Rab have recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their famous Microlight jacket range and to coincide with this they have released the new Microlight Summit Jacket. The Microlight Summit is a higher spec more technical version of the Microlight Alpine.
At the start of March I went away to Cogne Ice climbing so I took one along with me to put it through its paces, and to see if Rab have been able to make any improvements on the micro baffle down jacket.
Hereís a rundown of some of the key features. †The Summit uses the new Pertex Quantum Infinity Weave fabric for the main construction and is filled with 750fp Hydrophobic down. It has a helmet compatible hood, a two way main zipper, two hand warmer pockets and one internal security pocket. It also has its own stuff sack with strap so that you can clip it to the back of your harness when climbing.
The fabric that Rab have chosen to use is an incredible feat of engineering in my eyes, itís called Pertex Quantum Infinity weave. What Pertex have created is a fabric that is continuously woven through itself to create the baffles in the jacket.† So apart from where each panel of the jacket and zips are attached to one another there is no stitching at all, its magic! Well, not quite magic but it is very impressive.† By eliminating the need to use stitches to create the baffles the fabric is much more wind proof, which is really noticeable. I also believe that by creating a fabric in this way much less down will leak out of the jacket. Have a look at the close up image below and you will see how it differs to the traditional Pertex Quantum used on the Microlight Alpine. The face fabric is treated with a DWR and the down has also been treated with Nikwax to create Hydrophobic down. Ideal to keep light snow showers off.
The helmet compatible hood is large enough to get over almost all lids, I have a BD Vapour and it slides over it very easily. It also has a neat elastic brim on the inside of the hood which helps keep it in place. Thereís also a Velcro volume adjuster at the rear and an elastic cord adjustment to ensure a snug fit around your face. Rab have also made an improvement on the sleeves by adding stretchy nylon cuffs which makes it really easy to get the jacket on over bulky gloves and mitts.
As for the fit of the jacket it is slightly longer cut than the normal range of Microlight jackets which means it keeps your bum warm on cold belays and the addition of the two way zipper means you can part the jacket to keep your belay loop visible and clear to use. When zipped up fully the jacket offers a large amount of face protection so you can hunker down out of the cold which I really liked.
The Summit jacket is probably not the best choice as a Scottish winter layer but is ideal as a summer alpine mid layer or belay jacket. The temperatures in Conge were quite mild, ranging from -7 in the early mornings to 16/17 degrees during the day. The Summit was adequate for these temperatures however if it was any colder I would be more inclined to take a larger jacket such as a Rab Positron or Mountain Equipment Vega.
I was a little apprehensive as to how durable the fabric would be especially around sharp ice axes and screws but after a week of heavy use in Italy and a winters use commuting to and from work there are no real signs of wear, just the normal dirt and grime build up as expected.
Rab have added some great features to the Summit jacket making it a much more functional Alpine/Climbing jacket. It is definitely a step up from the already brilliant Microlight range. Iím really looking forward to using it again in the Alps later on this year.