In some ways i have Mark to thank for his comment on my Montane post for me buying this jacket. With my own cash i may add.
This is not going to be a comparative post because the two jackets are completely different. The Montane being Pertex shield +, whereas the Mountain Equipment Arclight is Polartec Neoshell.
The ME Arclight is a shell jacket in the more traditional mould. To the untrained eye it could be forgiven if you thought it was Gore- tex or similar membraned jacket. It feels somewhat similar especially internally but the outside is softer unlike most Gore-tex. Obviously a great deal of thought went into the term “Softshell”.
So what is Polartec Neoshell?
It’s another relatively new material, as the term “neo” suggests, on the market from the people we have known for years who have made superb fleeces. It’s classed in the Ultra Breathable range of outdoor jackets.
Neoshell has oleophobic properties within the membrane and not glued on top of it as with Gore-tex. No, i had no idea what oleophobic was and found out that it is similar to the coatings that you can find on tablet screens like ipad to stop oil and grease from soaking into the screen and what makes removing the stain easy with a screen cloth. However, you need to look after the coating because certain chemicals can remove it, in which case just like the screen will deteriorate the jacket.
Its claimed that this is the first breathable, fully waterproof, temperature regulating fabric ever, but i’m not sure about that because i know that Aclimatise were working with a fabric stating the same message.
Have a look here. I had a prototype on test from Brenig ages ago.
Info from Polartec Neoshell web page.
(Check out Polartec site for more info here if you want to read all about it)
The fabric is stretchy and the cut is not too athletic although they have cut it to avoid a baggy fit. I am told by a good contact that ME have relaxed the fit generally.
The colour of mine is Raven or in customer speak, Grey.
It is also available in Gecko (Green) or Cayenne (Red).
Specified weight (Size L 520grams, Medium 490 grams.
Actual weight for size medium 465 grams.(My scales)
RRP is £260. I have found prices to vary wildly on this jacket and I actually paid £118 for mine. For some reason the price also varies at differing outlets depending on colour. Look around for the best deals if you are thinking of getting one. I got mine from Hill and Dale. it was on a special offer at the time and i happened to be in the right place at the right time.
It is huge. I think it is the biggest hood i have ever had on a jacket. Its so big i could almost camp in it. It is obviously designed with a helmet in mind, but what helmet i am not sure. It will probably fit most if not all helmets for climbing, cycling, snow sports and probably the Grenadier Guards.
Nothing unusal about the adjustment. It has one rear shock cord volume adjuster and separate shock cord adjusters either side of the face which close the hood off around the face. They use the small ellipse cord grips to retain tension.
The rear adjuster worked well and where the shock cord enters the hood the hole is protected by a flap on the outer fabric.
I have always found that shock cord wicks water which enviably creeps into the lining. I am amazed after all these years of design that a better way of adjusting the volume has never come onto the market. It’s as though everybody are waiting for someone else to develop it instead of themselves and then jump on the bandwagon.
The side adjusters are quite poor. The amount of adjustment is limited to around 50mm each side and once you reach that limit, if it doesn’t suit your face then it’s no good pulling any harder because that is the full adjustment.
The chord does not go across the front of the hood but is restrained adjacent to the peak on each side. I have found that i could not secure the front tight enough to make what i want, and that’s as near to a watertight seal as i can get. I still have tiny gaps where the material bunches up at the sides.
The shock cord is 2mm diameter and has far too much stretch for my liking. I can adjust each side single handedly by just pulling the two cords simultaneously downwards. I am fearful of pulling the cord out if i try to hard. Trying to squeeze open the chord grips is impossible with gloves on and not too easy without.
The peak on the hood is firm and wired. It does not flap around in the wind. I am in two minds about the angle of the peak. Some people may like it or like me some may think it is a little too steep.
Yes, the peak should keep rain and wind out of the eyes and it certainly does this well but i have found it can cover my eyes to the point where i have to keep moving it up or pulling on the back of the hood to see out front.
