Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Polartec NeoShell vs Gortex Active Shell

At the OutDoor show 2 new fabrics were being shown. Polartec was demonstrating their new waterproof and breathable fabric, whilst Gore-tex was showing their latest addition; Active Shell. Naturally it is difficult to give a detailed review of a fabric I haven't worn or used on the hill, however this review contains my personal first impressions of both fabrics.

Polartec® NeoShell

As I mentioned in the Mammut Eiger Extreme review below, I was very impressed with NeoShell for a number of reasons. NeoShell represents a very odd combination of feeling and performing like a soft shell, but bringing with it the waterproof qualities of a hard shell. In particular my favourite jacket with this fabric was the Mammut Gipfelgrat jacket (see review further down). I can already see the benefits of this fabric for winter climbing, the fabric has stretch in it to give great comfort and freedom of movement, it's warm like a soft shell, but gives protection from the weather like a hard shell. On the Polartec® stand was a short demonstration of how the fabric works:

As you can see the fabric is fully breathable; allowing oxygen to pass through it into the liquid, however non of the water above gets through the fabric into the container below. The fabric in the right hand container was not named, so could be anything. NeoShell also claims to be machine washable without any loss of waterproofing on the jacket - another big claim that can't be substantiated at this stage. The other thing about NeoShell is that it seems like more of a 'beefy' fabric, it's not designed to be super light weight, so from an adventure racers point of view this fabric could be less that ideal. Full details of NeoShell can be found on the website:
Overall I was very impressed with NeoShell, the neat little demo on the stand, the substantial feeling fabric, the proof will be in the pudding, but if NeoShell delivers what it promises then this could represent a real step forward in terms of performance fabrics.

Gore-tex® Active Shell

Active Shell is the latest fabric from Gore-tex designed to provide a high degree of waterproofing and breathability. From Gore-tex;

"Ideal for all weather fast forward athletes seeking durable protection and comfort during highly aerobic, done in a day activities such as trail running, mountain biking, and fast alpine ascent."

(Left) Mountain Equipments new Firefox jacket uses Active Shell

My first impression of Active Shell? It felt like Paclite crossed with ProShell. It felt very thin, and light. I found it hard to get very animated about Active Shell, because from my point of view it is just another Gore-tex fabric that is waterproof and breathable. I also had to sit through a lecture one morning that was supposed to be about outdoor gear targeting the ageing market, however when the Gore-tex woman appeared to do her section, she just talked about the various fabrics available instead of staying on topic, however listening to her all the fabrics made the same claim: waterproof and what exactly is new about Active Shell? From Gore-tex website:

"combines extreme breathability and durable wind- and waterproofness with minimum weight and pack volume."

Sound familiar? Thats because the above was taken from the description of Gore-tex Paclite. My point is that Gore-tex new fabric just seems to me to be "just another waterproof fabric".  4 of the 5 fabrics on the Gore-tex site claim to be waterproof and breathable, and on feeling and trying on Active Shell jackets, it feels like another one for the collection; an updated version of Paclite, that perhaps provides slightly more breathability and waterproofing, however once again the proof will be in the pudding. Website:

In summary; I am finding it very hard to get psyched for Active Shell, I'm sure it will be a step forward in terms of producing a shell that is; lightweight, breathable and waterproof. But to me it just seems like it's nothing new. NeoShell on the other hand seems to be exactly what I have been looking for in a soft shell, but with the added bonus of being as waterproof as a hard shell. I was impressed with NeoShell to the point that I gave V12outdoor an email this morning to see about pre-ordering a Mammut Gipfelgrat in September.


  1. Thank you very much for this insightful article.

  2. Geest review. Very helpful dor a market shakeout. Vore lost his dictatorship ! Good for everyone, gives us more to chose and more reasonable prices!