The big test: Insulated jackets reviewed (2018)

If you want to stop on a mountain to drink in the view, an insulated jacket will take away the chill – but should you choose a fleece jacket, a down jacket or a synthetic insulated jacket? Trail headed to the hills to find out...

DSC_0702.jpg

The runners up


Haglofs Heron Hood £100

Tester: Tim Butcher

DSC_0575.jpg
  • Material Pontetorto Technostretch fleece

  • Men’s S-XL

  • Women’s XS-XL

  • Weight 425g (men’s XL)

The fleece fabric on this jacket has a good abrasion-resistant finish on the outside, while on the inside it’s quite fluffy to add more warmth. The hood was the best fitting out of the fleece jackets that I have used too, and so overall it feels very comfortable and ideal to wear as part of a layering system. However it is quite a lightweight fleece, so its use is limited to that of a mid layer in warmer weather. On cold days or for winter in Scotland I’d need either a thicker main insulation layer or an additional insulation layer to stay warm. I also noticed the wind driving through this layer easily. The price makes it feel like a luxury for something that won’t keep you warm year-round. But this lightweight fleece is ideal for walking in the UK from late spring through to early autumn.

Pros

Price, weight, packed size, great hood, works well as a warm-weather mid layer.

Cons

Not warm enough for colder spring or autumn days and so extra layers will be needed regularly and more so in winter.

Buy it if

You want an excellent fleece jacket for walking in warmer conditions.


Rab Alpha Flux £140

Tester: Jon Bennett

DSC_0179.jpg
  • Materials Polartec Alpha synthetic insulation

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16

  • Weight 328g (M)

Polartec Alpha insulation has a core of lofted knit fibres, so it traps more air than fleece, and offers far more insulation, which makes it ideal as an additional layer to throw on over other layers when the temperature dips. It’s also exceptionally breathable, therefore it works well under waterproof layers. This jacket also gets stretch side panels, giving it a closer fit than other jackets and again making it ideal as part of a layering system. I also liked the way the hood fitted and moved with my head. It’s not the warmest option though. Yes it is great as an additional layer when moving, which is what it is designed for, but when sitting around I’d need extra insulation on colder days. It’s not that windproof either, so expect to need a wind or waterproof shell over the top to stay warm.

Pros

Weight and packed size, price, great hood, works well as part of a layering system when moving.

Cons

Warmer than fleece, but you’ll need extra insulation in cold weather, especially if not moving.

Buy it if

You want extra insulation to wear as part of a layering system while moving.


Arc’teryx Cerium SL Hoody £270

Tester: Graham Thompson

DSC_0681.jpg
  • Materials 850 fill power down, Coreloft synthetic insulation on shoulders and cuffs

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s XS-L

  • Weight 236g (men’s L)

A new jacket using very efficient 850 fill power down, which ensures you get an extremely low weight. But importantly you also get synthetic Coreloft insulation in areas that may collect moisture, which would impact on the down performance, so this is placed on the cuffs and shoulders and also at the top of the front zip. Another huge benefit of this jacket is that you get rear cord volume adjustment on the hood, so it fits really well and moves effortlessly with the head. There is a hem drawcord too – a feature many jackets lack. You also get two main pockets. The main drawbacks are the price and it’s not quite the warmest option. But if you can afford it (and another jacket for colder winter days) this is a great jacket for year-round use.

Pros

Weight and packed size, warm enough for mild conditions, great hood, additional synthetic insulation.

Cons

Price, not quite warm enough in winter, no cuff adjustment, slightly short body compared to others.

Buy it if

You want a very lightweight insulated jacket for spring to autumn and on the mildest winter days.



The top three


Berghaus Privitale 2.0 Extrem Fleece Hoodie £90

Tester: Tim Butcher

This is a modern, practical fleece jacket, but is it warm enough to beat the chill you’ll experience at the lofty heights of a mountaintop lookout?

DSC_0543.jpg
  • Material Stretch polyester fleece

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 593g (XL)

It’s good

The Privitale is an immensely comfortable and warm jacket at a great price for what you get. Its stretch polyester fleece fabric has a tight knit on the outside to improve wear, while inside the looser knit increases warmth and comfort. The fit is close but as the fleece is very stretchy it does not restrict movement. The hood is particularly well-designed with a close fit, and turns with the head easily. The baffle behind the zip, long sleeves with thumb loops and generous back length protected my 6ft 2in body well to keep out draughts and retain body warmth. A great benefit over many jackets is that the pockets are large and easily accessed while wearing a rucksack. Also as fleece is very breathable this works great under a waterproof jacket as part of a layering system. The Privitale is versatile enough to be worn over a base layer and under a waterproof jacket, so it can be used as your main insulated layer or as back-up insulation.

