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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Poor breathability
Throughout our extensive testing, the Rab Xenon X Hoodie was our favorite synthetic insulated jacket and continues its three-year run as our Editors' Choice winner! 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 lightweight jacket we tested and has well-designed, comfort-oriented features.
We loved this jacket for its warmth and mobility and use it frequently as both a mid and outer layer. However, it's important to note that this jacket is not very breathable. In our updated 2015 review, we tested several very breathable products that feature industry-shaping new technology. 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 Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, our Best Buy winner, if an affordable jacket that combines breathability and weather resistant features 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 many different types of activities.
RELATED: Our complete review of insulated jackets - men's
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Rab Xenon X Hoodie earned high scores across all our test metrics except breathability, and easily outpaced the competition in overall score. Our Editors' Choice winner is the most versatile lightly insulated jacket we tested, performing well as a mid-layer and blowing away the competition for weather resistance as an outer layer. We are also surprised how light it is considering that it has comfort features like micro fleece chin patches that are absent on similarly light models.
Insulated with PrimaLoft's top-of-the-line insulation, the Xenon X has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios in this review. The 60 g/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 loftier jacket than models that use the same insulation with more stitching. Finally, the very wind resistant shell fabric contributes to warmth when this jacket is worn as an outer layer which we did often.
The snug-fitting hood contributes greatly to this jacket's 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 to snuggle your bare hands, unique for a lightly insulated jacket.
We found the Xenon to be warmer than another similar model in this review, the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. 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. The Atom AR is brilliant under a hardshell in very cold weather, and is stylish for around town wear.
For the warmest synthetic model we tested, be sure to look up the award winning Patagonia DAS Parka, which is just right for frozen belays and hanging around in camp.
Weight & Compressibility
This jacket is light, tipping our scale at 13.1 ounces. Only 4 of the other 13 models weighed in lighter, and none are as warm. The Outdoor Research Cathode weighed in a fraction of an ounce lighter than the Xenon X, but isn't as warm or weather resistant, and lacks comfort features. The other 3 lighter models are all hoodless and best used as a mid layer. Our Editors' Choice winner 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 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 Hoody 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 move more independently with this design, and we found the 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? That said, the absolute most comfortable models we tested are the highly breathable Nano Air Hoody and the Outdoor Research Uberlayer. In addition to great mobility and comfort for high exertion activity, both have soft and stretchy fabrics that are very cozy.
The Xenon's 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. Finally, 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 of this piece is 20D ripstop nylon with a Pertex Quantum coating, and it's great at keeping you dry in a light rain and blocking the wind. This fabric has not been sealed at the seams and will eventually soak through if it rains a lot. That said, there are very few seams in the outer fabric and the Xenon X provides some of the best water resistance of the jackets we tested. Pairing this jacket with the Marmot Essence ultralight rain jacket is a favorite layering system for our lead tester. On top of this, the DWR treatment is excellent and continues to bead water even after we've abused this jacket 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. The closest competitor in function is the Nano Puff Hoody, and it is less weather resistant.
As we've mentioned, the near continuous water resistant shell of this jacket contributes to relatively poor breathability. What we love about the Xenon X is how well it resists wind, and the ability to handle a brief light rain. These attributes do not lend themselves well to good breathability. If that's what you're after, then the Patagonina Nano Air and Outdoor Research Uberlayer are high scoring products that focus on breathability for high energy activity in the cold. In fact, the Nano Air won a Top Pick for Breathability for its excellent performance during high energy activities.
If you like the fit and function of the Xenon X, but do want something with a little more breathability, the Rab Strata, which is made with breathable Polartec Alpha insulation, may be a good choice for you. Although not as breathable as the Nano Air or Uberlayer, it is significantly more breathable than our Editors' Choice winner.
Again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This jacket has a clean appearance with the smooth, somewhat shiny outer fabric. It has an athletic fit and will flatter fellas with wide shoulders.
We find this versatile jacket traveling 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 demand more breathability, this jacket does it all.
The Rab Xenon X is a killer, screamin' deal! At $225, 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 much 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 a shell for hiking in cool, rainy weather.
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
Xenon X Pull-On: $190
Xenon X Vest: $135
— Brandon Lampley & Chris Simrell
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 17, 2015
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