The rainy season is almost upon us again, so I figured I would write a post about a fabric I’ve been using for a while in a jacket. Everyone knows the Gore-Tex family of products… I own a beautiful jacket made of Gore-Tex Pac-Lite through most of the body, and Gore-Tex Pro on the shoulders and back where a backpack and straps would sit. Fantastic jacket from a fantastic company (Outdoor Research). But… when I start moving and hiking, I start to sweat like I’m in a plastic bag. Gore-Tex breathes, but only after it has brought you to the sweat point. Then the vapour can escape the tiny pores. The product I’m talking about here as an alternative is from Polartec. Yes, the same Polartec that makes fleece jackets and mid-layers. They have a product called Polartec NeoShell. It has the same type of fantastic DWR (durable water-repellent) on the outer layer, the same fully taped seams, and the same waterproofness that Gore-Tex enables. But… it is WAY more breathable. This comes at the cost of windproofness, but I’ll take a slight draft (which is usually caught by a mid-layer anyways) over sweating in a sauna of a jacket.
My specific jacket I have is a Rab Myriad. It unfortunately is discontinued, so I can’t post links on where to get it, but for me… it’s been a fantastic piece of gear. It is a minimalist jacket focusing on light weight and pack-ability over having tons of pockets, features and such. Personally, I don’t need all the extra stuff. A jacket with a few pockets and a great hood is all I need. Another great plus is that this jacket is so breathable, I don’t have to worry about pit zips. My Gore-Tex jacket has zips that can basically unzip the whole sides out of my jacket to vent, but the Neoshell doesn’t even need a ventilation system to keep up with heat elimination.
So, on a big long excursion in pouring driven rain and a heavy backpack, yes… I’m probably still bringing the Outdoor Research Gore-Tex jacket… it’s just a real bomb-proof jacket with reinforced points where the pack sits. Any other day, even just as a commuting jacket in rain or potential rain (no matter the temperature), I’m bringing my Rab Neoshell jacket.
I wish I could recommend a link to the jacket I have… but it is out of production. If you want to stick to a Canadian (and BC too btw) manufacturer, Westcomb (Apoc, Switch, and Shift) gets generally positive reviews on their products. MEC might still have a ladies version of a shell using Neoshell, but have discontinued their house brand men’s one. A good spot to check by would be the Neoshell page on Polartec’s site.
No matter which jacket you get for outdoor hiking and rainy weather, make sure you wash it regularly! Your body oils and such will mess with the DWR coating and reduce the jacket’s effectiveness over time. Also periodically you need to refresh the DWR with either a spray on (dryer activated afterwards), or wash in treatment. A wetted out jacket is no fun… having the water bead and roll off of you is a much more enjoyable experience. If your jacket is soaked from rain, you may stay dry from it because of your fancy coat, but all that moisture on the outside will plug the jacket’s pores… which means no breath-ability no matter the fabric.
Neoshell is definitely 100% Jeff approved!