However

Whilst I’d be happy with this as my only mid-layer on most hill days, I’d still want something a little warmer and with more wind resistance, such as a down or synthetic insulated jacket, for back-up in autumn or winter, particularly for camping on the hill or for bothy nights or for really snowy Scottish mountains days. While I like the price tag, I’d be happy to pay a few extra pounds for a hem drawcord to lock out drafts and retain the great fit if I was lucky enough to lose a few pounds in weight on a trip. But the main drawback here is the weight and bulk of this jacket compared to warmer jackets, as any back-up jacket that is spending much of the day in the rucksack needs to be as light and compact as possible, and others are better in this department. Sadly there is no women’s option either.

Verdict

For me it’s the perfect mid layer, providing reassuring warmth and ease of movement at a great price, but others are lighter and offer more weather resistance.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 3/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 76%


Montane Icarus / Phoenix £150 

Tester: Jon Bennett

Does the latest Primaloft Thermoplume insulation make this jacket ideal for taking on the hill when extra warmth is needed at a reasonable price?

DSC_0459.jpg
  • Material Primaloft Thermoplume

  • Men’s S-XXL (Icarus)

  • Women’s 8-16 (Phoenix)

  • Weight 605g (M)

It’s good

New for 2018 and made from the latest Primaloft Plume insulation, which is said to offer similar levels of performance to 550 fill power down. Not surprisingly perhaps, this was very warm – in fact the warmest jacket we tested. The outer Pertex Quantum Eco nylon shell fends off wind and moisture well, and is also reasonably breathable so you don’t get sweaty. This jacket feels pretty warm and cosy, with a good length, well-insulated hood, and elasticated cuffs and hem to lock out draughts. The two main handwarmer pockets are well placed to allow access even when a rucksack is worn, and there’s a third useful GPS receiver-sized zipped chest pocket. So this jacket is ideal for stopping for a brew on the hill or sitting around a bothy or campsite, with the added bonus that the synthetic insulation won’t be impacted by dampness as much as a down jacket. It’s as warm as a down jacket too, but with a far less chilling price.

However

It costs more than a fleece and is quite heavy and bulky too. So while great in terms of warmth, you may think twice about carrying it regularly in your rucksack. It’s not as breathable as a more open-knit fleece either, so isn’t so great for walking with. Also, while the fit was good, the hood doesn’t move quite as well with my head as the hoods on some other jackets, and the cuffs didn’t fit as neatly as they could. As there is no Velcro adjustment on the cuffs there is no way of tightening or loosening the fit here to allow the cuff to fit over gloves. The hem is elasticated, but again has no additional adjustment. This jacket is great in terms of warmth but it could be too warm for mild autumn days, so with its extra weight and bulk this is one for colder days only.

Verdict

Great for stopping out on a cold, British winter mountain, with a price that’s more attractive than a down equivalent. But the weight and packed size are drawbacks.

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 3/5

  • Weatherproofness 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Mountain Equipment Arete Hooded £160  

Tester: Graham Thompson

Down insulation is extremely efficient, so is this lightweight jacket the best option for stashing in your rucksack as a back-up jacket?

DSC_0612.jpg
  • Material 700 fill power down

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s 8-16 

  • Weight 370g (M)

It’s good

The use of 700 fill power down inside this jacket ensures that it is very lightweight. It also packs down small, and both of these features make it great for stashing in a rucksack just in case you need it on the top of the mountain. The level of insulation is less than the heavier, synthetic Montane jacket featured here, but more than fleece, making this a great general-purpose jacket for autumn and spring. And for me it is just about warm enough for mild winter conditions too. The outer is a lightweight Helium 20 nylon which fends off wind better than fleece and keeps some moisture away from the down. The hood and cuffs are only elasticated, but you do get a hem drawcord so you can fine-tune the fit more easily than some others. There are just two main pockets and these are placed low to make them good for hand-warming. The price is also more attractive than some other down jackets you could consider!

However

For the depths of winter you may need something even warmer if camping in snow or sitting around for long periods high on a snowy mountain. As the Arete uses down, lots more care is needed to ensure this jacket stays dry, as its insulating performance drops off dramatically if it does get wet. Also, of course, this is not as breathable as a more open knit fleece, so it’s not one for wearing while walking. While the fit is okay, the hood disappoints in this area and did not turn easily with my head. Also some adjustment on the hood and cuffs would be a real benefit. The pockets are okay, but again on other jackets these are placed higher or are bigger or there is a third chest pocket. There are some niggles with this jacket and you can get lower-priced fleece or synthetic jackets if cash is tight. 

Verdict

Ideal for stowing in a pack year-round just in case it gets chilly, but some lower-priced jackets are warmer or perform better if damp.  

  • Features 4/5

  • Packability 4/5

  • Weatherproofness 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Best-in-test.gif
 

For the latest reviews - including extra photos and products that won't appear online - 
pick up a copy of the current issue of Trail magazine!


Test of the best: down jackets under £200 reviewed

CHINGUARD
In cold weather, a soft panel of material at the top of the jacket zip to protect the chin is a really welcomed feature. Some jackets have a very wide panel of soft material, others a small strip of soft material and others have none.

