Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review: Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

- Product provided by outdoorkit.co.uk for the purpose of review -

Review time! Today's review is all about the Rab Stretch Neo Jacket, a jacket which is at home in the mountains and uses the "holy grail" of fabrics. A claim I can't wait to test!

The basics!
  • RRP - £250
  • Weight - 506g (large)
  • HH - 10,000 
Rab's description - "The Stretch Neo Jacket is a waterproof and highly breathable jacket designed for mountain use."

Initial thoughts

My first thought on pulling this jacket out of the bag was the feel of the fabric - somewhere between softshell and hardshell, it feels very soft but on the inside you get the familiar feel of a waterproof hard shell which is a positive. This is the first NeoShell jacket I've used so it's a fabric I'm unfamiliar with compared to Gore-tex and eVent, I'm interested to test how breathable this jacket is, I tend to be a sweaty mess when walking so I'll see how it copes! 

A big aspect of this jacket's design is the decision to only have the 2 crossover chest pockets (Napoleon pockets). After walking around town in this jacket I keep going to put my hands in non-existent pockets, not a negative per se but certainly something I'll have to get used to. Chest pockets are much more harness and climbing friendly as reaching across you body doesn't change your centre of gravity so much and they're above your harness so you can still get in them. What Rab have done with the crossover pockets is good though - where some jackets would have a mesh backing to the pocket, Rab have used the NeoShell on the inside too! This makes a nice close-to-waterproof pocket.

- one of the Rab "Napoleon" crossover chest pockets, note the use of NeoShell on the inside -

The fit of this jacket is lovely, Rab went for the regular fit and it works perfectly. I've been trying to get the jacket to ride up but it just sticks where it should and you get plenty of flexible arm movement - great for climbing! 

Field Testing

We've had some crazy weather hit Devon and the South West over the past few weeks, this has provided some great testing conditions for the Stretch Neo. Water beads brilliantly on the surface and falls away easily with little soaking into the fabric, after 20 minutes in sustained heavy rain the jacket turned a shade or two darker in some "heavy flow" areas (hood, chest and outer arms) but maintained the barrier and no one water got through. When the jacket is fully done up with the hood tightened it feels like a very safe space with little rain working its way in, it has a great hood that fits well around my face but can also house a helmet when needed.

They've gone for the widely used YKK AquaGuard zip on this jacket which has been known to fail with heavy rain - to back up the zip they've put in a rear storm flap and "rain drain" to make sure that water doesn't get in through the front door. No water beat the zip on my outings but this is something which shows up after some time and can bring down the longevity of the jacket. I've never had a problem with YKK but some people have suggested for such a technical jacket Rab would've been better off with WaterTight zips - never had a problem with either brand so I don't mind the YKK zip on this jacket.

Breathability with this jacket is superb, it stays dry on the inside and it doesn't feel like a sauna between the jacket and midlayer. I haven't had the chance to really push the breathability due to the cold weather, I'll let you know how it handles the summer rains when they come! If you're going to use this jacket in the cold then, from what I've experienced, you'll be fine. As with all waterproofs it has a cotton label or two inside which can suck up the moisture - not a huge complaint, but find a new material! There are no pit zips on this jacket which could cause some moisture build up when you really push hard, perhaps Rab wanted to save weight and see what this fabric could do?

Highly windproof jacket, I've worn it a few times with just strong winds and it does well, it feels like a solid barrier between me and the gusts. What I often find with waterproof fabrics is the focus on just that, waterproofness (new word?) without as much consideration for the windchill, I'm glad the material has an equal focus on both of these factors as one can easily undermine the other.

In general use the jacket has far exceeded expectation, it always sits well and maintains contact with the next layer down - this keeps the warmth in and the cold out! The great cut helps with climbing as I don't find myself having to constantly pull down the jacket. Big cuffs allow for any size of glove to be worn with this jacket, unfortunately the velcro pulls are a little thin and would be difficult to handle with a cold, gloved hand. I'll include a photo so you can see for yourself. Another tiny problem is a small bump in the jacket when it's fully done up - I find it rubbing against my nose and causing a small amount of irritation - not a huge pain but something that shouldn't be there in the first place. In the initial thoughts section I commented on just having the Napoleon pockets, after some use and getting to grips with them I've decided they were the perfect choice for a jacket like this - big and almost waterproof, plus they're the perfect size for a map. By losing the other 2 pockets they've saved weight and it's one less orifice for water to get in to.

- Thin velcro wrist tab - 

- Almighty nose rubber. Not a major complaint but I've found it niggling me a few times - 

Positive points

  • Super fabric, deserves the title of holy grail!
  • Great cut
  • Excellent workmanship - top build quality from Rab
  • Chest pockets are big and lined with NeoShell
  • Really breathable 

Not-so-positive points

  • Small bump when jacket is fully done up which can rub my nose
  • Thin velco tabs on the wrists


A fantastic jacket from Rab with plenty of thought put into it regarding placement of pockets and the cut of the jacket. I immediately had a huge amount of confidence in the jacket straight from the word go, the brand Rab has earned that after years of putting out top products. Everything (bar the little things) about this jacket work well and with each other, great fabric partnered with great design and build quality. I'm really impressed with what Rab have produced here and I look forward to the ongoing testing of this jacket (further gear revelations are posted on my twitter, link at the bottom!)

I'd definitely and wholeheartedly recommend this jacket to anyone heading off to mountains or rainy places.

Many thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the review! 

~ thanks again to OutdoorKit.co.uk for providing this jacket, please check out their FacebookTwitter and Rab brand page ~

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