> 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.