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Hands-on Gear Review
Rab Xenon X Hoodie Review
Cons: Poor breathability
Bottom line: This jacket has the best warmth to weight ratio of any jacket we tested, great construction, and is very weather resistant.
"Perfection is attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when when there is no longer anything to take away." So goes the saying and so goes our four time Editors' Choice award-winner, the Rab Xenon X. This model epitomizes fast and light. It has everything we look for in an insulated jacket, with none of the fat. It has an incredible warmth-to-weight ratio, great construction and design, and a convenient stowaway pocket for multi-pitch climbing. The Pertex Quantum shell is weather resistant enough to be used as a terminal layer, but light enough that it still functions well as a mid-layer.
It resisted wind better than any of the light weight jackets we tested. We loved the comfort and mobility of the Xenon X. However, it is important to note that this jacket doesn't breathe well. If you're looking for an insulating layer that prioritizes breathability, check out the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody or the Outdoor Research Uberlayer. The Nano Air, with its soft and stretchy fabric, is our Top Pick for Breathability, and the most comfortable jacket we tested. A more affordable alternative is our Best Buy Award winner, the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket. It is just as light as the Xenon X and uses a hybrid design for increased breathability. Our Editors' Choice winner, however, is more weather resistant, and we recommend it for a variety of activities.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Synthetic Insulated Jackets of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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, which just so happen to be absent on similarly comparable (in weight) models. Check out the chart below to see how the other jackets in this review measured up to the Xenon X.
Insulated with PrimaLoft's top-of-the-line insulation, this award winner has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios in this review. The 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft GOLD Active insulation wraps you in cozy warmth, while 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 this award winner to be warmer than another similar models in this review, such as the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. The Nano Puff employs a quilted stitching pattern that allows for more breathability at the cost of less wind resistance, while the Patagonia DAS Parka was the only jacket in our review that was warmer than the Xenon X. However, the DAS is nearly twice as heavy, and only functions as a terminal layer.
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. Its feather weight is the first thing all our testers commented on - a size small weighs in at 11.3oz. Only one of the other eight models is lighter, the Arc'teryx Atom SL, and it's nowhere near as warm. The Outdoor Research Cathode weighed in a fraction of an ounce heavier than the Xenon X, but isn't as warm or weather resistant (though it is more breathable). The North Face Thermoball Hoody has a tougher shell fabric, but it's not as wind resistant, and it weighs almost twice as much as the Xenon X.
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. The Xenon X is a little bigger than the Nano Puff when stuffed. It could compress to a smaller size, but we liked how quickly and easily we could pack it away, since it isn't compressed too tightly. These two jackets, the 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. This, combined with its easy packability, make the Xenon X the absolute best jacket for climbing. The 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, but neither is as compressible, lightweight, or as weather resistant as our Editors' Choice Award winner.
The Xenon's hood is snug-fitting, has no adjustment, and has two small fleece patches right where the zipper contacts your face. The two zippered hand pockets surround your hand with insulation on both sides and the zippered pocket on the inside of the left chest provides ample storage while doing double duty as the stow-away pocket. The main zipper has a really worthy and 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; 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. However, 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 (which was coming off the Continental Divide) to test wind resistance, the Rab Xenon X stopped the wind like no other. The closest competitor in function is the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, and it is less weather resistant.
The near continuous water resistant shell of this jacket contributes to its relatively poor breathability. What we love about the Xenon X is how well it resists wind, as well as its 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 Patagonia Nano Air Hoody and Outdoor Research Uberlayer are high scoring products that focus on breathability for high energy activity in the cold. The Nano Air won a Top Pick for Breathability for its excellent performance during high energy activities.
If you're looking for a more breathable jacket that still offers good weather resistance, check out the Arc'teryx Atom LT. It features a weather resistant shell combined with stretchy side panels for increased breathability.
This sleek, lightweight jacket has an athletic cut and is available in three pleasant, subtle colors. While the Pertex Shell does have a shiny, techy look, we feel that the darker colors and the slim fit make it a fine jacket for wearing around town.
Check out the chart below to see where the Xenon ranked in style compared to its comptetion.
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 $235, 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.
— Matt Bento
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