DSC09308 matthew cusanelli Pearn izumi neoshell

Pearl Izumi Summit PRO NeoShell WxB Jacket

Photos Deniz Merdano
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Opening Remarks

"500 hunnit bones" I scoffed, emphatically, and "It's not even GoReTex...?!" Admittedly my view of high end jacket materials, perhaps to my detriment, was narrower than the Montenegrin roads I'd rallied through this summer. With that said, if roads can be made wider, so can my once unreasonably restrictive opinions of technical Apparel.

This shouldn't be too alarming, but if you're reading with the expectation of discovering a jacket that is more breathable than a windbreaker, more waterproof than Gore-Tex Pro, and more durable than a PVC raincoat then you will likely be shockingly disappointed. If that burst your bubble, then I apologize first and foremost, but I also want to probe at the fact that there is not one best waterproof jacket, but rather an array of jackets with different yet somewhat overlapping use cases that favour certain characteristics at the expense of other ones.

I had originally requested to test Pearl Izumi's Canyon 2.5L WxB Rain Jacket, but one had already been circulated to Cam to review. When this was proposed as the alternative, and with my now 7 year old Gore Bike Wear jacket on its last legs, I jumped at the opportunity to try Polartec NeoShell in search of a new workhorse rain jacket. As a multi-disciplinaary cyclist, finding gear that transitions well from mountain biking to commuting can be difficult, but with the cost of waterproof and breathable apparel I try to choose products that can fulfill multiple roles successfully. After lots of commuting and some trail riding during the worst weather BC's winter has dished out, I have some thoughts about this jacket.

DSC09316 matthew cusanelli Pearn izumi neoshell

Pearl Izumi gives you wings?

Pearl Izumi Summit PRO NeoShell WxB Jacket

Features and Fabric (as listed by Pearl Izumi)

  • Polartec® NeoShell® for unrivaled waterproof breathability
  • Stretch fabric and articulated sleeves for a great fit while riding
  • Hood over helmet design
  • PFC-free Durable Water Repellent treatment sheds light precipitation
  • YKK Aquaguard® waterproof zippers on main and pockets
  • Packable to fit in a hydration pack
  • Relaxed fit
  • Main Body: 53% nylon, 47% polyester Pocket Bag: 95% recycled polyester, 5% polyester

Although NeoShell hasn't been absorbed by the marketing world with the same degree of intensity as Gore-Tex, it offers a compelling amount of benefits for high output activities. NeoShell is great if you run hot as it breathes better than Gore-Tex, but as a result will not cut the wind as well. Additionally, it is lighter, stretchier, and can pack down smaller than Gore-Tex (excluding Shakedry). These benefits come at a cost as NeoShell is not as much of a workhorse fabric as certain types of Gore-Tex durability-wise, and albeit comparable, falls slightly short on the waterproof front.

Fit and Finish

The Summit NeoShell was cut a bit tighter than some of the boxier jackets in this category. I still had space for layers underneath and the drop tail hem provided plenty of overlap. There are two drawstrings at either side of the hem to cinch things down, although I generally leave these untightened in the interest of breathability. The medium fit me well at 6ft, 155 pounds, but it found the upper limit when my father tried it on at 5'11" 175 pounds with an athletic build. NeoShell provided a fair amount of stretch so it wasn't as restrictive as my experience with Gore-Tex, especially in the upper chest and shoulders.

The Summit NeoShell uses high quality YKK zippers from tip to tail. There are two large hand pockets that I used to to stash snacks, wallet, car keys, and a multitool with plenty of space to spare. The waterproof pocket zippers rest in molded garages when closed to decrease water ingress and a sneakily placed inner breast pocket was large enough to house even the swankiest IPad-like phones. I liked the inner pocket as it enabled my phone to be nearby in the case of an emergency without the temptation to pull it out and answer an email or get overly persnickety about music choice while riding.

The sleeves have some elasticity in the cuffs, although the opening is rather small. Normal gloves fit fine, but a larger glove like Gore C5 Thermo was a tighter squeeze and I'm leery of how quickly it'll cause the elasticity in the cuff to wear out.

