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 Strata pairs advanced breathable insulation with a near continuous wind resistant shell. The large hand pockets double as core vents when you're pushing really hard.
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.
This was one of the jackets we enjoyed for fast trips up into the Indian Peaks. When a stiff breeze is blowing, it is the warmest of the breathable models.
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.
While this jacket stuffed away into the chest pocket, our test model did not have a double-sided zipper pull here, or a clip in loop.
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.
Like the awarding-winning Xenon X from Rab, the Strata incorporates small details geared towards comfort, including micro fleece at the neck and chin.
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.
If you're looking for a breathable jacket that offers decent weather resistance, we highly recommend the Strata.
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.
Like the Atom AR, this model has an outer shell with very few seams and a less shiny appearance than most.
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.
If you want an insulated jacket that will wick away sweat for high energy activity, but also handle cold winds without the need to layer an ultralight shell over top, this is a great choice. Brandon crawls into "bed" after a long night pacing at the 100 mile RunRabbitRun.