How important is having the very best material and the lightest weight to you? That’s the question Westcomb asks with its new Shift Hoodie, their lightest jacket featuring Polartec’s amazing NeoShell material.
When you compare the Shift’s NeoShell material to the shells of yesteryear…there’s no real comparison. Gone is the era of plastic-bag-like breathability that came with good water protection and buckets of sweat. Gone is the hard, bag-of-chips crinkling noise whenever you move. Hello to soft, breathable material that sheds water like a duck and yet lets you get worked up without being steamed inside like a microwave steamed dinner.
Wearing the Shift is a pleasure, in contrast to those old jackets, and for its intended purpose of being the uber-light weight champion of hydrophobic protection you need when weather hits and you’re hiking or camping, it’s hard to fault it. For being a superlight adventurer’s technological tour de force, it’s right on the mark. NeoShell is known for its durability, so despite it’s two-ply seams (three is typical), the Shift is still probably able to take the punishment you’ll dish out, as ours did, with no visible damage for having been used for its intended purpose.
I had to remind myself of the Shift’s ultimate purpose—all the NeoShell performance but for ultralight hikers and backpackers—because if you forget that it’s the lightest NeoShell jacket currently on the market (and came to market in record time), you can start wishing for some weight-adding features. Pockets? I hope you don’t need to get your hands out of the weather, because you’re out of luck (unless you’re Napoleon, in which case you’re set). That said, you do get Velcro on the cuffs to customize size, and a great one-handed drawstring at the waist to cinch things up tight.
Then we take a look at price—oh, that again. At $400, the Shift at first might seem like an unreasonably priced jacket, but again, let’s look at what Westcomb is offering. What do other NeoShell jackets sell for? Well, North Face and others have heavier, less minimalistic jackets that can come in around $650 or offerings like the Jammu Softshell we reviewed. Marmot was the only company we could find with a NeoShell product that slightly undercuts the Shift, but again, it’s not ultralight like the Shift.
So, we come back to asking how important the (arguably) best material and lightest weight is to you—how much is it worth? Is it worth sacrificing pockets for your hands so your shell comes in at a feathery 11 (almost 12) ounces? Is it worth the $400 asking price, when minimalist shells can cost half that (without the high tech NeoShell)? To us, it comes down to use. If your jacket spends casual time during commutes or soccer games, those missing pockets may not be worth the ounces they shed.
However, if Westcomb has you, the ultralight hiker, in their sites and you’re reading this thanking the Maker for a featherweight NeoShell jacket to round out your kit for your next hike, we can’t more highly recommend you check out the Shift. The gram counters have found their shell, and when their hands are getting wet, they’ll just smile and press on.