The Rab Strata Hoody is one of two jackets in our review to utilize breathable Polartec Alpha insulation. This insulation provides more comfort and moisture wicking for high energy activity than traditional synthetic insulations. Interestingly, Rab builds the Strata with a more wind resistant shell fabric than other models that use breathable insulation. While we generally like to pair a very breathable insulated jacket with an ultralight rain jacket to create a layering system, the Strata is essentially an insulated wind jacket. True to this design, the Strata has the largest hand pockets of any model we tested, which also serve as core vents.Both of the other jackets focused on breathablity earned higher overall scores than the Strata. The Patagonia Nano Air Hoody (our Top Pick for Breathability) is lighter, more comfortable, and much more breathable if you really are putting the pedal to the metal on an uphill tour or run. The Outdoor Research Uberlayer also uses the advanced Polartec Alpha insulation, but pairs it up with stretchy and breathable shell fabric. However, if you desire a jacket with breathable insulation, and spend most of your time in misty weather or intermittent light rain, the Strata is a good choice.
Rab Strata Hoody Review
Cons: Increased breathability lowers overall warmth
Our Analysis and Test Results
Alpha Direct Jacket vs. Original Strata Hoody
Rab wanted their new Alpha to be lighter yet warmer and more breatheable, but we haven't been able to test these claims yet ourselves. This jacket still features a chest pocket, under-helmet hood, and fleece patches for comfort, though it has seen a price increase to $265. This jacket is offered in black, red, and blue. To compare the cosmetic changes, you can see the new Alpha here on the left and the original Strata on the right. The text in this review still reflects the Strata.
Hands-On Review of the Strata Hoody
The Rab Strata Hoody's overall score fell in the middle of the pack of insulated jackets. It earned good scores for comfort and breathability and will keep you cool during high output aerobic activities. It is also offers the most weather resistance among the breathable jackets we tested.
The Rab Strata, insulated with Polartec Alpha insulation (80 g/m2), is more wind resistant, and therefore warmer than close competitors, when used as an outer layer when a breeze is blowing. The Strata features a snug-fitting under-your-helmet hood with no adjustments. The elastic around the face opening seals in warmth well enough when needed. Even with less lofty insulation, with a stiff breeze blowing, the Strata is warmer than either the Nano Air or Uberlayer due to its more wind resistant shell fabric.
Weight & Compressibility
Our size large test piece weighed in at 17.6 ounces, one of the heavier lightly insulated models we tested. While this jacket is described as stuffing away in the chest pocket — and it does fit — our test jacket did not have a double-sided zipper pull here. Perhaps this is a quality control oversight on our test model, but this is a significant downside.
This jacket doesn't cut any corners on comfort features. Like the award winning Rab Xenon X Hoodie, the Strata uses very comfy fleece patches at the chin and neck. A Velcro tab in the back of the neck allows you to roll and stow the hood for a casual look in town, or to keep it from catching snow when you don't want to wear it. This model features two large hand warming pockets, which are insulated with only a layer of fleece on the front side, which means that they are not particularly warm. The external chest pocket is zippered and doubles as the stuff sack. The waist hem is adjusted by two cinches - one on each hip.
We found the Pertex Microlight shell of the Strata surprisingly wind and water resistant. We were not expecting this in a model designed with breathable insulation. The DWR beads water well and didn't noticeably degrade during our test period. Aside from water resistance, the most noticeable feature of this shell fabric compared to the stretch woven nylon of the Nano Air and Uberlayer is increased resistance to wind.
We found this jacket to be the third most breathable of the models we tested. The Polartec Alpha insulation is designed to stretch, wick, and allow the passage of air. While this is very noticeable in the Uberlayer, the Strata's continuous and wind resistant shell fabric serves to block more of the wind than these two models, making it less breathable overall. The large hand pockets, which vent the torso when open, are necessary for comfort when really charging hard. While this jacket is less breathable, there is the advantage of potentially not needing to layer a shell overtop in windy conditions. If you want to turn and burn after skinning uphill, you're less likely to get chilled on the descent in this model.
The near continuous outer shell of this jacket makes for a nice, stream-lined look, similar to that of the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody. Our test model was a subdued rust color and we feel the black color option would make for great around town casual wear for the cool and drizzly season.
Due to the increased breathability of the Polartec Alpha insulation and the increased wind and weather resistance compared to the Nano Air and Uberlayer, the Strata is a good choice for high energy use in dependably windy or misty environments. While it doesn't breathe as well as these two models, it blocks cold wind better and you can vent with the large hand pockets that double as core vents.
At $245, the Strata is competitively priced, and $55 less expensive than the other two breathable jackets we tested. We feel if you're looking for a dedicated breathable insulating piece for high energy adventures, the Nano Air is a better value even if significantly more expensive. Even with the advanced insulation, the Strata is more of a hybrid jacket because of its wind resistant shell; through this lens, we find the hybrid Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket, our $200 Best Buy winner, to be a better deal.
If you engage in a lot of high energy activity in cold and wet weather, the Rab Strata can be a good choice. While we prefer a very breathable insulated jacket paired with an ultralight shell for light rain or mist, some folks will like the "all-in-one" construction of the Strata.
— Brandon Lampley
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