Rab Neo Guide Review

18th Jun 2015

Every UK mountain goer loves a decent waterproof.  Or maybe it’s really every UK mountain goer needs a decent waterproof!  We all certainly get to use them a fair bit and, as outdoor instructors, we personally have no choice but to be out in all weathers.  The problem can be that not all waterproofs suit all conditions and so we can end up needing a selection for different temperatures and uses.   Over the last winter and during this spring Cal and I have been using Rab Neo Guides and, for the first time, we’ve found a full weight hardshell that copes in a really broad range of conditions and doesn’t feel crinkle like a crisp packet.  It has really become our current standard work (and play) outer wear……..
Rab’s Neo Guide is a fully featured and full weight waterproof jacket utilising Polartec’s innovative Neo Shell fabric.  Polartec describe this as ‘offering softshell levels of freedom of movement and comfort, but with all the protection of a hardshell’.  This is a great concept and so we were really interested to see how it would perform compared to other options on the market.  
The first thing you will notice about Neo Shell is the feel of the fabric.  It has a softness and suppleness that certainly feels unusual for a hardshell.  This makes it very comfortable to wear even for those days when it has to be on for many hours.  Neo Shell is also a fabric with stretch.  This isn’t particularly obvious for general wear and neither of us notice the fabric stretching in use, but it is incredibly comfortable to wear so presumably some of that is down to that inbuilt fabric flexibility.
Neo Shell is also very waterproof.  Of course, there are plenty of very waterproof fabrics on the market but the difference with Neo Shell is that waterproofness doesn’t come at the cost of breathability.  Neo Shell has what Polartec describe as ‘dynamic air exchange at the surface’ which, they go on to explain, ‘provides the unrivaled ability to stop water and wind permeation without restricting the release of excess body heat and moisture vapor.’
Maybe the biggest test of breathability is the moist and variable conditions experienced in Scotland and so last winter gave us the chance to really test the fabric’s capabilities.  After considerable use the verdict is…we love it!  It really does provide less dampness and consequently can be worn in a broader range of conditions and for a wide range of activities.  We’ve really never found another fabric like it.
Polartec make NeoShell in a range of weights and the Neo Guide is constructed from 2 of them.  Rab use 136 g/m2 weight in the body and a more durable 170 g/m2 fabric in the shoulders, cuffs and elbows.  This makes this jacket very hardwearing and, after a winter season, our jackets show very little signs of wear and tear.  This is impressive considering Paul’s jacket in particular had almost constant use for climbing, hillwalking and mountaineering while he was often also wearing a fairly heavy rucksack.
The Neo Guide has 2 large chest height pockets.  These can swallow an OS map but also sit well out of the way when wearing a harness.  Perfect.  The pockets feature durable YKK Aquaguard zips and there is also an internal smartphone sized zip pocket and further interior mesh pocket.
The main front zip of the jacket is a two-way YKK Vislon AquaGuard which is further protected by dual internal storm flaps.  This is fairly stiff when new but ours have eased up as time has gone on. the zips can also get a bit stuck in the storm flaps but, once you are aware this can happen, you learn to instinctively tease it out of the way when you start sliding the zip up.  The upside of the storm flaps is that no water has ever sneaked through the front of the jacket.  
Cal is a fan of pit zips and I’d rather not have them.  They certainly always seem to be a ‘Marmite’ feature of jackets and if you like them you are certainly in luck - Rab have included them on the Neo Guide.  If you don’t you can always do what Paul does and just leave them closed!
The hood is large and designed to be helmet compatible.  This was tested al length over the winter and it performed really well.  The peak is wired and this worked extremely well too.  It allows an excellent field of vision but can be formed into a position to protect the face as much as possible in challenging conditions. It’s also very easy to adjust the hood either at the sides to draw the hood down or by reducing volume by using the adjuster at the back.
Other features include climbing compatible arms that allow a full range of motion, sturdy wrist closure tabs, drawcord hem, Tricot lined collar and reflective logos.  I did say it was fully featured!. 
The Neo Guide comes in male and female fit and is designed to a reasonably spacious fit allowing insulating layers to be worn underneath.  I always wear a medium in Rab clothes and this one fits well but does have a little more space than some other models.  Cal has found the same in the female fit.
The Rab Neo Guide retails for £300 and a size large weighs about 600 grams.
The Neo Guide is a do all jacket but, given it’s durable fabrics, it is particularly well suited to winter or extreme weather use.  For instructors it is a hardwearing choice but it really suits anyone wanting a great quality and well specced shell.  Having said all that, the Neo Guides real stand out feature is the Polartec NeoShell it is made from.  This fabric is genius. It breathes extremely well, is completely weatherproof and has a soft texture that make it a treat to wear in any conditions.  I don’t know how Polartec have done it but bravo to them - it really does feel like a soft-shell and yet you always know it will keep you protected in any weather.  You couldn’t ask for more.
Paul and Cal Lewis