Review: Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket [updated]

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.

Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket front

Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket side

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.


 


Rab Alpine Microlight

Around town

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.

Rab Alpine Microlight compressed into pouch

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.

  • http://www.drunkon2wheels.co.uk/ Peter Jordan

    Good review so thanks. It’s almost perfect for my cycle camping trips in the winter. With it packed into it’s own pocket, maybe putting it next to something we recognize would help with the scale of it next time. Cheers.

    • http://gearexposure.com/ Ben GearExp

      Thanks for the comment Peter. I will try to update the article with a new picture as suggested as soon as possible.

  • Rob Howard

    any comments on sizing? Some reviews describe it as a bit snug. Would you say  it is true to the Rab sizing guide in your opinion? Cheers

    • http://gearexposure.com/ Ben GearExp

      I would say it is true to the sizing guide (for UK size S anyway) and has a medium fit, maybe borderline snug but you can easily wear a few layers under it. I’ve had it on with a fleece, a long sleeve shirt and a base layer and it felt great. Hope this helps.

  • Gareth Beard

    Hi Ben

    I am considering getting one of these to go under my Stretch Neo and for general evenings etc, any comment on how well they work together and also sizing. I found the L a little loose and the M pretty snug so is it better to get a snug one, would that keep you warmer?

    • http://gearexposure.com/ Ben GearExp

      Hi Gareth, in general loose is better for warmth. More air gets trapped inside the jacket and insulate you from the cold air outside.

      Now regarding pairing this down jacket with a Stretch Neo, I haven’t had the chance to try but I did use it with various Gore-Tex hard-shells I have around and that worked fine. I would be careful during activities though as vapor will condensate on the inner fabric of the shell and wet the down jacket, even highly breathable shells like the Stretch Neo.

      Hope this helps.

  • george

    Hi Ben,

    This is one of my considerations, alongside some Jack Wolfskin and Berghaus offerings. I’m essentially after a jacket that saves me having to wear a long sleeved top, micro fleece, hoody/sweatshirt and a coat or mixture to stay warm in the british winters, where I would say 0 degrees is the level I’m looking at. Ideally I’d love to be able to chuck a t-shirt on with this jacket and head out for the day (around town, walks in the woods), nothing expedition like essentially. Would it suit do you think?

    Cheers

    • http://gearexposure.com/ Ben GearExp

      Hi George, in my case I think 0C with just a t-shirt and this jacket would be pushing it but I also tend to feel cold faster than most people. This is of course unique to each person. I would probably need to add a micro fleece or a technical long sleeve baselayer to feel comfortable, provided I stay reasonably active. Hope it helps!

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