Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Rab Vapour Rise Lite Jacket

Overview

I walk very warm, even in cool weather. I find it easy to get too hot when heading off up a hill. I spend most of my time walking on the hill with just a long sleeved base layer for a top. Other than that, I only usually where a waterproof and a wind shirt if the weather demands. But as Autumn and then Winter sets in, these layers aren't enough.



Most of the softshells I look at are quite heavy and make me feel warm just to look at them. They would be okay for me in the depths of Winter, but what about Autumn and the normal winter days. I came across the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket and thought it seemed worth a try. It's a lot lighter than most softshells. It's a little lighter than my Montane Dyno, at around 360g compared to the Dyno's 400g,which I assume from Rab will be for the size Large. But even though it's lighter, the Tricot lining should add to both the thermal and wicking capabilities of the jacket.
 
First Impressions

The jacket does seem a little flimsy when you try it on for the first time. It's outer material is Pertex Equilibrium in a much lighter form than the Pertex Equilibrium Eco that makes up the Montane Dyno. The fit is slim, but seems to fit me fine.  I like how light the jacket is, you hardly notice you are wearing it. The fit and finish of the jacket seems like a very high quality.




I've recently been into a popular outdoor retailers and witnessed some absolutely shocking stitching on some trousers from a well known maker. A company that probably sells vast amounts of these trousers. Trousers that I once bought a pair of and there was no button on them to fasten them up. There was no sign that one had EVER been attached. So the Vapour-Rise gets the thumbs up on first impressions.


Features

Working from the top down. The hood, designed to go under helmets is roomy with a wired peak to help keep out the elements.


Hood wired peak.

There is an adjustable draw cord at the back of the hood for volume. Either side of the hood has draw cords to allow the hood to be closed down.  The hood can be stowed away using a buckled strap.


Rear hood volume adjuster.

Double hood adjusters.

Hood retention strap.

There are two YKK zipped Napoleon type chest pockets on the outside with quite a lot of room in them, big enough to hold a map or guide book. There is also a small YKK zipped pocket inside the jacket on the left which would take a phone, energy bar, or similarly sized pieces of kit.


Double Napoleon YKK Zippered pockets.

Inside YKK Zippered pocket.

The arms have plenty of room in them so as to permit reaching for holds etc when scrambling so as not to lift the jacket. The sleeves are adjustable using Velcro straps with a narrow section that is elasticated to make them more comfortable and give more flexibility.


Sleeve adjuster and elasticated section.

The hem of the jacket has draw cord adjusters on both the left and right sides allowing for easy cinching down to keep out the wind and cold.


One of the two hem adjusters.

The main zip is a YKK system with double zipper pulls to allow venting at the bottom of the jacket.


Double YKK Main Zipper.



In Use


Me on the Summit of Blencathra wearing the Vapour Rise Lite.

As far as wearing the jacket goes, it's down to when and where. I find that anything below around 12 degrees centigrade (about 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit), with an active base layer top, is the point at which I can start to wear the Vapour Rise in an active role. Above that and it gets way too warm. The Tricot lining does an excellent job of helping to keep me warm and dry. And working with the Pertex Equilibrium outer, keep the wind out.

The hood is very good, but, and there is a but, when considering the next jacket I will be reviewing, also by Rab. The hood, I think, could have been made more articulated, to turn with the head. I have bought a Rab waterproof to compliment the Vapour Rise that I feel has a far superior hood as far as articulation is concerned. I think the Vapour Rise would have benefited greatly from a hood that matched. I'm not saying it's bad, I just don't think it is as good as it could have been.

The pockets on the jacket have been more than useful. They are of a good size and hold maps, gloves and other items without a problem. The left hand pocket also has a small webbing strap in it around 2 inches long which would be useful for securing keys etc. The inside pocket will take my android mobile phone and possibly the new generation of larger screened phones.

The arms have plenty of room and have been up to the job when scrambling. The sleeves with their straps and elastic have been good at keeping an adequate level of tension around the wrist to keep out the wind and keep in warm air.

I find the hem adjustment easy to make, both in and out, again helping to keep out the elements and control, to some extent, body temperature. This task has been helped even further by the double zipper, allowing for venting at the bottom of the jacket.

As far as wear and tear goes, the jacket has, up till now, coped well. It's had to deal with a couple of tumbles in really wet weather, the riggers of scrambling in the Lake District and mud a bogs in the Peak District. So at this moment in time, as of writing this article, it has sustained no visible damage. The shoulder and waist material also seems to be coping with the weight of a 22 litre and a 44 litre rucksack with average load outs.


Conclusion

The jacket, for me, is of about the right weight (thermally) for use in the Autumn and Winter months in the UK. Or higher altitude walking in the warmer months where the temperature is cooler and there is a little more airflow from wind. Low altitude in Spring and Summer, the Vapour Rise Lite is a no go. But then, logically, this would probably be about right, as Rab seem to aim it as a Summer Alpine Softshell. 
Would I recommend it, that depends on your own particular system. If you tend to be on the cold side then a heavier jacket may be more suitable for winter, with the Vapour Rise Lite as a jacket for the warmer months. What I definitely know is that the heavier weight Softshells tend to be far too warm for me to use in the UK. The Vapour Rise, similarly to the Montane Dyno, just about hits the spot. Just a shame about that hood.