INSULATION
All the jackets featured here incorporate down insulation, which is more efficient than synthetic insulation. The warmth of down is measured by its fill power. Fill power is a measure of the loft or ‘fluffiness’ of the down; for example, 800 fill power down is more fluffy and traps more air, and therefore you need less of it for the same insulation than a 600 fill power down. A lower fill power down will be heavier and more bulky to achieve the same level of insulation as a higher fill power. However there are other factors such as jacket construction and fit that effect how warm

DSC_0333.jpg

DRAUGHT EXCLUSION
To stay warm you need to trap warm air inside the jacket. But this is difficult if air can escape through the hem or around the cuffs or even blow through the front zip. So look for a baffle behind the main zip, drawcords at the hem and elasticated or ideally adjustable cuffs to trap warm air inside the jacket.

HOODS
To stay warm in cold weather you also need to protect your head from heat loss. Surprisingly it is often the hood design that divides the best jackets from the runners up, so it pays to try before you buy. Look for a hood that can be adjusted to fit without obscuring your vision and ideally this should move with your head when you turn to look around. A wired or stiffened peak is a welcome bonus to allow easy vision in the wind or spindrift.

WATER RESISTANCE
Down insulation loses some of its insulating ability when wet. To overcome this, down insulated jackets sometimes feature enhanced water-resistant outers or more recently the down itself is being treated to make it more water resistant, or hydrophobic (waterhating). As seams will leak, only a waterproof jacket with taped seams is guaranteed to keep the insulation dry, so you may need to wear a waterproof jacket over your down insulated jacket in


Sprayway Kimo/Nuna £130

  • Men’s S-XXL (Kimo)
  • Women’s 8-18 (Nuna)
  • Weight 379g (size L)
  • Packed volume 1.8 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD As down jackets lower in price many become less warm, but this one manages to maintain a better level of insulation than most, so you could use it in a tent or bothy or for a quick brew stop on the hill. It’s a good weight at just 379g (size L) and packs down small so you can easily stash it in a rucksack. Unlike many budget jackets you get a hem drawcord and an internal flap behind the front zip to lock out the wind. There is even a small patch of soft material at the top of the zip to protect the chin, which is very welcome in cold weather. The two pockets are also zipped.

HOWEVER There is no hood so you need a good hat to wear with this. Also while it is warmer than most lightweight and low-price jackets if you pay a little more and can tolerate more weight and packed size then you get a really warm jacket that would be even better for colder nights in a tent, or a bivvy or during a Scottish Munro summit brew. The shell is made of polyester so it’s not as durable as nylon. Also some higher-priced jackets feature down that maintains better performance if damp and some have even higher spec down for lower weight. So there are drawbacks but for many walkers this is probably all you need.

VERDICT A relatively warm jacket for its price and weight. It does not have a hood, but it is still a good general-purpose jacket.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
Best-value.gif

Jack Wolfskin Neon/Selenium £150

  • Men’s S-XXXL (Neon)
  • Women’s XS-XXL (Selinium)
  • Weight 559g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.1 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD A great combination of features here make this ideal for many hillgoers. Firstly the price is great, but you also get a good amount of down insulation so this is a little warmer than many of the lighter jackets. The hood has synthetic insulation, rather than down, as well as a rear volume adjuster. Hem drawcords lock draughts out and there are two main zipped pockets plus a third chest pocket. Get it on and it feels warm enough for a brew on a summit or sitting in a tent. The hood fits closely and even moves with the head a little. This all makes this good for general hill use.

HOWEVER There are drawbacks as this is a little heavier than others and slightly bigger when packed down than the smallest, but it does offer a good middle ground as it is not too big or too heavy to take on the hill. The cuffs don’t get any adjustment other than elastication and on me they did not fit very closely, so this area is chilly. The hood is not quite as warm as the heavier jackets, but it is okay for general conditions. For really extreme conditions, such as winter camping on the hill, I would want a little more warmth and some better details but for valley camping and summit brews this is great.

VERDICT A good all-round general-purpose hillgoers insulated jacket. It is not the lightest, nor the warmest, but it does offer a good overall package of benefits.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
Jack-Wolskin.jpg

Alpkit Filo £160

  • Men’s S-XL
  • Women’s 8-16
  • Weight 629g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.6 litres
  • Insulation 650 fill power Nikwax hydrophobic down

IT'S GOOD This offers much more warmth than lighter jackets making it far more suitable for staying cosy when camping in winter or lingering a little longer on a winter summit. It also benefits from hydrophobic down so it should maintain performance a little better if it gets slightly damp. The hood is removable and benefits from a wired peak and face drawcords and it is also very well insulated. You get two very deep zip pockets, a hem drawcord and elasticated cuffs. Get it on and there is a little more length to the body than some and the hood fits well. Overall this is very cosy and great for colder conditions particularly when camping, bivvying or sitting on summits.

HOWEVER This is heavier than other jackets and has a large packed volume, so it will take up more space in your rucksack. The outer is made of polyester rather than more durable nylon used on other jackets, so it needs treating a little more carefully to maintain performance. The down is just 650 fill power, rather than 750+ and that is in part why this is more bulky and heavier than others, but also why it has a lower price for so much more warmth. A slight niggle is there is no volume adjustment on the hood and also the hood does not turn with the head as well as higher priced designs.

