Rab Stretch Neo Jacket is yet another tribute to NeoShell as a material. Rab have used fabric from Polartec to create a super functional jacket with a traditional design.
You will not get any revolutionary details with the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, but you won’t miss them either. In short, it’s a classic and extremely versatile all weather jacket, without any serious flaws. The jacket has a classical Rab design, where functionality comes first, this is the red line in all Rab products.
The Rab Stretch Neo is not only a work jacket, but also a jacket that fits well for everyday use. I certainly don’t feel like a climber who just fell down from Mt. Everest if I choose to wear this jacket to the office.
A brief look at NeoShell
Polartec NeoShell is a new membrane, which is said to breathe much better than similar waterproof membrane from Gore-Tex, Dermizax or eVent. And yes, my experience supports this rumor, I have never used such a breathable, waterproof jacket before, including the Patagonia Flyer Jacket with Gore-Tex Active Shell.
“NeoShell from Polartec is designed so that the molecules of steam can be pressed through the membrane at a lower pressure than normal, making NeoShell incredibly breathable even at a very low activity level! ”
I can still push the jacket to the point where it cannot keep up with the sweat, but this applies for all the membranes I have tested. When I plan a hike in a period with uncertain weather forecasts, I’ll bring my Rab Stretch Neo. If the meteorologists promise minimal rain or snow and freezing temperatures I would still prefer a softshell jacket, which breaths better, but lacks complete waterproofness.
You will not get the same, minimalistic inner tapings as in quality jackets with Gore-Tex pro. The material require more substance in the assemblies, and this affect weight and feel. Nevertheless, the NeoShell membrane is not nearly as noisy as I experience several Gore-Tex jackets to be, “talking” merrily when I move.
If you would like a comparison of the breathability of the Gore-Tex Active Shell and Polartecs Neoshell, my verdict is indubitable. The NeoShell breaths better… period!
The outer material seems soft and less durable than on jackets with a traditional membrane, but I haven’t seen any signs of wear from backpack etc. in the months I have used this jacket. Considering the relatively reasonable price of 2500 dkk, this is quite the nice buy.
Rab has its roots in the British climbing community and this is reflected in its design. The long sleeves does the magic, so can stretch your arms without exposing your wrists to chilling winds, the hood is compatible with a climbing helmet, but can still be tightened properly when you don’t wear one. The length of the jacket is above average, without being full-length.
This is all details you will appreciate in everyday life, and in the wilderness.
The jacket has two highly placed napoleon pockets on the outside with waterproof zippers. Inside, you also have two smaller napoleon pockets.
At the bottom of the jacket you have a rubber band that runs all the way around, which can be operated in both the right and left side. It provides good comfort.
In chin-height there is a small, internal microfibre fabric. This gives a much more comfortable contact between your face and the inside of the jacket when you have zipped the jacket, all the way up. Nice detail.
To put a strong emphasis on NeoShells ability to breathe better than the competition, there are not any zippers under the arms for ventilation…
The jackets long zipper that opens and closes the jacket is an YKK Aquaguard. It is the only detail, I wish where different. There is a number of different highly water resistant zippers, which can easily replace this “slow” model. Especially now that the jacket is not designed with a lightweight focus, a flap at the front could have been a better solution. Arc’teryx use a more user-friendly zipper and a flap at the back on their Alpha SV, so it should be possible for Rab as well.
Comfort comes first
In the end, the Rab Stretch Neo jacket wins my heart, even though it has it flaws, for the high comfort it provides. The details found on the jacket are well placed and will appeal to a wide audience.
There are a number of lightweight jackets out there weighing in at under half of the Stretch Neos 500 grams, but if you only want to have ONE jacket, this is my best bid for an all-purpose jacket.
The jacket has a medium fit that leaves room for insulating layers like a puff-jacket underneath.
The best: NeoShells impressive and functional design
The worst: The front-zipper is sluggish
Target segment: Those looking for a waterproof jacket that breathes really well
Overall: Another tribute to NeoShell as membrane in jackets for active nature lovers