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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, February 28, 2013

RAB's NeoShell Pant

On the 1st ascent of "Chucky"

RAB NeoShell Pant

reviewed by Craig Pope

The noise is deafening. It sounds as though I've crawled up under a train trestle and have my head inches from the speeding machine above. Jess just screamed something incomprehensible barely audible from only 30 ft away - or did I just imagine his voice?  The only dependable communication between us is a 7.7 mm rope periodically reminding me to hurry upward.  I can't see my tools, my gloves or the rock and ice less than three feet in front of me.

I am 2,200 ft up the North Buttress of Mt Hunter in the worst 'spindrift' I have ever experienced.  It may as well be called an avalanche. We've been perpetually hammered for about three and a half hours now, and avalanches are more considered to be a single violent event rather than a continuous pummeling.  After only three pitches in four hours, Jess realizes that the shaft of his carbon shafted tool is broken, and we are dehydrated and cold, so it is time to retreat. After eight hours of rappelling and 26 hours overall, we are back at our camp where it is cold, but partly sunny, and the radiant warmth feels great.  I throw my pack down, and despite the 2 mile ski and warmer temperatures, I'm not too sweaty.  I don't even even put on my down right away.

My body is dry, HAS been dry, and relatively warm for the last 26 hours of climbing and rappelling. In ALL different types of conditions!  From a cold, (10°F), ski to the base of the route, to a more aerobic intro on 75-85° ice as we cruised through the lower 8 pitches in calm overcast skies, to getting hammered by spindrift for the remaining 5 hours of climbing and 8 hours rappelling in the snow... to the the ski back to camp I stayed dry protected by RAB NeoStretch pant and jacket. During the ski in, I was able to moderate more aerobic moisture control by the almost full side zip on the pant, and the jacket, (despite the inevitable damp back from my pack), dissipates vapor moisture like a soft shell. Both the NeoStretch Pant and Jacket breath and stretch like a soft shell. For the majority of the ice season and on 90% of all my ice/alpine climbs, I wear softshell pants and jacket. Even if the ice is wet and dripping, I know that if I'm physically exerting myself, my own body heat will dry my outer layer. If my partner and I are 'swinging pitches', by the time they have reached the belay, my jacket is dry, and I can put on my insulation layer for the duration of their lead. In the past, especially when climbing in the alpine and not just cragging on ice, I would sacrifice comfort for the breathability of softshell. Despite being slightly damp, if there was precipitation, I figured I would always be moving, and if not, either in my insulation layer or sleeping bag. Inevitably, however, my insulation layer would get 'wetted out', heavy, and eventually gain weight or lose warmth, (depending on synthetic or down insulation).

On the Moon Flower

However, if there is precip in the forecast, I can wear my RAB NeoStretch all day. I can move quickly over vertical terrain and approaches, knowing my sweat will move through my outer layer, and stay completely dry from outside weather.  Unlike a softshell pant, I can kneel, sit, and stand in deep snow with out getting my mid layers wet.  When, in the past I would take an ultralight softshell, AND an ultralight hardshell, both of which don't hold up to much alpine abuse, I can take my NeoStretch pants, save weight, and know it will hold up to pitch after pitch of squeeze chimneys, hanging belays, post holing on the approach, all the while keeping me dry from the outside elements and moving sweat away from my body! 

Unless I'm hiking through the Olympic National Rainforest in April, I will never have to excessively sweat in a pair of hardshell pants.


Dee said...

I will be in the market for a new shell/softshell top and bottom for next winter season. I am just wondering what is the durability of NeoShell? As in how long will it hold its waterproofness/breathability - ness?

Anonymous said...

You have posted two Rab reviews by this reviewer. Did he pay for the gear or was it provided for free? Does he have a relationship with Rab?

Dane said...

Diamuid, no clue how durable Neoshell is for water proofness I have been using the stuff for several season but I haven't kept a garment past two winter climbing seasons. So I am not the guy to ask because I cna't give you an opinion on long term use, sorry. I knwo that isn't very helpful. Just the way it si if I am to review much gear.

Anon? Craig Pope is a Idaho Building Contractor as well as one of the better climbers currently active in the NW. Like many of us he does other things to make ends meet and his climbing $ go farther. Craig trades images of climbing for gear with several manufactures, including RAB. So the RAB gear IS NOT FREE. He pays for it. More importantly to me and the readership at CT is I climb with Craig on occasion and trust his opinions on gear to be straight forward and honest. He has lots of gear to choose from. I asked him to specifically write a couple of RAB product reviews becasue I knew he likes much ofth RAB gear he owns a lot.

I've used some of the same RAB gear myself. I wrote up the Stretch Neoshell jacket a couple of years ago here at CT when it first came out.

I vet the writers here and edit their content. They contribute because I ask nicely. I'm not selling "ad space". Just trying to give the readers at CT a differing few than my own on occasion. In the end they are all (everyone's writings) just an opinion. And worth what they cost you.

Anonymous said...


More importantly than how stretchy his pants are, what's this about his Carbon shafted tool breaking?


PurpleJesus1994 said...

Although not a Rab product i have been using a Mammut Neo Shell jacket for two seasons now. Imop it is 100% waterproof. Add to that it breaths like a soft shell for "real" and i no longer feel the need for Gore-Tex.

That is saying quite something as i got the Mammut Norwand jacket as a present for Christmas this year and it is also a really really sweet jacket! I have now worn it more than once and always think why did i wear this coat my NeoShell is just as waterproof and breaths better.
Pretty sure i will never ever purchase Gore-Tex again so long as Polertech continues to make

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Dane but if you count trading photos of Hunter for free clothes as paying, I think you ought to buy a dictionary.