The hood struggled to cover my Giro Merit MTB helmet but had no problems with my lower profile Giro Synthe without making the fit of the jacket uncomfortable, in part due to the amount of stretch that NeoShell provides.

Waterprowess* and Breathability

The Summit NeoShell did a fantastic job of keeping me dry, inside and out. With that said, it was not as waterproof as Gore-Tex Paclite or Active, and nowhere close to Gore-Tex Pro. Light rain beaded off but under heavy rain the jacket became partially saturated after an hour of activity, with the shoulders and sleeves the quickest to stop beading water. The torso continued to repel water and the slight eventual dampness from water ingress was less uncomfortable than the clammy feeling that ensues with a less breathable jacket. That said, I'd take the breathability of NeoShell over Gore-Tex even at the cost of water repellency in all but the coldest and rainiest winter situations.

Pearl Izumi proudly states that the "Summit PRO NeoShell Jacket is built using a membrane that can move a basketball-sized volume of air from the jacket every minute; it's the world’s most breathable waterproof material." I'm no Marv Albert but that sure is a lot of volume and I can happily attest to the brilliant moisture transfer of this jacket, rendering it one of the most breathable pieces I've worn. This is especially impressive considering its waterprowess* all the while. First I used it for a few medium output commutes and gravel rides and that was where I noticed the breathability of NeoShell, but it really started to shine during high output activities;. Fromme climbing trail, 1 hour run, extra spicy commute because I'm late to class. The Summit NeoShell stayed consistently cooler and less clammy than any Gore-Tex products I've worn.

*Waterproofness isn't a word either so I invented my own, to be referenced in the future and may appear in Merriam Webster by 2050.

The taped seams and NeoShell membrane render this piece reams more water repellant than a standard softshell with a DWR coating, while still remaining breathable. As a result, I spent less time worrying about being uncomfortable, taking it off for climbs, or fussing about with pit zips, and more time riding my damn bike! Ultimately it is a balancing act of asking yourself whether you want a jacket that falls more to center left (NeoShell) or center right (Gore-Tex Active) of the breathable to waterproof continuum.

The jacket could be made into a pre-shrinkflation size Chipotle Burrito of 7 inches by 4 inches rolled up, or some math for you 200+ IQ folks...
V = π r2 h → (π)(4)(7) → 87.96 in3 / 61.0237441 → 1.44 L


The Pearl Izumi Summit PRO NeoShell WxB Jacket ticks a lot of boxes for a high end piece of technical apparel, with its supreme breathability, reasonable waterproof performance, fitted design, and lifetime warranty. Ultimately this piece will take over as my daily riding jacket, save for commuting in low single digit temperatures and torrential downpour, whereby a Gore-Tex Pro Arcteryx Alpha will be pulled from the closet.

Pearl Izumi Summit PRO NeoShell WxB Jacket // 500 CAD // 375 USD

Matt Cusanelli

Height - 6'/183cm (mostly legs)

Weight - 155lbs/77kg

Inseam - 34"/86cm

Ape Index - The Original Slinky™

Age - 22

Bar Width - 780mm

Preferred Reach - 485-500mm

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+1 Tjaard Breeuwer

Someone told me other day, someone in the cycling clothes industry, that the hay days of water proof goretex are over. New regulations requiring more environmentally friendly coatings means that the DWR coatings now have way worse performance than before and are not likely to become even close to good for the next 20 years if ever. Keep your old stuff going for as long as you can he said.


+1 Matt Cusanelli

The Neoshell fabric has to be tried to be believed. I have an outdoor research shell for skiing I got with it for warm days and no longer want goretex for anything. I have resisted the temptation to use it for riding though as I'd like to not ruin the pretty color with mud. I keep meaning to get another one in black



Very much agree. My experience with Neoshell breathability wise was overwhelmingly positive. Sure, there's a ton of marketing hype around Gore-Tex and it has been normalized as the status quo with a lot of people taking on this 'Gore-Tex or bust mentality'. I hope more people can see past that and give Neoshell a shot.



Try asking for a golden shower next time. Deniz enjoys colour



I'm more of a Monochrome kind of guy. But hey, horses for courses, as is often said here on NSMB.com...


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