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Backpacker Magazine – September 2011

Gear Review: Westcomb Apoc

Made with Polartec NeoShell, this versatile jacket is durable and breathable.

by: Steve Howe

Westcomb Apoc (Courtesy Photo)
Photo by Westtcomb_Apoc_Jacket200x170
Westcomb Apoc (Courtesy Photo)

The Best Shells. Ever.
See the other three.
> The membrane Polartec NeoShell. When Polartec, traditionally known as a fleece and softshell company, found this stretchy polyurethane membrane, it saw an opportunity to dive into the waterproof/breathable market. The NeoShell membrane is made from superfine filaments (much finer than other membranes, says Polartec) in a fibrous, spider web-like matrix with lots of air space when compared to others (see left).

>> The claim NeoShell is slightly air permeable; unlike Gore Active, it lacks the barrier of a PU coating. (Flip side: Uncoated laminates are more susceptible to long-term contamination.) The very small amount of fresh air that penetrates isn’t detectable (testers felt no windchill), but Polartec says it lowers humidity inside the jacket and lets moisture vapor escape—without requiring a significant heat differential to jumpstart breathability. Another key to the NeoShell recipe: It’s waterproof “enough” (see Rainwear Science 101), but not so waterproof that it sacrifices breathability.

>> The jacket In terms of breathability, the Apoc is only a hair behind the Felsturm. The primary reason: It’s made with denser and more durable face fabrics (340- and 360-denier rather than 20), which is one of the reasons testers preferred it for all-around use. We tested several different jackets using NeoShell; the excellent breathability was even more noticeable in softshell jackets, since they’re made with more open-weave fabrics. Even in this hardshell jacket, though, testers stayed dry during three-hour, 3,500-vertical-foot uphill ski tours on Utah’s Gobbler’s Knob in thick, foggy snowstorms, without sacrificing any wind or water protection. Considering the respectably light weight, Westcomb squeezes in a lot of features, like three well-placed, waterproof pockets, 10-inch pit zips (that we rarely used), and an “excellent hood that swallows helmets but cinches down on beanies and billed caps without looking too dorky,” says one tester.

Part of the Apoc’s appeal, aside from its breathability, is its slight two-way stretch, “soft, quiet, pliable” fabric weave, and a long, roomy-enough cut that covers butts and puffy layers. Overall, testers praised this as a do-it-all shell that can handle summer rain and winter blizzards equally well.

>> Same technology/costs less Rab Stretch Neo Jacket ($365, 1 lb. 1 oz., rab.uk.com)
> Price $480
> Weight 1 lb. 1 oz.
> Sizes men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL
> Info westcomb.com



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READERS COMMENTS

joe
Feb 28, 2012

polartec beats gore hands down. re:helmet hood statement, look at outdoor research jacket that has hoods (plural) one under and tight to head and one over helmet. besides that helmet hoods are usually adjustable to fit your noggin only if desired.

Argosinu
Feb 28, 2012

Why the obsession with hoods fitting over helmets for recreational gear? Helmets are necessary in some situations, but helmet-wearing is a rare exception for most of us and huge hoods are unnecessary.

mathew ediger
Oct 24, 2011

great looking jacket! waterproof and more breathable than gore! i like the made in canada as well!

meanoldogsdog
Oct 18, 2011

Doesn't seem like 'meanolddog' knows anything about fabrics. I have yet to see a Polartec PowerShield piece for under a $100 so I doubt there will be a Neo sub $100.

meanolddog
Sep 27, 2011

My testers looked at the jacket and price and said, the color is awful and the jacket is about $400 overpriced. And gee they even added pockets, and a Hood too, well I'll be...these are "features" now and not standard...Well I'll be danged what'll they think of next..

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