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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Rab Vapour-Rise Trail Jacket > Owner Review by Tim Earley

Rab Vapour-Rise Trail Jacket
Owner Review
December 11, 2009

Tester Information:
Name: Tim Earley
Age: 26
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 0"/ 1.80 m
Weight: 185 lb/ 84 kg  
Email address:
City, State, Country: Yonkers, New York, USA

Backpacking Background:
My first exposure to backpacking was about seven years ago in the Army where I learned everything I needed to learn about being comfortable in the wilderness with little to no “comfort gear.”  I primarily do day hikes now, with the occasional overnight jaunt thrown in whenever possible.  I consider myself a lightweight packer, though not a minimalist.  My favorite hikes are those that have significant elevation change as these provide the best views, most challenge and best reward.  I am most comfortable in cool to cold weather as I tend to overheat in other seasons. 

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Rab
Model: Vapour-Rise Trail Jacket
Sizes: S-XXL available, XLarge reviewed
Color: Royal Blue and Black; available in dark shark (gray) and orange
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Listed weight: 15.52 oz (440 g)
Measured weight:16.2 oz (459 g) for an extra large
Fabric Content: Shell: 100% Polyamide; Lining 100% Polyester
Country of Manufacture: China

Product Description:
The Vapour-rise jacket is described by Rab as a year round mountain walking jacket with fully protective features and the perfect balance of windproofing and breathability.  The shell is made of Pertex Equilibrium fabric.  This fabric is designed to be highly windproof yet breathable, maintaining an ideal microclimate around the user.  Not surprising considering the name Equilibrium!  The inner liner is a soft fleecy material that is designed to pull moisture away from the skin and/or off the user’s baselayer and through the outer shell.  It is also very comfortable and warm when worn against the skin.  This layer seems to move independently of the outer fabric.  This can be a problem when putting donning the jacket with a baselayer on as the inner fabric will tend to stick to the baselayer and a bit of it ends up sticking out through the cuffs.  This is solved by using one hand to hold the “armpit” of the inner material while pushing the other hand through the sleeve.  Alternatively, a baselayer designed to slide under insulating garments works well.  I use a Power Strech Zip T and it does not snag on the inner fabric.  My Capilene 2 baselayer, however, does snag.

There are two zippered hand pockets and one zippered chest pocket.  They all have a piece of 1-1/2 inch (3.8 cm) cord attached to the zippers to make them usable with gloves on.  The chest pocket is sized for a standard sized trail map folded in half.  The hand pockets are good for warming my digits and stashing lip balm, snacks, etc.

The front of the jacket has a single non-weatherproof zipper that zips on the left side.  I didn’t realize this until I put it on for the second time on an ice climbing trip and thought “Oh no, I bought a girl’s jacket!” but then thought maybe the left side zipper was a European custom as Rab is a European company. 

The jacket hem is cut right below my hips so it’s a perfect length for a softshell layer, allowing plenty of mobility.  The only problem is that the hem can be a bit “loose” and so I almost always tighten the two shock-corded pulls and tighten down the waist whenever I’m hitting the trails.   The collar of the jacket comes up nice and high to protect the lower chin and neck and also folds back nicely if I don’t zip it up all the way (I rarely do).  The hood rolls into the collar and is help in place by hook and loop fasteners.  An interesting fact about the hood (and all Rab hoods, I believe) is that there is a wire brim in it.  This allows me to bend the brim of the hood however I see fit and it will stay that way.  This is a huge advantage over lots of jackets where the hoods have come down over my eyes when tightened.  The hood can also be tightened by classic shock-corded toggles on either side.

Initial Impressions:
My first experience with the Vapour-rise jacket, and with Rab as a whole, was in a gear shop right before my girlfriend and I headed out on an ice climbing trip on February 14th, 2009.  Yes, that’s right, we went ice climbing for Valentine’s Day!  I was looking for a good softshell option and this jacket was recommended by one of the gear shop employees.  His exact words were “This is the greatest jacket ever.  You will never need another jacket.”  So far, he’s right. 

I was immediately impressed with the fit of the jacket.  When I put it on I was thrilled with how it fit my body.  I’m a medium build person and this just fit me perfectly.  With that said, it was obvious to me that no more than a heavy base layer would fit under the jacket (this actually turned out to be incorrect, as you’ll read later on). 

I did notice a few loose threads, especially around the cuffs.  They appeared to be of the inner fabric, not the Pertex shell.  I figured these were just from the manufacturing process and pulled them out with no issue.  I also noticed that there were no pit zips and this concerned me a bit though the breathability of the garment has proven them unnecessary.

Owner Review:

Field Conditions:
I have used this jacket ice climbing, skiing, hiking, backpacking and for everyday around town use.  Temperatures have ranged from 5 degrees Fahrenheit to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 degrees Celsius to 13 degrees Celsius).  It has seen approximately 18  full days in the field as well as literally every day around town when temperatures are appropriate.  Every day in the field was with a pack on so it has stood up to pack abrasion well.

This jacket has seen rain, snow, and sleet and shed it well for a softshell.  It also sheds all but the worst wind well. 

This is my go-to jacket any time I go outdoors for any activity.  If it’s too warm to wear while working, it’s a great layer to have around camp at night.  If it’s too cold to wear it in camp, it’s the perfect outer layer while moving.  This versatility has earned it a permanent spot in my pack.

Overall I am thrilled with the performance of this jacket.  I had high expectations after the words of that gear shop employee but it has lived up to them.  The combination of warmth, windproofing, weather resistance and breathability seems impossible.  This jacket blocks all but the coldest winds, sheds all rain short of a downpour (or a consistent rain as it is still a softshell), and breathes well enough that I rarely overheat. 

The versatility of this jacket is another area that shines.  The inner fabric wicks well enough that the jacket can be worn by itself against the skin in early spring weather or during high output activities in the fall and early winter.  I also found that I was able to fit a surprising amount of insulation under it in bitter cold.  To this end, I’ve worn this jacket by itself against the skin, as an insulating layer, and as an outer layer.  You don’t get much more versatile than that! 

There are only two jackets I carry besides this.  A basic hardshell for really nasty weather, and an insulated parka for when it’s extremely cold or winter camping in camp.  This jacket fills every other need.

I was looking for a durable and versatile softshell jacket that would be useful in as many conditions as possible.  This jacket hit the bullseye.  I am very pleased with the weather resistance, wind resistance, warmth, and breathability.  I will continue to use this jacket on all my outdoor outings.

The Good:
1. Breathability
2. Versatility
3. Wind Resistance

The Bad:
1. The inner layer snags every time I put this jacket on.  Very annoying.
2. The jacket can ride up in front when I have my pack belt tightened.
3. The front zipper can be very stubborn to get started.  

Read more gear reviews by Tim Earley

Reviews > Clothing > Jackets and Vests > Rab Vapour-Rise Trail Jacket > Owner Review by Tim Earley

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