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Hands-on Gear Review
Rab Torque Review
Cons: Not as wet weather resistant, UK zippers can be awkward to use
Bottom line: 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.
The Rab Torque jacket immediately impressed us with its form-fitting cut, athletic movement, and exciting features. The more that we used this model in alpine climbing environments, the more we liked it. For all but the wettest and coldest weather forecasts that still indicate a softshell jacket, the Torque was our top choice. For colder temperatures or more precipitation, we would opt for the equally stretchy and feature-rich Mountain Hardwear Dragon, our second choice for climbing specific needs. For more information about this fantastic jacket and why we awarded the Torque our Top Pick Award for Climbing, read on below.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
A top scorer in almost every metric, the Rab Torque was often the benchmark that we compared other softshell jackets to during our review, especially when it came to on the rock performance. Other contenders performed better in some metrics, and as well in others, but overall our experiences wearing the Torque allow us to recommend it as the Top Pick for Climbing.
The Torque uses a lighter weight Matrix DWS material in the body - a stretch woven fabric that is 88% nylon and 12% spandex. An inner fleece does not back this material, and so it is more similar to the lightweight Outdoor Ferrosi Jacket than the heavier duty Mountain Hardwear Dragon. The material adequately stops wind on its own, though its effectiveness in a cold breeze is boosted through the use of a mid-weight layer worn underneath, like the Patagonia R1 Hoody. There are quite some seams in the body of the Torque, a factor that gives it better mobility than most, but we also found that the unsealed seams did allow moisture to penetrate. We stepped out of the shower test after only 20 seconds of deluge-strength precipitation.
One of the features we liked about this jacket was the wire insert in the brim of the hood, which allowed us to mold the brim around our helmet, hat or head, and gain extra weather protection. The overall water resistance of the Torque was put into question during our ultimate shower test, though a downpour like that would have us reaching for our hardshell jackets like the packable and lightweight Outdoor Research Helium II.
The Torque is the second most breathable jacket in our review, with only the minimalist OR Ferrosi scoring a higher mark. This nearly perfect score is attained through the use of the light Matrix DWS fabric, which allows moisture to easily pass through while on high energy output excursions. When on seriously aerobic missions, like skate skiing or mountain biking, and as long as we did not have anything in our front pockets, we could open the chest pockets to expose the light mesh backing. Through this, we gained an extra two vents that made the jacket breathe even better.
The Torque performed slightly better than the Gamma MX in allowing moisture out, but the Fortius 2.0 used by Arcteryx did a better job of water resistance in wet conditions. Although we cherish breathability in our softshell jackets, do consider your environment and climate as well.
Another metric in which the Torque excelled, we awarded this jacket a 9 out of 10 for its ability to move with the body in a range of motions. It tied the lightweight Ferrosi Jacket, another unlined jacket that uses lighter softshell fabric that uses a stretch weave. Not only is the fabric itself ultra-stretchy, much more so than the stiff feeling bulky material used on The North Face Apex Bionic 2, but it is cut with athletic movement in mind.
The elbows are articulated so that the jacket bunches up less when making climbing moves, and the torso is fitted so that there is less unnecessary bulky fabric in the way. While grabbing a climbing hold high above the head, or swinging an ice tool, we did not experience any cuff drop thanks to effective and secure wrist closures, though the hem did pull out of the harness on occasion when reaching high. The more extended cut of the Mountain Hardwear Dragon offers more mobility and could be a better choice for when the weather is abysmal. We are not keen on getting snow up our backs!
We weighed the Torque on our scale and were surprised to have such a capable jacket weigh only one pound. The lower weight found in this jacket results from the thinner shell material and lack of inner lining, as we have seen that the weather protection and weight often go hand in hand. In warmer conditions though, with less need for base layers, or at lower elevation on the way to the high peaks, this jacket's lighter weight made it much more comfortable than heavier models like the Patagonia Adze or the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol.
The Torque tied the Dragon for best features of any jacket in our review. Both are climbing specific models that consider the many variables that an alpine climber might encounter and build features to make sure that nothing is left to chance. There is a hood, which is oversized and able to accommodate both climbing and ski helmets, and has three-way adjustment cords, though we had a hard time locating the cords with gloved hands, they are rather hidden alongside the chin. The wired brim is a great touch and allows a tight fit along a helmet to keep spindrift from whipping you in the face.
Areas of high wear like the head and elbows are given a Matric SWS fabric which provides users with more confidence in scuffing their way up corners and chimneys on alpine objectives. There are but two pockets on this jacket, the fewest of any model. This is a simple outer layer, and we were never left wanting more while wearing it on the trips it's intended for. The one gripe we had was with the UK-style two-way zipper. We like the two-way ability to access a belay loop on a climbing harness that the Dragon has, but the left-handed zipper can take some getting used to and was often hard to start.
With durable patches on the elbows, duo-tone coloring and offset colored zippers, the Torque looks like a climber's jacket. All of the colors it is offered in, except for the Beluga color which we tested, are quite bold and are visible in low light.
This is a good thing if you're on the mountain. The Arcteryx Gamma MX might have done a better job at blending mountain performance with casual looks, but we will still prefer to take the Rab jacket when heading out to climb.
The Torque jacket is an excellent softshell jacket in spring, summer and fall conditions, and can be a great choice even in winter conditions, as long as it is snowing, not raining. There were some issues with water resistance while testing this jacket, but its above average mobility, breathability, and features led us to recommend it as our Top Pick for Climbing.
With an MSRP of $200, the Torque is on the more expensive side, given that it is unlined and less weather resistant than others. That said, it is a niche garment and does what it is supposed to very well. Those on a tighter budget also should look at the Best Bang for Buck winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi Jacket which comes in both hooded and non-hooded versions.
If you are looking for a durable, wind resistant softshell jacket that is at home high on the rocky crags, then the Rab Torque could be the jacket for you. With an unlined, stretchy shell fabric, the Torque moves with you, making it easier to focus on the demands of your route.
— Ryan Huetter
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