VERDICT A good price for a very warm jacket that is ideal for tent use, but it is heavier and more bulky than others.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%
Alpkit.jpg

Mammut Whitehorn IN £165

  • Men’s S-XXXL
  • Women’s XS-XL
  • Weight 680g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.2 litres
  • Insulation 650+ fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD There is really only one big benefit to this jacket and that is how warm it is. It is warmer than others featured here and that makes it great for throwing on in a tent or during a summit brew or when visiting a bothy. It is also designed to be reversible so you can choose to have a different colour on display if that is important to you. Apart from that benefit, though, there are few other features to talk about. You get a front zip and a well-insulated collar. The hem and cuffs are both elasticated. It is also a good price for the level≈of insulation it provides.

HOWEVER There are lots of reasons to think twice about investing your hard-earned cash in this jacket. It is relatively heavy and bulky and does not include a hood, so you need a good insulated hat to wear with it. Also, annoyingly, there is no hem drawcord to lock out draughts and you don’t even get a baffle behind the zip to block out the wind; there is no soft brushed area at the chin, either. The outer shell is made from polyester, which won’t be as durable as a nylon option. So there’s a lot to question here for sure, but that level of warmth it offers may just outweigh the drawbacks it presents.

VERDICT A well-priced, very warm jacket that is great in a tent or bothy but it has no hood, it’s relatively heavy and bulky and lacks some finer details..

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%
Mammut.jpg

Montane Featherlite Down £180

  • Men’s S-XXL (Kimo)
  • Women’s 8-16 (Nuna)
  • Weight 467g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.0 litres
  • Insulation 750+ fill power HyperDry Eco down

IT'S GOOD This is packed with goodies, starting with a price, weight and packed volume that are competitive and then adding down insulation that benefits from a little more water resistance than standard options. You get plenty of great details too such as a hem drawcord, three front zipped pockets and a hood that has a stiffened peak, along with face and rear volume drawcords. The shell is Pertex Quantum like other quality jackets. Get it on and the fit is close and the hood fits well, and while not quite the warmest it’s pretty good for short summit breaks or bothy use. The down is also certified as being responsibly produced and you even get a soft chinguard area.

HOWEVER It is not quite the warmest, although it is warmer than the jackets that are lighter. But for camping in winter or snowholing I’d want something warmer. Like most jackets here you don’t get cuff adjustment apart from elastication, but you’d have to spend quite a lot more to get that feature. The fit is slightly too close for me compared to other jackets of the same size, particularly under the arms which I found caused the sleeve cuffs or hem to ride up a little too easily. So you may want to consider trying a size up from normal just in case it’s a little too snug.

VERDICT Good level of insulation for summit and bothy use and a great hood and general set of features, but sizing is a little snug compared to others.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
Montane.jpg

Criterion Activity Ultralight Down £185

  • Men’s S-XXL
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 344g (size L)
  • Packed volume 1.8 litres
  • Insulation 850 fill power goose down

IT'S GOOD A very light jacket that uses a high quality 850+ fill power down which you don’t generally find in other jackets at its price. That adds up to less weight and less bulk. A win-win. You also get a Pertex Quantum shell, which again is very light and something more often restricted to higher priced products. The hood gets a drawcord at the rear while the face is elasticated and there are two zipped pockets. To keep wind out you get an internal baffle behind that front zip, which is a feature not all lower-priced items have. So for throwing in a pack and wearing on the hill for short stops during a summit brew this is great.

HOWEVER This is not the warmest jacket available, so for chillier weather or long spells of use, you may need something warmer. There is no womens’ option and you don’t get a hem drawcord or cuff adjustment. Some higher-priced jackets also have a face drawcord and a soft chinguard at the top of the zip to increase comfort. Finally some jackets may be heavier but benefit from a shell that is tougher and perhaps is more resistant to water. You can also get more water-resistant down. Of course, all those little details would add cost, weight and bulk so they are not necessarily essential at all.

VERDICT Exceptional weight and performance for this price and ideal for stowing in a pack and throwing on for short breaks, but it’s not the warmest option.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 3/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%
Criterion.jpg

Rab Microlight Alpine £190

  • Men’s XS-XXL
  • Women’s 8-16
  • Weight 416g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.0 litres
  • Insulation 750 fill power hydrophobic goose down

IT'S GOOD Weight and packed size are good here and you get a hydrophobic down, so it is less affected by moisture than standard down. If that was not enough you get Pertex Quantum shell material, with its low weight benefit. So on paper this looks great. Get it on and it is not quite as warm as heavier or bulkier jackets, but you do get a hem drawcord and a hood with face drawcords and it’s fine for carrying in a pack and throwing on during a summit or bothy break. There is also a small patch of soft material at the top of the zip for more comfort at the chin, plus there is an additional chest pocket. 

