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Westcomb Apoc Jacket

1 review
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4

The Holy Grail is Found: After using Gore-Tex Pro…

Rating: rated 5 of 5 stars

Summary

The Holy Grail is Found:

Pros

  • Breathability
  • Waterproofness
  • Features

Cons

  • Sleeve cuff design

After using Gore-Tex Pro Shell, Performance Shell, and Paclite products for many years, and never having been very satisfied with their breathability, especially in warmer weather, Polartec's NeoShell fabric is a welcome addition to the mountaineering market. It pushes the limits on breathability to such an extent as for me to declare the arrival, finally, of the Holy Grail.

This is the real deal. Unlike Gore-Tex, NeoShell breathability doesn't vary with temperature. In warm temperatures, Gore-Tex really does not breath at all. Not so the case with NeoShell, which breathes well in any temperature. In fact, it breathes so many times greater than Gore-Tex, in both warm and cold temperatures, that I cannot even begin to quantify the actual difference.

And quite frankly, whether it is five times greater or ten times, is immaterial. Suffice it to say that it relegates all of my Gore-Tex to retirement status. If this fabric ever really takes off, (Think about e-Vent's troubled history) it will be the Gore-Tex killer. (I have not used Active Shell but no matter as it is only marginally more breathable than their other fabrics.)

Polartec's NeoShell fabric is being marketed to clothing manufactures as a fabric that is so breathable that pit-zips are unnecessary. This is incredibly shortsighted of Polartec for two reasons. First, many, such as myself, will never buy a shell without pit-zips regardless even of the most extraordinary claims. Second, pit-zips serve two functions. They permit perspiration to escape and they allow for greater heat-temperature control. Profuse perspirers such as myself cannot live without pit-zips to help keep us cool.

Westcomb was the first company to make NeoShell jackets with pit-zips. As far as I can tell, the Apoc may still be the only truly full-featured shell to incorporate them. I see that The North Face just updated last year's Jammu shell by adding pit-zips to it and I expect many more companies to quickly follow Westcomb's far-sightedness.

I would even venture to state that the single greatest factor to explain why NeoShell has had such a limited impact on the market in the two years since it was released, is the almost complete dearth of models available with pit-zips. If not already, it is only a matter of time before Polartec realizes what a bone-headed marketing decision it made.

Polartec claims that Neoshell meets industry waterproof standards, and I entirely agree. I recently wore it in a record-breaking rainstorm in Parque Nacional Villarica in Chile. I could find no difference between it and Pro Shell's waterproof capabilities. Like all shell fabrics, its water-shedding ability will decrease with use. I recommend treating it occasionally with a DWR product such as McNett's excellent, ReviveX.

The Apoc is probably the most feature-rich Neoshell jacket currently on the market, even including a helmet-compatible hood, though I will not bother to list all features. Please visit the Westcomb Website. I recommend buying the Apoc at least one size greater than you would normally take, perhaps even two, as Apoc sizes run quite small. (Perhaps it's a Canadian thing.)

If there is one weakness in the Apoc it is in the terrible sleeve cuff design, a significant disappointment regardless of all else I love about the Apoc. The sleeve cuff diameter is much too small. It is nearly impossible to put on thick gloves or mittens and then get the Apoc's sleeve cuff to cover over the ends of your hand-wear, something that is essential to keeping water from running down your sleeve and into your gloves. Even when you get one mitten end covered by the cuff, it is nigh impossible to get the second one tucked-in using your now mitten covered other hand.

To make it somewhat easier, I take the jacket off. Zip it up partially. Put my mittens on, and then slide the jacket over my head as if it were a sweater. This is a royal pain in the neck which gets you wet and requires you to take your pack off. Westcomb needs to increase the cuff diameter by at least two if not three full inches.

Second, the velcro band on the cuff attaches quite poorly if you want the cuff somewhat loose. Only when the cuff is tightly adjusted dues the velcro hold securely. Otherwise, it continually flaps around, another annoyance.

Even taking into consideration the poor sleeve cuff design, this shell is quite likely the best product currently on the market, and certainly the most breathable. And for whatever it is worth, it is a great looking jacket, especially the red color. I recommend it highly.

Montana Ski and Sail

I wonder why more companys don't put smaller zip vents just in front of the arm pits (Like some north face jackets) rather than in the armpit. I personally hate the restriction and feel of most pit zip designs and find them dificult to open and close quickly.


1 year ago
magic

Keep your eyes peeled for Ventile and Paramo. | I've various Goretex Jackets using from XCR to Pro Shell Ascendor 2, Event and have the Rab NeoShell. | The most breathable fabrics though are from Paramo. It doesn't use a laminate, like all the others, but mimics mammal hair by way of a 'pump liner' (capillarity) which moves water away from the skin faster than it can get in.| I wish there was a Holy Grail of jackets but believe that that would be as illusive as the legendary one. | Ventile looks promising for going through rough terrain with brambles and similar spiky flora.


