The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets of 2020


Westcomb Shift LT Hoody - One of the best NeoShell jackets

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody – One of the best NeoShell jackets

For aerobic activities such as mountaineering and alpine climbing you need highly breathable rainwear so you don’t soak in your own sweat during exhausting ascents. Polartec NeoShell is by all accounts the most breathable waterproof fabric currently available. Polartec launched the NeoShell fabric in 2011 and soon it became clear that it offers better air permeability than other high-end waterproof/breathable fabrics, such as Gore-Tex Pro Shell and eVent. Furthermore, the NeoShell fabric is also very stretchy (it feels more like a softshell fabric than a hardshell fabric) and thus NeoShell rainwear typically provides great freedom of movement. However, because of the high price of NeoShell fabric, only a handful of brands makes NeoShell rainwear.

Here we selected the five best rain jackets which utilize Polartec NeoShell fabric. We only listed high-quality rain jackets which besides from great breathability also provide good durability and functionality (hood, pockets etc.). If you don’t have the budget for jackets in this review, check out our review of the Best Lightweight Waterproof Jackets instead (mid-end rain jackets). However, keep in mind that these jackets don’t match NeoShell jackets when it comes to breathability. To see how Polartec NeoShell compares to other waterproof/breathable fabrics in terms of water resistance and breathability, see the chart in our article Rainwear: Hydrostatic Head and Breathability (MVTR).

We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.

1. Buying a Polartec NeoShell Jacket – What is important?

Weight and Packed Size:

Lightweight gear is recommended for aerobic activities because it puts less strain on your muscles than heavier gear and thus allows you to reach your destination faster and easier. Therefore, we only listed lightweight NeoShell jackets in this selection. The heaviest jacket weighs 20 ounces while the lightest weighs merely 12 ounces. To learn why it is important to use lightweight gear for hiking, read our article Why hike lightweight. As the rain jacket is often carried in your backpack, it should also pack small. Jackets in this selection pack very small and are thus perfect for multi-day trips and expeditions.

Pockets:

Because a rain jacket is worn over a base or mid layer, it should have at least one easy-accessible pocket for storing essentials. The pockets should of course be zippered and deep enough for storing large items such as a map, GPS device etc.

Hood:

The hood on your rain jacket should be adjustable for good fit, and compatible with a helmet if you are planning to do technical activities such as alpine climbing and mountaineering. A helmet compatible hood is bigger than a regular hood to fit over a climbing helmet.

Taped Seams:

Taped seams ensure that water doesn’t leak through them. Today basically every high-end rain jacket has taped seams and the NeoShell jackets in this selection are no exception. Read more about taped seams in this article from Trespass.

Zippers:

A rain jacket should have waterproof zippers (front zipper, pockets, vents etc.) to keep the water out. Waterproof zippers feature a polyurethane cover which repels the water. High-end brands typically use YKK Aqua Guard zippers (developed by the iconic Japanese company YKK), because these zippers have long lifespan and provide great water resistance.

Expert Selections
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2. The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets Review

Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets

Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets

The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets – List

  1. Westcomb Apoc Jacket
  2. 66North Men’s Snaefell Jacket
  3. Westcomb Shift LT Hoody
  4. 66North Stadarfell Jacket
  5. Filson Neoshell Reliance Jacket

Comparison

Feature/Product Westcomb Apoc Jacket66North Men's Snaefell JacketWestcomb Shift LT Hoody66North Stadarfell JacketFilson Neoshell Reliance Jacket
Weight17 oz.18 oz.12 oz.11 oz.n/a
Weight (Metric)482 g510 g340 g320 gn/a
MaterialPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShell / Polartec Wind ProPolartec NeoShell
Fabric Layers3-layer3-layer3-layer3-layer3-layer
Adjustable HoodYesYesYesYesYes
External Pockets32134
Westcomb Apoc

Westcomb Apoc

1. Westcomb Apoc Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Alpine climbing
  • Ski Touring

 

The Westcomb Apoc jacket is primarily designed for alpine climbing and uses 50-denier NeoShell fabric for good abrasion resistance. The jacket is equipped with an internal media pocket, two large zippered hand pockets and a zippered sleeve pocket. The zippers are of course water-resistant (YKK Aqua Guard). The hand pockets are easy accessible even when you are wearing a climbing harness or carrying a backpack with hip belt. The Westcomb Apoc also has pit zips for extra ventilation. The helmet-compatible hood has three points of adjustment for perfect fit, and the hem and cuffs are similarly adjustable. The Westcomb Apoc jacket is available in four different colors.

