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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, March 23, 2012

Polartec Neoshell "Soft"? The real game changer?

Out of the box and onto the ice.  The first Neoshell "Soft" garments from NWAlpine.
NWAlpinist Salopettes and a Big 4 climbing jacket.

Last fall we were having a discussion here about soft shells as I was trying to source garments for an up coming review.  I had used the Westcomb Polartec Neoshell Apoc hard shell jacket and had been impressed with the performance in every condition.  Other Neoshell "hard shell" garments followed.  All equally impressive for performance as a hard shell that had a little stretch added.  They did breath well.  No doubt about that!

The first I heard of the newest Neoshell "soft" was from a reader here at CT.  Not believing the comments actually I searched out the only two garments that were being produced at the time, one from Marmot and the other from Mammut. 

I seldom really try to get garments for review and tests.  But these two I REALLY did try to obtain but to no success.  No pro deals, no freebees or demo loans were going to happen.  And at $400 and $500 retail per garment I was stuck.  No money for this one!    I didn't have the money for that kind of test on something I really figured wasn't going to be all that impressive anyway.  Love the blog and finding new groovy gear for my on use but throwing down close to a grand in short order wasn't going to happen.

Little did I know. (which seems to happen on a regular basis writing a climbing gear blog)

After giving up on the usual suspects for getting any deal on the newest Neoshell I went to the source.  Polartec of course!   RA you know who you are and I want to sincerely "THANK YOU!" 
Best "new" product for 2011 imo.

In short order a couple of yards of the newest material, I like to call it Neoshell "Soft" was on the way to my "local tailor", Bill Amos the owner of NWAlpine.   No clue what this stuff is really called.
My reasoning behind my manic behavior (this time) was I wanted a warmer pair of NWAlpinist Salopettes.   Way more a "want" thing than a a "need" thing in this case.  And to be honest I wasn't expecting much.  I have lots of nice climbing pants.  And they reall yare warm enough.   What else was I going to get to play with?  MWA's climbing specific jacket called the "Big 4" was sew up with Neoshell SOFT at the same time.   In this case what I got was a total surprise!

Here is a short comment prior to a full review and comparison coming in April.

"Compared to the three versions of Arcteryx pant fabrics and the current NW Apline fabric the Neoshell SOFT is the warmest and most breathable but least stretchy.   But it is just stretchy enough for pants, salopettes or a shell top.  And as tough or tougher than most fabrics I have mentioned and not any heavier. May be not the best material for warmer weather use though from what I have witnessed so far.  But then again smart garment design work would solve that problem as well I suspect.

My NWA salopettes are 1# 6oz in the NWAlpine fabric which Arcteryx also uses. It is a lwt to mid weight very stretchy fabric which isn't very durable in the long run.   Same salopette is 1# 5oz in the Neoshell soft which is much warmer, water proof, very breathable and no question more durable.
And I find the Neo Soft more comfortable to wear.

I have both a NWA Big Four Jacket and the Alpinist Salopettes in the Neoshell SOFT and will be doing a full review and comparison on the blog in April after the next trip north.

Short version? The Neoshell SOFT garments are changing the way I dress for winter climbing and the physical comfort level while doing so. All while wearing less and being better protected from any weather.

And it was not easy to get me off that dime.

Big claims I know but true to date.  I have used a few of the current state of the art soft shell tops.  And 3 of the hard shell Neoshell garments and been impressed with all of them,   Currently I think the Neoshell SOFT is THE fabric that will change how we dress for cold weather climbing.

More to come in April.

NWAlpinist Salopettes in Neoshell "Soft" and lovin them 

Both versions of the NWAlpinist Salopettes on the walk in.


PurpleJesus1994 said...

Sounds like one sweet pair of pants!!

Late last fall i purchased the Rab Stretch Neo Shell and the Mammut Gipfelgrat Jacket. The Rab jacket although nice just reminded me of a Event or Gore product.

I have to admit i never used either before making a decision as to what coat i was going to keep. In the end i chose based on fit and quality of construction. The Mammut coat was hands down the nicest coat i had put eyes on in a long time!

The material of the Mammut coat was drastically different than the Rab coat and in my opinion far superior. It was a thick robust almost rubber material that i could see holding up to years upon years of climbing abuse. The kind of coat you just put on and forget about with no worries of a puncture, tear or getting wet from any form of precip.

My only fear was the coat being a bit on the thick side and overly warm. After a full New England ice season "40 plus" days i have zero complaints and can honestly say i was never once overly hot and never once could i get the inside to clam up. I did many a long days in this coat with long slogs in and out to climbs.

I have heard very little buzz from others on the net or in general about the Neo Shell fabric. It's really a shame as if the buzz goes not grow louder quickly i fear the product may not take off. I know i for one would love to see more options in the Soft Neo Shell. I very much agree with you Dane, this Material is a game changer. It is waterproof, way more breathable than anything on the market and tough as nails to boot!!

iceberg joe said...

ive been using neoshell in various forms since its first proto release (i work for an offshoot of polartec)
great stuff.

never forget tho - neoshell is the membrane - it can be applied to all sorts of textiles treated in all sorts of ways. whereas gortex went thru generations of step by step applications, neoshell is openly being used on dozens of different textiles. there is no one neoshell textile.

there are all sorts of neoshells getting about (a huge amount not on the civilian market) including stretch 2 layer, non stretch 2 layer, 3 layer versions, 5 layer versions, even types with high loft backings.
garments exist that use multiple versions of neoshell in the single design.

Ian said...

Well, when is Bill going to make the jacket and pants for general sale?

Anonymous said...

In the picture titled "Both versions of the NWAlpinist Salopettes on the walk in" what is the windshirt you are sporting?

John said...

I have both the Rab Neoshell jacket and Arcteryx Beta FL Gore active shell jacket for backcountry skiing and ice climbing. Also as a cat 1 bike racer, I use the Gore active shell cycling jacket. I prefer Gore's active shell for breathability, waterproof, lightweight, and packability.

Aging Viper said...

Well, now I'm bummed. Not only did I just get a pair of Bill's excellent salopettes, and not get to climb in them all winter, but now - before I've even used them - the new and improved version is on the horizon.

Dane said...

I wouldn't hold your breath for Neoshell :) What Bill is selling now is very good. Neoshell is awesome but the price point is a little stiff and supply a little tough for a small shop.

Dane said...

hey Iceberg Joe? Would you send me a private email at ? Couple of questions for you if you don't mind?

Dane said...

Anon? Windshirt? It's an old Patagonia pullover. Like 25+ years old? I've got two of them and still use them all the time.

Anonymous said...

Any update on a review of this new neoshell?