12 months ago
magic

How do you start a new paragraph please?


12 months ago
Richard Proulx

As NeoShell is such a revolutionary advance over Pro Shell, whereas even the new Active Shell is only slightly better than what most have been using up to now, I feel quite justified in my high praise. I have no doubt that the average person making the switch will be quite happy that they did. (As I have no direct experience with Paramo, I must reserve comment.)



I entirely agree that pit zips tend to be a bit difficult to open and close, and wish the industry would find a way to resolve this. Eventually it will. Still, as ornery as they can sometimes be, I must have them.


12 months ago
Richard Proulx

Use a word processor to write your comment, separate paragraphs and all, and then copy and paste.


12 months ago
Richard Proulx

magic, When I claimed that NeoShell was the most breathable, it was to be understood as among waterproof shell fabrics. Unless I am missing something here, it would appear that between Ventile and NeoShell, you are comparing apples to oranges.



It must be understood that “water repellancy,” and “waterproofness,” terms that are quite often misunderstood, are two entirely different things. The NeoShell membrane provides waterproofness. The fabric's outer layer with DWR coating provides the water repellancy. NeoShell, assuming that the seams, zippers, etc, remain sealed, should remain waterproof until such time as the fabric just breaks down. The purpose of occasionally using ReviveX, is to revive water repellancy, or beading, which decreases with use.



I took a look at the Ventile website. Ventile is made of cotton, and while cotton is certainly highly breathable it is not waterproof. In order to compare apples to apples, the industry usually uses the hydrostatic water test, with 10,000mm being considered “waterproof.” The PolarTec website claims that NeoShell meets this standard exactly. While the Ventile website claims that its fabrics “have a high degree of water repellancy,” it makes no claims to waterproofness, least ways not that I could find. In fact, Ventile clearly states that their fabrics are only either 750mm or 900mm in the hydrostatic test.



I (and no one I know) would ever buy a cotton jacket for trekking and mountaineering, as cotton, once wet, takes seemingly forever to dry and becomes quite heavy as water eventually inundates and soaks the fabric. Ventile may be great with brambles, but not so with rain and wet snow. If I were concerned only with brambles and such, I would just throw on my venerable old highly breathable and water resistant Air Force cotton fatigue jacket.



(Thank you for bringing Paramo to my attention. I would like to learn more about it. Unfortunately, the company's website is a bit vague, for example no mention of a hydrostatic test. It is mostly the usual marketing claims which have burned me so often in the past. It seems to have extremely limited availability but if I am ever again in the UK, I will check it out.)


12 months ago
magic

The biggest selling outdoorsy type magazine in the UK is Trail, in which they mentioned that the only jacket ever tested by Leeds University which didn't leek was the Paramo. 'Hydrostatic Head' isn't mentioned, I suspect, because it isn't as relevant as there is no laminate. However, it is the most 'waterproof' jacket I know. The context that I use 'waterproof' in, is that it keeps me dry, day in, day out, and over many years and in the foulest weather that you have to be barmy to go out in, in the first place. Again though, however, this pump liner makes the jacket a tad bulkier, and warmer, so no panacea in the summer, if you're on a multiple day trek, and weight and pack size are very important.



My Rab NeoShell is great, but when really pushing it uphill the scrim gets wet - sweat and condensation! Any laminate unfortunately limits breathability.
I don’t mean to poo-poo your “Holy Grail” comment, but am attempting to curtail your ebullience just a little bit. Some materials will outshine others in certain conditions. If you can only afford one jacket get the Paramo. Use Nikwax to reproof it, as and when. Otherwise, take your pick. You need to consider multiple factors. I have multiple jackets, of various materials, for multiple disciplines and tasks. My Paramo gear will never de-laminate. There are no taped seams to loosen and if they get spiked or ripped are easy to repair. But you can’t sit down on a wet bench without your bum (bottom) getting wet. And the style is a little bit ‘frumpy’. My partner loathed hers because her handbag kept slipping off her shoulder (the things to consider eh).
I also bought the Taiga fleece, which has the same pump liner, so is ’effectively’ a waterproof fleece.



Ventile, I’ve only just become aware of. The idea of a ‘waterproof’ cotton enthrals me. As you and I both well know, normal cotton rubs, swells, holds onto moisture and takes ages to dry, but is natural and preferred for comfort in non-sweat, non-wet situations. However, I’d like to give this Ventile Hope you have many years of dryness with your new purchase.




12 months ago
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