The Vapour-Rise™ range has been a classic for many years now. in fact Dave reviewed an earlier model back in 2018 (the Vapour Rise Guide) The VR range are true ‘softshells’ a term that has become a little confused over the years and often gets translated as meaning ‘not quite waterproof’. Originally softshells were ‘not quite waterproof’ but they functioned to draw water way from the wearer and so keep them comfortably dry-ish in our rather awkward UK climate. Perhaps the most famous of these are the original Buffalo Double P (Pertex and pile) offerings that elicit Marmite like reactions from adherents and detractors. Rab’s Vapour-Rise™ Alpine Light is more conventional in style and much lighter in weight. It uses a shell made from lightweight Pertex® Quantum Air, alongside a combination of VR Wicking and VR Airflow polyester linings to transport excess moisture away from the body. The result is an extremely versatile jacket that functions brilliantly across a wide range of conditions from alpine to British winter climbing to summer fell walking.
The Alpine Light is the middle model of the VR range from Rab with the heavier ‘Summit’ version and a lighter ‘Ridgeline’. Each of the jackets share a similar design with a Pertex® Quantum Air ‘shell’ but with differing liner fabrics. The Alpine Light and the Ridgeline both use VR Airflow (75g/m²) and VR Wicking (102g/m²) whereas the Summit opts for a warmer VR Warm lining (83g/m²) and a slightly heavier gauge of Pertex® face fabric. Broadly speaking you go from the high output super breathable Ridgeline, via the Alpine Light to the more warmth focussed Summit. To my mind the Alpine Light hits the magical ‘Goldilocks’ level; not too hot for a winter approach with just a thin base layer yet plenty warm enough when supplemented with a light mid-layer (or two) for active winter or alpine summer activity. The Pertex® Quantum Air shell fabric is robust enough to survive a modicum of scrapping and abuse typical of climbing. The liner consists of in the main VR Wicking (102g/m²) throughout the body with a broad strip of VR Airflow (75g/m²) down the side of the torso and along the medial side of the arms.
With an unashamedly climbing focussed design you get two ‘Napoleon’ pockets that are well clear of a harness and will easily swallow maps (Harvey’s & French IGN fit fine whereas some of the bulky OS editions not so well), camera, food, climbing skins etc. no pub hand-warmer pockets here! The hood just about accommodates some helmets though it’s too tight with high volume models like Grivel’s Duetto and has a simple rear velcro volume adjuster. The volume adjuster works well enough but like all velcro fastening there can be issues in some typically Scottish conditions when it can become clogged by snow/spindrift/freezing rain. There is an easily adjusted hem drawcord with twin cord grips. The cuffs have no fastening system but rather a dart of more elastic material inset into the Pertex®. This produces a very neat low profile cuff easily tucked under the cuff of typical leading gloves for winter routes. However there is no way to really seal the cuff over a glove and the limited elasticity means that you may or may not be able to push the sleeves up to your elbow to cool down or avoid trashing the sleeve in some hideous jam crack. There has been a trend toward this type of cuff ‘fastening’ in recent years and by and large I like the simplicity, lack of bulk and robustness. However being able to regulate temperature by shoving your sleeves up is so useful! I wish the elastic dart was a little more generous as I found I could barely get the sleeve up to my elbow and it was not comfy once a little pumped!
There is plenty of room for movement around the shoulders but I felt the tailoring could be slimed down around the lower torso but this is an issue with all non-stretch shells and it is better to err on the side of a little extra room rather than constricting the wearer.
Staying comfortable in the mountains is a balancing act between temperature and moisture regulation which gets more difficult the more varied the user’s activity rate. If you were to choose a worst case scenario for clothing it would be hard to come up with something as tricky as winter climbing in Scotland. With valley temperatures hovering around freezing so that you get properly wet whilst walking vigorously in to beat the other teams to the route. Then you have the whole stop/start climbing routine with perhaps extended periods of being static on the belay (think technical mixed route). Finally the top out in a hoolie and walk back down to the van. The Alpine Light can be worn over a base layer for the walk in, unzipped or with pockets open to vent excess heat. When you tackle up remove it and don a mid-layer (base-layer wise I like the mesh Brynje stuff that holds almost no moisture as it’s mostly air!) and put the Alpine Light back on. The Vapour Rise will do its magic and move moisture outward and you’ll feel comfortably dry. If it’s miserable you can put your hardshell over the top. With a belay jacket for static times you should be fine for the climb. Come the top out and descent you’ll probably start with your hard shell on but can ditch it unless it’s chucking it down and continue down protected from the wind and light precipitation by the Alpine Light. The Alpine Light will keep you comfortable across a wide range of conditions, it’s not going to keep you dry in even moderate persistent rain but the corollary of that is the jacket’s breathability keeps you from overheating and in light rain and snow.
Overall I’d rate the Alpine Light as the most versatile of the Vapour-Rise range that will easily find a place in your climbing wardrobe from Scottish Winter through to Alpine Summer. Where I really look forward to using it will be for some summer alpine routes and winter cascade climbing in Cogne or Kandersteg when travel opens up again.
Versatile – wide comfort range
Climbing specific design
Cuff – may be too snug to roll up
Hood volume adjuster
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!