hydrophobic, microporous, polyurethane membrane provides protection against the rain but with tightly controlled pore sizes allowing a greater exchange of airflow to increase breathability.
Is it still Waterproof then?
Absolutely! Despite having a lower hydrostatic head of 10’000mm against Gore’s 28’000mm (or thereabouts for Gore Tex Pro). The lower hydrostatic head shouldn’t have any factor in deciding which coat to go for. If a coat is waterproof, It’s waterproof! So if you’re already dry. You’re not going to get ‘drier’ just because one coat has a higher hydrostatic head.
So is there a downside to the Neoshell having a lower Hydrostatic head? Well, not really. It would still take an immense amount of pressure for water droplets to force its way through the fabric.
How does this affect breathability?
The upside to the lower hydrostatic head means that the breathability of the jacket is increased. The Membrane allows vapour to be pulled through the fabric even at extremely low levels of pressure.
On recent walks I’ve done wearing the Rab Stretch Neo, not once have I had the greenhouse effect, nor a build up of condensation on the inside that I have felt in previous waterproof jackets. It’s best to think of the Stretch Neo as a waterproof softshell.
Does this effect wind protection though? Yes, a little. The Stretch Neo is billed as 99.9% windproof. Although I’d happily suffer that tiny little bit of wind chill so I can stay dry inside the jacket.