HOWEVER The hood is a little disappointing as while it has face drawcords and a stiffened peak, which are big ticks in theory, it does not have a rear volume adjuster and I found it did not fit or move with the head as well as others. This jacket is not the warmest as mentioned, so for camping or bivvy nights I’d go for something warmer in winter, but its fine for milder situations, of course. You don’t get cuff adjustment other than elastication either. You can get lighter options and lower-priced jackets, but if you find the hood fits your head this is then a very good general jacket for hillgoers.

VERDICT Weight, packed size and price are all competitive and you even get hydrophobic down but the hood and insulation level will not suit all.

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
Rab.jpg

Mountain Equipment Skyline / Lightline £200

  • Men’s S-XXL (Skyline)
  • Women’s 8-18 (Lightline)
  • Weight 474g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.5 litres
  • Insulation 700 fill power duck down

IT'S GOOD There is more warmth here compared to many lower-priced jackets and this is instantly noticeable. It also uses a Drilite Loft 20 denier outer, which has a little more water resistance and a little more durability than some lighter options. The down is audited for animal welfare via the brand’s Down Codex programme. Nice touches include the hood that has a rear cord volume adjustment and the hem also has a cord adjuster. There are two pockets with zips and the cuffs are elasticated. A good baffle behind the front zip blocks draughts. All that for 474g is great. The nearest women’s option is the Lightline which is slightly warmer as it has more down insulation.

HOWEVER The price is not the lowest and also it is not the lightest or most compact option, so you need to decide if those benefits are really needed. There are not many drawbacks here, though. However you can get jackets with a higher fill power which would make it lighter and more compact for the same level of insulation, but that would increase the cost. Also you can get even more water resistance. A soft chinguard would be nice too as would adjustable cuffs – to get all these features you may have to pay more though.

VERDICT A great general winter down jacket with a good level of insulation for camping or summit use at a reasonable price and weight.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%
Mountain-Equipment.jpg
Best-in-test.gif

Patagonia Down Sweaty Hoody £200

  • Men’s XS-XXL
  • Women’s XS-XL
  • Weight 454g (size L)
  • Packed volume 2.1 litres
  • Insulation 800 fill power goose down

IT'S GOOD There is a good combination of features here that sets this apart from some others. So you get 800 fill power down and this is produced to limit animal welfare concerns. You get a hood with a rear drawcord that extends around the forehead and this did fit and move with my head exceptionally well. I also like that you get a large soft chinguard at the top of the zip for more comfort. There is a hem drawcord too. The cuffs are elasticated and the pockets zipped like others. So, overall, this is ideal for general winter use I would say, being small and light enough to stash in a pack but also reasonably warm.

HOWEVER There are still drawbacks here as this is not quite as warm as some others, so for longer periods in colder conditions more warmth will be needed. It is okay for short cold snaps though. Also you still don’t get adjustment at the cuffs, which comes on higher-priced jackets. If you pay more you also can get more water resistance from either the shell material or the down itself. Annoyingly, the baffle behind the front zip is quite small, and while this is not a major issue it could allow a little more wind through here than a more substantial design. The main drawback is that this is not the warmest option which limits its use a little.

VERDICT A good down jacket for carrying in a rucksack onto the hill, but its not the warmest and so not ideal for longer periods of use in colder weather.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Patagonia.jpg

Rab Torque (2015)

Features

Matrix Double Weave Stretch (Matrix DWS) fabric is used to make the Rab Torque very breathable as there is no membrane; also it’s very durable, with hood and elbow reinforcement. The hood is helmet-compatible and has a wired peak. The weight of 488g (size L) is great, but you only get two Napoleon chest pockets. Rab’s Sawtooth jacket (£100) has more pockets. 4/5

Fit

There is no women’s version of this jacket, but Rab’s Sawtooth (men’s and women’s) is the nearest equivalent in this material. The Torque men’s sizes are S-XXL, and the fit was relaxed enough to wear over a thin fleece without being too baggy. The sleeve fit, hood fit and movement were outstanding. It has a longer body than average too. 4/5

Comfort

The low weight plus the softness of the fabric make the Rab Torque very comfortable over a base layer or a thin fleece. It can be worn under waterproofs too as it is so breathable. It keeps off the wind and the worst of the rain but isn’t very well-insulated. Think of it as a stretchy, durable windshirt to be worn with other layers, and it’s great! 5/5

In use

I love the fabric as it can be used in so many situations, from summer to winter, in fine weather or wet weather when combined with other layers. The hood is outstandingly good, thanks to a super fit and a wired peak. The two chest pockets are great, but you aren’t getting any handwarmer pockets, which are available in the men’s and women’s Sawtooth. 4/5

Value

The cost is acceptable, but for a similar price you can get the Sawtooth (more hand-friendly pockets, less abrasion resistance). 4/5

Verdict

The Rab Torque  is an ideal windshirt for mountaineering, but walkers may prefer Rab’s Sawtooth jacket in the same material with its better pockets. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Rab%20Torque.jpg

