May 04 2012

Review: Rab Stretch NeoShell® Jacket


Skinning up while wrapped in weather.

Skinning up in a storm has always been a special treat – especially in the trees while the wind is howling above and the flakes fall thick on the shoulders of your pack while you stoke the fires of warmth with the energy of climbing, cloaked beneath the wet in a weatherproof shell.

On a recent storm day that shell was courtesy of Rab, made of Polartec’s NeoShell®. The Neoshell® claim is waterproofness equal with that popular 3-layer teflon laminate but more breathable.

What is NeoShell® and what makes it different from other 3-layer PTFE laminates? NeoShell® uses diffusion and convection to move moisture through a fabric that has been laminated with polyurethane. It is made from electrostatically spun polyurethane. Because PU is oleophobic (resistant to oils) there is no need apply multiple layers of other materials to protect the polyurethane from breaking down. By comparison, ePTFE can be broken down by body oils, thus requiring a protective polyurethane coating that can clog some pores, reducing breathability. The spinning technique of the NeoShell®

After only a dozen days use so far the DWR appears to still be doing its job. Those dozen days of touring confirm the breathability claims of venting better than Gore-Tex®, but I’m not sure if it is better than Schoeller®. It feels darn close.

Rab’s Stretch Neo Jacket in blue (they call it maya).

Perhaps the best testament to that is sweat tends to only build up on my back, sort of an inevitability because of a pack, but the lack of side zips is not noticeable from a moisture management point of view. Frankly, I’m happy they’re absent as they just add a lot of bulk that isn’t really necessary if the shell can breath well enough, which Neoshell seems to do.

Other nice features include a pair of vertically zippered chest pockets that are big enough for stashing my skins without having to take my pack off to store ’em. Love that feature. There’s also a pair of internal pockets as well, for your mp3 player, or a Clif Bar. Velcro cinch straps on the cuff are easy to grab, and hold well. The strap on the rear of the hood snugs it around the top of my noggin’, but I’m not able to cinch the side cords to hug my face satisfactorily although the jacket may be sized a tad large for me.

There’s a tab for rolling up the hood into a thick collar but I haven’t used it, preferring to just keep the hood at the ready. Nothing much else to this jacket which is part of what I like about it. Nice and simple so I need not concern myself with gear but can keep my attention on what’s in front of me now, whether turning aside to a gust of wind, bearing off the angle of the track I’m setting uphill, or blinking while laughing as snow billows up into my face, cold and exhilarating.

Stretch Neoshell
MSRP: $365
Sizes available: S—XXL (Men’s), XS—XL (Women’s)
Weight (Lg): 17 oz. (482 g)

Rab Who?

© 2012