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Hands-on Gear Review
Rab Latok Alpine Jacket Review
Cons: Somewhat heavy, DWR coating not as durable as some in our fleet
Bottom line: An innovative hardshell design that works great to ditch heat and moisture while traveling uphill.
The Rab Latok Alpine Jacket is our Top Pick for High Exertion Activities because it pairs a highly breathable, air-permeable eVent membrane with the most innovative venting designs that we have yet seen in a hardshell jacket. In short, if you are working hard and wish to avoid excessive heat and moisture buildup inside your hardshell, then the Latok Alpine Jacket is the one for you. Rather than the standard pit zips found on most jackets, Rab has decided to stretch the venting zipper from the arm pit area all the way up to the forearm near the wrist. This design allows for air flow to cool and dry sweat buildup on the arms as well as the arm pits, a refreshing feeling indeed. Combine this feature with the two-way front zipper and the bottom button to allow for the best possible front venting, along with the eVent membrane that works through direct air transfer, and you have the best venting and most breathable hardshell in our review — worthy of a Top Pick!
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Besides its deviation from the norm in terms of venting abilities, the Rab Latok Alpine Jacket is also remarkable due to its fantastic set of usable and practical features. It was one of only two jackets in this review, the other being the Outdoor Research Furio, that has a method for stowing the hood when not in use. It also has a mid-back draw cord that allows a customizable fit in the chest and torso region. These features, combined with many more, make it a great all-around jacket that is equally at home while backcountry skiing, mountaineering, or ice climbing. If there is any sort of drawback, it's that the jacket is a bit on the heavy side, although nowhere near as heavy as the two models of The North Face jackets that we tested.
For those who enjoy the well thought out features and designs that Rab has been producing, but don't want to pay the price in weight, we encourage you to check out the Rab Spark Jacket, a lightweight alternative designed for alpine climbing and adventure racing that uses a Pertex Shield 2.5-layer membrane (one we have not had the chance to test before). Rab also makes the much heavier and burlier Latok Jacket that also uses eVent, but to us seems a bit overkill for most bad weather adventures.
The Latok Alpine Jacket uses a three-layer eVent membrane that tends to emphasize the breathability aspect slightly more than the waterproofness of its membrane. That said, we experienced no leaks or liquid penetration of any sort while wearing this jacket. During our shower test, we noticed that while the wire brimmed hood did a good job of covering the face just enough to keep water from splashing onto our nose, it was nowhere near as deep as the hoods found on the Arc'teryx Alpha FL or Marmot Cerro Torre.
That said, the hood is easily adjustable with three pull cords, and no water leaked off the edges into the collar, which of course could only ensure happiness. We also noticed that this jacket wetted out on the face fabric more than most that we tested, suggesting that the DWR coating that Rab applies might not be as durable as some of the others in our fleet. An aftermarket DWR application like Nikwax Tekwash may be necessary sooner rather than later. For these reasons, we gave it a score of 7 out of 10 for weather protection.
Weight and Packability
Weighing 18 ounces for men's size large, this jacket was nowhere near the lightest available. That said, it was still slightly lighter than the Outdoor Research Furio, a jacket that also featured a plethora of venting options and their weighty zippers. We actually thought this jacket did a remarkable job of balancing a feature heavy design with a relatively light weight, in contrast to the very heavy The North Face Free Thinker Jacket, which also had lots of features, but at significantly more cost in terms of weight. We awarded 6 out of 10 points for weight.
Mobility and Fit
Made with an eVent membrane, we found this jacket to be quieter than all of the various GORE-TEX options that we tested, and second only to The North Face FuseForm Brigandine 3L Jacket, which uses a DryVent membrane. It offered similar flexibility and was supple, and we noticed no constrictions of movement anywhere on our body. The hem is long and low, providing good protection while skiing and the sleeves are plenty long enough for uninhibited range of motion. While the cut of the torso is roomy enough for layering under, similar to the Marmot Cerro Torre, this jacket also included a mid-back draw cord that allows super skinny folks to cinch up that fabric to maintain an unobstructed view of your feet while climbing. While the hood was seemingly smaller than some, we thought it still fit well both with and without a helmet. We granted 8 out of 10 points for Mobility & Fit.
Venting and Breathability
Since we chose to recognize the Latok Alpine Jacket as a Top Pick for High Exertion Activities; it only makes sense that it does a great job of venting and breathing. We gave it our top score for this metric, tied with the Outdoor Research Furio, another jacket with a ton of venting options. This jacket uses full arm zips for venting; these zips worked to bring cool air to a place that normally gets sweaty while working hard in a hardshell jacket. It also has a two-way front zipper with a button at the bottom that holds the jacket together and gives even more freedom to vent the front of the jacket while it's raining.
This button made a surprisingly large difference and set it apart from other two-way front zippers like the ones found on the Outdoor Research Furio or Marmot Cerro Torre. For high exertion activities, we also love the design of the eVent membrane, which breathes differently than GORE-TEX. It is essentially an air-permeable layer with millions of tiny holes that allow for direct vapor transfer, which doesn't require the excessive build-up of relative humidity to begin the breathing process. We have to admit that if we are working hard to climb a mountain, we often don't wear a shell — it stays in the pack — but if weather conditions like heavy wind or precipitation force us to have one on, this was our favorite jacket from this year's review.
Not only did this jacket have a ton of great features, but all of the features performed fantastically, showing a commitment to the design and refinement process that we thought was unparalleled. For that, we gave this jacket a perfect 10 out of 10 for features. We have already pointed out some of these great features, like the hood stow Velcro strap that makes it easy to stow or release the hood while continuing to wear the jacket, the mid-back draw cord, and the full arm ventilation zips.
The waterproof zippers on this jacket are an absolute breeze to manipulate, in stark contrast to tough and sticky zippers found on jackets like the Black Diamond Helio Alpine Shell. It has three easy-to-adjust hood draw cords, as well as two at the waist. While it has a relatively small number of pockets — two large high chest pockets and one internal zippered pocket — that is really all you need whether climbing or skiing, and shows a restraint not exhibited by the The North Face Free Thinker and The North Face Fuseform Brigandine 3L jackets, also very heavy on the features.
Designed for alpine climbing, this jacket will surely thrive at that discipline, as well as pretty much any other that involves mountains and bad weather. The design, fit, and features of this jacket give it great versatility without limiting it to any specific outdoor genre or activity. It was our favorite for those times when we need weather protection but are working up a serious sweat. Whether you are mountaineering, alpine climbing, backcountry skiing, ice climbing, or simply backpacking in the rain, we think this jacket will serve you well.
This jacket will cost you $400 retail, which is on the more affordable end of the spectrum compared to its competition. Since we liked it enough to award it a Top Pick Award, and it is relatively affordable, we think this jacket presents a great value.
The Rab Latok Alpine Jacket is an exceptionally versatile mountain hardshell that was loved by our testers because of its unique features and well thought out design. Even the best jackets typically give us something to complain about, but with this jacket, we are hard pressed to find anything that wasn't top notch. As a great jacket at a very affordable price, this is one we happily recommend to just about anyone.
— Andy Wellman
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