First test: Rab Flashpoint (2015)

The lighter your gear, the less you’ll be weighed down – and the more enjoyable heading to the hills will be. But we also like to be comfy when the weather turns ugly, and minimal weight at any cost is something few hillwalkers will tolerate. So the 182g weight of Rab’s Flashpoint jacket is certainly impressive, but it’s important that this does not come at the cost of performance.

The jacket is made from a new material – unique to Rab – called Flashpoint, a 3-layer laminate with a waterproof and breathable membrane sandwiched between an outer layer and an inner layer of fabric. In theory this means the waterproof layer is protected from abrasion on both sides, and the inner layer can soak up and disperse any condensation that may form inside the jacket. Rab quotes impressive lab results of 20,000+mm hydrostatic head and a moisture vapour transmission rate (MVTR) of 40,000g/m²/day. This puts the fabric at the top of the league table for waterproofness / breathability.

With a weight of 182g (size M) and a packed size of a large fist, if you wanted to leave this in your rucksack you’d hardly notice it.

I took the Flashpoint on the Lakeland fells during typical blustery sunshine and showers, the sort of weather where carrying a waterproof is important, but I didn’t want to be weighed down by full heavy waterproofs and I’d probably take it off for part the walk.

The design is quite short and close-fitting, which saves weight and also makes it more suitable for faster movement. But you do get a helmet-compatible hood with a wired peak, face and rear volume adjusters plus a full-length zip, hem drawcord and Velcro cuff adjustment. You do only get one pocket, though, so if (as I do) you like to have somewhere to put your hands, this jacket is not ideal. But at least that pocket is big enough for a map. It is also properly sealed, rather than mesh-lined, so if water does get inside it you will stay dry.

What is most noticeable about the Rab Flashpoint is that there are hardly any seams, and those that are there have narrow taping. This reduces weight and bulk but also improves breathability. On the hill I did find the taped areas held some condensation, but the body of the jacket stayed drier and was up there with the best in terms of moisture management. The thin fabric does mean this jacket can feel a bit cold in the wind, though, which is a problem with most lighter jackets. There’s no women’s version either, which is a shame.

Specifications:

Fabric 3-layer Flashpoint

Sizes S-XXL (men’s)

rab.equipment/uk

Verdict

The Rab Flashpoint’s weight, the fabric and the hood are great, but you might want more pockets for regular use. However this is probably a compromise worth making for a jacket designed for moving fast and having ready in your rucksack to throw on when needed in mixed conditions, rather than being worn all day in the foulest of weather. Pity there’s no women’s version, though.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine June 2015

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