Hands-on Gear Review

Rab Microlight Alpine Review

Our Top Pick for Wet Weather because it has all the features to ensure the down stays dry.
By: Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 18, 2017
Price:  $275 List  |  $164.97 at Backcountry - 40% Off
Pros:  Very warm, water resistant hydrophobic down, great DWR coating, well thought out features
Cons:  750 fill-power down is good but not as light or lofty as others
Manufacturer:   Rab
79
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 10
  • Warmth - 30% 9
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Water Resistance - 15% 9
  • Fit - 15% 8
  • Compressibility - 10% 7
  • Features - 10% 7
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  • 3
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Top Pick Award

Our Verdict

If you commonly experience wet weather on your adventures but aren't willing to part with all the advantages of down — light weight, long life, great packability — then we recommend the Rab Microlight Alpine, our Top Choice for Wet Weather. This hoody literally throws the kitchen sink at the problem of down's lack of integrity when wet. It combines super tightly woven and water resistant Pertex Quantum Microlight face fabric with an awesome DWR coating and NikWax treated hydrophobic 750-fill power down. It also has a very deep, wire-brimmed hood that works excellently to keep water out of the face. While this jacket isn't totally waterproof, like the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold, it is far warmer, lighter, more packable, and frankly, comfortable than that jacket. We love the advantages of down, and love that Rab has made a down hoody that can hold up its nemesis — water.

Looking for Hoodless or Extra Long?
Like many of the hoodies featured in this comparative review, you can also find a hoodless version, the Rab Microlight Jacket. This jacket is essentially the same, but has a wrap-around collar in place of the hood, making it easier to layer over, and retails for $240. You can also buy the hoody in a long version for the same price as the normal size: $275.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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While it may seem odd that we would award the Rab Microlight Alpine our Top Pick for Wet Weather in a comparative review that also features the completely waterproof Columbia Outdry Ex Gold, we have ample reason. The fact is that despite offering the best water protection, the Outdry Ex Gold comes up far short in many other metrics that give down its characteristic advantages over synthetic insulation. It is heavy, not super warm, not heavily insulated, and doesn't pack down well — essentially meaning that it may be a decent jacket for around town, but isn't fit for a true outdoor adventure. Not so for the Rab Microlight Alpine, however. It maintains all of the traits of an ideal down jacket — superior warmth, lightweight, easily compressible and packable, and comfortable fit — while also including every method of water resistance yet invented, short of a waterproof outer membrane. So, if you want the best water resistance you can buy, but still want your down jacket to act like a down jacket, look no further than the Microlight Alpine.

Performance Comparison


The Rab Microlight Alpine was the second highest scoring product in our comparative review.

The Rab Microlight Alpine ranks up there with the very best for warmth  and has a bunch of other notable features  like water resistant down and an awesome hood.
The Rab Microlight Alpine ranks up there with the very best for warmth, and has a bunch of other notable features, like water resistant down and an awesome hood.

Warmth


When it comes to warmth, we felt that this jacket was on par with the very best in our review, the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, despite using slightly lower quality 750 fill-power down.


While 750 fill-power down is not the highest lofting down used in the jackets we tested, it is still plenty warm, as long as enough of it is used. The Microlight Alpine has three extra ounces of down stuffed into it than the Cerium LT Hoody, and thus matches it for the amount of heat-trapping loft. This jacket uses moderately sized sewn-through baffles, not unlike the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, and pairs that with the most easily sealed off face enclosure. In our side-by-side comparative testing, it was obvious to us that this jacket was warmer than the rest, so we awarded it 9 out of 10 points.

We rated the Microlight Alpine as one of the two warmest jackets in this review  a testament to the amount of 750-fill power down stuffed into its baffles. Exploring new trails in the San Juans while waiting for a delayed winter arrival helped us understand how warm this jacket really was.
We rated the Microlight Alpine as one of the two warmest jackets in this review, a testament to the amount of 750-fill power down stuffed into its baffles. Exploring new trails in the San Juans while waiting for a delayed winter arrival helped us understand how warm this jacket really was.

