66°North Kria Polartec NeoShell Jacket | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Waterproof Jackets

66°North Kria Polartec NeoShell Jacket | Review

Despite its ‘90s look, this is not just another overpriced retro revival jacket. The Kria’s vintage appearance is carefully crafted from leftover technical fabrics and backed with a modern waterproof membrane

Why we chose it: Sustainable, stylish, high quality membrane

There’s a real trend for vintage and throwback outdoorwear right now. We’re not entirely sure what’s behind this recent retro revival – but we’re guessing it probably isn’t because all those East London hipsters are huge fans of what Chris Bonington and Al Hinkes got up to in the Himalayas back in the late ’80s. And while there is a certain rose-tinted nostalgia that comes with revisiting the past, it doesn’t always make for great outdoor gear. After all, what was cutting-edge in 1989 has (by and large) long been surpassed now, so to intentionally go back to that kit is one step short of dressing up like George Mallory and heading up Snowdon in nailed boots.

Hamid Mehmood of Muslim Hikers UK helping us test the jacket in Snowdonia. Photos: Chris Johnson

However, the Kria jacket from cult Icelandic brand 66° North is a little different. Admittedly, it’s a lifestyle piece rather than a technical mountain layer. But there’s substance as well as style here, for two main reasons. Firstly, it isn’t made from delicate first-generation Gore-Tex with a heavy and clingy mesh drop liner. No, it’s made from an ultra-modern electrospun waterproof-breathable membrane. Polartec NeoShell to be precise – a tech that we’re reviewed on numerous occasions in the past here at Outdoors Magic, and one that has left us highly impressed. This results in a soft and supple 3-layer waterproof shell that is far lighter and more breathable than a genuine 90s-era jacket would have been.

Secondly, and arguably even more impressively, it’s made from leftover pieces of fabric. Yep, every element of the Kria Neoshell is made from surplus remnants that would otherwise be unusable. But it just so happens that these leftover bits are perfect for the panelled construction that defined the design of 66° North’s original Kria jacket from 1991. It’s a bit like when your granny used to get out the sewing machine and run up a new frock from a set of old curtains. After all, waste not, want not, eh?

What Is The Kria Jacket Best Suited To?

The oversized 90s fit and old-school style means this jacket is unashamedly aimed at fashion-first buyers. It’s a jacket that is far more likely to find itself hung on the back of a club stool in a craft beer bar than packed in an expedition rucksack. But that sells short its technical capabilities and its practicality too. That NeoShell membrane is going to keep you dry and comfortable even in the worst city downpours. And this is a coat that would easily do double duty for hiking weekends away too.

“Polartec Neoshell is acclaimed as one of the most breathable waterproof fabrics out there”

The main sustainability story here is all about upcycling. Reusing leftover fabric from the production runs of other products can only be a good thing, since it reduces manufacturing waste. It lowers the overall environmental impact of the upcycled garment too, since you’re not using up new rolls of nylon – which, let’s remember, is a synthetic fibre produced from petrochemicals. Of course, 66° North is not the first brand to do this – Cotopaxi is another company that springs to mind. But there are comparatively few outdoor gear manufacturers that have taken the trouble to produce properly waterproof shells from leftover fabrics (i.e. jackets with a membrane backer and taped seams). That requires considerably more dedication and effort, which deserves recognition.

Construction and Performance

The unisex fit is fairly roomy, particularly compared to sculpted and streamlined modern waterproofs. But as well as giving the Kria a distinctive silhouette (which can be adjusted via the waist drawstrings), it offers plenty of room for layering. That’s also helped by the modern 3-layer construction, which reduces bulk and weight compared to most old-school 2-layer rain shells.
In addition, Polartec Neoshell is acclaimed as one of the most breathable waterproof fabrics out there. That’s because – unlike traditional PU-based membranes – it is electrospun from tiny fibres, making it much more permeable than most rivals, including microporous ePTFE technologies like Gore-Tex.

The face fabric is nylon with a DWR coating, so it should also be relatively tough and hard-wearing. Otherwise, features are true to the original 1990s design – which means you get press-stud storm flaps over the pockets and main zip and a longer hemline for full coverage. It’s a belt-and-braces approach to waterproofing which means you can really batten down the hatches if you need to.

Tester’s Verdict

Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

“This has the look of a classic ‘90s coat but there’s also a truly modern sustainability story, teamed with a similarly up-to-date waterproof-breathable tech.

“I’m a big fan of Polartec NeoShell waterproofing. For me it’s up there as one of the best membranes you can choose if you want waterproof breathability.”

“I tested this out in a size L even though I’m usually a size M (I’m 5 foot 10 and have an average build) and, as expected, it did feel and look a little on the big side for me, so I wouldn’t recommend sizing up or down with this. That said, there’s so much adjustment potential here that the large fit wasn’t really an issue for me. I particularly liked how you can cinch it in right at the waist and hem – you don’t get that with many jackets these days and it’s a shame as I find it’s useful to have.”

66 North Kria Polartec NeoShell


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