The Rab Neo Alpine is designed as a minimalist and lightweight waterproof shell, using Polartec Neoshell and aiming largely at Alpinism and ice climbing. This type of garment, along with others aimed at fast and light Alpine pursuits have, however; increased in popularity in a big way with those who prefer hiking and backpacking for their low weight and bulk. As is known with Polartec Neoshell, it is a very breathable and waterproof membrane which has a great amount of stretch, making it ideal for any of the above activities. This review follows having used the Rab Neo Alpine across a number of months and several multiday trips.
Here are a few quick features;
- Fabric: Polartec NeoShell 3L (100% nylon, 20D, 115g/m²)
- Helmet-compatible hood with wired peak
- 2-way YKK AquaGuard Vislon front zip
- Dual internal storm flap system
- Anti-snag velcro adjustable cuffs
- Fit: Regular
- Weight: 418g
See more on Rab’s website here
The first thing that may be noticed with the Rab Neo Alpine, is the low weight and just how thin a jacket it feels. This isn’t the lightest waterproof jacket available but a very welcome trade off, is that it remains robust enough to stand up against brushing against rock, carrying a heavy pack, and being repeatedly stuffed away and pulled out again when the weather cant decide what to do. The Rab Neo Alpine puts itself right where a ‘year round’ waterproof shell should be in terms of weight and durability.
Despite the weight coming in at around 400g, another aspect of the Rab Neo Alpine that impresses nonetheless is its length. The back comes down plenty enough to cover the seat of a pair of trousers, and though the hem doesn’t quite cover the crotch area, it is definitely long enough to divert water running down the jacket away from your trousers. The overall cut of the jacket is regarded as being ‘regular’ and does provide extra room underneath for layering. The cut also gives good freedom when stretching or reaching which would be compounded by the stretch of Polartec Neoshell. Minimal pockets bring yet another positive talking point with the Rab Neo Alpine. Of course with fewer pockets comes lower weight. You may think that having only two pockets would be a disadvantage, but when really thought through as they are here, that is not the case. Most top end and well designed jackets on the market will have pockets that are intended to be, or marketed as being placed above the hipbelt of a rucksack. Despite that, it is quite often the case that you still don’t have the entire pocket at your disposal. Placed much more like a napoleon pocket, but with the depth of good handwarmer pockets; the Rab Neo Alpine gives you a great amount of space for things you need close to hand and safe from the elements. With the going rate for a ‘good’ sized pocket often being that it is map sized it should be noted – you can easily fit two in the pockets on the Rab Neo Alpine.
The finer design points continue to impress, with a cavernous hood which is fully adjustable and comes with a wired peak. There would be no trouble at all in fitting a helmet underneath. The chin guard also comes up very high to add to the protection that cinching the hood right in could provide. One aspect of the Rab Neo Alpine that may be overlooked by many, is the use of YKK Aquaguard Vislon zips. Many top end jackets use Aquaguard Coil zips, which seem to be more difficult to open and close – which may not seem to be a big deal, but they can be frustrating and from experience, seem to wear out faster.
Of course, the real test for a waterproof jacket comes down to how well it keeps you dry. How well does the jacket protect from rain, but also; how well it breathes and alleviates the build up of perspiration. Polartec Neoshell has been commended as a waterproof membrane with a high rate of ‘breathability’ and so has begun to be favoured somewhat over other previously more popular membranes. eVent has perhaps been the main victim that is now being overlooked. Whilst backpacking with a fully loaded rucksack, breathability starts to have a big impact on how comfortable the journey will be but the Rab Neo Alpine was indeed better than most jackets at shedding the buildup of perspiration inside the jacket. Most will notice feeling clammy when tackling steep inclines or when battling the typically British problem of facing rain in humid conditions. Even when scrambling in the Lake District and tackling the trudge up the south spur of Pen yr Ole Wen with a fully loaded pack, the Polartec Neoshell membrane allowed the jacket to maintain a comfortable environment inside. Even without pit zips, the amount of perspiration build up was less than a previously used Marmot jacket that utilised Gore-tex Pro. After further use, perhaps throughout summer, a clearer picture may be had about just how much better the breathability of the Rab Neo Alpine is.
After a number of months of use, weather is still yet to penetrate the Rab Neo Alpine jacket fully. Nothing has soaked through the outer fabric and the membrane, through to midlayers. With that said, after very persistent and heavy rain; the outer fabric has wetted through on a couple of occasions. After two days of continual rain on the Scafell range and above Langdale, it could be seen that the DWR and outer material had succumbed to the Lake District’s finest efforts. Despite that – the Polartec Neoshell membrane did not fail. The jacket did not let water through. For those who venture out in the worst weather regularly, this is something that will have been experienced before. Waterproof jackets will, at some point, stop beading on the outside and rely solely on the membrane. The Rab Neo Alpine is one that has not failed. On the occasions that this did occur, the jacket dried quickly once the rain had stopped which does show that this should not be a prevalent issue should you be overwhelmed with bad weather.
Overall, the Rab Neo Alpine is a fantastic jacket, having enough about it to be suitable for many outdoor pursuits. Well featured, well thought out in terms of cut and design, waterproof and breathable. This is a firm favourite outer layer. The only reservation to be had would be over how long the membrane would keep the water at bay after the face fabric wetted out but with that said – this would only be in absolute torrential and unrelenting rain.