Xenon vs. Xenon X
This season, Rab redesigned our longstanding Editors' Choice winning insulated jacket, dropping the X from its name (and dropping the price $40, from $235 to $195!). Rab tells us that the new Xenon has a more refined fit and the insulation has been upgraded from Primaloft to their proprietary Stratus insulation, which comes from 100% recycled material. In their research, Rab found that the Stratus insulation retained 20% less water than Primaloft. The Xenon's outer shell is comprised of Rab's Atmos fabric, a lightweight ripstop material.
Compare the two jackets; the new Xenon is pictured first, followed by the Xenon X we tested.
We haven't tested the updated jacket yet, so the review to follow continues to reflect our love for the Xenon X, which you can still grab up at a discount now!
Hands-On Review of the Xenon X
The Rab Xenon X Hoodie earned high scores across all our test metrics except breathability, and easily outpaced the competition in the overall score. Our Editors' Choice winner is the most versatile lightly insulated jacket we tested, performing well as a mid-layer and blowing away the competition for weather resistance as an outer layer. We are also surprised how light it is considering that it has comfort features like microfleece chin patches, which just so happen to be absent on similarly comparable (in weight) models.
Our tester basks in the glory of another beautiful fall day in the High Sierra, while the Xenon X keeps him warm and toasty.
Insulated with PrimaLoft's top-of-the-line insulation, this award winner has one of the best warmth-to-weight ratios in this review. The 60 g/m2 PrimaLoft GOLD Active insulation wraps you in cozy warmth, while the minimal stitching (that secures the blanket of insulating fibers to the inner liner) creates a loftier jacket than models that use the same insulation (with more stitching). Finally, the very wind resistant shell fabric contributes to warmth when this jacket is worn as an outer layer… which we did often. If you're someone who runs cold, the Rab Nimbus could be a better option. Though its construction and fit are a bit different than the Xenon (sewn through baffles) it packs away into its stuff pocket just as easily, and it's warmer.
The snug-fitting hood contributes significantly to this jacket's warmth, and it's just stretchy enough to fit over a helmet. Several other fine features also help seal in warmth: the waist hem can be cinched up tight, the elastic cuffs fit relatively close at the wrist, and the hand pockets have insulation on both sides to snuggle your bare hands; unique for a lightly insulated jacket.
We found this award winner to be warmer than other similar models in this review.
Though not the most breathable jacket in our review, this jacket has good wind resistance for when you're hanging on windy summits.
Weight & Compressibility
This jacket is light. Its featherweight is the first thing all our testers commented on - a size small weighs in at 11.3 ounces. Only a few of the models are lighter, most notably the 8.15 ounce Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody, and it's not as warm as the Xenon. The Rab Nimbus weighs in at 3 ounces heavier than the Xenon X. Though warmer than the Xenon, it doesn't pack down as small.
Our Editors' Choice winner is one of the models we tested that has an integrated stuffing option; it easily packs away into its chest pocket. The Xenon X is a little bigger than the Micro Puff when stuffed. It could compress to a smaller size, but we liked how quickly and easily we could pack it away since it isn't compressed too tightly. The Xenon X is the best option for folks who want an insulated jacket to clip to their harness for multi-pitch climbing.
This jacket doesn't pack away as small as some, but the generously sized stowaway pocket makes it easy to stuff away at belays or in your pack.
Because this jacket uses very little stitching to secure the insulation, it feels softer and loftier than others. The inner and outer fabrics move more independently with this design, and the Xenon X has excellent mobility. You can turn your head or raise your arms without moving the torso and lifting the hem; this, combined with its easy packability, make the Xenon X the absolute best jacket for climbing. The most comfortable models we tested are the highly breathable Nano Air Hoody and the Outdoor Research Ascendant Hoody. In addition to great mobility and comfort for high exertion activity, both have soft and stretchy fabrics that are very cozy, but neither is as compressible, lightweight, or as weather resistant as our Editors' Choice Award winner.
The Xenon's hood is snug-fitting, has no adjustment, and has two small fleece patches right where the zipper contacts your face. The two zippered hand pockets surround your hand with insulation on both sides, and the zippered pocket on the inside of the left chest provides ample storage while doing double duty as the stow-away pocket. The main zipper has a really worthy and ergonomically shaped pull, and we wish the hand and chest pockets had the same (instead of knotted cord). Finally, the elastic wrist cuffs have a snug fit to seal in warmth and keep the wind out; the waist hem can be snugged up with a cord lock at either hip.
Though it appears a little bulky clipped to a harness, it's very lightweight and didn't bother our tester at all.
The outer shell of this piece is 20D ripstop nylon with a Pertex Quantum coating, and it's great at keeping you dry in a light rain and blocking the wind. However, this fabric has not been sealed at the seams and will eventually soak through in a downpour. That said, there are very few seams in the outer fabric, and the Xenon X provides some of the best water resistance of the jackets we tested.
Pairing this jacket with the Outdoor Research Helium II ultralight rain jacket is a favorite layering system for our lead tester. On top of this, the DWR treatment is excellent and continues to bead water even after we've abused this jacket for months. When we stood out in the howling, cold wind (which was coming off the Continental Divide) to test wind resistance, the Xenon X stopped the wind like no other.
The near continuous water-resistant shell of this jacket contributes to its relatively poor breathability. What we love about the Xenon X is how well it resists wind, as well as its ability to handle a brief light rain. These attributes do not lend themselves well to good breathability. If that's what you're after, then the Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody and the Arc'teryx Proton LT are high scoring products that focus on breathability for high energy activity in the cold. The Nano Air won a Top Pick for Breathability for its excellent performance during high energy activities.
If you're looking for a more breathable jacket that still offers good weather resistance, check out the Arc'teryx Proton LT. It features a weather resistant shell combined with stretchy side panels for increased breathability.
This sleek, lightweight jacket has an athletic cut and is available in three pleasant, subtle colors. While the Pertex Shell does have a shiny, techy look, we feel that the darker colors and the slim fit make it a fine jacket for wearing around town.
The hood and insulated collar fit comfortably. There is even a tiny bit of microfleece covering the spot where the zipper rests against the skin.
Check out the chart below to see where the Xenon ranked in style compared to its competition.
We find this versatile jacket traveling with us on all kinds of adventures, and we use it as both a mid-layer and outer layer. It's super light and warm for long hiking or backpacking trips and stuffs away into its pocket and is a perfect layer to clip to your harness on long climbs. We've worn it downhill skiing on fair weather days, and it was incredibly comfortable. Short of high energy activities that demand more breathability, this jacket does it all.
This jacket packs down to the size of about three beer cans.
The Xenon X is a killer, screamin' deal! At $235, it's one of the least expensive models we tested and it easily out-distanced the competition for overall performance.
You won't find a more versatile jacket among the models we tested…or a much better value. This is a great jacket. Carry it on your harness on long climbs, wear it at the ski resort on fair weather days, or layer it under a shell for hiking in cool, rainy weather.
This isn't the most breathable jacket in the lineup, but sometimes it's cold enough that breathability just isn't an issue.