Rab is a UK-based manufacturer of high quality outdoor clothing. They started in 1981 in Sheffield and have been one of the top English brands ever since but I really got into their gear recently, specially with the awesome NeoShell jacket.
But let’s get back to the subject, the Microlight Alpine down jacket. I was in need for an insulation layer/warm jacket and the guy at the store had that new jacket from Rab, last year’s model and some other more expensive options.
The differences between the old and new Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket are the added zippers on the hand warmer pockets, which I definitely prefer, as well as some new colours.
So I got the new model of the puff which weights in at around 410g, depending on the size, and is in fact lighter than most of its competitors like the Patagonia Nano puff, Berghaus Furnace, The North Face Catalyst or Haglöfs Bivvy down.
The construction looks good, with a narrow baffle structure to minimize down migration to the bottom of the jacket and solid stitching. The Pertex Microlight layer does look a bit fragile though and I’ll need more time testing before I can update the review on that side (update: read on). It is a DWR+ fabric, which means water will bead up on the surface and run down but it will not keep you dry under rain.
I started wearing the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket around town when the temperature started to drop a bit (~ 10 °C). The first good thing about the Pertex plus down combination is that it is totally windproof. I mainly used the puff as a hoody with just a t-shirt under and it proved comfortable and a pleasure to wear. You can put it on and off very easily thanks to the smoothness of the Pertex inner layer.
Rab Microlight Alpine, Outdoor use
Of course I didn’t buy the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket just to show off at the office and I was able to test the jacket in various conditions from day hiking, snow sports to traveling at high altitudes.
Down jackets are usually best for fairly static activities, if the temperatures are not seriously low, like belaying or around camp. In those cases the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket exceeded all my expectations. It is great to wear, surprisingly warm for its very low weight and packs so small that as soon as you are on the move again it will not take valuable space. In Peru and Bolivia last year I practically lived in the jacket for three weeks. We spent various nights camping above 3800 meters, where the nights are cold and temperatures drop below -5C and this jacket kept me toasty warm when I could see my fellow travelers shivering in synthetic jackets twice the weight and three times the bulk.
I’ve learned to trust the Pertex fabric, which at the beginning seemed fragile. I have had the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket for two years now and it looks as good as new. Even using it as an outer layer, with a backpack did not wear the fabric more than usual and if you stay away from sharp objects, it should serve you well and for a long time.
The fixed insulated hood is perfect, wide enough to fit a helmet and very comfy. I used it during some summit approaches when the wind was blowing strong and cold and it stayed well in place while providing great protection and warmth.
While hiking, the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket will probably be too warm for temperatures above 0C. The same is true for fast paced snow sports but if you carry a small backpack, you may as well take it with you. It will make breaks on the slopes and lifts that much more enjoyable.
I mentioned traveling quickly above and will just say that it has become my go to jacket when heading to mountainous destinations. Again the weight of the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket and its small bulk are assets when traveling and if the climate is dry then there is not a better layer to have.
The bottom line
The warmth to weight ratio is outstanding and if you are after a layer to keep in the top of your pack, to put on when resting or around camp, this is a great option with a reasonable price tag at around £150/$214. My first concerns about the resistance of the Pertex fabric have been dissipated by the extensive use I have been able to get from the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket. If I had to name my favorite jacket for the winter this would probably be it.