Rab Ventus (2015)

Features

The Rab Ventus provides just a little more wind and water resistance than a fleece but lacks the insulation of one. It has two main pockets placed high on the body, plus a hood. There is hem drawcord to keep out draughts, while the cuffs are elasticated but there is no hood adjustment. It’s minimalist compared to most soft shells for sure. 4/5

Fit

Men’s sizes are S-XXL and women’s sizes are 8-16, with the jacket fitting closely without being tight or restrictive. The hood even fitted okay due to there being stretch in the material, which allowed it to hug my head and move well. The cuffs too – despite only having elasticated cuffs – fitted well, and the cuffs and hem didn’t budge when I raised my arms. 5/5

Comfort

The Rab Ventus is a thin, stretchy, wind-resistant top with minimal insulation. Its comfort level is high, but it is not very warm, so in summer you could wear it over a base layer but in autumn you’ll need a thin fleece or thick base layer system. Not as water- or wind-resistant as other soft shells, but for walkers who carry a waterproof all the time this may be a benefit. 4/5

In use

This is superb at what it does, which is provide a stretchy, comfortable, slightly wind- and water-resistant layer. The pockets have very easy access, and are nice and large. The hood is great too. My problem is I’m not sure how useful it is. Some people will love it while others will prefer a fleece or thicker soft shell. But it is unique in what it offers so well, and for that reason it demands a look. 4/5

Value

The price is good but not stunning as the Rab Ventus uses much thinner fabric than higher-priced options, but it’s a better design than similar options. 4/5

Verdict

The Rab Ventus is a thin and stretchy spin on the soft shell concept that is ideal for climbing, backpacking, and fast and light activity. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine September 2015

Rab%20Ventus.jpg

Rab Xenon X Hoodie (2014)

Features
The Rab Xenon X Hoodie’s two main pockets and a chest pocket are all map-sized and have zips, although if you wear this with a rucksack you do lose some access to the lower pockets. The hood is elasticated around the face with no drawcords at all, while the cuffs have no adjustment and are simply elasticated.
4/5

Fit
There is a good size range – XS-XXL for men and 8-16 for women – and the L felt great on me without being too roomy or overly fitted. The hood and cuffs get no adjustment, though, so try before buying.
3/5

Comfort
This feels light at just 361g (size L) and it’s very unrestrictive. The brushed polyester chinguard is nice, particularly in winter, while the softness of the outer and insulating materials feels luxurious. But others are closer-fitting, while hood drawcords would provide more comfort if the hood didn’t fit perfectly.
4/5

Insulation
It’s stuffed with Primaloft One (now renamed Primaloft Gold), a very well-proven synthetic insulator with a great warmth-to-weight ratio for use as a year-round backup. In the depths of winter you might want something warmer, or at least use this as part of a layering system to trap more air. If you add a waterproof over the top it should be warm enough.
5/5

Value
The price is great for a hooded jacket with good insulation and comfort for general hill use.
5/5

Verdict
The Rab Xenon X Hoodie is ideal year-round insulation, whether stashed in your pack in summer for hilltop bivvies or worn with extra layers in winter for chilly summit brews. It won Trail’s ‘Best Value’ award.
4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine October 2014

 


Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket (2014)

Exceptionally comfortable and billed as the ‘original’ soft shell, Rab’s insulated Vapour Rise garments aim to be very warm yet extremely breathable. As such they are well-suited – and well-proven as such – to excelling in the British hills in seasons when you really don’t know what’s likely to be thrown at you. The Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is very impressive: it uses windproof and water-resistant Pertex Equilibrium, while the insulation comes via fluffy, high-loft Polartec Thermal Pro fleece. This is extremely luxurious-feeling, and combined with the thin-but-durable outer and the generous cut, the freedom of movement in this jacket is exceptional. In terms of other features, you get everything you could want along with a lot you might not need: pit zips to aid venting; five pockets (two zipped internal, two handwarmers and an OS map-sized chest pocket); a fleece-lined, helmet-compatible hood with a wired peak that rolls away; a decent scooped tail; double front zip; adjustable cuffs. The Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is far from waterproof and gets heavy when soaked, so it’s worth keeping that DWR (durable water repellent) performing: however as the name suggests this is a product an outdoor professional would invest in given its ability to weather every season. But this is born to be warm and given active use in cold weather, and as such it’s difficult to imagine it being packed for every trip throughout the year.

Specifications:
Outer fabric Pertex Equilibrium
Weight 787g (size M)
External pockets 3
Internal pockets 2
Hood? yes
Pit zips? yes
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.rab.uk.com

Verdict

The Rab Vapour Rise Guide Jacket is incredibly comfortable, well-featured and warm with good breathability. For heavy winter use this is the best.