Weight


Our size men's Large hoody weighed in at 15.1 ounces, over three ounces heavier than the similarly warm Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody. In our reckoning, the difference is that this jacket needed to include a fair amount more down, which affected the weight, in order to preserve the same amount of warmth as its competitor's 850 fill-power down.


The Microlight Alpine was slightly heavier than a men's medium Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, but was not as heavy as the Outdoor Research Transcendent Hoody, which used 650 fill-power down. 6 out of 10 points.

Water Resistance


This jacket combines NikWax treated hydrophobic down with Pertex Quantum Microlight face fabric and a solid DWR coating to provide what is in our opinion the best water resistance that we have found in a down jacket.


In our testing, the DWR coating worked really well, forcing all of the water we sprayed on it to quickly bead and fall off, even after months of testing had given the coating ample time to wear off, as they are prone to do. The performance of the DWR coating was on par with that found on the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Hooded, another exemplary water resistant down layer. While it wasn't as waterproof as the Columbia Outdry Ex Gold, there was no other jacket that offered the same combination of water-resistant features. Combine these features with the deep wire-brimmed hood that uses the same design as hardshell jackets to keep water from falling into the face, and we were convinced. This was the best down jacket for wet weather that still preserved all the attributes that make down advantageous in the first place. 9 out of 10.

The Rab Microlight Alpine was our Top Pick for Wet Weather because it had a number of features designed to keep your down dry. Here you can see the combination of the Pertex Quantum Microlight fabric and the DWR coating working to prevent water from absorbing into the fabric and the down underneath.
The Rab Microlight Alpine was our Top Pick for Wet Weather because it had a number of features designed to keep your down dry. Here you can see the combination of the Pertex Quantum Microlight fabric and the DWR coating working to prevent water from absorbing into the fabric and the down underneath.

Fit


For this jacket, we tested a men's size Large and found it to offer very close to a perfect fit. It was large enough around the torso that we felt absolutely no constriction whatsoever, in stark contrast to some slimmer jackets, like The North Face Morph Hoodie, that severely limited our range of movement with a fit that was too tight around the shoulders and chest.


With a size large came a loose enough fit that wearing a layer underneath was no problem, although it snugged things up a bit. We loved the length of the sleeves and hem, and also point out that if you are especially tall you can order this hoody in a "long" version. If we have to make one minor complaint, it is that we felt the collar was a bit tight around our neck when we were choosing not to wear the hood. This is the only thing that kept us from giving it the same top score as the Cerium LT Hoody or the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but we still felt that this jacket fit nearly perfectly.

As you can see  the Microlight Alpine fits fantastic. It is long enough  and the sleeves are also plenty long enough for any sort of movement. This jacket will not restrict you in any way  making it a great choice for wearing during active pursuits.
As you can see, the Microlight Alpine fits fantastic. It is long enough, and the sleeves are also plenty long enough for any sort of movement. This jacket will not restrict you in any way, making it a great choice for wearing during active pursuits.

Compressibility


On their website, Rab says that this jacket stuffs into its own external chest pocket. Unfortunately, this is not true, but inside that chest pocket comes a dedicated stuff sack with a gigantic clip-in loop.


The jacket is relatively easy to stuff, and the end result is a bit of a ball shape. It is a bit bigger and bulkier when fully stuffed than either the Ghost Whisperer or the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, and is roughly the same size as the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, which stuffs into its own chest pocket. We gave it 7 out of 10 points.

The three middle sized jackets when stuffed. On the left is the Rab Microlight Alpine  stuffed into its included stuff sack. In the middle is The North Face Morph Hoodie  stuffed into its hand pocket. On the right is the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody  stuffed into its internal chest pocket. While these jackets compressed easily  they were not among the very smallest compressed jackets.
The three middle sized jackets when stuffed. On the left is the Rab Microlight Alpine, stuffed into its included stuff sack. In the middle is The North Face Morph Hoodie, stuffed into its hand pocket. On the right is the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, stuffed into its internal chest pocket. While these jackets compressed easily, they were not among the very smallest compressed jackets.

