by Marcus Leach
In recent years the quality of outdoor equipment and clothing has increased greatly as the latest techniques and technology are incorporated. One of those leading the way in this field is Polartec Fabrics with their Polartec NeoShell fabric, which The Essential Cyclist got to see first hand recently.
On our recent trip to the French Alps we took a Rab Neo Guide jacket with us to see just how the NeoShell fabric works, and we were mightily impressed. So, first things first, what exactly is NeoShell?
In a nutshell it is, according to Polartec themselves, 'the first fabric to combine the superior breathability, ventilation, and stretch of a soft shell with the waterproof performance of a hard shell, delivering the best of both worlds'. This combination enables the user to remain perfectly dry without feeling hot under the jacket, ensuring that you remain dry inside and out.
Ok, so that's what it is, now how does it work? Given that Polartec are the guys who came up with the science it is best to use their words here. 'The NeoShell features a proprietary, patented construction process creating a new hydrophobic, microporous, polyurethane membrane with a tightly controlled range of pore sizes'. Or, in layman's terms, a waterproof material that is durable and able to stretch but at the same time breathable, allowing moisture vapour release.
According to Polartec 'a garment made of Polartec NeoShell is lighter, softer and more supple than the competition'. Whilst we can't compare this to other materials what we can say is, having spent a week using Rab's Neo Guide Jacket in the Alps, the science behind it is fantastic resulting in one of the best jackets we have had the pleasure of using.
In the past waterproofs, even the better quality ones, have eventually left you feeling like you have been sat in a sauna and there is nothing more uncomfortable than walking in cold conditions with sweat running down your back.
Technical Highlights of NeoShell
• Waterproof: 10,000+ mm initial
• Active air exchange: (.5cfm or 2 l/m2/sec-ISO 9237) significantly enhances breathability
• Virtually windproof: blocks 99.9% of the wind
• Durable water repellency
• Good stretch & recovery for active comfort on some styles
• Quiet and drapable
• Lofted backs or traditional tricot / mesh backs for a full range of insulation needs