We see a lot of waterproof jackets at The Great Outdoors, dozens and dozens a year. Most, frankly, are pretty good, even cheaper jackets, as Chris Townsend highlighted in the last issue with his review of garments under £100. Rain is unlikely to get through most of these jackets, but cheaper ones may not be the most breathable.
At the more premium end of the spectrum you’ll often see jackets made with a Gore-Tex fabric or with Polartec NeoShell, a fabric of which I’m a fan. It’s softer and less crinkly than many competitor fabrics (although Gore-Tex has just come out with softer material), almost like a softshell, and I’ve found it to have excellent air permeability.
In 2015, examples of manufacturers really screwing up a jacket are few and far between (although it happens), but often there’s something just not quite right: the hood, the material, the pocket configuration, the cuffs, the front closure. And when you’re struggling through gnarly winter weather on the Cairngorm plateau, those minor annoyances can become big problems.
I was gratified to discover that the Rab Neo Guide is one of those jackets that does get it right. Rab certainly have provenance with NeoShell jackets and have won several TGO Recommended awards over the years, but this brings it all together. It’s aimed at winter walking or alpine excursions, but is light and breathable enough to warrant usage as your all-round foul-weather jacket.
The fit will allow a fleece or reasonably think midlayer and it’s well-tailored with almost no hem lift. There’s a heavier weight of NeoShell over the shoulders, elbows, cuffs and hips where the jacket may experience extra wear. The pockets have really long zips, and are big enough to swallow your map (and probably your sandwiches), and it’s all above hipbelt height. The cuffs are very wide – great for ventilation – and have a simple Velcro fastener. There are also pit zips for ventilation. The front fastener has a big chunky zip and an internal storm flap.
For me, the hood is essential to a good jacket, and this one is excellent. It’s wired, and features a good one-handed volume adjuster. The cords around the face are accessible from the outside, and they slip into a sleeve to keep them from flapping back in the face, although when really cinched I tied a knot in them just in case.
Everything has come together for this jacket. It’s not cheap (nor extortionate) at £300, but it’s versatile enough to justify the price.