The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Rab Xenon Hoodie Review

The best lightweight insulated outer layer is highly wind resistant and impressively warm.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $195 List | $194.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, warm, great wind protection, sheds water well, affordable
Cons:  Doesn’t breathe well, fit isn’t very athletic
Manufacturer:   Rab Equipment
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 4, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 13
  • Warmth - 25% 7
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 8
  • Breathability - 15% 5
  • Style - 5% 5

Our Verdict

The Rab Xenon ditches the "X" from its name in this newly updated version but is still the highest overall rated insulated jacket in our review, and once again is a worthy winner of our Editors' Choice Award. With a slick and highly wind-resistant Atmos outer shell, combined with impressive warmth retention despite its very light weight, the Xenon is our favorite outer layer. It makes an optimal choice for throwing on during windy days or windy sports, especially when the temperatures begin to drop. While it can be effectively layered over for use as a mid-layer, its poor breathability and roomy fit make it a far better choice as a lightweight insulated shell that can protect you from the weather.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Rab Xenon Hoodie
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $194.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$299.00 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$235.88 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$179.95 at Backcountry$215.00 at Amazon
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Pros Lightweight, warm, great wind protection, sheds water well, affordableWarm, good water resistance, comfortable, excellent mobility, stylish, durableComfortable, very breathable, light, stylishVery breathable, super comfortable and mobile fit, stylishWarm, affordable, good wind resistance
Cons Doesn’t breathe well, fit isn’t very athleticExpensive, annoying hem cinching buckles, not the lightestHard to get the proper fit, expensive, poor weather resistance, thinDoesn’t stuff into pocket, not the lightest, relatively expensiveHeavy, not very breathable
Bottom Line The best lightweight insulated outer layer is highly wind resistant and impressively warm.The top overall performer among the active insulating jackets.The most iconic active insulated mid-layer offers great breathability.A hyper mobile and comfortable mid-layer that is slightly heavier and warmer than most similar jackets.A synthetic filled version of a down jacket, designed to optimize warmth.
Rating Categories Rab Xenon Hoodie Arc'teryx Proton LT Hoody Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody Summit L3 Ventrix 2.0 Hoody Rab Nimbus
Warmth (25%)
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7
10
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6
10
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5
10
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6
10
0
10
Weight (20%)
10
0
9
10
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6
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
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6
Comfort (20%)
10
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6
10
0
9
10
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8
10
0
9
10
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5
Weather Resistance (15%)
10
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8
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6
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4
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4
10
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7
Breathability (15%)
10
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5
10
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7
10
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9
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8
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4
Style (5%)
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6
Specs Rab Xenon Hoodie Arc'teryx Proton... Patagonia Nano-Air... Summit L3 Ventrix... Rab Nimbus
Measured Weight (size) 11.0 oz. (L) 14.5 oz (L) 12.5 oz (M) 15.5 oz. (L) 17.0 oz. (L)
Manufacturer Stated Weight (size) 12.7 oz. (L) 13.2 oz. (M) 12.2 oz. (M) 15.16 oz. (L) 17.8 oz. (L)
Insulation 60g Stratus Coreloft Compact 80 60g FullRange insulation 60 G Ventrix - 100% Polyester Stretch Synthetic Insulation Cirrus insulation w/ 3M featherless fibre
Outer Fabric Atmos ripstop Fortius Air 20 (84% nylon, 16% elastane) 100% nylon ripstop 40D x 30D + 20D 92 g/m² 94% nylon, 6% elastane Pertex Quantum
Stuffs Into Itself? Yes, clip loop No Yes, clip loop No Yes, barely, clip loop
Hood Option? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number of Pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest pockets 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered internal

Our Analysis and Test Results

For the winter of 2019/20 Rab has updated the Xenon from the old Xenon X. The most noteworthy changes are that the shell fabric is now made of Atmos instead of Pertex Quantum, and the insulation is now Rab's proprietary Stratus, replacing PrimaLoft. Rab says that they have found Stratus to be 20% less absorptive compared to PrimaLoft, which helps the jacket breathe and dry out faster. The Stratus insulation is also made with 100% recycled material.

The fit of this jacket is clearly made with the idea that it will be the outer most layer and leaves plenty of room underneath for other mid-layers. We tested a size large, the same size that we tested with almost every other jacket, and the same size we have worn in the past with Rab jackets, and our head tester found it to be spacious to the point of being borderline baggy through the torso. While we aren't sure we would go so far as to size down, we would recommend choosing the smaller size if you commonly fall between sizes.

