Dave tests out the great Neoshell softshell from Sherpa Adventure Gear
If you ever plan to trek the entire 190 mile Annapurna circuit, you will travel over Thorong La pass, which – at 17,769 feet – will be the highest point on the journey. It would be a good idea to wear this jacket. Made of Polartec® NeoShell®, a wind- and water-proof laminate fleece that pulls moisture vapour away from the body as you sweat, you’ll be perfectly prepared for the exertion. Cut long for draft-free coverage, with thoughtful details that make you appreciate the ones who went before.
Sometimes it’s the story that reaches out to you and that is definitely the case for Sherpa Adventure Gear. The company is owned and operated by Sherpa’s, they test the gear in some of the most inhospitable environments on the planet and they give back to the community. The fact that they make excellent and highly desirable clothing is a bonus.
Polartec Neoshell is now an established breathable fabric that competes well with Gore Tex and eVENT for breathability and water resistance. We first mentioned it in our review of the Marmot Nabu and commented on the breathability of the fabric then. Since then many companies have adopted it successfully and it’s now become an established part of the clothing matrix.
The Sherpa Thorong is a fully featured, fleeced backed softshell jacket that has been great in all test conditions except driving rain. The main activities it is suited for are: cold weather rock climbing, three season mountaineering, winter climbing and trekking. The jacket actually arrived for test during August but I’ve had to wait until The Autumn to test it as it was far too warm for UK summer conditions – I did use it on an Alpine ascent during August but overheated very quickly. It was, however, a very still and sunny day. If it was windy then the jacket would have been better and as the season has changed here in the UK I have found myself wearing it more and more.
The fit is very athletic indeed: I consider myself a standard medium in size with a 38-40 inch chest and quite wide lateral muscles (I am a rock climber first and foremost). I found the test size just a little tight fitting under the arms, especially if I wore a thicker baselayer. Ideally the jacket fitted with just a lightweight t-shirt or a thin merino baselyer. It was then very comfortable to wear, if the weather got cold I put a synthetic vest or even a full jacket over it to be very toasty indeed.
The gridded fleece lining was generous and gave great warmth – in most UK autumn, winter and early spring conditions the Thorong was plenty warm enough and the fleece did a good job of wicking away moisture and drying quickly when on a route. Most of the time I just needed to wear a t-shirt under the jacket for trekking and rock climbing and non- snowy mountaineering. The Neoshell did a superb job of keeping me dry when exerting myself and the jacket soon dried out when I starting climbing. I would, however, like to see the hanger tab twice the size it is to help dry the jacket out in a drying room – we would see more of that lovely prayer flag patterning too.
The helmet compatible hood was great and fitted nicely over my climbing helmet. It was straight forward to adjust without gloves but with gloves on it became trickier, this could easily be solved by having a bigger tab on the cord. I did like the one cord adjustment and there were no annoying cords whipping around my face on those windy days. The wired peak felt nice and chunky and was easy to adjust; it stayed in position too and provided some great protection both with and without a helmet.
The sleeves on the Sherpa Thorong fitted well and the velcro wrist tabs worked fine with gloves on. The sleeves had a join at the elbow in order to articulate the arm. I feel that this area could have much improved by minimizing the cuts and stitching this would have improved the weatherproofing overall, I did like the laser cut and glued trim on the inside, although the jury is out as to how long it will stay laminated to the fleece, I agree that it does reduce the stitching, especially where gloves will be.. The sleeves were roomy enough not to impede climbing and the cuff tabs locked the sleeve in place and stopped it riding up for those reachy moves.
The Polartec Neoshell gave excellent water resistance in all but driving rain. The seams are not sealed so the Sherpa Thorong is not 100% waterproof. It has kept the worst of the weather off and I felt that only on the worst of days might I take an extra lightweight shell to help stave off the damp. For the majority of trekking and climbing activities it would be more than enough. The beauty of Neoshell is the breathability; the jacket dries out so quickly it’s unreal.
Now to the all-important pockets and zips: the Sherpa Thorong has 5 pockets. Two well placed hand warmer pockets, these worked really well with a harness on and I could easily use them to keep gloves, hats etc. in. There was also a zipped chest pocket, this was just enough to keep a phone, digital camera, some energy bars in and has a headphone lead slot to keep everything neat and tidy. But only one of those, not all of them. One of the real plus points for the Sherpa Thorong was the inside pockets, a little bit of extra work on the hand warmer pockets, some zappy looking red trim, a couple of reinforced contact points and hey presto! Two interior pockets easily big enough to fit an OS map into – genius and hats off to Sherpa for this one as I have relied on these pockets on several occasions for stashing gloves in.
The zips are YKK Aquafoil, a standard zip that keeps most of the weather out and the lovely looking prayer flag zip tag could have been bigger – just because it looks so nice and it of course it would work even better with gloves on. The weather guard was laminated Neoshell and worked really well, that extra width meant in never got caught in the zip.
In conclusion I love the Sherpa Thorong, I love the story, I love the fact it’s made in Nepal and I love the Neoshell. I would like a slightly more relaxed fit and the sleeves need a little more work on them. It’s super warm though and will keep most of the weather out – those inside pockets are brilliant. The other minor point is colour, the only colour is Black, I would have loved to have seen it in Sarkar Blue – come on not everyone has a colour named after them!
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