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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Polartec NeoShell update

Sunset from the Midi

I started this review with three videos.  I think it is important enough to get a look at the technology that even the Polartec videos are worth a second look.

Don Bowie's comments mirror my own experience with the Westcomb Apoc and NeoShell..

It has taken me a while to get enough experience with the NeoShell to think I could write a worth while  review.  I was leery because I had hunted down this jacket and begged for it from Polartec.  Actually it was a tour through Wetscomb's gear at the OR show in Jan. that turned me on to NeoShell.   Gabriel Cote had nothing but good things ot say about NeoShell and was excited to be using it in his cutting edge garments.  I had used the original prototype Goretex garments back in 1976  from Sierra Designs and Lowe so I really did wonder just how much of a "missing link" the new NeoShell would be.  35 years of technology should be an improvement right?

I am pretty easy to please when it comes to shell garments these days.  I have almost totally given up on Goretex because in typical use I wanted something more breathable than hard shells offered.  Easy to please because I so seldom use a hard shell now..

When the wind is blowing and it is -20C and the sun is out a layer of down and a good wind shell pretty much does the trick.  The shell is not required to do much.  A lot of my skiing and climbing in the Alps were in those kind of  conditions, cold and windy. 

So I knew NeoShell was wind proof.  Most shell materials are to one level or another.  But how many stretch?  NoeShell does. One of the things I really look for on any review is how much I notice what I am trying to review.  Good boots?  If  I never notice the boot I am wearing they are likely GREAT boots!  Ice tools or other climbing gear?  If they do what is required and I never notice a lack of performance it is likely an exceptional bit of kit.  If they allow me to do some thing new...then I know I have a winner.

A hard shell that stretches!
Mind you NeoShell doesn't stretch a lot but it does enough so that the garment never binds while wearing it.
But I also noticed I never had a moisture build up.  Not when skiing/climbing and working hard.  Even in conditions I thought I might or would normally.  I also noticed NeoShell had to be the warmest single layer water proof shell I had ever used.  But just fleeting thoughts as I wasn't making side by side comparisons to any GTX products.  Just my observations at that moment.

I had to wait till I got home to the Cascades to check out the rest of the story.  Rain...inches of rain have been typical this spring.  So now I know the NeoShell is water proof and it still stretches.   It obvious breaths well but just how well was the question.  My Goretex stuff breathes too.  

The most impressive test for me sounds like the most simple.  Right at freezing all day between 4000' and 7000'  and not a cloud in the sky.    You could  almost wear a sweater to ski in but you would be chilled on the ski lift or on the ridge tops if you weren't working hard.  A sweater and a wind proof vest were almost ideal.

Same place typically a Gortex shell would have been too warm for me and worse yet sweaty and wet.

Just for fun I stripped to a tech short sleeved T shirt and added the Neo Shell over it.   I figured we would soon see just how warm, wind proof and breathable NeoShell really was.

To my surprise I stayed warmer ( remember I originally thought NeoShell was exceptionally warm)  all the way up and all the way down in the Apoca NeoShell than in my sweater and vest combo.  And even more impressive I stayed dry..actually drier than the sweater/vest combo with no noticeable moisture build up on my back during the long runs down the hill.

Obviously no great insights here.  But may be that is the point.  NeoShell offers a water proof hard shell that breathes extremely well, and stretches.  What is not to like?   The Apoc has become my only shell jacket.  It is that good.  When I do notice something while using the Apoc it I'll get back to you.   

I have not used all the current water proof and breathable materials available.  But I have used a few of them.  The new generation of stretchable, waterproof and breathable garments might well be the"missing link".   The Apoc with NeoShell is the most versatile outdoor garment I currently own or have used.  That surprised me.   

My priority now is to see how a pair of NeoShell pants work out. Pants generally need to stretch a good bit more than a jacket.  Maybe I won't notice it.


JJ said...,222,71

I haven't uses the NeoShell yet, but I would like to know if you have seen this jacket and what your thoughts were if you had? Dnd how it compares to the Neo.

Dane said...

I have not used any of the newest Marmot gear. But the design and price point seem to be pretty good. Marmot generally does great stuff. May be someone else has and will fill us in the the details?

sdizzle said...

any insight as to which of the new materials (MH Dry-Q, Gore-Tex Active shell, Neoshell etc) will be the most breathable? Unrelated question: has the scarpa 6000 proved more durable thank the Spantik? thanks, blog continues to rock

Dane said...

sdizzle..sorry I missed this. I haven't yet made any comparisons with the newest Active shell. But have with a EB Frontpoint. Not the same technology for the problem but I use them in a similar manner so interesting comparison for me anyway. Written comparison coming later. Spantik/6000...durability? Seeme they are neck on neck from what I have seen.

But give it a few seasons yet to get a better idea. 6000 is basically a new boot this year. Way more Spantiks out there.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog! Just found it googling around, researching for my next shell purchase.

I know this thread is 6 months+ old, but Im wondering if you/someone here ever got around to try neoshell pants (personally looking at the RAB stretch neo). Are they as "do-it-all" as the jackets, or are they too warm to wear as hardshells usually are in pants, except in severe weather?

Thanks for useful insights!


Dane said...

I've used ther RAB stretch Neoshell top not the pants. But I have a pair of Neoshell pants coming...

I think they will be pretty good. But no experience to back up the opinion yet.