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Rab Strata Hoody - Women's Review


Insulated Jacket for Women

Price:   $245 List | Sale $122.48 at Amazon
Pros:  Breathable, warm, mobile fabrics, updated features and design
Cons:  Does not compress into pocket
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Rab

Overview

The Rab Strata Hoody utilizes a revolutionary type of synthetic insulation called Polartec Alpha and sports a new fit, cut, and design in 2015. The main benefit of this hooded jacket is it's far more breathable than traditional synthetically insulated jackets and can be worn throughout sweaty activities like backcountry skiing without having to de-layer. Rab has been developing the technology for this jacket for several years and we were psyched to get an opportunity to put it to the test again.

The Strata used to have a fairly boxy cut, similar to the Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's; but the updated design pinches in at the waist and flares a bit at the hips for a more feminine look. Different from the last Strata we tested, this one sports a chest pocket along with two large (but not deep) pockets that double as additional ventilation. The shell material is a Pertex Microlight outer fabric with cozy Polartec Alpha insulation, both of which give this jacket a completely different feel than the Xenon X. Overall, we found the Strata to perfect for all-day wear on cool to cold days and one of the warmest breathable jackets tested. However, it's not quite as warm as other jackets like the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody - Women's or as breathable as our Top Pick for Breathability, the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's.

This fall, Rab released a new version of the Strata Hoody that features a new roll-down anti-snag Velcro tab, a chest pocket, and lycra bound cuffs. It also has a much more flattering fit and a new semi-quilted design. When you shop for this jacket, make sure you get the new version that we tested by looking for an original price of $245 (the old version will have an original price of $235).

RELATED: Our complete review of insulated jackets - women's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Amanda Fenn
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday
November 23, 2015
The Rab Strata Hoody sports a new feminine look that our testers appreciated. It stands out as one of the warmest breathable insulated jackets in our review.

Performance Comparison


Soaking up the early season snow. The Strata is a perfect addition for this warm backcountry splitboarding day.
Soaking up the early season snow. The Strata is a perfect addition for this warm backcountry splitboarding day.

Warmth


The Strata relies upon 80 g/m2 of Polartec Alpha insulation, which is 20 g/m2 more insulation than most of the other jackets in this review. This insulation allows more air to flow through the jacket, wicking away sweat and allowing the body to regulate temperature. While this design will keep you significantly more comfortable during activities like fast-paced hiking or backcountry skiing, if you're standing still, this jacket won't keep you quite as warm. Bottom line: during heavy cardio activities, this jacket will help keep you just the right amount of warm without leaving you swampy, but its insulation isn't as warm as jackets made with PrimaLoft Gold.

One of the warmest breathable jackets we tested! We especially loved how far the collar came up on our face for cold days.
One of the warmest breathable jackets we tested! We especially loved how far the collar came up on our face for cold days.

Weight & Compressibility


Unfortunately, this jacket didn't live up to our compressibility and weight expectations. Weighing in at 14.7 oz, it is just as heavy as the Arc'teryx Atom AR, but lighter than the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's. When trying to compress the Strata into its pocket, we were able to fit most of it inside, but were unable to zip it up. The jacket isn't designed for packing into itself (unlike the older version of the Strata we tested a few years ago). This is disappointing as it limits its function as a versatile alpine jacket.

Heavier and less compressible than the Strata tested in years past  this breathable jacket is not so optimal for stuffing into itself and clipping to a harness. However  due to the nature of its breathable fabrics  you should expect to keep it on in fair weather.
Heavier and less compressible than the Strata tested in years past, this breathable jacket is not so optimal for stuffing into itself and clipping to a harness. However, due to the nature of its breathable fabrics, you should expect to keep it on in fair weather.

Weather Resistance


Coated with a standard DWR finish, the Strata will repel a light rain, but not much more. Unlike the ultra-breathable Nano Air, the Strata's Pertex Microlight shell actually protects when a brisk wind blows through. Another bonus of the hyper breathable insulation that the Strata incorporates is that it dries faster than the other pieces we tested. We loved that the lyrca material was added to the hem and cuffs to repel water. Our lead tester, who is a snowboarder, found this feature particularly useful when sitting in the snow since the moisture doesn't absorb as quickly into this type of fabric.

Water will readily bead up on the Strata in a light rain. However  in a full blown storm  this jacket will not keep you dry.
Water will readily bead up on the Strata in a light rain. However, in a full blown storm, this jacket will not keep you dry.

Among the breathable jackets we tested, the Strata stood out for its combination of good weather resistance and breathability. Although the Nano Air offers better breathability, it offers relatively little weather resistance.

Comfort & Coziness


More of a minimalist jacket, this product has polyester-lined pockets and collar, and a back insert that absorbs moisture to keep you feeling fresh. This year, a new chest pocket lined with lycra material was integrated adding more storage for quick snacks and music on the go. Like the Rab Xenon X, this jacket features a drawcord at the hemline, but no adjustable cinches on its hood. However, unlike the Rab Xenon X, the Strata does not have that cozy sleeping bag feeling you get from the Xenon X's fluffy PrimaLoft Gold insulation.

We loved the cozy and water resistant pockets offered in the Strata. This was a big reason we reached for it most chilly mornings.
We loved the cozy and water resistant pockets offered in the Strata. This was a big reason we reached for it most chilly mornings.

We also didn't love the Strata's cuffs and found that the elastic continually flipped uncomfortably within the liner. That said, we did appreciate how Rab body-mapped the jacket's fabrics, choosing to fully line spots like the shoulders and lower torso (where a backpack might rub) with slick fabric and opting for meshy, hyper breathable fabric on the rest of the inner lining. We also appreciated that a new Velcro strip (instead of a buckle present in the past) has been integrated to tuck away the hood when not in use.

The internal layout of this jacket: the pink represents a water resistant material  strategically placed in areas that see more moisture than others. The grey is the mesh netting (contributing to breathability)  while the black represents a soft fleecy material that offers a friction point to prevent riding up while keeping you cozy.
The internal layout of this jacket: the pink represents a water resistant material, strategically placed in areas that see more moisture than others. The grey is the mesh netting (contributing to breathability), while the black represents a soft fleecy material that offers a friction point to prevent riding up while keeping you cozy.

Breathability


At first, the Strata didn't strike us as a breathable jacket. It has a soft outer layer that is a bit bulkier than the Nano Air. Inside, there is a breathable mesh liner coupled with strategically placed fleece along the backside, armpits, and along the collar. Not only did this add comfort, but left our skin and internal temperature comfortable and not moist. The Polartec Alpha insulation is ultra breathable, making this jacket perfect for cold aerobic activities. Wear it all day while charging hard in the snow. Additionally, because it is so breathable, this piece works well as a mid-layer under a shell when conditions are wet.

The internal mesh layer helps keep the internal temperature of the jacket cool by allowing air to flow through. This construction is a big reason why this jacket is so breathable.
The internal mesh layer helps keep the internal temperature of the jacket cool by allowing air to flow through. This construction is a big reason why this jacket is so breathable.

Style & Fit


This year, Rab updated the stylings of the Strata making it more fitted, flattering, and appealing overall. It features simple lines through its stitching on the back with subtle feminine darting on the front and back. That said, our testers liked the color combinations of other jackets like the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket - Women's, better than the monochrome look of the Strata. As mentioned above, we didn't love the cuff design and noticed that the lining regularly stuck out of the cuffs, but we did like that you can stow the hood using a minimalist Velcro strip. We tested a size medium and our testers reported that the arms and torso were plenty long without the torso seeming overly baggy or boxy. Some of our larger chested ladies mentioned that this jacket felt a little tight, though this was largely when worn in conjunction with a thicker layer.

Best Applications


Our main tester wore this jacket during a few backcountry tours and LOVED it! In the morning when it was chilly, it kept her warm When the sun shone warmly in the early afternoon, she was still able to hike uphill without removing the jacket. Both features are reminiscent of the Outdoor Research Uberlayer - Women's. Hands down, the Cathode is best-suited to cardio activities like backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and ice climbing. If you plan on heading out on an ultralight backpacking mission, check out a lighter, more compressible jacket like the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic Jacket - Women's.

Since this jacket offers a good combination of warmth, weather resistance, and breathability, it's a perfect stand-alone piece on cold aerobic days and a good option to layer under a shell if sitting still for long periods of time.

Value


Like the Rab Xenon X, the Rab Strata Hoody has a continuous shell design rather than quilted baffles. The Strata utilizes 20D Pertex Microlight exterior fabric, which seems far more durable than the fabrics used by most of the other jackets in this review.

Thanks to its stand-out materials  this jacket offers excellent breathability and durability.
Thanks to its stand-out materials, this jacket offers excellent breathability and durability.

Overall, we experienced very little wear or tear on this piece. Ultimately, this jacket is totally worth the price of $245 if you are in the market for a synthetic insulated jacket that balances warmth and breathability. It's truly perfect to wear all day.

Conclusion


In all, the Rab Strata Hoody stands out as a wear-all-day jacket on cool to cold days. The outer shell breathes really well, while the Polartec Alpha insulation locks in warmth when taking a quick lunch break. If this jacket was a little lighter with better compression, it would have been a great competitor for our Editors' Choice Award.

Taking another lap during some stellar early winter powder.
Taking another lap during some stellar early winter powder.

Other Versions


Rab Strata Hoody
  • The men's version of this jacket
  • Earns a four star rating in our review
  • A breathable jacket that offers decent weather resistance
  • Cost - $245

Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's
  • Weight - 11.2 oz
  • Won the Editors' Choice award
  • The most versatile jacket we found in its category
  • Cost - $225

Strata Flex - Women's
Rab Strata Flex Insulated Jacket - Women's
  • Insulated midlayer
  • Hoodless jacket
  • Not as warm as the Strata
  • Cost - $179
Amanda Fenn

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Most recent review: November 23, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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