British Mountain Guide Al Powell reviews the Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket.
I’ve been using the Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket all summer for guiding in the Alps and through the autumn in the UK for running, biking and climbing – so plenty of use in a wide range of conditions.
First off, I need to declare some history here: I was actually involved in the development and testing of the very first Vapour Rise jackets back in the late 90’s – my job was to test Rab garments to destruction in as many and varied conditions as possible – so the original vapour rise jacket I had was abused for over 1000 days on the hill before anything broke – and that was just a zipper! I took it on several trips to the Alps in winter, Scotland every weekend, I went fell running and rock climbing in it and took it on several expeditions – it just seemed to work well for everything. By the end, that first jacket was totally UVed and faded, but it simply wouldn’t die…
Things moved on and our company became testing and brand ambassadors for another well-known company for several years (think broken fossils..) – so I got to wear and test a lot of other top quality kit.
Currently I’m not tied to a single brand however, so having used the very best softshell jackets on the market, I chose to buy a Rab Vapour Rise Lite Alpine Jacket – because I wanted something very lightweight, windproof and breathable, offering light insulation, that also worked well as a layering piece.Additionally, it needed to give good protection against the weather, have a decent (preferably stowable) hood and a good sized chest pocket – oh, and also it needed to look good for work and be available in a nice bright colour for photos – so not too much to ask!
There simply isn’t anything else available on the market that weighs under 350g and covers all of these bases well – and fundamentally, I still think Vapour Rise beats all of the other fabric technologies that I’ve tried in terms of comfort, versatility and performance on the hill. Along the way I dabbled with a lightweight Marmot ether driclime jacket – which looked good, but wasn’t durable or breathable enough and the hood was too basic, so now I just use it for running.
Ok – so why did I choose the Lite Alpine jacket in particular? Well, firstly it’s fairly light and not too hot, so good for summer alpinism and a wide range of activities (I’m planning to get the slightly lighter Vapour Rise Flex Jacket too, for hotter weather and higher output activities, where it would be ideal). Secondly, it’s extremely well designed – ie it’s got a great climbing cut, an excellent wired hood (this really protects you well when the weather closes in), two good sized chest pockets and adjustable cuffs that deal with different glove combinations. Thirdly, vapour rise is highly windproof, but also wicks and breaths incredibly well (most softshell fabrics do one at the expense of the other…) – so it’s more comfortable over a wide range of conditions and continues to transport moisture well when you add layers on top.
The only thing I can think of that you have to be aware of with Vapour Rise is what you wear underneath. Most people just wear a t shirt, which is fine (Vapour Rise next-to-the-skin also works really well) – but if you wear something long sleeved underneath, then you’ve got to make sure it has a smooth outer face, or the two garments will cling together and become difficult to adjust. This is a small and avoidable point however and beyond this the jacket cannot really be faulted.