Light, stretchy and designed for climbing.
We’ve reviewed and featured several Rab products on the site now. The history of the company is steeped in climbing and they have a good design team who are obviously climbers, hikers and runners themselves. The kit is well designed and fit for purpose and the Rab Borealis Jacket is no exception; a great jacket for your outdoor adventures. It’s tricky to define what makes for a good climbing jacket as there are always compromises: if you need it to be waterproof then you compromise on breathability and vice versa. So, the best thing I’ve discovered is to have a small range of clothing that will do the job. I like to have a reasonable windproof for wearing all day and a very light waterproof outer for the summer. Unless the weather is forecast cooler I won’t take an insulation layer and will just rely on the fact that I’m moving all the time as I’ve chosen my day according to the weather.
With that in mind the Rab Borealis Jacket is a great, windproof climbing outer that has been the mainstay of my climbing wear through this great weather we’ve been enjoying in May. I’ve worn it for sporty climbing in the valleys, high mountain days on the crag, running and hiking. It’s definitely a ‘one size fits all’ jacket. Pared down to the bare minimum of useable features and light as a feather the Borealis is an ideal summer climbing jacket. The stretchy Matrix fabric is a single weave, windproof material that has stopped most breezes, if it gets too windy I just pop on a lightweight hardshell and that does the trick. There’s just enough thickness to the jacket to provide some warmth unless you are on extended belay duties when you’ll need that insulation piece. That means it is heavier (315g on the trusty CGR scales) than a dedicated windshell but it is warmer so you don’t need a fleece layer, therefore more versatile. I’ve combined it will a light insulated vest (gilet) and that has worked perfectly and the DWR coating shed a reasonable shower but soon wet through in anything heavier.
The weave is a little too tight for the jacket to be super breathable on a steep approaches but then you can just wear a long sleeve and put the jacket on when you get to the crag. But when it gets sweaty it dries out very quickly and of course, being a non membraned windproof you can just pop it in the wash with a mixed load and it won’t affect the performance (no fabric conditioner though!).
The fit is athletic and the stretchy fabric made it great for technical climbing as there was no rise in the arms or the body out of a harness and very little rise at the wrists. It works well with a pack on and the high chest pockets (one on either side) are accessible when wearing a pack and are big enough for phones, guidebooks and even a folded map. Needless to say, the pockets were perfectly located when wearing a climbing harness.
The YKK zips all worked well, including with gloves and the matching yellow zip pulls worked and looked good. There is also a dual hem cinch for keeping the warmth in when running and hiking and the hood worked fine under a climbing helmet and over a cap for hiking and running. No adjustments on the hood except for elasticated trim, this is also the case on the wrists. You can, however pull the sleeves some way up your forearms for when the going gets tricky and you need to get your climbing face on! The jacket is finished off with reflective detail on the front Rab logo and at the back in the centre of the shoulders (handy for night running or descents after your epic).
All in all, the Rab Borealis Jacket is a well designed jacket that really comes into it’s own when technical climbing. It works best with a long sleeved lightweight baselayer underneath. I have also used it successfully for hiking and running and it’s proved to be a great summer mountain jacket when the temperatures are too warm for my Rab Vapour Rise Alpine jacket.