Review by Simon Ingram
First published in Trail magazine September 2014

 


Rab Shadow Hoodie (2014)

The Rab Shadow Hoodie is made from Polartec Windpro, which is four times more wind-resistant than traditional fleece, but it doesn’t have a membrane inside – and so retains enough air permeability to allow water vapour to escape, thus preventing condensation building up. This fabric is therefore ideal for windier conditions, in places that will still necessitate a waterproof jacket regularly to combat heavy rain, such as on mountain trips in the UK. The fabric also has Hardface Technology, which means it’s more durable and more water-resistant than standard fleece, which is just the job for mountaineers. The jacket itself is designed with two chest pockets that are ideally located for easy access while wearing a harness or rucksack. The hood has no adjustment, but it did fit me fine. There are thumb loops on the cuffs too. The main zip also gets an internal flap to keep the wind at bay. Overall the Rab Shadow Hoodie had a closer fit and warmer comfort level than say the Mountain Equipment Shroud, but for me it can feel too warm sometimes, so this isn’t necessarily an advantage. Ideal for cold temperatures or those who feel the cold a little more. It’s higher in price and heavier than the Shroud, though.

Specifications:

Material Polartec Windpro
Men’s/unisex sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Weight 603g (size L)
Hood yes
External pockets 2
Website www.rab.uk.com

 

Verdict

The Rab Shadow Hoodie is an ideal fleece jacket for colder or windier conditions, but as the hood has no adjustment make sure it fits before buying.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine March 2014

 


Rab Ascent (2014)

The Rab Ascent is a down jacket with an outer made from Pertex Endurance, which is water-resistant enough that the down is protected from melting snow and tent condensation. Inside the size L jacket is 330g of hydrophobic down, which is better able to maintain its performance when wet than standard down. The removable hood gets a volume adjuster so it can be worn over a helmet or just on a head, and it fits both very well. It also has a wired peak. There are two external zipped pockets and one internal pocket. The whole package feels very warm and cosy, and is ideal for settling down around a tent or just heading out into the snow to build a snowman. But the drawback is that it’s also a notch heavier than some other insulated jackets at 890g (size L). Its price is very good for what you get, though, with most jackets around this price being less warm or lacking the water- resistant materials of the Ascent. The Rab Ascent is a superb jacket if low weight is not the number one priority but staying warm is.

Outer Pertex Endurance
Insulation 330g of 650+ fill power hydrophobic down
Weight 890g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
www.rab.uk.com

 

Verdict

The The Rab Ascent was the best jacket for water-resistant down performance in our test.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2014

 


Rab Ascent (2013)

The Rab Ascent is a very popular jacket that provides a similar performance to the Mountain Equipment Lightline but with some valuable additions. Firstly the hood gets a volume adjuster so it can be made to fit well, both over a helmet and on a bare head. It is packed with a little more down than the Lightline, and it does feel a notch warmer. The drawback is that it is a notch heavier and carries a slightly higher price tag. The outer fabric is Pertex Endurance, which is water-resistant to 1000mm of hydrostatic head, which means the down is protected from melting snow and tent condensation. The Rab Ascent’s outside pockets are very large and as they are above the waist you can access them when wearing a rucksack waistbelt. The hood is removable and has a wired peak, and the cuffs are Velcro-adjusted at the wrist. Inside you get a large pocket and there is a soft polyester area at the top of the zip to protect the chin. There is little between the Rab Ascent and the Lightline, but the Ascent justifies its higher price with a better hood.

Outer Pertex Endurance
Insulation 330g of 650+ fill power down
Weight 877g (size L)
Men’s sizes S-XXL
Women’s sizes 8-16
Website www.rab.uk.com

Verdict

The Rab Ascent is a superb jacket for mountaineers and those heading to colder conditions; but the drawback is a higher price tag and more weight, and many hillwalkers may not need its extra benefits.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2013


Rab Vapour Rise (2012)

The Pertex Equilibrium fabric used in this jacket doesn’t have that stretchy, almost wetsuit-like feel of some soft shells. Instead it uses a looser weave of material. This means the fabric is a little less windproof than some, but a lot more breathable. When walking hard uphill, the fabric is a dream. The inner fleecy layer helps to trap heat and draw away moisture really well. There is a water-repellent coating in the face fabric, but it is less like a true shell material, so may need refreshing more often than others. The cut of the jacket isn’t particularly athletic,and the long arms can tend to bunch up around the wrists. The hood isn’t the most fitted or secure, but it does add crucial extra warmth when needed.  

Sizes: S -XXL

Fabric: Pertex Equilibrium

Weight: 588g

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 01773 601870; www.rabuk.com

 

*Published in Country Walking magazine, Spring 12


Rab Xenon Jacket (2012)

It’s hard to believe that something this light (290g, size 10 – lightest on test) can help keep you warm on the hill. But thanks to the super-light Pertex Quantum used on the inner and outer coupled with the warming quality of the PrimaLoft One insulation, the Rab Xenon Jacket packs heat well above its weight.

As soon as I put it on I felt warmer, as if wearing down. Also, the material is water-resistant to protect the insulation from dampness. The elasticated hood fitted me well, allowing total freedom and moving as one with my head; and it can be handily clipped away when not in use.