Features


The Microlight Alpine was one of the few down hoodies in this review to incorporate dual side-of-the-face drawcords for tightening the hood and the enclosure around the face. We found that this made it the most adjustable hood, and the easiest to seal off the face opening if the weather was really bad. The drawcords live on the inside of the collar and are super easy to pull tight, but we found them to be considerably more difficult to loosen, requiring two hands that aren't enclosed in gloves. For this reason, we have mixed feelings about these drawcords.


Similarly, while the dual hem drawcords are a cinch to tighten and are also pretty easy to release with gloves on, they leave a loop of cord dangling down below the waist, which has the potential to get hung up on trailside branches or even on crampon points when climbing. We like the completely recessed system for hem drawcord tightening used on The North Face Morph Hoodie better.

While we love having hem draw cords that are accessible and easy to pull  we prefer designs that don't leave a loop like this one hanging below our waist. In our experience these loops can get caught in branches or even crampon points if they dangle low enough.
While we love having hem draw cords that are accessible and easy to pull, we prefer designs that don't leave a loop like this one hanging below our waist. In our experience these loops can get caught in branches or even crampon points if they dangle low enough.

Like the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, this jacket also has a small bit of soft fleece to guard the chin, but at the end of the day, the performance of its features wasn't quite up to the standard set by that hoody, and we gave it 7 out of 10 points.

These dual draw cords inside the collar of the Rab Microlight Alpine offer fine tuning ability for the fit of the hood  and also do a great job of sealing off the face enclosure if it is really cold. They are relatively easy to use with one hand. You can also see the wire-brim of the hood.
These dual draw cords inside the collar of the Rab Microlight Alpine offer fine tuning ability for the fit of the hood, and also do a great job of sealing off the face enclosure if it is really cold. They are relatively easy to use with one hand. You can also see the wire-brim of the hood.

Best Applications


The Rab Microlight Alpine is a solid and warm lightweight hoody that will thrive in nearly any active outdoor winter situation. Due to its combination of water resistant features, we chose to award it our Top Pick for Wet Weather, and feel that it is a great choice for alpine climbs or backpacking trips when the advantages of down are too good to pass up, but rain is in the forecast. In true rainstorms, be sure to layer a shell over the top, as it is still only water resistant and should not be considered waterproof.

While we thought the Microlight Alpine was the best choice for wet weather  we also think it works well pretty much anytime you need an extra layer for warmth  here keeping us warm while cooking breakfast in the morning on a desert mountain biking trip.
While we thought the Microlight Alpine was the best choice for wet weather, we also think it works well pretty much anytime you need an extra layer for warmth, here keeping us warm while cooking breakfast in the morning on a desert mountain biking trip.

Value


This excellent hoody retails for $275, which is about average for a high-end lightweight down hoody. Since we found it to be the second highest overall scorer in our comparative rankings and even found it worthy of a Top Pick award, we think that this presents excellent value.

As one of the highest scoring jackets in our review  we of course think it presents great value. We enjoyed it for belaying during the colder fall months at our local alpine sport crags.
As one of the highest scoring jackets in our review, we of course think it presents great value. We enjoyed it for belaying during the colder fall months at our local alpine sport crags.

Conclusion


The Rab Microlight Alpine was one of the very best down hoodies in our review, combining exemplary water resistance features with top-level warmth in a relatively light package. It fit better than most jackets we tried, offering fantastic freedom of movement combined with the ability to layer over or underneath it. Whether you want the advantages of down insulation in a wet climate, or simply want an affordable and high quality down jacket for use around town, this is one that we highly recommend.

Lightweight down jackets are perfect for those shoulder seasons when you need some extra insulation  especially in the evenings. We loved the Microlight Alpine for camping during the fall when the temperatures were dropping.
Lightweight down jackets are perfect for those shoulder seasons when you need some extra insulation, especially in the evenings. We loved the Microlight Alpine for camping during the fall when the temperatures were dropping.

Andy Wellman

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