Rab Xenon Hoodie Review
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman