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

Rab Borealis Review

The Rab Borealis one of the lightest softshells out there, and is perfect for cool windy days at the crag.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $115 List | $114.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Incredibly light, very mobile
Cons:  Limited weather protection, few features
Manufacturer:   Rab
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 13, 2019
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Weather Protection - 30% 5
  • Breathability - 30% 8
  • Mobility - 20% 9
  • Weight - 10% 10
  • Features - 5% 3
  • Style - 5% 5

Our Verdict

The Rab Borealis is the lightest weight offering from this UK-based apparel brand, and it is an excellent layer for active pursuits. This thin jacket provides limited protection from weather, and while it has a DWR treatment for unexpected wet conditions, it is much better suited for breezy weather encountered while climbing, hiking or biking. The Borealis offers above-average breathability and mobility, while also giving great durability while working your way up a difficult climbing route.


Compare to Similar Products

 
This Product
Rab Borealis
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $114.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$249.00 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$142.00 at Amazon$89.73 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$199.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
100
0
71
100
0
81
100
0
79
100
0
75
100
0
72
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Incredibly light, very mobileDurable fabric, great fit, all-around usefulnessGreat for general use, lightweight, weather resistantInexpensive, great breathability, stretchyTrim fit, abrasion resistant material, harness and helmet friendly
Cons Limited weather protection, few featuresLimited water resistance, fitted cuffsCuffs not adjustable, no hood drawstringsLimited weather protectionNot as wet weather resistant, UK zippers can be awkward to use
Bottom Line The Rab Borealis one of the lightest softshells out there, and is perfect for cool windy days at the crag.This is a great medium weight softshell jacket that will hold up to rugged use thanks to its durable fabric.A lightweight and weather resistant softshell that offers top performance for a wide range of applications.For summertime rock climbing where cool winds and rough surfaces are expected.The Torque easily wins our Top Pick Award for Climbing with its well thought out designs that appeal to both summer and winter climbers and mountaineers.
Rating Categories Rab Borealis Arc'teryx Gamma LT Hoody Arc'teryx Tenquille Hoody Ferrosi Hooded Rab Torque
Weather Protection (30%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
3
10
0
4
Breathability (30%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
9
Mobility (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
Weight (10%)
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
Features (5%)
10
0
3
10
0
6
10
0
4
10
0
6
10
0
6
Style (5%)
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
7
Specs Rab Borealis Arc'teryx Gamma LT... Arc'teryx... Ferrosi Hooded Rab Torque
Type Stretch Woven Stretch woven Stretch woven Stretch Woven Stretch woven
Weight (size medium) 0.65 1.06 lbs 0.65 lbs 0.8 lbs 1.03 lbs
Material Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch and DWR Wee Burly (56% nylon, 34% polyester, 10% elastane) Kauss polyester Body and hood: 86% nylon, 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop
Shoulders and lower sleeves: Cordura® 91% nylon, 9% spandex 120D stretch weave
Ripstop Matrix
Number of Pockets 2 3 2 3 3
Hood Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable Cuffs No, lyrca cuffs Stretch cuffs Stretch cuffs Stretch cuffs Yes, Velcro

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Great for adding in some wind protection up on an exposed ridge  this layer is basically a windshirt on steroids.
Great for adding in some wind protection up on an exposed ridge, this layer is basically a windshirt on steroids.

Weather Protection


Rab utilizes an unlined, single weave Lightweight Matrix fabric as the body of the Borealis. This is further treated with a DWR to give it some additional protection from moisture. While it shed light precipitation for a couple of minutes, wet weather really is not its strong suit. In comparison to other lightweight models, it certainly did not hold up as well in the shower test. Where it did much better was in windy weather.

The Borealis does have a hood; it has a lycra binding to keep it secure around a hat brim or a hood, but does not have any other closures. Its trim fit stayed in place around our waist, and cinches on either side can further tighten the hem, but it does not have the longer hem that would make it more useful in winter weather.

While it does offer some limited weatherproofness  this jacket wetted out within seconds of starting our shower test.
While it does offer some limited weatherproofness, this jacket wetted out within seconds of starting our shower test.

Breathability


Breathability was something that this jacket has under control. We hiked, biked, and climbed our way through the mountains as well as on our local trails, and this thing can wick moisture as well as a running top. Even when we layered a slightly thicker fleece base layer underneath on cooler climbs, we did not notice a dramatic decrease in breathability, due to the lack of any lining or fleece backing. As only a single, thin layer of stretchy fabric, there is little to keep heat trapped in., but the two large chest pockets are backed only by mesh, so if you are overheating, it is easy to open up your pockets (assuming your phone and lunch money are safe somewhere else) and dump all that excess warmth.

Highly breathable on its own  opening the pockets allow for even more ventilation.
Highly breathable on its own, opening the pockets allow for even more ventilation.

Mobility


The mobility offered up by the Rab Borealis is excellent. The Lightweight Matrix fabric is undeniably stretchy, allowing for unrestricted range of motion. We have no problem feeling constricted when stretching tall for hard to reach holds at the crag, and certainly do not feel held back when sprinting uphill on a trail run. The fit is very trim, with little opportunity to layer much besides a light fleece underneath. The cut of the arms feel spot on, and do not fall down when we reach high above our heads, though those with longer arms may wish to size up. Similarly, the hem is cut rather high and might be difficult to fit well for a longer torso. Where we do feel uncomfortable is when wearing a helmet, the tight-fitting hood makes it hard to pull over a climbing helmet and move around.

We do not love how tight the hood fits over a helmet.
We do not love how tight the hood fits over a helmet.

Weight


This jacket weighs next to nothing, coming in at an astonishing .65 lbs. It is hard to even notice when you are wearing it, and it certainly does not take up much space in the pack when you don't need it, packing down to about the size of a softball.

Features


We have less to report on the Borealis' features, as there aren't many. With such a lightweight layer, Rab got rid of some heavier features like a three-way hood closure, wrist closures or multiple pockets, instead going with a Spartan look; two pockets, a hood and a cinch around the hem, no more, no less. The quality YKK zipper is, like all of Rab's jackets, left-handed.

With tight-fitting cuffs  it is hard to fit over gloves  but they do a good job at sealing around the wrist.
With tight-fitting cuffs, it is hard to fit over gloves, but they do a good job at sealing around the wrist.

Style


This slim-fitting jacket has a nice clean look, but it is not easy to mistake the wearer as an outdoor enthusiast. It looks good with a pair of jeans but does not have nearly the same cross-over appeal as other jackets. This is meant for moving fast in the mountains, and it is available in three bright colors (as well as the muted steel color shown here).

Value


The Rab Borealis is quite a good deal. It falls just short of the Best Buy Award due to fewer available features, but with a nice trim fit and a much lighter weight, it should be considered the runner-up as a super mobile and breathable jacket at a very reasonable price.

Conclusion


If you find yourself up on a windy ridge or cliff wishing you had some extra protection at a very light weight, then the Rab Borealis is the jacket for you. Designed as a wind layer for climbers and other mountain athletes, this jacket stretches and breathes without holding you back.


Ryan Huetter