One shell to rule them all…. we take an in-depth look at the brand new, 2019, revamped Rab classic – The Latok GTX all mountain jacket.
If there is one item of clothing you need to invest heavily in if you are active in the UK mountains it’s a hardshell. This is one hundred percent an area where the buy cheap buy twice rule will kick your butt very hard indeed if you fail to heed it. The countless times I’ve seen, worked and played with people with sub standard hardshells is too numerous to mention.
And you definitely do get better for more money in outdoor gear – not only are you getting superior weather protection, you are often getting a better cut, better features and a more durable product where things like the zip will work faultlessly when your fingers are cold and wet. I cannot emphasise enough that the investment will pay off a hundred fold so instead of baulking at the price of high end hardshell jackets think of it more of an insurance policy; putting on the amour of a high quality hardshell gives you extra confidence that you can tackle extreme weather and get you and your partner off the mountain safely.
I’ve owned a Rab Latok jacket in the past and still use a pair of Latok pants for my autumn and winter hiking. The jacket I passed on a while back but the pants are still going strong even after 5 years of regular use. These were when the Latok was made using Event – a very breathable membrane that has worked fine, I just have to remember to wash them regularly as they they need that in order to keep the breathability in peak performance. Rab have now switched all there top end mountain hardshells to Gore-Tex, I think this is a good upgrade and well worth the extra expense. I’ve used jackets with every conceivable breathable membrane from own branded Patagonia H2No to Pertex Shield and Porelle. They’ve all worked OK but when I look through the jackets I use regularly they are all Gore-Tex (the only non Gore Tex jacket I still use is a montane running shell for summer) so the switch to Gore Tex makes sense as it is the industry standard for extreme weather protection. This does, however, increase the price as Gore- Tex doesn’t come cheap – but as I said buy cheap buy twice!
The Rab Latok GTX is a fully featured, all conditions, mountain jacket that is jammed packed with features that will see you through any weather condition a UK winter will throw at you. From the helmet compatible wired hood to the six pockets it has all you will need for a full day out on Ben Nevis in January. The main material feature is the 70D Gore-Tex Pro fabric, this is the top of the range fabric that Gore-Tex produce for their most extreme conditions. The majority of quality mountain brands will have a hardshell using Gore-Tex Pro, so again the pedigree is well established. One thing to remember with Gore-Tex Pro, and it is no exception on the Rab Latok GTX. The jacket will feel quite still on initial use, it will need ‘wearing in’ as you would a pair of top end mountaineering boots. The durability of the fabric and the various laminated zips and seams gives it its stiffness. This will soften over time and the more you wear the Latok the better it will feel – you’ve made an investment so wear it. They’re not designed to be put in the wardrobe, they’re designed to use and with the current trend for Tech Wear you can happily wear it on and off the mountain and recoup your investment in no time.
Gore-Tex comes with a guarantee to keep you dry and I’ve so far the jacket has worked as well as I expect it to. The jacket does have deep, zipped pit vents for that damp walk in. I’ve had several discussions with clients when I worked as a Mountaineering Instructor about why they are damp when wearing Gore-Tex and it will be because no amount of breathability (except maybe a string vest) will cope with humidity and sweat. Even with the pit vents fully opened you will feel damp, especially here you back and pack meet. I used to educate clients that warm and damp is comfortable, cold and wet isn’t. That said the Gore-Tex Pro dries out in no time and once I had rested for 5 to 10 minutes the jacket was dry enough to climb in so you will be impressed with the performance of the fabric.
The cut of the Rab Latok GTX is regular as it is an all mountain shell and needs to fulfil a wide range of mountain activities from hillwalking, mountaineering to winter climbing. I found it well cut, not too athletic and a generous Medium for my 40” chest measurement. That meant, however, that I could wear it easily over serval layers such as a merino base layer, thin fleece and an insulated shell and still climb in it comfortably. The arms are regular in length (which is always too long for me but then all my clothing is like that as I’m a ageing mesomorph and fighting off heading endo!) But the velcro cuffs kept the jacket in place. There is a small extension on the sleeve that offers a little knuckle protection. The cuffs are are bartacked (with a neat and high stitch count) which is sign of quality in these types of jacket. All of the high stress areas such as the interior pockets is also bartacked so Rab have really zoned in on the attention to detail with this jacket. The sleeves are articulated for climbing and this helps reduce the ride when reaching for that high ice axe hook. These is a double hem cinch so fine for left or right handed operation and the large thumb operated cord locks are great for gloves. Further adjustment for the fit can be made using the internal back waist cinch. Although this can be done on the fly with the jacket open I found it best to do this at home and then leave it. It’s very useful for cinching the jacket closer when wearing a climbing harness or a backpack hip belt.
As I said earlier the Rab Latok GTX has six pockets, two zipped hand warmer pockets useful for general walking. Two, cavernous chest pockets that you’ll find extremely useful for keeping all sorts of bits you need when on the move or on a belay. Importantly they can be accessed when wearing a pack so great for stashing gloves, maps and you can easily thread a compass lanyard to the oversized, glove friendly zip pulls. Then there are two internal pockets: one zipped security pocket so you can stash and access your phone and update your Instagram feed to show how gnarly you are in that hailstorm on the top of Snowden; and a larger mesh that will help keep spare gloves dry and warm as well as stashing food bars on that cold Scottish belay. So, very well featured for pockets and you’ll find nothing to complain about on the pocket front.
Finally to the hood, which can often make or break a mountain jacket. The hood on the Latok GTX is very generous and you will need to spend a little time getting the fit that is right for you. It will depend on what your intended activity is going to be. The hood is fully adjustable so you should be able to find the right fit easily enough. Rab have produced a handy guide to getting the right fit. I often wear a peaked cap to the wired peak worked great with that. I then found that if I kept the head section as it is and loosen the neck section I could get a good fit with a climbing helmet on. The generous design of the hood did create some problems in high winds though as the sides developed ‘tunnels’ which forced the hood back. This wasn’t as much of an issue when wearing a climbing helmet and the chin guard meant that the worst of any weather is kept out of your face. On the whole though the hood is good and you should find a fit for you with a little ‘fettling’. The hood can be rolled down and secured with a large tab located at the top of the shoulder blade area if you feel the hood is too cumbersome when not in use.
The jacket is fitted with reflected decals on the sleeve, the front chest and base of the jacket – my feeling is that if you are going to have reflective patches then make them big, bold and located in useful areas of the jacket. The back of the hood is good so people following you can locate you and on the arms which again are easily visible from a distance.
The Rab Latok GTX is a superb hardshell and easily sits comfortably with other top end, premium brands. It’s fully featured and all these features come with a weight tag at 580g but I feel it’s the sort of jacket that you will find perfect for when you are deliberately heading out into ‘weather’ so you’ll be putting it on and it will be staying on for the duration of your adventure. If you are looking for a climbing specific jacket the Muztag GTX with it’s hybrid Gore-Tex Pro and Active materials could be more useful but the Latok is an all mountain jacket suitable for any type of mountain activity. The move to top end Gore-Tex is a good one and you’ll find the extra investment worth it. One of the best Rab jackets I’ve ever used (and I’ve used a lot!).
The Rab Latok GTX comes in two colour options and sizes XS to XXL. The SRP is £440 and it is available direct from Rab UK.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!