If you commonly experience wet weather on your adventures but aren't willing to part with all the advantages of down — lightweight, long life, and 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 keeps 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.
Rab Microlight Alpine Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers 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
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rab Microlight Alpine is an excellent pick for wet weather; while it may seem odd 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 as a down jacket, look no further than the Microlight Alpine.
When it comes to warmth, we felt that this jacket was on par with the Arc'teryx Cerium LT Hoody, despite using slightly lower quality 750 fill-power down. It isn't as warm as the Feathered Friends Eos, or The North Face Summit L3 Down Hoody.
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 is on the warmer end, so we awarded it 8 out of 10 points.
Our size men's small hoody weighed in at 14.1 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, 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 Black Diamond Forge.
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: $280.
This jacket combines NikWax treated hydrophobic down with Pertex Quantum 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, no other jacket 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.
For this jacket, we tested a men's size small 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 Outdoor Research Illuminate Hoody, that severely limited our range of movement with a fit that was too tight around the shoulders and chest.
With a size small 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 North Face Summit L3 Down Hoody or the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer, but we still felt that this jacket fit nearly perfectly.
This jacket comes with a dedicated stuff sack that has a huge clip-in loop.
The jacket is relatively easy to stuff, and the 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 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 Summit L3 Hoody better.
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.
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 and decent price point, we've awarded it our Best Buy, 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.
This excellent hoody retails for $280, which is about average for a high-end lightweight down hoody. Since we found it to be a high scorer in our comparative rankings and even found it worthy of a Best Buy award, we think that this presents excellent value.
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.
— Andy Wellman