Worth mentioning, however, is that numerous online reviews complain of a tight and small fit, but this wasn't our experience. We love the extra length in the hem of this jacket, which rides well below the waist line. The sleeves are also plenty long for any activity. Like all Rab jackets, this one has the left-hand zipper that can throw Americans for a loop but functions basically the same. The zipper is two-way, meaning it can be unzipped from the bottom, increasing the functionality for activities such as climbing.

Performance Comparison


This jacket is the top overall because it combines awesome warmth and weather resistance in a very light and packable package. We loved it best as an outer layer  and like to think of it as a very well insulated wind breaker.
This jacket is the top overall because it combines awesome warmth and weather resistance in a very light and packable package. We loved it best as an outer layer, and like to think of it as a very well insulated wind breaker.

Warmth


The Xenon uses 60g/m2 of its new, proprietary Stratus insulation in a pattern that requires no baffling and minimal use of seams to hold the panels of insulation in place.


Considering how light the jacket it is, and how thin it feels, we didn't expect much in the warmth department but were once again pleasantly surprised at how warm this jacket is. We would go so far as to call it perhaps the best warmth/weight ratio offered in any jacket that we have tested.

Despite its light weight and thinness  this jacket is surprisingly warm due to its new Stratus insulation  and aided in no small part by how incredibly wind resistant it is  and how well you can seal off all of the openings.
Despite its light weight and thinness, this jacket is surprisingly warm due to its new Stratus insulation, and aided in no small part by how incredibly wind resistant it is, and how well you can seal off all of the openings.

That said, one shouldn't buy this jacket with the expectation that it will outperform a thick winter parka because it won't. It isn't designed to. Think of the Xenon instead as a shoulder season jacket, or active outer layer for days when the wind is ripping, or there is a slight threat of precipitation. We enjoyed it most often over a base layer and even used it quite a bit in conjunction with a more breathable active mid layer for a very versatile layering setup.

Dual hem draw cords are easy to use and really help seal off this bottom opening to trap the heat and keep out any cold breezes.
Dual hem draw cords are easy to use and really help seal off this bottom opening to trap the heat and keep out any cold breezes.

Weight and Compressibility


Rab says that a size large jacket should weigh around 12.7 ounces, but ours measured on our independent scale at only 11.0 ounces, a noticeable difference. While we have tested different jackets in different sizes, making them somewhat difficult to compare accurately, it is obvious that this is one of the lightest insulated jackets in this review. If lightweight is one of your favorite attributes, then you will love the Xenon.


Another positive is how easily this jacket stuffs into its interior zippered chest pocket. Not all the jackets that have this feature are easy to stuff, so the ease, and relatively small size are huge pluses for the Xenon. The clip in loop is large and durable, making this an excellent choice for hanging on the back of the harness on those routes or seasons when a simple windbreaker isn't going to be enough.

Five jackets that stuff into one of their own pockets for easier transport  as well as a nalgene bottle for size reference. On the top left in black -- BD First Light Stretch  Center Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata  Right -- Patagonia Nano-Air. On the Bottom is the Rab Xenon (blue) and Rab Nimbus (orange).
Five jackets that stuff into one of their own pockets for easier transport, as well as a nalgene bottle for size reference. On the top left in black -- BD First Light Stretch, Center Mountain Hardwear Kor Strata, Right -- Patagonia Nano-Air. On the Bottom is the Rab Xenon (blue) and Rab Nimbus (orange).

Comfort


When it comes to mobility, we have no complaints about the Xenon. This is a jacket we could easily climb in, as the sleeves are plenty long, even when stretching our arms overhead, and there is no constriction in the shoulders when moving them about. The hood is large enough for use over some helmets, and we love the super low hemline, which not only adds to its warmth but once again means that it won't ride up to far when raising the arms overhead.


The interior fabric is Atmos  the same as the exterior  and feels very slick and almost frictionless against the skin. While it certainly isn't uncomfortable  we find that this fabric can start to feel sticky if you sweat too much.
The interior fabric is Atmos, the same as the exterior, and feels very slick and almost frictionless against the skin. While it certainly isn't uncomfortable, we find that this fabric can start to feel sticky if you sweat too much.

The fabric itself is another matter and isn't as soft and snuggly as some of the stretch fabrics found in the active mid-layers. The Atmos fabric that is used on both the face fabric and the liner is very smooth and slippery to the touch and reminds us of the lining fabric inside a sleeping bag. While it isn't by any means uncomfortable, it also feels mildly unnatural. It's also a bit crinkly and makes some noise while wearing it. These complaints are very minor but are enough for us to discern some differentiation in scoring between products.

