Rab Microlight Alpine Review 2016/06/26
The Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket is a very popular down mid layer
here in the UK. However the layer has many issues which your money is
better spent elsewhere. Here we review the Rab Microlight Alpine.
Introduction to Down
I will first explain the different factors that affect how warm and how
heavy a down jacket is. There are three major factors to be
concerned with when you are choosing a down jacket. All factors are
equally important and its only in the culmination of these
three points that a good down jacket is born.
- Fill Power – in very simple terms how much
air the down can hold. Higher numbers mean the layer is warmer
for the weight. This is the most common piece of knowledge brands
are aware customers know about and so its completely open to
misinterpretation and exploitation from marketing. It is indeed true
that a higher number is a more quality fill but please understand
its not the end of the story. So in other terms don't just simply
look for high fill power.
- Fill weight – how much down is actually in the
item with more down equaling more warmth but with more weight.
- Construction – how the down is distributed and
held throughout the jacket. Examples of down construction are stitch
through and box wall. The later being the warmer but slightly
bulkier option which you normally find on large outer layer down
jackets and not on mid layers. Stitch through gives the user greater
freedom of movement than box wall. Box wall allows the down to fully
loft within it's own chamber allowing for the elimination of cold
spots which can occur on thin mid layers.
I will also quickly touch on goose vs duck down. Goose down is generally
considered better as its cluster size is larger than duck as a goose is
a bigger bird than a duck! Goose down is the premium product but there
is still high grade duck down out there which should not be overlooked.
The Rab Microlight Alpine Review
This is an awful jacket you are better spending your money elsewhere.
The Microlight Alpine has 143g of 750 fill power goose down (size L) in
a stitch through design. The stitch through design helps create a
comfortable fit that has great freedom of movement which is ideal for a
mid layer as it's a layer with an intended semi active and active end
use in mind. However this is where the first problems come into play. If
you are active in this layer then you will very quickly overheat as Rab
have decided to put fill under the armpits. When was the last time you
had cold armpits? It is something that never happens when you are
active. Once you sweat into the down it stays damp.
The Pertex face fabric that Rab uses on the Rab Microlight Alpine is
rather basic and they only use it on their entry level jackets and the
performance sadly shows. The rain sadly wetting out the face fabric very
quickly in light conditions. The down is coated with a hydrophobic
treatment which helps resist saturation but its hard to notice in real
world situations and with a substance that has such a high surface
area as down clusters I really doubt its effectiveness in combatting
waters strong bonding force which will clump the down together in damp
conditions. I noticed the down in certain areas clumping readily in damp
conditions. Rab do use a slightly lighter interior fabric to allow the
down to loft more towards you than outwards to the cold exterior,
this is such a clever design choice.
There is no fill zoning on the jacket which means there is warm
fill all over the jacket. This means the user experiences really
warm under arms and this leads to this area becoming damp with sweat. As
a mid layer I would expect the user to be relatively active whilst
wearing this and so there is a real issue with sweat build up. The
hydrophobic down treatment seems to do nothing with this issue.
I will continue to use the Rab
Microlight Alpine around town. However I do not even consider it for
backcountry use and it stays in the kit store at home. This review seems
very critical of Rab but they actually make some of the best outer
layer down jackets available along with sleeping bags and mountain
equipment it's just sad that they have not thought a little harder on