Rab makes clothing “for the most extreme conditions in the world.” (as their tag line says). So far in our testing of their products I’d have to agree. We got a set of Rab’s new Neo Stretch jacket and pants in mid-winter and were able to see just what they could handle. We wore these pieces while ice climbing and alpine climbing in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.
Both of these garments are made out of the new Polartech Neoshell 3L fabric. This is the latest technology in breathable waterproof fabrics that have made it to the marketplace. The search for the elusive perfect fabric that allows internal sweat and moisture to move outwardly through the jacket (or pants) while still blocking all rain and snow from coming in is the ultimate treasure hunt and the Neoshell just may be the holy grail.
Most climbers have a waterproof shell. Most of us hate to wear them. They stop the wind and rain just fine, but when you’re moving up an alpine ridge at a steady clip you tend to sweat a lot and the inside of most shells get clammy pretty quickly. The Rab rep that I spoke with at the Winter Outdoor Retailer show assured me that this new material was different. So confident were they in it’s ability to breath well that they designed the jacket without any pit-zips. I took her word, but figured I’d have to see for myself just how good this new material is.
The jacket has a well designed, helmet-compatible hood, with multiple adjustment points on the sides and back to give you the storm coverage you need without being floppy and getting in the way. There are two exterior pockets located on the mid-chest. They do a great job of not getting in the way of a harness and providing enough room for a backup set of glove liners as well as room for a phone, camera or small snack. The only thing I didn’t like about the pockets (and really the only thing I don’t like about the jacket) was that the placement of the pockets does not allow you a place to stick your hands to keep them warm when you’re not wearing gloves. Since this jacket is really only worn when out in the elements it’s not a big deal. The fit is Euro (small). The size XL fits my trim 6’3″ 190 lb. frame perfectly. There is enough room for a warm mid-layer, but still not baggy. Arms are nice and long and the jacket really lives up to it’s “Stretch” name. I really fell in love with this jacket the first time I wore it and it became my go-to jacket for ice climbing. The Stretch Neo Jacket over a nice mid-layer made for the perfect combination for multi-pitch ice climbing. The routes I climb are often wet and located in a windy canyon. This new Rab jacket protected me from wind and water while still keeping me from getting drenched in sweat when climbing. Arm and body movements were never inhibited and the exterior is burly enough that after multiple outings there is not so much as a snag or scratch from ice tools and screws. The Rab Stretch Neo jacket really does protect you from weather (and ice tool spikes) while still breathing extremely well. I will have no qualms about taking this jacket on any future climbing adventure.
I won’t spend too much time reviewing the Stretch Neo Pants. All of the same characteristics apply to the pants; durable exterior fabric, breaths great and has a nice alpine fit so they stretch with you as you climb and move. Zipper hip pockets provide a great place to store mid-climb nutrition and fuel. My favorite feature of these pants is the full length zipper down the outside of each leg. Yes these pants breath well, but unlike a jacket that you can take off when the temperatures and conditions no longer require that layer, you can’t really take off your pants. So, for those warmer lower elevation approaches you can zip open the legs to keep from getting overheated. When you get up high or encounter snow or rain, just zip them up and you’re protected from the elements. I should also mention that they glissade really well. All in all a welcome set of features for alpine pants.
The pants are available in black only and the jacket is available in 4 color combinations: Maya (royal/navy), Shark (gray/black), Spring (yellow/green), Mars Red (red/dark red).