At the intersection of breath ability, waterproofing, and lightweight material lies the holy grail of outer wear. It’s the quest for that fabric that brought us Gore-Tex and Triple Point Ceramic and any number of branded fabric names.
Now there’s NeoShell by Polartec, a breathable waterproof fabric that claims to be “100% more breathable than the best waterproof breathable on the market in active conditions”. Westcomb, a Canadian outerwear company is using NeoShell for their not yet on the market Apoc jacket, and at first blush, it looks to be good stuff. Here’s a little more propaganda, directly from the NeoShell site:
Waterproof technology has remained about the same since the very first hard shell. Breathability is achieved through diffusion: moisture and heat create enough pressure that moisture vapor finally passes through the fabric.
Soft shells trade waterproofness for greater breathability by making use of convection: a constant exchange of air allows more moisture vapor to escape. Now, Polartec® NeoShell® delivers the best of both worlds.
I noticed the difference in weight right away — the Apoc is absolutely a few ounces lighter than my Goretex shell, I could feel it. The fabric is slightly softer, slightly smoother, it’s got a little bit more drape. The jacket folds up to very small; you can easily stuff it in your pack or suitcase.
There’s just one thing missing from this very nice jacket. I prefer two way zippers, that way you can open the jacket from the bottom, too. That’s all I’ve got for criticism — I like everything else, the feel of the fabric, the cut of the jacket, the sharp acid green color. Don’t want the green? You can get it in blue, gray, red, yellow, or black.
The rest of the Apoc jacket shows a really nice attention to detail. There are deep zippered pockets for your stuff. There’s a bicep pocket for your lift ticket or lip balm. There’s an inside pocket for your wallet and phone; it includes a pass-through for your headsets. All the seams are taped and lie flat. My favorite detail is that the collar is lined with a very light, fleecy material where it hits your face when it’s zipped all the way up.
Pair this jacket with a lightweight down sweater or shirt, and you are set for almost any weather. It’s not on retail racks yet, look for it as the the 2011 summer wanes.