As the iconic Microlight series reaches it’s 10th Anniversary we take a look at the great Alpine model. Lightweight, stylish and great performance features means that The Microlight Alpine is a jacket for all adventures.
Anyone who has spent long in the mountains will have owned a Rab jacket. My first serious down jacket (which cost me nearly two weeks wages) was a made in Sheffield Rab down jacket that was my trusty friend for over 10 years. I then passed it on to a mate who used it for another 10 years before it finally fell apart. So we can safely say Rab is synonymous with down. The Rab logo is based on down, the two waves signify down feathers. The range is now fairly extensive and you can buy a jacket to suit any adventure – even a full Himalayan suit if you are planning to storm Everest anytime soon.
The most popular down jacket though is the Microlight range. It’s lightweight, easy wearing and good features means that it can be seen on local hikes, television presenters and climbers alike. The range is fairly extensive with the warmer Summit, the Alpine which comes in a longer version for extra coverage, a non hooded Jacket and a vest. So there will be something for everyone.
For most adventures the Rab Microlight Alpine is a great jacket, it’s streamlined enough to wear as a mid layer or with a harness. The fit also works well if you need to wear it with a pack on – think cold rock climbing days or sitting on a summit with you pack on so keep you back warm.
The outer and inner is Pertex Quantum which has a proven track record as a lightweight and breathable fabric, whilst offering enough wind protection to keep you warm for a brew stop. You should remember though that it isn’t waterproof and will only shed the lightest of showers. The micro stitched through baffles keep the down where it’s needed and minimises the annoying leakage than can occur with cheap down ‘puffer’ jackets.
The down is responsibly sourced down from EU manufacturers which means that the Microlight Alpine holds the RDS, as do all the down jackets made by Rab. The down also has a hydrophobic treatment using a process made in conjunction with Nikwax. It also Flourocarbon free so you can wear the jacket confident in the knowledge that the jacket is as sustainable as it can be. I patiently tell people that a hydrophobic treatment of down does not make the down waterproof and if you wear a down jacket in the rain, even if it is hydrophobic down, it will quickly wet through. This is the same with synthetic fillings, there have been plenty of times I’ve worn an insulating layer in snow conditions to find it we through after an hour or so.
A hydrophobic treatment is designed to make the down mimic the benefits of synthetic insulation and retain the benefits of down’s packability. In all the years I have been using down and synthetic jackets I would say that if you are planning to winter climb or be out in damp conditions a synthetic jacket will definitely keep you warmer. But if you can only afford one jacket then a hydrophobic treated down jacket is a better investment as it’s more versatile. The down can be washed using Rab Wash, Rab’s own brand specialist down wash.
The down on the Rab Microlight Alpine has performed well. I’ve been testing it in the damp UK conditions of November and December and the jacket has kept me warm. The down retains a nice loft in misty conditions and does dry quite quickly in the drying room of the hut. It is super packable and comes with a separate stuffsack, my preference is for a pocket stow in these type of jackets as a stuff sack is just something else to lose on the hill in the faff of putting on and taking off jackets. There is, however, a large strap on the bottom of the stuff sack to make clipping it to a harness better. Down has come a long way and the treatments are improving all the time. The Nikwax treatment is as ethical and sustainable as it comes and I think Rab have done a good job here.
The Microlight range is popular because it’s light, easy to wear and will stuff into the tightest pack space and the Microlight Alpine doesn’t disappoint. I was quite happy to take it Mountain Running on colder days as it really did stuff into my small running pack. The stated weight is 470g and the size Medium weighed in at 427g so I’m assuming the official jacket is a size large.
The Microlight Alpine jacket is designed as a multi purpose jacket. It’s suitable for many if not all your adventures. As long it’s going to be dry and not too cold the jacket will serve you well. You name it the Microlight Alpine will be suitable for it (OK, maybe not swimming!) and indeed I have worn it for mountain days out as well as cragging, bouldering and local hikes with my wife. The fit is athletic and designed for activity, it acts as a mid layer for cover conditions as well as an insulating outer layer for three season use (or four if you are on an ultralight, fast moving day). If you feel you would like something warmer then the Microlight Long version would be a better option. But for climbing and fast moving activities the fit of the Microlight Alpine is very good. The torso is body hugging and fits well with a harness or pack, extra warmth can be achieved by cinching the hem with the dual shock cord adjusters which were easy to find and adjust with gloves on. Extra warmth comes from the elasticated and snuggly fitting wrist cuffs which were easy to get over some thin gloves .
The pockets are well situated for hand warming and the chest pock is a good size to fit a phone and some food or some gloves if you’re belaying. The handwarmer pockets are a little too low to be fully effective with a harness on but there was enough room to undo the zips and put a pair of gloves in. The reverse YKK zips help keep the wind out and worked well in all test conditions and the lightweight zip pulls worked well with gloves on.
The main zip was again a reversed YKK coil zip and was easy to use with gloves on and in windy conditions. There is a baffle to help make the jacket really windproof and warm and the microfleece lined chin guard was nice and cosy when I wanted to keep the whole jacket zipped up tight. The hood isn’t helmet compatible but does fit neatly under one, there are thankfully no back adjusters as tension is maintained via two elasticated sections at the back of the hood, there are two interior adjusters at either side to keep the hood tensioned. These worked really well at keeping the hood in place, even in breezy conditions. The hood is finished with a laminated peak that has a flat wire to help keep the peak where needed.
In conclusion the Rab Microlight Alpine is a great jacket for all your mountain adventures. Over it’s 10 year evolution it’s gone from strength to strength to become a true all round outdoor adventure jacket that fully deserves it’s iconic status. It comes in a vast range of seven colours for men and six for women. Even though it has a stuffsack and not pocket stow I have no hesitation in giving this jacket the coveted CGR Five Stars.
The Rab Microlight Alpine comes in wide range of colours and sizes S – XXL for men and sizes 8 – 16 for women.
SRP £190 and available from Rab and specialist retailers.