Rab Xenair Insulated Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rab Xenair is a multifunctional insulation layer that is perfect for layering up during cool and cold weather activity. Whether you are climbing, hiking, or skiing, this lightweight jacket will add significant amounts of warmth to your layering system without adding a substantial amount of bulk or weight. The breathable nature of the material will reduce the number of times you need to stop and de-layer.
This jacket is filled with two different weights of recycled PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation. The different weights help keep areas like your core insulated while allowing your extremities to have more breathability. The goal here is to keep you warm while standing still and prevent your body from overheating as you start to move. Preventing moisture from building up inside your layering system will ultimately keep you warmer. As sweat cools on your body, it dramatically lowers your body temperature; thus, if you successfully wick that moisture away from your body, it's likely you will be a much happier camper. This is a lightweight insulation layer that adds a good deal of warmth when used in a layering system; however, as a standalone piece, we recommend it for moderately cold weather.
The Xenair thrives on a body in motion; it isn't a super beefy jacket built for standing around in the cold. If you're looking for a beefy jacket to keep you toasty while hanging around camp at night or during long, cold belays, we'd recommend shopping for a more robust layer. That being said, when used in conjunction with a base layer, a midlayer, and a waterproof shell over top, you'll be able to achieve plenty of warmth in cold temperatures.
Weight and Compressibility
Weight is one of the metrics where the Xenair stands out. With minimal features and a thin shell, this jacket is light. Considering it's stuffed with synthetic material and not down, it compresses into an impressively small package. It's small enough that you could consider clipping it to the back of your harness while climbing chilly multi-pitch routes. Unlike many of the other options from Rab, the Xenair stuffs into one of its own pockets as opposed to an additional stuff sack that you'd have to keep track of.
Our size medium weighed in at 11.8 ounces, which makes it one of the lighter options in our fleet. However, we can't ignore that the low weight is largely due to the fact that this jacket offers very few features. It lacks a hood, has minimal pockets, and has fewer adjustable hemlines than most of the other jackets in this review. Featureless or not, the result is a light and compressible jacket, which, in our experience, is often more beneficial than extras. Given its low weight and decent compressibility, this jacket makes an excellent emergency layer to throw in your pack and forget about until it's needed.
The Xenair is a comfortable insulation layer. The wrist cuffs are stretchy and the fit is loose and roomy. There is plenty of room in the shoulders for overhead movement and the inner liner is soft against the skin. The lightweight, generous fit makes this jacket a great option for lightweight adventures; its excellent breathability greatly contributes to the comfort of this piece. Breathability and the fit allow the Xenair to be an easy and enjoyable piece to wear all day long.
Our testers indicate that this jacket runs on the large side, particularly in regards to the arm length. The roomy fit does however make it easier to layer a base layer or midlayer underneath, should you want to. This jacket is missing some of the finer details we like to see, like lined wrist cuffs and fleece around the chin, but it remains a highly comfortable option, especially while on the move.
The Xenair isn't the most weatherproof option out there. The thin outer shell does little in the way of keeping water out. Fortunately, the synthetic Primaloft insulation will keep insulating you even if it gets wet. The outer shell also makes an excellent wind layer. The great wind resistance makes this jacket great for traversing windy ridgelines or for pre-dawn jogs through the city. It's ideal for cold and windy but dry days out in the mountains.
The lack of a hood compromises its weather resistance. Whether you're trying to hide from the wind or water, you'll need an additional layer to keep your head high and dry — as you often do with any insulated jacket. When used as part of a layering system, we sometimes prefer a simple piece that doesn't try to do too much. Often, we will be carrying a hat or rain jacket anyway, and having a dedicated insulation layer — without a hood — eliminates redundant bulk.
Breathability is yet again another metric where the Xenair shines, as it's one of the most breathable insulation layers we tested. It's one of the few jackets we could hike in and didn't have to immediately take it off after warming up. Our testers found that on cold days when working hard, they could leave this jacket on, and not end up sweaty and quickly shivering as their base layers soaked through.
Breathability does come with its drawbacks, as noted above, with the primary one being less weather resistance. When encountering wet snow, we would rather sacrifice some breathability for greater waterproofness. Similarly, it is surprising how well this model blocks the wind given its great breathability.
The Xenair is a hoodless, highly breathable option that is ideal for high output activities or for packing along when you're not sure if you might need some extra warmth. It is priced similarly to other options that provide users with more features, such as a hood or more adjustability. However, the overall quality makes up for its relatively sparse design. Given its functionality and competitive price point, the Xenair is a worthy purchase.
The Rab Xenair offers lightweight warmth and excellent breathability; it's the perfect layer for cold weather cardio activity. Whether you're ski touring, hiking, or simply heading to work, this jacket offers warmth and wind protection without huge amounts of bulk. It doesn't fare the best in wet weather, which can be said for many insulating layers, but its minimal features make layering a shell over the top a nonissue.
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