Women's Version: Available - Westcomb Copa Jacket

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Pockets

Cons:

  • /

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66 North Snaefell Jacket

66 North Snaefell Jacket

2. 66 North Snaefell Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Alpine climbing
  • Ski Touring

 

The 66North Snaefell is an extremely versatile NeoShell jacket and can be used for various outdoor activities, from hiking to alpine climbing. The jacket features two chest pockets which allow easy access even when you are wearing a climbing harness or a hip belt. The hood has a dual adjustable swivel system and a visor for additional comfort and protection. It is designed so that it follows your movements and doesn’t block your vision. The jacket also features articulated elbows, one internal zippered pocket and a drawstring hem. The 66North Snaefell jacket is a great option for those who want a breathable and durable shell layer for various outdoor adventures.

Women's Version: Available - 66North Women's Snaefell Jacket

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Hood adjustability
  • Quality

Cons:

  • Weight

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Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

3. Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Alpine climbing

 

The Westcomb Shift LT Hoody is an extremely light NeoShell jacket. The jacket is thus perfect for lightweight backpacking, hiking, trekking and similar activities. It uses a lighter and less abrasion-resistant NeoShell fabric (25-denier) than the other Westcomb jacket mentioned above (50-denier) and only features one zippered pocket. The Westcomb Shift LT Hoody also doesn’t have pit zips, but has an adjustable helmet compatible hood, adjustable wrist cuffs and drawcord hem. It is the most inexpensive NeoShell jacket in this selection. The Westcomb Shift LT Hoody is is available in three different colors.

Women's Version: Available - Westcomb Fuse Hoody

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Lightweight
  • Price

Cons:

  • /

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66North Stadarfell Jacket

66North Stadarfell Jacket

4. 66North Stadarfell Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Running
  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering

 

The 66North Stadarfell jacket is designed for highly aerobic activities. It is made of Polartec NeoShell and Polartec Windpro fabric. The Windpro fabric is used on collar and sleeves for better comfort and freedom of movement. The jacket has two zippered pockets which are positioned slightly higher, so they don’t interfere with the hip belt of your backpack. It also has a zippered rear pocket. All zippers are waterproof to keep the water out. The jacket is also equipped with adjustable wrist cuffs and hem. Unlike the other jackets in this review, the 66North Stadarfell doesn’t have a hood. The jacket is available in three different colors: black, grey and blue.

Women's Version: Available - 66North Women's Stadarfell Jacket

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Polartec Windpro fabric for even better breathabiltiy
  • Ideal for highly aerobic activities

Cons:

  • No hood

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Filson Neoshell Reliance Jacket

Filson Neoshell Reliance Jacket

5. Filson Neoshell Reliance Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

 

The Filson Neoshell Reliance jacket is a great option for hiking, backpacking and other outdoor activities. The jacket features two zippered hand pockets, two zippered chest pockets and an adjustable stow-away hood. It is also equipped with pit zips for extra ventilation and provides mechanical stretch for a full range of motion. The zippers are waterproof, and the jacket features taped seams for good weather protection. If you are looking for a jacket for alpine climbing this might not be your first choice because the pockets are placed relatively low (hard to use while you are wearing a climbing harness) and the hood is not helmet compatible. Nevertheless, the Filson Neoshell Reliance jacket is a great option for less technical outdoor activities.

Women's Version: Not available

 

Pros:

  • Pit zips
  • Stretch
  • Design

Cons:

  • Not the best option for technical activities such as alpine climbing

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Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

3. Questions and Answers

Is Polartec NeoShell waterproof?

Polartec NeoShell provides good protection against the rain. However, no so-called waterproof/breathable fabric is completely waterproof. There is always a trade-off between waterproofness and breathability, and as hiking clothes must be breathable (otherwise you anyway soak in your own sweat) they can’t be completely waterproof.

How do you clean Polartec NeoShell?

Most Polartec NeoShell garments can be machine washed at 30 C. They should be washed with zippers zipped. After washing them, apply the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) because the DWR will get washed off. DWR enables the garment to repel the water rather than absorb it.

Is Polartec NeoShell more breathable than Gore-Tex?

Yes, currently Polartec NeoShell provides better breathability than all types of Gore-Tex fabric (Gore-Tex Pro, Gore-Tex Active etc.).

What is the difference between softshell and hardshell jacket?

Hardshell jackets provide better protection against the elements and are typically lighter. However, softshell jackets are more breathable, less stiff and more comfortable to wear. Softshell jackets are made of tightly woven nylon which is treated with DWR (so that they repel the water) while hardshell jackets typically feature a micro-porous membrane or a coating which blocks the water drops.

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Post Author

Post Author

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.

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