And here endeth the hard shell/softshell separation. Marmot’s new Nabu waterproof jacket is, thanks to its use of Polartec NeoShell, basically a softshell. Got that? For several years, Polartec has hoped that NeoShell will steal the crown from Gore-Tex. Whether it will, time will tell, but it’s certainly seems more versatile. In the last couple of issues, gear testers Chris Townsend and Judy Armstrong both gave the NeoShell Rab Myriad jacket a Best Buy over Gore-Tex jackets.
So what’s the difference? The key difference is that NeoShell is, like eVent, air permeable. This essentially means that air can travel through the NeoShell membrane immediately, pulling moisture vapour with it, unlike Gore-Tex which requires moisture and heat to push moisture vapour through the fabric, a slower process. It is still windproof. Although measuring breathability and air permeability is notoriously difficult – it’s dependent on so many factors, especially baselayers – it certainly appears to be more breathable. But the advantages of NeoShell are far beyond splitting hairs on breathability.
After the initial release of NeoShell jackets around 2011, manufacturers are now beginning to experiment a little. We have seen it applied to stretchy material – Rab’s very popular (in TGO HQ at least) Stretch Neo. Marmot’s Nabu jacket is one of the jackets blurring the hard/softshell split. Whereas Gore-Tex products tend to be ‘crinkly’, NeoShell allows the face fabric on the Nabu to be very soft, pliable and quiet, with a decent four-way stretch. It feels great. But probably the most interesting innovation is the use of Polartec Power Dry High Efficiency against the skin that is bonded directly to the NeoShell membrane. This micro-grid baselayer fabric wicks away moisture, and it works really well. It’s a fascinating combination, but does add a bit of weight and warmth. There’s also a fleecy lining at the front – this is not a summer jacket.
Elsewhere, the jacket is good. There are two large side pockets that are only just cut off at the bottom by a hip belt, and a small chest pocket that isn’t quite big enough for a map, and an internal zip pocket. There’s a hem drawcord with a pull at each side. The cuffs have a Velcro adjustment. The hood is helmet compatible, but can be pulled in around the top of the head and around the face – both only needing one hand. There’s only a stiffened peak which I would have preferred wired, or stiffer. The main zip is water resistant and there’s an internal baffle. The cut is articulated and it’s one of the best jackets to eliminate lift around the waist.
First published Nov 13