SNEWS Review: Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

Our first test of Polartec’s new waterproof/breathable NeoShell fabric came in the form of the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, which we put through a year of seasonal testing from ascending Colorado's fourteeners in the summer to descending its powder slopes in the winter.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Polartec’s waterproof/breathable NeoShell fabric debuted to consumers earlier this year — one entry on a growing list of competitors to Gore-Tex, eVent and other proprietary shell technologies.

Our first test of NeoShell came in the form of the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, which we’ve had for a year now, giving it a full range of seasonal testing from ascending Colorado's fourteeners in the summer to descending its powder slopes in the winter.

After extensive testing, we think NeoShell has a place among the top waterproof/breathable options on the market with some major advantages and just a few nitpicks. The Rab Stretch, employs the fabric well in its debut and will play nicely with core outdoor consumers.

True to it’s marketing, breathability is where NeoShell shines, especially with spring/summer mountain activities. With most waterproof/breathable jackets, there’s the annoyance of constantly having to put on and take off the layer, or fuss with vent zippers, as conditions change (and they do drastically in the Colorado high country). But with this jacket, we were amazed how we could just leave it on for most of our hike and stay comfortable, even at high exertion. Rab was so confident in the breathability of NeoShell, that it didn’t even add vent zippers to its Stretch Neo.

Polartec claims the impressive breathability is thanks to the technology’s “two-way air exchange,” in which more air movement is promoted inside to help drive out moisture quickly.

Of course, this immediately brings up the issue of jacket’s wind resistance, which many consumers will note is quoted by Polartec as blocking 99.9 percent of wind. They might question buying a jacket that isn’t completely windproof. What about that 0.01 percent of wind getting through? In our tests, against strong dry winds on the summit or slopes, we didn’t notice the difference, and we certainly benefitted more from the increased breathability. When a strong rain was added to the equation, however, plus wind, and we had a single layer underneath, we could feel some cooler air movement. Although, most importantly, we remained dry.

Which brings us to NeoShell’s waterproofness, rated at 10,000mm of water pressure. Some competing brands go higher, but Polartec argues that the 10,000-level will keep you dry and there’s not much gained by going higher, other than more sweat that will wet you from the inside. We kept completely dry from heavy rain and snow in the Rab Stretch Neo behind the fabric and the jacket’s YKK Aquagard zippers. Zipper function was smooth with no snagging or sticking.

The Stretch Neo is a solidly built and well-put-together jacket; we’ve come to expect no less with Rab products. Stitching and taping is very clean, both outside and in. Although NeoShell touts itself as a lighter waterproof/breathable fabric, be aware this isn’t a lightweight jacket — it’s built more for mountain durability.

A nice high collar protects the chin with soft fabric on the inside. A helmet-compatible hood is adjustable and roll-down stowable, plus features Rab’s signature wire brim to peak it just right. There are two exterior Napoleon pockets and two interior chest pockets. Some of your core outdoor customers will appreciate the ease of access to the Napoleon pockets while wearing a pack, especially to store items such as skins, but we’re not the biggest fan of them. We prefer the higher pockets, but positioned to the side rather than center. Another pocket bummer— no media slot for earphone wires, which we think should be standard these days.

Sizing ran quite a bit larger in our test product, with a medium still being a little big, which was great for our winter tests with layers underneath, but a little bulky for summer. A plus though, the jacket cinches down well in all the right areas to help with fit.

In many ways, the NeoShell fabric almost breathes and feels like a softshell. It even has a little bit of stretch to it. But one drawback we noticed is that the soft face picks up dirt a lot more easily, especially around the chin and zippers. We suggest going with a darker color because of this.

Overall, Rab and Polartec have taken a great first step forward with NeoShell and we’re excited to see what the future holds with advancements and competition in the waterproof/breathable sector.

Suggested Retail:
 $365
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection).

Related

Rab_Stretch_Neo_jacket.jpg

Review: Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

Polartec’s waterproof/breathable NeoShell fabric debuted to consumers earlier this year — one entry on a growing list of competitors to Gore-Tex, eVent and other proprietary shell technologies. Our first test of NeoShell came in the form of the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, which ...read more

SNEWS Review: Icebreaker Kodiak Long Sleeve Zip

Fleece layers haven taken a bit of hit these past few years as consumers flocked to down and synthetic puffies for insulation and popular style. While fleece may be down, it’s not out, and many predict a comeback. Brands are attempting to re-invigorate the category with new ...read more

SNEWS Review: Apparel used for the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run

While I mostly wore running staples I’ve had for years during the Gore-Tex TransRockies Run, I did test some gear throughout the six-day trek. Check out how the stuff worked for me: Gore Running Wear X-Running Light AS Jacket (MSRP $160) We interviewed Gore Running Wear back in ...read more

SNEWS Review: Patagonia merino wool 1&2 baselayers review

In fall 2011, Patagonia relaunched its merino baselayer line after a season’s absence during the redevelopment of the product. The previous versions were some of our favorite merino wool baselayers, so we eagerly awaited the reworked line. After a year of testing, we’re happy to ...read more

W Ama Dablam Stretch Infusion Jacket by The North Face

Summit Series Expedition Shell by The North Face features a new performance fit. SPECIFICATIONS Sizes : XS, S, M, L Length from Center Back : 27 inches Fabric : [body] 40D 4.2 oz/sq yd nylon stretch ripstop Gore-Tex ® XCR ® 3L Abrasion : 70D 5.1 oz/sq yd faille weave nylon ...read more

PearlIzumiInfinity.jpg

Product Review: Pearl Izumi Infinity Windblocking Hoody

SNEWS understands why Pearl Izumi named a product our testers recently tried out the Infinity Windblocking Hoody: This nifty little layer is infinitely versatile and provides protection from a number of weather conditions. SNEWS received this item shortly after the New Year, ...read more

Arc'Teryx Sigma LT Jacket by WINDSTOPPER®

The Sigma LT offers windproof performance when breathable warmth is the goal. A pairing of WINDSTOPPER® fleece and Drynamic stretch woven, this jacket excels as either a warming mid-layer or a soft nordic outer shell. Features: * Windproof/breathable 4-way stretch allows severe ...read more

Medusa Jacket by The North Face

While you won’t turn to stone if you gaze upon this jacket, others may be stunned by how unaffected you are from adverse conditions. Made from HyVent® 3L fabric, this waterproof, breathable three-layer fabric is durable and engineered to manage moisture that keeps you dry and ...read more

Women's 4-Way Stretch Zip Mock by Terramar Sports

Women's 4-Way Stretch Zip Mock by Terramar has zip front for maximum ventilation with inside wind flap. FABRIC: 92% Polyester / 8% Lycra® EC2® FEATURES: · Flatlock seam construction · Saddle shoulder for enhanced freedom of movement · Scoop front and back hem · Roll forward seam ...read more