One of our new products for this spring is the Rab VR Lite Alpine Windshirt. I have been testing one of these for the last couple of months and it’s a beauty. The VR Lite fabric used is the lightest Vapour Rise fabric used to date by Rab and is just about spot on. Marmot have used the same Tricot lining with a lighter outer fabric which I felt wasn’t quite protective enough but the Pertex Equilibrium and lining used by Rab is a great combination of warmth (i.e. not too much) and weather protection.
In Jan and Feb I used it for biking and running, and generally wore a baselayer underneath, although if it’s warmer than expected the best solution is to remove your baselayer and put the VR Lite back on. I am disappointed in the performance of cycling gear so have taken to wearing proper outdoor gear on my bike (both road and mountain) during the winter and so have racked up quite a few road in the jacket. The athletic cut and generous arm length made it very comfortable.
However it’s not called the ‘Alpine Jacket’ for nothing and it performed just as well on my ski/touring trip this spring. Whilst the jacket is lightweight at 345g, it still features adjustable velcro cuffs, 2 decent Napoleon pockets and an adjustable hood. I have used a few lightweight products recently which have gone a bit too lightweight at the expense of features that you need. Happily Rab have keep a good hood and pockets rather than chasing the sub 300g weight tag.
As the weather was pretty good, I wore the VR Lite Alpine as my general jacket for the 2 weeks I was away. I prefer this style of jacket to a softshell as it is much more functional as a layering piece but just as good as an outer layer. In the past I think that the shiny outer on windshirts has meant people have shied away from using them as everyday jackets but the matt finish on the Pertex Equilibrium eliminates this problem. In cooler conditions I can see that you wear the jacket next to your skin and possibly layer over it but as the temperature rises you are better to wear a thin baselayer or techinical T underneath for when it’s just too warm for the jacket. If you use it both ways then it’s can be used year round for most activities.
The only thing I have noticed is that the jacket has suffered friction damage from the straps of my pack when running. This has not affected the function of the jacket but will turn into a hole after a couple of years use. This is not a fault with the jacket but a limitation of lighter weight fabrics. I have had exactly the same experience with the Montane Krypton Jacket that I am also testing. If you want your gear to last 5 to 10 years of constant use then you should steer clear of lightweight fabrics. Most people have a pile of redundant gear which is not worn out, surely it’s better for stuff to be lighter, more comfortable and pretty worn out by the time you replace it than over engineered.
I really can’t think of anything negative to say about the VR Lite Alpine Jacket as I really do love it. Combined with a couple of weights of baselayer and a good shell, it forms part of a proper clothing system.
The VR Lite Alpine Jacket is part of our Rab Summer 2012 Range.