The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets of 2018


Strafe Jacket - One of the best NeoShell jackets

Strafe Jacket – 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).

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. 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 also be 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. While all NeoShell jackets in this selection are equipped with a fully adjustable hood, some also feature a helmet-compatible hood.

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.

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.

2. The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets Review

Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets

Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets

The Best Polartec NeoShell Jackets – List

  1. Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket
  2. Mountain Hardwear Cyclone Jacket
  3. Westcomb Apoc Jacket
  4. Strafe Cham2 Jacket
  5. Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

 

Comparison

Feature/Product Montane Further Faster Neo JacketMountain Hardwear Cyclone JacketWestcomb Apoc JacketStrafe Cham2 JacketWestcomb Shift LT Hoody
Weight16 oz..20 oz.17 oz.19 oz.12 oz.
Weight (Metric)443 g558 g482 g550 g 340 g
MaterialPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShellPolartec NeoShell
Fabric Layers3-layer3-layer3-layer3-layer3-layer
Adjustable HoodYesYesYesYesYes
External Pockets22331
Montane Further Faster Neo 1

Montane Further Faster Neo 1

1. Montane Further Faster Neo Jacket

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

 

The Montane Further Faster Neo jacket is designed for highly aerobic activities in wet and windy conditions.  The jacket has two zippered pockets which are positioned slightly higher so they don’t interfere with the hip belt of your backpack. The pockets are large and thus perfect for storing a map or similar items. The hood is fully adjustable (three points of adjustment) and has a wire visor for better fit. All zippers are waterproof to keep the water out. The Montane Further Faster Neo jacket is technically tailored and therefore the hem doesn’t rise and expose your back if you reach high with your hands. The jacket is also equipped with adjustable wrist cuffs and hem. Montane Further Faster Neo comes in two different colors; black and green.

 

Pros:

  • Fit
  • Large pockets
  • Hood adjustability

Cons:

  • /

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Mountain Hardwear Cyclone

Mountain Hardwear Cyclone

2. Mountain Hardwear Cyclone Jacket

Suitable for:

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

 

The Mountain Hardwear Cyclone jacket is one of the most sophisticated shells from this iconic brand. The jacket was designed with alpine climbing in mind but also works great for other aerobic activities. It is equipped with two large zippered pockets which are positioned high, so they don’t interfere with your climbing harness or a hip belt. Even though the NeoShell fabric provides good breathability, the jacket has two large pit zips for extra ventilation and thus allows you to easily regulate your body temperature. The pit zips are so big that they provide access to any pockets your mid-layer might feature. The jacket’s helmet compatible hood, wrist cuffs and hem are adjustable for good fit. The Mountain Hardwear Cyclone jacket is available in three different colors – yellow, grey and blue.

 

Pros:

  • Large pit zips (access to mid-layer’s pockets)
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Large pockets

Cons:

  • /

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Westcomb Apoc

Westcomb Apoc

3. Westcomb Apoc Jacket

Suitable for:

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

 

The Westcomb Apoc jacket is like the Cyclone jacket from Mountain Hardwear 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 obviously 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.

 

Pros:

  • Durability
  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Pockets

Cons:

  • /

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Best Buy!

Also available at:

Campsaver

 

Strafe Jacket - One of the best NeoShell jackets

Strafe Jacket – One of the best NeoShell jackets

4. Strafe Cham2 Jacket

Suitable for:

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

 

The Strafe Cham2 jacket is designed for ski touring, but is also very useful for alpine climbing and other adventures in the mountains. The jacket features two zippered hand pockets, zippered sleeve pocket, internal valuables pocket and two internal mesh pockets. The pockets are large and allow easy access to the smaller items you carry on you. The Strafe Cham2 jacket also has large pit zips for temperature regulation and thus easy access to the pockets of your mid-layer. As the jacket is primarily designed for ski touring it has an adjustable powder skirt. However, you can remove the powder skirt easily in case that you don’t need it (as might be the case for hiking, trekking etc.). The helmet-compatible hood uses 3-way adjustment system for good fit. The Strafe Cham2 jacket is available in three different colors.

 

Pros:

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Pockets
  • Removable powder skirt

Cons:

  • /

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Best Buy!

Also available at:

Backcountry

Video

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

5. Westcomb Shift LT Hoody

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking
  • Alpine climbing

 

The Westcomb Shift LT Hoody is the lightest NeoShell jacket in this selection. 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.

 

Pros:

  • Helmet compatible hood
  • Lightweight
  • Price

Cons:

  • /

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