Appropriate in all but extreme conditions, soft shells have been hailed perhaps too often as the versatile little black dresses of the outdoor set (and guys, if you don’t know that this metaphor means, ask a gal). But since the first one hit shelves some twenty years ago, the soft shell market has burgeoned into an overwhelming number of options. Some are designed to be especially breathable, while others are made to be more resistant to wind and moisture. Designed for high-intensity cold-weather pursuits, the women’s GoLite Neve is an especially protective soft shell.
From a slushy hike in the rain to an evening of cross-country skiing in snow like confectioner's sugar, it proved to be an excellent shield against wind and moisture. The Neve is constructed with a 4-way stretch fabric, but there is a polyurethane membrane to shield out the elements. There is also a DWR finish, which did its job during our tests, making moisture bead up on the face of the jacket. While the Neve offers a high level of protection, it breathes far better than most hard shells.
With a trim fit and a contoured waist, the jacket appeared to look downright tailored on all testers. Still, there was room to wear a base layer and mid layer beneath the jacket and still look recognizably feminine. The Neve should appeal to a broad range of women because it not only fit our petite testers, but was also well suited for one person who had broad shoulders. We would say that the jacket may not fit a woman with a large chest.
Our testers really like that the collar is shaped to cover more cheek area—handy in windy conditions. However, the jacket has no hood, which may bar it from prolonged outings in inclement weather.
We also appreciated the plush lining material, which was particularly cozy in the collar area. Also, the two zippered chest vents funneled wind into hot zones more quickly than traditional pit zips. However, to close the vents, the wearer has to hold one end of the zipper taut and zip with the other hand, which proved awkward and sometimes noticeably difficult. (Picture sticking your hand as far into your armpit as possible. Who wants to be struggling with a zipper when cresting a ridge?) One other gripe: the material at first felt a bit stiffer than other soft shells and seemed less comfortable. With articulated elbows, however, it never hindered movement and got a tad more flexible with wear. The performance trade-off—it blocks wind and rain better than most soft shells—is worth the slight extra stiffness.
One area in which the Neve stood out was style, which, let's not kid ourselves, is a serious consideration. The zipper tabs are small and the zippers are hidden, which results in a sleek look that easily—and commendably—passes for streetwear. Bonus: it also has an internal iPod-shaped pocket to stash tunes.
At $200, the Neve is a reasonably priced go-to jacket for fall-through-spring day excursions—and it even looks pretty snazzy around town.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $200