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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Review - Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket

Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine
Ahhh, one of the few nice days of weather we've had recently!


"...the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine is a superb jacket for outdoor activities. It's a living and breathing guardian angel against all but the worst Mother Nature can throw at you. Extremely versatile and comfortable to wear, I've no doubt this will be a 'go to' piece of kit for most backpackers and walkers."

If anything the past few months has shown me, layering up on the hills when hiking has been quite the challenge. Spring brought us a summer heatwave, Jack Frost layering the UK in temperatures more akin to December and now summer has lead to a complete and utter washout.

But if there's one garment that's proved it's versatility during these challenging times, it's been the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket I was lucky enough to collect from their HQ in early April - and it's new for 2012.



Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine, Nantlle Ridge, Snowdonia National Park
A favourite jacket now seen here with the Nantlle Ridge, Snowdonia.
Weighing 321g size large on my scales, the Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine softshell jacket consists of two large chest pockets, a small inner chest pocket with mesh, two-way main zip, velcro adjustable cuffs, a drawcord hem and a decent sized hood with cinching and stiffened visor.

Pretty impressive features for the weight, eh?

Most people will associate 'softshell' to be the comparatively thick and tightly woven fibres (sometimes with membranes) found on other garments, which shed the wind and light rain easily. And in truth it's much more durable too for rough and tumble activities. But I've never really been overwhelmingly convinced by general softshell garments anyway - for jackets at least.

Given our temperamental climate, they tend to be very moreish in my opinion. They're either too warm, too bulky, and take ages to dry out if sodden. So, I end up using a lightweight fleece or standalone baselayer and sling on a waterproof jacket if things look less than ideal weather-wise. I find this combo strikes the balance well for me when out day after day on the hills.

That's not to say softshell doesn't have it's fans, it's just I'm not really one of them.

But the Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine has proven to be somewhat of a revelation for me and consequently been one of the first bits of gear I reach for when heading outdoors. Even to town shopping!

The shell of the jacket comprises of Pertex Equilibrium and inside is a soft tricot lining. The whole set up reminds me of one of my favourites for outdoor gear -Paramo - but in Rab's case this isn't designed to be waterproof.

Even so, the lining certainly helps in regulating your body temperature and wicking away unnecessary sweat. It manages it all with ease and at just the right pace. After all, we sweat for a reason when active. Our body is trying to cool down as we overheat. So, some sweat is good. But too much of a build up is not good and consequently when you're at rest you can soon feel cold (even though the lining does provide some insulating abilities)

The Pertex shell is highly water-resistant and has comparatively good tear strength too - so the odd tug on a thorn bush won't mean the end of the jacket or need for repair. But more than anything it's extremely breathable too.

With the shell being so light and effective at repelling wind and rain, coupled with the excellent lining inside - you really do have a garment here suitable for most conditions when out on the moors and mountains. So much so that in my case I really haven't bothered with any other garment for layering. On hot summer days, I've used the Vapour-Rise Lite as just a baselayer and it worked a treat. Even with a waterproof jacket slung on top.

As a mid-layer, again it excels in terms of performance. I haven't been prone to overheating or succombing to a mini-sauna of moisture inside.

The hood is excellent too. When all cinched up you don't feel like an astronaut admiring the view from the confines of a helmet. Then again, the garment is light, drapes almost like silk, quiet and moves with ease so it's no surprise it clings to your head and maneuvers as intended.

Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket 2012
An extremely versatile garment.

I honestly can't pick a fault with this jacket from Rab. In fact I'm struggling to think of anything I don't like! I suppose the obvious would be state it's not the toughest of garments out there. I'd be a little wary when scrambling or crawling along the ground to admire wildlife up close and so on.

I've not experienced any noticeable wear and tear at my shoulder and around my hips due to wearing a backpack either.

Rab have a habit of designing their jackets with hoods to roll up tight behind your neck which you then close shut with a small loop and clip. I'm no big fan of this in truth. Often the hood flares out to make you look like a poor man's version of Count Dracula. But given how soft this jacket is, it doesn't prove to be a problem.

The cut of the garment is 'slim' but in layman's terms it's a 'generous slim'. When zipped up shut, I don't look like I'm carrying a child when on the move or find my broad shoulders are constricting inwards. The cut is essentially, just about right (like most things on this bit of kit to be honest!)


PROS

Lightweight and extremely versatile 'softshell' jacket
Sheds light rain and winds with ease thanks to the Pertex Equilibrium shell
Tricot lining regulates your sweat and body temperature an absolute treat
Excellent hood that hugs your head with a stiffened visor (under helmet hood for climbers)

CONS

None really - except some may prefer heavier weight membrane type softshells


Bill Birkett, terrybnd, Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine
I'll have fond memories of the VR Lite Alpine - wore it when I met the legendary Bill Birkett!

All in all, the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine is a superb jacket for outdoor activities. It's a living and breathing guardian angel against all but the worst Mother Nature can throw at you. Extremely versatile and comfortable to wear, I've no doubt this will be a 'go to' piece of kit for most backpackers and walkers. All other softshells I own or have tested don't even compare for me. They've been consigned to the wardrobe collecting dust. The Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine is available from all reputable outdoor stores like  Cotswold Outdoor now. And best of all? It's RRP is £110!

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Terry Abraham
Outdoors filmmaker who wild camps to capture the landscapes at their very best. Also a blogger, photographer and gear tester.

I've been known to write from time to time and am a big fan of real ales.



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