The easiest way to describe it is to say look at a Household cavalry hat peak. The angle is very similar to this and not at all like the peak on a baseball cap. This angle of peak is there to ensure soldiers hold their heads up, backpackers get a stiff neck.
Household cavalry hat peak.
Baseball cap peak.
In my opinion the right angle for a peak is in between the two.
The hood can be folded up and secured in place at the collar. To comfortably wear it with the hood folded you need to fully release the 3 hood shock cords. It does sit neatly when you do this.
The hood does move with the head when in full adjustment and the height and cut of the front of the jacket sits just under the nose and so provides maximum protection.
ME Arclight Jacket. OS map outline can be seen in the pocket.
Fold down hoodZips.
The front main zip is a 2 way moulded YKK Aquaguard.
The 2 pocket zips are single way moulded YKK Aquaguard.
The pit zips are 2 way water resistant YKK Aquaguard with laminated and bonded entry.
The inside pocket is single way non water resistant YKK zip.
With the exception of the inner zip they all have zip pull toggles. I found the inner zip to be awkward to grip with gloves on and so fitted my own pull toggle.
I found the main zip and the two pocket zips to be very notchy and i don’t particularly like them, the pit zip and inner zip run smooth.
"A" line pocket zip and main zip
There is a good chin or nose guard on the top of the main zip.
There is no inner protection to the pocket zips or drain if water gets in.
Now when i see or read Pit Zips i straight away think this jacket doesn’t breathe too well. I can 100% dash any concept of that thought. This is very breathable material. The under arm venting offers additional air movement if required. I have kept the zips half open for most of the time and so far i havn’t had any water ingress through them.
There are 2 well positioned outer “A" line pockets and they do not interfere with the rucksack straps. A rucksack hip belt also does not interfere.
They are a very good size pocket with excellent depth and take an OS map with ease. (See photo above showing folded OS map in situ.)
The 2 pockets are outside of the ‘Membrane” and so any water that gets through the zip should not get through to the body.
The inner pocket measures 12 x 20.5 cm of useable space and is mesh.
Inner mesh pocket with pull tab.
Cuffs. Hems and toggles.
I am really impressed with the cuffs. The cut of the cuff is such that the top side is longer than the underside. This allows good water run off and reduces the amount of water ingress that can creep under the hem.
The sleeves also have a pre-shaped triangular opening which i have found excellent for getting over the top of my glove cuff. I have never seen this before on a jacket.
I find the velcro on the sleeve a little to narrow and numerous times i have not secured it right first time. I would prefer a 25mm wide strip here rather than the 15mm.
The bottom hem has a draw cord. In fact it has two. I really liked this idea and again this is the first time i have come across this configuration. The front and back hems can be tightened or loosened independently of each other. The cords located at the sides are also separate outside of the jacket so there are no side loops that can and do easily snag.
The cord and cord grips are the same type as the hood.
The rear hem drops lower than the front and covers the bottom well.
Lower hem individual draw cords for front and rear hems.
Drop down rear tail.Inside.
All seams are taped sealed. As can be seen on the image of the roll down hood.
Not overly athletic but not baggy either. Slightly longer than some lightweight jackets.
DWR (from new)
Feel of the fabric.
Small pack size.
Overly large hood. (Unless you regularly wear a helmet and then it will be perfect)
This is one of the best materials i have ever tried so far. The breathability and waterproofing are both excellent, exactly what waterproof and breathable should be. I found that if i put items in the pockets like the OS map or my phone then i got condensation on the items. The movement of hot body vapour is so good.
With a material so good at transferring heat to the outside why block the route by clogging up pockets, it doesn’t make sense. For me the pockets could be eliminated. I certainly will not be putting anything in them from now on.
It does have an initial cold feel for about 20 minutes. Combine it with an insulating layer in really cold temps.
An excellent mountain jacket for all typical UK weathers.
Longer term review to come.
Similar products worth considering.
66º North Snaefell
Montane Further Faster Neo.
Or if you have lots of Christmas money left then:-