Lee climbing in RAB's Neo Stretch Jacket and Xenon insulation layer
As the three of us sat on my truck's tailgate yesterday afternoon a group of the local Seattle Mountaineers wandered by. Of course we did a full court press handing out cold pizza and beer to the survivors of their alpine ice climbing field trip.
First questions from those that had read been reading Cold Thistle (btw thanks for the support guys) was, "what was the best and how durable are they?"
"Best" is a tough choice. With the three fabrics listed I think any one could well be the "best". As much as it might seem so, I am not trying to get out of answering the question here.
All the fabrics have some stretch to them. All are water proof or nearly so. And all breath better than any traditional Goretex shell I have used. And all have totally different features as garments. Those features and how the designs work with the fabric is what makes this all a real horse race imo.
Wetted out shoulder but no leaks yet on the Gortex product
Shoulders on the Mountain Hardware jacket showed no wetting on the *Dry Q Elite*
*Dry Q Elite* and *Active Shell * comparison above
*Active Shell* and *Neoshell* comparison above. This Neoshell is 9 months old and just starting to wet out a tiny bit in the shoulder area.
Three days out on the rain is not a test of long term durability or for that matter long term performance. Only my Westcomb APOC made of Neoshell can claim anything even approaching reasonable and it is only 9 months old and I haven't used it that much. Even the difference in 9 months of use on Neoshell compared to new Neoshell showed clearly on the "wet through" pack strap and back comparisons we made.
But back to the basics...design.
I found it amazing that only one of these jackets had a double slider on the front zipper. That would seem to be a no brainer for a designer on a rain jacket. Obviously to me NONE of the designers ever hiked in their own products in a real rain storm. Because if they had, trust me here, ALL of these jackets would have double sliders on the front zipper!
You'll have to forgive the water logged photos..even my camera was wet at this point.
I like really technical jackets. Not a huge fan of pockets but no pockets or poorly placed pockets is simply frustrating in a $300+ jacket. Thankfully the use of a helmet in skiing has everyone making shells and insulated jackets designed with a functional helmet capable hood. It was a longtime coming for climbers. How the pockets are placed and designed make s huge difference on how any of these jackets function, vent and perform for breathability.
The wrong kind of pocket or an overly built jacket will limit much of the fabrics ability to stretch let alone breath. So not every Polartec Neoshell or Goretex Active shell garment is going to perform the same, sadly enough.
The Mountain Hardware jackets of *Dry Q Elite* should at least have similar advantages with their own proprietary fabrics. But I have no idea how far that guess really applies to reality.