Spoiler alert! The Rab Pacer is the best runner’s waterproof jacket I have used, period. Since the mid 80s I’ve used a lot of waterproofs for running in fell races, mountain marathons, ultras and supporting friends on things like the BG and Paddy Buckley. Of all the jackets that I’ve used the Pacer comes closest to the impossible goal of keeping you dry and comfortable whilst weighing little and packing away to nowt. It does rather fall down on the costing nowt front but you can’t have everything! My favourite running shell for a long time was an old Troll jacket made of sil-nylon, not breathable, no taped seams (so wouldn’t pass modern kit checks) but the fabric was waterproof, it was light and packed away easily. Pete Bland did a version that I could swear came from the same factory for a few years too. However things move on – if you race these days a seam taped waterproof is required by most kit checks (I suspect to save arguments over what is and isn’t a waterproof) and there are a plethora of options out there some more suited to the mountains than others. The Pacer is the best I’ve come across for serious use in the hills.
The Rab Pacer is not the lightest of Rab’s waterproof running shells, that title goes to the Phantom so if you want the lightest shell to pass your kit check then you may want to look in that direction. However if you want a jacket (rather than a smock) that offers full on protection against the worst that the hills can throw at you and not having to worry about the odd rock or branch contact the Pacer is the better bet. It is made from a ‘sensibly light’ but durable 13D GORE-TEX® ACTIVE fabric weighing in at 231g for my small with stuff sac (221g without).
Features wise you get a cleverly designed hood that snugs down with a single elasticated draw cord to the rear and an effective peak. It will fit easily over a running cap and I’ve even worn it over a low profile helmet though that is pushing it. A press studded tape allows you to secure the rolled hood out of your way if so desired. A single chest pocket easily accomodates compass, race map, gloves and Buff as well as the supplied stuff sac. The stuff sac is a sensible size making it easy to stuff the jacket away even when wet and it has a strong loop to clip to a harness if needed. I much prefer stuff sacs over stuff-able pockets most of the time – there is no worry that you may rip your jacket as you rapidly stuff it away and generally they are MUCH more easy to stuff, obviously there is the possibility of loosing it but I haven’t done so with any yet (some companies such as Arcteryx and Patagonia tether the stuff sac which is a best of both worlds in my opinion). The hem has an elasticated draw cord with two concealed cord grips to seal out the weather. This makes for a snag free and streamlined set up but there is a slight concern regarding user serviceability if one should break though Rab’s excellent after sales service mitigates this to a great extent. The arms are a good length with a slightly articulated cut finishing with a half elasticated wrist and wrist ‘cowl’ that helps keep your hands a little warmer on those miserable days out. There are two small vents in the armpits to help with breathability but to be honest I could not notice any benefit from these, they seem far too small to allow increased ventilation. Finally there is an external hang tab, an oft overlooked feature allowing you to hang your wet jack up without having a hook sticking into the hood and potentially wearing the fabric or stratching the draw cords like I often do. It is worth mentioning as well that Rab has recently become an approved member of the Fair Wear Foundation helping to ensure safe and ethical working practice for all members in it’s supply chain.
I was looking forward to packing the Pacer for the Ring of Steal race in September but the pandemic put a stop to that. Instead I’ve been using it for runs in the Lakes and Dales as well as a bit of hiking in Scotland and the occasional mountaineering type day out. Although very much a running shell it will work across most ‘fast and light’ mountain disciplines though as I mentioned before you’d be pushing it to comfortably get the hood over a helmet as it was never designed with that in mind. For me the standout feature is the cut, it is slim without being restrictive and when you’re zipped up and cinched down you feel secure against the weather whilst still being able to move freely. The more substantial fabric of the Pacer compared to ‘ultralight’ fabrics like that of the Phantom feel warmer to me when you’re getting battered by the wind and for big days out especially in remote areas, or mountain marathons, it makes a better choice. It is often tempting to go for the ultimate in lightweight kit but it’s worth considering that the sponsored heroes finishing at the sharp end of the race will be spending a lot less time on the course that most of us and when the straps from their race vest have worn through their flyweight shell jacket they won’t be dipping into their wallets to get a replacement! The Pacer is ‘sensibly lightweight’ and should last a good few seasons of intensive use making it the perfect choice for most of us. If you’re feeling flush you could always train in the Pacer and have a Phantom for race day!
- Great cut
- Light enough
- Durable enough
- Sensible feature set
- Dubious armpit vents
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising. 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 reasons and more often they’re in no fit state to return!