Well, it’s finally starting to feel like winter is setting in. I mean, it’s the first time I’ve felt the need to wear full length tights, the first time my face has felt on fire after a long run, as the warmth of my old terraced house defrosts and thaws weathered skin. All this and its midway through December. What is happening with the weather these days? I probably sound like I’m double my age, fixating about the the conditions outside, devoid of other things to talk or reminisce about.
So, if you follow me on Instagram or YouTube (YT – I promise I’ll do more with it in the new year) you may have seen a green jacket appearing now and again….. it is in fact Rab‘s latest Microlight Alpine down jacket, created to celebrate Rab’s 10 Anniversary since they launched a product which has become iconic – they’ve sold close to 800,000!
Back in 2011, I remember driving down from Sheffield to Rab’s HQ in Alfreton, on a cold winters morning, queuing up for their sample sale. With it being 7ish in the morning, I anticipated a quiet event. How I was wrong. The line of people wrapped around the estate, as I joined the back, aiming to get a bargain. As a size Small, the odds were not in my favour, industry samples are normally medium or large, however I persisted.
After escaping the bitter conditions, thumbing through hangers, looking for the rare ‘S’, the first item I pulled out was a cobalt blue Microlight jacket (the hoodless version). I would wear this gem for the next few years, before donating it to a homeless charity, with a number of other items, as I felt selling a sample/second, when I’d already bought it was bad form. So hopefully, a homeless person in the Milton Keynes area benefitted from Rab’s work.
Rab’s Microlight is a lightweight, packable down jacket, which can be warn as an outer layer for chilly days or a mid layer, when things get gnarly. For the runner, you can wear it pre/post run, stick it in your pack for a mulitday day effort or bothy bagging outing. There are lighter weight options out there, however, the Microlight balances weight, features and practicality. Versatility may be today’s buzzword.
Where have you been in your Microlight I hear you ask?
Loadsa places my friends.
I lived in the Microlight at the Ring of Steall SkyRace, Original Mountain Marathon, Kendal Mountain Festival, a day at Revolution Bike Park, heck, anywhere I haven’t been legging it around or exerting myself too hard. Although we have had on the whole, a relatively mild autumn, the Microlight’s 750FP Ethically-sourced R.D.S certified European goose down, strikes a balance between warmth and practicality. In doing so, it allows you to stick it on over a t-shirt in 5-12 degrees centigrade, and over more layers when the mercury begins to plummet. I was wrapped up when the temperatures dropped below zero at the OMM, walking around basecamp and sleeping in my car. Similarly on those days that started freezing, but rose to be warmer, I wasn’t immediately suffering from having a large jacket that would dehydrated me rapidly.
I opted for a size small jacket, I’m 5ft 7″ and around 11 stone. The fit is pretty regular on me, though classed as slim, you have been warned. I tend to like this map my body. Enough room for a light fleece underneath, such as Rab’s Flux Pull On, though anything more and you may need to consider a larger size. The body length is spot on, not finishing around your waist, with sleeves being as Goldilocks would say “just right.” There is enough freedom to wail your arms around like a wind turbine and you won’t find the jacket immediately climbing up your back, clinging on like its crimping for it’s life.Now, if you’re like me, there are two important factors for any down jacket – hand warmer pockets and the hood. You are going to live in these when it gets freezing, so they better be good. I have a 58cm head, so not the smallest noggin out there and I found the hood fits well. It has a stiffened peak which I am a fan of. They help keep the sun out your eyes, light precipitation if its dripping and aesthetically, remove you from looking like you’re walking around in a sleeping bag with arms.You can cinch down the hood, to give you a closer fit, for if you’re seeking shelter inside a bothy or tent, or if the winds pick up. The internal (hidden) elasticated draw chords, does away with buttons and spring loaded catches, utilising a small stopper which is just as effective and less likely to go wrong. With the excess chord being held within the jacket, theres no chance of stray elastic whipping you in the eye.A micro fleece lining prevents chin irrigation and as you can see from the image above, the neck area of the jacket easily accommodates when the hood is not in use. Nothing worse than this area wrapping around your throat when ever you wear it.There are hand pockets, two in fact. They sit behind the down baffles, warming hands and have enough room for use with gloves too. On the chest you will find a napoleon pocket (poor chap) that runs parallel to the main zip. At the bottom hem, there are two adjusters to allow you to customise the fit and keep the warmth in when it matters.
Cuffs are pre-elasticated to avoid the hassle of adjustments on the fly and for looking to travel with your jacket, either in in your pack or hold luggage, a stuff sack is included. Remember, you can damage down overtime, if you leave it always compressed, so I recommend you take it over of the stuff sack when ever it doesn’t need to be. Give it a shake and hang it up.
To keep weight down, the outer and inner fabric is Pertex® Quantum. It’s light, strong and above all, durable. Yes, don’t go rushing into a gorse bush when the mood strikes, but for repeated stuffing in the stuff sack, wearing around the crag, around camp, it’ll put up with a lot. To aid with stripping out weigh where possible, the jacket is constructed using micro stitch-through baffles, which minimises material and the quantity of stitching required. These combine, along with down, zips etc to a small jacket that weighs in at 389 grams on my Park Tool scales (for reference a Large comes in at 470 grams).
Durable but light material, a good fill power and to add the versatility, Fluorocarbon free Hydrophobic Down developed in conjunction with Nikwax®. This will prevent the down from clumping together and loosing all its thermal properties in the event it gets soaked. I am not for one moment suggesting you purposely wear the Microlight Alpine in a storm instead of your hard shell, but it provides confidence that in the event you are caught out or have no option other than to wear the Microlight in wet conditions, you aren’t going to damage it. Earlier I said about the versatility of the Microlight and I stand behind this. With the adjustable hood, deeper hand pockets and greater warmth than some of the lighter options out there, it lends itself to a jacket for broader use. I should point out when I’m saying lighter we are talking in the region of 50 grams.
You are comfortable wearing it at races, casually, the pub, to work, it fits a lot of roles and doesn’t try to master one. the features make living in it that bit more pleasant and comfortable than a full stripped back jacket. It was fine in late summer, early autumn, right through today the 16th December. If things got cooler, I’d stick a hardshell over the top to retain more heat, but I haven’t found the need to go for my Electron.
But what if I could change anything about it…..?
If I was to pick this as a mountain marathon/FKT/Multi day insulation layer, I’d like to to be more compact, as does take a descent wedge of space in your pack. Now, I’m not sure what would be the best way of achieving this, getting that balance between materials, construction and thermal properties. It should also be noted that Rab make their Zero G jacket, which weighs in at 310g for a large and uses the mystical 1000+ Fill Down, for the ultimate blend of warmth to weight. It’s also double the price of the Microlight Alpine at £380 vs £190. So if you’re looking for ultralight, compact and warm, there is a more potent package, but, it comes at a price.
After all that, leave the Microlight where it is, they’ve already created the dream.So in summary, the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket is a well thought out lightweight down jacket, that has been refined over 10 years and is a stronger contender for anyone looking for a down jacket for use in a variety of conditions and scenarios. Feature rich and comfortable, it has the versatility to perform in a wide variety of tasks. If a jacket came close to achieving one sizes fits all, this could well be the closest to the mark.
Supplied by Rab Equipment | This is not a paid promotion
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Aw, this was a really good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to produce a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a lot and don’t manage to get anything done.