The main zip features a draught excluder to keep the chill out, while soft fabric extends from the chinguard around the front of the face and neck, making it very cosy. The elasticated cuffs are a close fit and comfortable, and the hem is adjustable to ensure the warm air stays inside. New for this season are zipped pockets, which are a great size for hands.

The Rab Xenon Jacket is not as warm as some, but it’s warm enough when walking and benefits from feeling completely unrestrictive. So for hillwalking, as opposed to camping and sitting around for longer time periods, it’s a great choice at a good price.

 

Weight 270g (size 10)

Outer fabric Pertex Quantum GL 10 denier

Inner fabric as outer

Insulation PrimaLoft One

Women’s sizes 8-16

Men’s sizes S-XL

Website www.rab.uk.com

Verdict

Superlight, feature-packed and warm, the Rab Xenon is a great jacket, perfect for the needs of a hillwalker year-round at a decent price.

 

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine March 2012

 


Rab Double Pile (2012)

A heavy fleece and therefore very warm. Double-pile fabric really traps the heat in. That also makes it bulky, however, and this certainly isn’t the kind of garment to tuck away in your pack for emergency use. Although it may not look like it, the face fabric has a water-repellent treatment which means that you can wear the top in damp conditions without getting soaked. The woolly fabric is pleasantly soft against the skin, and the collar is high enough to bury your face into on a cold day. The wind-blocking lining isn’t quite so pleasant against the skin, with a nylon-like feel. It’s bulky, but it really is warm, and if you suffer from the cold, this is the one to go for.

Sizes: S-XXL

Weight: 857g

Women’s version: Yes

Fabric: Berber Pile fabric

Contact: 01773 601870 www.rab.uk.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, February 2012


Rab Generator Vest 2011

A gilet that packs away into its own inner pocket and can be used as a camping pillow? You’ve got to admit that’s pretty cool. The Rab Generator Vest uses synthetic Primaloft to deliver damp-proof insulation. It doesn’t quite pack the warmth-per-gram punch of down, but it does hold up much better against our typical British mountain weather conditions.
The weight of this gilet is kept to a minimal 290g (size M) through the use of a Pertex Quantum shell, which is windproof and also reasonably water-resistant. There is a generous chest pocket – big enough to accommodate an A5 guidebook or folded OS map – and also two hip pockets, although neither of the latter have zips. We liked thoughtful touches such as the brushed fleece chinguard and the adjustable drawcord hem, and the fit was good on our medium-sized tester.
Overall, the Rab Generator Vest offers great three-season insulation, although you may find you need something a bit warmer for the cold winter conditions.

Size S-XXL (men’s); 8-16 (women’s)
Weight 290g (size M)
Outer fabric Pertex
Insulation high
Water resistance medium
Wind resistance high
Pockets 3
www.rab.uk.com

The Rab Generator Vest is best for wet weather.

First published in Trail magazine September 2011


Rab Sawtooth

The Sawtooth is a great example of a performance-driven style of soft shell, although this time without Olympic track-star styling. I didn’t expect the lightweight fabric to be so warm, but during more energetic activity, it really kept the heat in. During a snow-bound jaunt up Snowdon’s Pyg Track, with only a pair of gloves on (and trousers, obviously) the Sawtooth eliminated wind-chill completely and retained body heat. Only at a summit point rest did I have to add extra layers. The high chest pockets double up as vents when it does get too warm, and they have the added benefit of being deep enough to keep kit in even when unzipped. The whole jacket is incredibly stretchy too, allowing it to move with you – useful for reaching as well as keeping it close-fitting.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
S-XXL
Fabric: Double-weave soft shell
Weight (tested size): 429g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01773 601870; www.rab.uk.com

 


Rab Infinity 2011

Use of the new Pertex 10 denier Quantum fabric ensures that the Rab Infinity is very light indeed. At 484g it is not the lightest jacket, but it provides more insulation, so it is usable at lower temperatures. It uses top-quality down too, which keeps the weight down further. The Infinity hood surprisingly comes without any volume adjuster or drawcords, so it either fits or it does not, and for me it did not fit as well as it could have. Some brushed polyester around the chin area adds welcome comfort too. The cut of the sleeves was particular good as they fitted perfectly, allowing me to raise my arms without the hem of the jacket or the sleeves riding up. Use this for spring and autumn camping, and its low weight would be a real benefit, while in winter it should be okay except in the coldest of conditions. But the Rab Infinity’s hood was very frustrating as I just wanted a closer fit, but it has no drawcords. Others may prefer a removable hood, particularly as this one may not actually fit that well without an additional hat inside. Like other lightweight duvets, it is not quite as warm as the warmest; and the new 10D Pertex Quantum does feel a little delicate.

Outer Pertex Quantum 10D nylon
Inner Pertex Quantum 10D nylon
Insulation 210g of 850 fill power down
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); 8-16 (women’s)
Weight 484g (men’s L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 40

The Rab Infinity  is great if the hood fits you better than it did me, as this is a very lightweight duvet that offers good insulation for milder winter conditions.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2011