This minimalist, stretchy, and comfortable shell by Bight Gear has a formidable design pedigree.
Peter Whittaker, the “primary decision maker” at Bight Gear (formerly MtnLogic), has a proven reservoir of design history and testing resources. Now he’s taking that cache, cultivated from his company RMI Expeditions, and using it to bolster the Bight brand, formed in 2016.
The NeoShell Nuker Jacket ($400) is a standout piece in Bight’s line. This Polartec NeoShell coat blurs the line between a soft shell and a hard shell, sporting the physical characteristics of the former but performing the functions of the latter.
We have been testing a production sample since September in the conditions for which it was intended.
In short: The Bight Gear NeoShell Nuker Jacket protects in the alpine while being light, stretchy, quiet, and trim fitting. It feels like a soft shell but performs the functions of a classic hard shell.
Bight Gear: 100k Promise
To test Bight Gear’s wares, Whittaker has RMI Expeditions and its 60-plus guides at his disposal. The guides work mostly on Mount Rainier, the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States. Together, they log more vertical feet in a weekend than most climbers can do in years.
The arrangement gives Bight Gear the ability to quickly test and validate designs. RMI Expeditions’ guides are highly motivated to create their own workwear, which they use to lead more than 3,000 clients annually around the globe.
Bight Gear’s first round of product development logged more than 1.2 million feet of ascent in a single climbing season. The brand’s analysis from all testing confirmed that 100,000 minimum feet were required to validate each design successfully.
This process birthed Bight Gear’s 100k Promise: Every product goes through a minimum of 100,000 vertical feet of human-powered field testing and use.
Polartec NeoShell: Minimalist Design
Bight Gear laminates the Polartec NeoShell membrane with a 100 percent mechanical stretch nylon outer face, and a 100 percent polyester knit backing. The three-layer product has a light, flexible feel and four-way elasticity.
The fully seam sealed Nuker jacket has a minimal feature set that keeps the weight to 14 ounces for a large.
- Zippered chest pocket with internal portal large enough for an antenna
- Two zippered stash pockets in handwarmer position that clear the harness
- Adjustable (single captive cord lock), helmet-compatible hood with rigid brim
- Storm flap for the main zipper
- Velcro cuffs
- Drawcord hem
- YKK water-resistant zippers throughout
Bight Gear NeoShell Nuker Review
I am 6 feet tall, have a 32-inch waist, and weigh 167 pounds. I usually wear a medium jacket, but in the Nuker I took a large. The fit was trim but still allowed room for a base layer and a medium-weight active insulation jacket without compression.
The jacket’s cut and stretch permitted complete freedom of movement, providing one of the best-fitting shells in my arsenal. These attributes, combined with the softness, quietness, and suppleness, made the jacket virtually undetectable.
Whether climbing Washington’s Mount Baker with a heavy pack or scrambling around the glacier during crevasse rescue drills, I never noticed the shell.
Uphill glacier travel to Baker’s North Ridge in September, at just below freezing and high humidity, created challenging conditions for moisture management. But the Nuker didn’t disappoint.
Again, the shell seemed to vanish. Venting via the main zipper and adding/removing headgear was all the regulation I needed to manage both body heat and moisture.
NeoShell Nuker: A Durable Shell
During testing, the Bight Gear NeoShell Nuker Jacket also proved tough.
In December, it kept me dry in a constant rain while descending the slopes of Snoqualmie Mountain. In January, it protected me from the blustering winds at Eldora Mountain Resort.
The Nuker raked across sharp and bullet-hard ice; it scraped pickets, cables, and cord during rescue drills; and it endured constant backpack and harness abrasion, as well as countless diggers while downhill skiing.
And the only signs of wear after five months of hard use are minor stains dotting the bright-orange fabric.
The Bight Gear NeoShell Nuker Jacket will launch May 2018 following minor updates to its current MtnLogic build:
- Eased sizing for a better fit over other layers
- Updated construction of chest pocket and interior facing, aimed at increased durability
- Wider Velcro on sleeve cuffs for easier adjustment
If hard shell performance with a soft shell feel seems desirable, the Bight Gear Nuker is definitely one I recommend looking at. Sometimes, not noticing the gear while using it is its best attribute.