Craig might choose to work with Rab, but this review is hardly unbiased.

They guy's mad anyway - I mean who'd wear single boots in Alaska in May?

Dane said...

Broken BD Cobra was Jess Roskelley's. You'd have to ask him.

Selling photos? Dude, for anyone who has done's work. Not me that needs a dictionary. Seems you have some personal angst with Craig. Do me and Cold Thistle the courtesy of airing it else where, please. Single boots on Hunter? Craig wasn't the only one last season on the Butt with Baturas that I am aware of. Photo of another one here as well. Neither summited. Craig landed with frost bitten feet.

That discussion is how I met Craig. And I suspect he doesn't recommned a single boot for Alaska these days. But...and it is a big BUTT....he was there doing it. WTF were you?

Dane said...

From Craig Pope via Facebook...this morning.

Lol. Mad? Someone capable off climbing fast enough to be warm...anonymous writers are cowards. Lesson learned with lighter boots. Before Rab, I wore all Arc'tyrx. All custom tailored, and before that, I wore ALL completely custom made Mtn. Hardwear. I like Rab the best for fit and design. There are better designs for different people, and better fits for the fatter America, but what fits me the best is RAB at the moment. All clothes today are going to perform almost identically the same function, it's simply how a jacket/pant works for an individual. And it's opinion. This is MY favorite...doesn't mean it has to be this douche's...


Dane said...

Critical commnents? One of the reasons I write in a blog format it to filter the content. You want to comment? Great! I wish there were more. You want to personally critize a writer or any one else? Do it via your own name not anonymously.

You don't like the opinions expressed here or the writers? It is a BIG internet go start your own blog.

Healthy debate between gentlemen is always welcome. School children antics are not.

Adult conversations start with using your actual name.

Anonymous said...

Ahyone who is sane and conscious about their privacy _will_ use anonymous account and something like Tor network to read/post the blogs. Google cipherpunks.

But the majority of people are naive and think of privacy only when things already went bad - only _after_ they're already abused (think identity theft, for example, or existant big brother archives + corruption etc).

Just saying...
not "that" anon.

Anonymous said...

...and yes, RAB gear generally rules last years - eVent stuff for example. Me wants to try their NeoShell also.
not "that" anon.

CapacityCSO said...

I wonder why Arc'teryx stopped making the Gamma Bibs and Salopettes? I still have the former and will likely climb in it until they fall off me. The details like full side and through crotch zips, knee pads (especially nice for lower angle ice and keeping dry) and fit make for a great product. NW Alpine makes a nice looking version, but without the same features. Forgive the minor venting, but really one of the top pieces of gear I've owned.

Dane said...

Ha,ha! The NWA saloppetes were my design taken directly from the Arcteryx Gamma bibs with the intention of bettering them :)

I didn't like the knee pads, or side zips and not a big fan of the crotch zip either. Wore my first pair out and decided it could so easily be done better. Even the fit could have been better imo. Review of the NWA version here btw.

Anonymous said...

Craig Pope is a Rab sponsored athlete who is completely decked out in free RAB gear supplied to him by their marketing department, He is obligated (contractually or hand-shake-wise) to send some photos and stories of his climbs in return. If you want to describe this transaction as "he pays for it" you have a novel definition of "pays".

This is sort of like a Nike review written by Michael Jordan.

Dane said...

Dear, Supposed RAB sponsorship and Craig Pope conspiracy experts....and the various Donuts reading on CT.

This is from the person who would actually be Craig's boss at RAB if he were a sponsored RAB athelete..which he is NOT.

"Craig has a small handful of gear from a photo shoot but is in no way a sponsored athlete, nor have we given him gear to tempt him to provide us with good reviews.

I understand how people might be concerned about the objectivity of his reviews, but I can tell you honestly from our end that there is no funny business going on."

As I said, I asked Craig to write those two specific eviews...on RAB gloves and pants as a favor to me and the Cold Thistle readers. Admittedly not knowing where the gear came from or how. Still don't care. I trust Craig to give an honest opinion of the gear he uses...just as I would. My thought? I liked what he wrote.
and: "You are some petty, jealous and cynical MFs out there!"

Bet Michael Jordon knows something about shoes. I'd read any review he'd care to write as well.

BecauseItsThere said...

I have been looking for a solid review of these pants for a long time, I actually own the pants but was looking for confirmation of a few things. As far as breathability the review is spot on. I was soaked through this sunday from sweat and wet snow coming back from a 3 day ski tour in the wasatch, and by the time I reached my house I was completely dry on my legs, totally rad. However As far as waterproof It would be hard to tell with how sweaty I was with a a 50lb pack but the surface of the pant definitely was holding some water( After 5 hrs in rain/snow).

Even with that issue I would still buy the pants as the fit is near perfect and it feels like wearing nothing at all with the weight and flexibility of the pants. But thats not the whole story... The first time I used the pants I noticed a small tear from having my phone in my pocket that stretched the material and made it fragile I guess. Then every subsequent use I managed to find new tears, given I was Primarily touring in them and getting in some trees(not there designed use), and this weekend I tore a huge hole in them. Keep in mind I have only worn these pants 5 or so times, but the stuff I took this through my softshell pants have help up to for at least two years. Due to this lack of durability i am taking these back to Backcountry and picking up a pair of alpha sv's

Anonymous said...

Dane - not pointing the finger at you here, but there's some serious stretching of the truth (or perhaps we can call it tactful use of semantics) going on here...

Dane said...

Always open to a guest blogger's opinion. If you care to offer a rebuttal on Craig's comments from your own experience put your name on it and add it here.