The two-way zipper allows you to unzip the jacket from the bottom as well as the top  great for venting  and especially handy for using in conjunction with a climbing harness  allowing great access to the belay loop.
The two-way zipper allows you to unzip the jacket from the bottom as well as the top, great for venting, and especially handy for using in conjunction with a climbing harness, allowing great access to the belay loop.

Weather Resistance


The Xenon thrives when it comes to weather resistance. The tightly woven and slick face fabric is the single most wind-resistant fabric according to our comparative testing. In that regard, we encourage you to think of this jacket as a well-insulated windbreaker. Since it is often quite windy in the places we like to play, we also noticed that its wind resistance contributes positively to the feeling of warmth, especially compared to jackets that use stretch fabrics.


None of the insulated jackets we tested are designed to be waterproof, or offer nearly the protection that a three-layer or two-layer membrane would. Instead, they are simply coated with a DWR application that is meant to cause water to bead up and run off rather than soak in upon contact. The DWR coating on the Xenon was one of the better performers, even after wearing it many days. While some percentage of water was still able to permeate the thin face fabric, the vast majority ran off immediately. Furthermore, this jacket dries out very quickly in the sun or a light breeze.

We sprayed it with the garden hose to see how well it would hold up  and were more than impressed at how effectively water beaded up and ran off.
We sprayed it with the garden hose to see how well it would hold up, and were more than impressed at how effectively water beaded up and ran off.

The DWR coating is very effective at causing water to bead up and run off  and this tightly woven face fabric has few seams and is very good against the wind.
The DWR coating is very effective at causing water to bead up and run off, and this tightly woven face fabric has few seams and is very good against the wind.

Breathability


The Atmos fabric that makes up this jacket is designed to be wind resistant, and is thus not very air permeable. This contributes negatively to its breathability, since hot, moist air trapped on the inside is not easily encouraged to pass through to the outside. As one might expect, it did not score very highly for this metric in our comparative testing.


We've already mentioned that we would choose to wear this jacket as an outer layer to keep us warm and cut the wind, and would not frequently use it as a "leave it on" mid-layer, like many synthetic jackets are designed to be. As such, if we found ourselves getting too hot in this jacket, we would usually just take it off, and so didn't feel like its lack of breathability was too important.

Tested side-by-side against the competition for breathability by running up this road repeatedly in way too hot temperatures  we noticed this jacket does not breath very well  and we ended up far sweatier and hotter than in competing stretch active layers designed to be air permeable.
Tested side-by-side against the competition for breathability by running up this road repeatedly in way too hot temperatures, we noticed this jacket does not breath very well, and we ended up far sweatier and hotter than in competing stretch active layers designed to be air permeable.

Style


Style is always in the eye of the beholder, but we have to admit that the cut of this jacket is not what we would term "flattering." It fits a bit spaciously in the torso, and for those who are trying to show off their trim physique, the ladies might need x-ray vision to discern your six-pack through the baggy fit.


The ladies that we asked thought the color schemes look nice, but that the shiny and slippery face fabric has that "technical" look, which has less stylish cross-over appeal for après drinks at the slope side bars.

While we can't fault its performance  the techy fabrics are very shiny and reflective  and also crinkle a fair bit as you move  and combined with a cut designed to layer over the warmth layers beneath  also doesn't look super flattering.
While we can't fault its performance, the techy fabrics are very shiny and reflective, and also crinkle a fair bit as you move, and combined with a cut designed to layer over the warmth layers beneath, also doesn't look super flattering.

Value


With the latest update, the Xenon has also become a good chunk of change cheaper — when have you ever heard of that happening?! It is one of the most affordable jackets in this review, and since it's the highest scorer, we would consider it to be an excellent value. Honestly, it's such a good price point that we would surely recognize it with a Best Bang for the Buck Award if we didn't mention it as the Editors' Choice instead.

As one of the least expensive jackets in this review  and given its top quality and performance  we think it is pretty much the best value you could find.
As one of the least expensive jackets in this review, and given its top quality and performance, we think it is pretty much the best value you could find.

Conclusion


The Rab Xenon once again wins our top honor as the best insulated outer layer you can buy. It is impressively warm considering its light weight, and is also more wind resistant than any other contender. We love it as a warmer windbreaker for chilly and windy days in the mountains and think it presents awesome value.

Out for a hike after the first snow of the season falls on South Sister in central Oregon. The Xenon kept us toasty warm in the cold and wet forests we walked through.
Out for a hike after the first snow of the season falls on South Sister in central Oregon. The Xenon kept us toasty warm in the cold and wet forests we walked through.


Andy Wellman