Gear Watch: Polartec NeoShell

November 24, 2010
This month Polartec introduced NeoShell, the latest salvo for the most waterproof-breathable fabric on the market. NeoShell’s particular claim to the title? It allows air movement across the waterproof-breathable (WP/B) membrane, increasing the amount of moisture vapor that passes through the fabric.

According to the company press release, “NeoShell allows actual air permeability (0.5 CFM or 2 l/m2/sec). Even a tiny amount of air permeability, imperceptible from a wind chill standpoint, accelerates moisture vapor transport significantly.” NeoShell also “Liberates Veterans of Adventure” as indicated by its unusual ad campaign of weather-beaten outdoors people.

And of course they have the accompanying company-generated chart to illustrate this (pictured), which does show NeoShell breathability to increase as air flow increases. And it’s definitely much better than unnamed Competitors WPB 1 – 3.

My take on this? It probably is incrementally more breathable than its WP/B competitors like Gore-Tex, which rely on a temperature and humidity gradient to transfer moisture from the inside out. But like all WP/B materials, it’s nowhere near breathable enough to transfer all the moisture you create at high levels of exertion.

You can read my general take on WP/B materials—and the difficulty in obtaining definitive data on their performance and breathability—in my past AMC Outdoors column: Breathe Easy: Unraveling the Hype of Waterproof-Breathable Materials.

NeoShell does offer a fair amount of stretch, which improves fit and motion. And it’s always good to support Malden Mills, the Massachusetts-based company and long-time producer of Polartec fleece and other outdoor fabrics. Look for NeoShell in garments appearing in Fall 2011.

“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.