The Rab Torque is an excellent softshell jacket for climbing and other mountain activities. Designed to be capable in alpine environments, the Torque is a trim-fitting garment that eliminates unnecessary features in favor of functionality. Best used on summertime routes such as the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak or the East Face of Mount Whitney, this jacket excels in rough terrain thanks to its durable fabric in high wear areas like the elbows. It's best when precipitation is unlikely, as it breathes very well but does not repel water as well as other models. In this event, we liked the Mountain Hardwear Touren, a heavier softshell that is also quite stretchy and comfortable in the mountains, but has a harder faced outer material making it better in wet climates.
Rab Torque Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Trim fit, abrasion resistant material, harness and helmet friendly.
Cons: Not as wet weather resistant, UK zippers can be awkward to use.
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Our Analysis and 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 percent nylon and 12 percent spandex. An inner fleece does not back this material, and so it is more similar to the lightweight Outdoor Ferrosi Hoodie than the heavier duty Arcteryx Gamma MX. 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. The jacket also has a number of seams that allow for a trim and tailored fit, though these unsealed seams make it more vulnerable to moisture. The Matrix material is great for mostly dry conditions where winds and cold precipitation (snow) is expected, but the Torque only held up to 20 seconds of strong precipitation during our shower test before wetting out.
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 third most breathable jacket in our review, with only the minimalist OR Ferrosi and the Arcteryx Psiphon FL. Rab's proprietary Matrix DWS fabric is the reason this jacket breathes so well. By foregoing an inner liner, there is less material to soak up moisture that then needs to be pushed through the outer layer.
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 Psiphon FL and Ferrosi Jackets, two other unlined jackets that use lighter softshell fabric with 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 cut of this jacket does run slightly small, however, so if you often find yourself between sizes or wish to wear layers underneath then consider trying a size up.
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. The hem is a bit low on this jacket, similar to the Gamma MX, and pulled up from under our harness often while climbing. users with a longer torso may wish to consider the next size up. The more extended cut of the Mountain Hardwear Touren 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 low weight of 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 was among the top performers in this metric. It is a relatively simple jacket from a first impression, having only chest pockets and no handwarmer pockets, as well as an absence of any interior pockets. The features which the Torque does employ are useful and utilitarian. From the helmet compatible hood that has a three-way closure system complete with hidden cordlocks is an important improvement in this year's model, and we found them easier to use. The wrist closures secure easily with a Velcro cuff, fitting comfortably around gloves.
Areas of high wear like the head and elbows are given a Ripstop Matrix 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, among 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. This edition does away with the previous two-way zipper, which shaves a bit of unneeded weight off. Two-way zippers to accommodate a belay loop are great for layers like a puffy, but the Torque is meant to be worn tucked underneath a harness, and the dual hem cords allow for a secure fit around the waist.
With durable patches on the elbows, duo-tone coloring and offset colored zippers, the Torque looks like a climber's jacket. Available in three colors, Dijon (tested), Beluga and Ink, there exist more subtle color options which also may help to hide dirt and grime.
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 Hoodie which is another great choice for summertime alpine pursuits.
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