Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Very warm for its weight, stuffs into pocket, wind and water resistant
Cons: Poor breathability
Best Uses: Multi-pitch climbing, backpacking, hiking, alpine climbing
Throughout our extensive testing, the Rab Xenon X was our favorite synthetic insulated jacket and it ran away with our Editors' Choice Award for the second year in a row! The Xenon X offers very high quality insulation, an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, smart construction, and the ability to pack into its own pocket for ease of transport and multi-pitch climbing. Built with Pertex Quantum fabric, this jacket resists water and wind better than any other light weight and has well-designed, comfort oriented features.
We loved this jacket for its warmth and mobility and use it as both a mid and outer layer. However, it's important to note that this jacket is not very breathable. In our updated 2014 review, we tested several products that feature new technology that's expanding the light insulated market. The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody, with its soft, wicking fabrics and new breathable insulation was our go-to piece for high energy mountain running and backcountry skiing missions. Check out The North Face ThermoBall Jacket, our Best Buy winner, if a dedicated light and warm mid layer is what you're after. Our Editors' Choice winner, however, offers plenty of versatility as both a mid and outer layer and we recommend it for all different types of users for almost all different types of activities.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Rab Xenon X earned high scores across our test metrics and easily outpaced the competition in overall score. Our Editors' Choice winner is the most versatile jacket we tested, performing well as a mid layer and blowing away the competition for weather resistance as an outer layer.
Insulated with PrimaLoft's top-of-the-line insulation, the Rab Xenon X has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios. The 60g/m2 PrimaLoft GOLD wraps you in cozy warmth and the minimal stitching that secures the blanket of insulating fibers to the inner liner creates a more lofty jacket than models that use the same insulation with more stitching.
The snug-fitting hood contributes greatly to the warmth and it's just stretchy enough to fit over a helmet. Several other fine features also help seal in warmth: the waist hem can be cinched up tight, the elastic cuffs fit fairly close at the wrist, and the hand pockets have insulation on both sides, unique for a lightly insulated jacket.
If you're looking for something a bit warmer overall, the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody is an excellent medium insulated jacket that we love for truly cold weather missions.
Weight and Compressibility
This jacket is light, tipping our scale at 13.1 ounces. Only the Montbell UL Thermawrap Jacket and the ThermoBall weigh less, and neither has a hood. This is one of the models we tested that has an integrated stuffing option; it easily packs away into its chest pocket. While it is similar in size to the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody when stuffed, it's not packed in there as tightly and could compress smaller. These two jackets, the Rab Xenon X and Nano Puff are the best options for folks who want an insulated jacket to clip to their harness for multi-pitch climbing. We find the Xenon X far superior: it's lighter and much more wind and water resistant.
Because this jacket uses very little stitching to secure the insulation, it feels softer and more lofty than others. The inner and outer fabrics are more free to move independently with this design, and we found the Rab Xenon X to have great mobility. You can turn your head or raise your arms without moving the torso and lifting the hem. Did we say already that it's great for climbing?
The hood is snug-fitting, has no adjustment, and has the largest patches of cozy micro fleece at the chin and neck of any we tested. The two zippered hand pockets surround your hand with insulation on both sides and the zippered pocket on the left chest provides ample storage while doing double duty as the stow-away pocket. The main zipper has a really nice ergonomically shaped pull and we wish the hand and chest pockets had the same instead of knotted cord. The elastic wrist cuffs have a snug fit to seal in warmth and keep the wind out and the waist hem can be snugged up with a cord lock at either hip.
The outer shell is comprised of 20D ripstop nylon with a Pertex Quantum coating and it's great at keeping you dry in an unexpected rain. This fabric has not been sealed at the seams and will eventually soak through if it rains a lot. However, there are very few seams in the outer fabric and the Rab Xenon X provides some of the best water resistance of the jackets we tested. On top of this, the DWR treatment is excellent and continues to bead water after we've abused it for months.
When we stood out in the howling, cold wind coming off the Continental Divide to test wind resistance, there was no contest. Except for the big, heavily insulated jackets, the Rab Xenon X stopped the wind like no other. This is another great attribute of the nearly seamless Pertex Quantum shell, the wind just can't get through it.
Again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This jacket has a clean appearance with the smooth, somewhat shiny outer fabric. Our test model was light blue with neon green accents, but the other two colors available are subdued: slate blue and black. This jacket has an athletic fit and will flatter fellas with wide shoulders.
We find this versatile jacket travelling with us on all kinds of adventures, and we use it as both a mid layer and outer layer. It's super light and warm for long hiking or backpacking trips. It stuffs away into its pocket and is a perfect layer to clip to your harness on long climbs. We've worn it downhill skiing on fair weather days and found it comfortable. Short of high energy activities that demands more breathability, this jacket does it all.
The Rab Xenon X is a killer, screamin' deal! At $215, it's one of the least expensive models we tested and it easily out distanced the competition for overall performance.
You won't find a more versatile jacket among the models we tested or a better value. This is a great jacket. Carry it on your harness on long climbs, wear it at the ski resort on fair weather days, or layer it under and shell for hiking in cool, rainy weather.
The women's version of this jacket, the Rab Xenon X Hoodie – Women's, also won the Editors' Choice award. The Xenon X is not available without a hood.
— Brandon Lampley & Chris Simrell
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Most recent review: November 18, 2014
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