Lightweight and big-time breathable, this is a great layering piece for alpine aerobic activity
Price: $200 ListPros: Highly breathable, cozy, high pockets stay out of the way of your harness, lightweight Cons: Not very durable, not very water resistant, materials doesn't stretch as much as others Manufacturer: Rab
When you want a jacket that offers great breathability and a little bit of warmth for a really low weight, look no further than the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket. It'll also keep a little wind and snow off your shoulders as you huff and puff up that sweet alpine ridge. This piece lives near the breathable end of the waterproof/breathable spectrum and works really well when used in conjunction with an insulated jacket or rain jacket. Additionally, the micro-fleece drop liner in this piece adds a bit of warmth and comfort to an otherwise ultralight softshell. It performed poorly in our waterfall test causing it to fall behind more protective jackets like the Arc'teryx Gamma MX Hoody and Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell. However, if you consider ultra-breathability paramount over weather resistance, then you should know that the Lite Alpine out breathes either of these jackets. Overall, we loved the Lite Alpine and found it very wearable through a variety of conditions. It epitomizes much of what an active softshell should be.
New Version Update - 2016
Now simply called the Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket, Rab updated this softshell with a slightly new look featuring a new hood and adjustable cuffs. Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket and the older version.
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Latest Version of the Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket
Renamed the Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket, Rab has added a few new attributes to this softshell. Contributing to the new look, the zipper design has changed. The revision now features an updated hood that is fully helmet-compatible and new anti-snag Velcro adjustable cuffs designed to increase a packed feature set. With the addition to these features, the garment weight has changed from 12oz to 13oz.
Check out the side-by-side comparison below, with the latest version of the Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket pictured on the left and the older version shown on the right.
Here's a summary of the key differences between the new Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket and the previous version:
Name Change — Rab has made a slight change in the name of this jacket from the Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket to simply the Vapour-Rise Alpine Jacket.
Updated Hood — The hood of this softshell has been updated and is now fully compatible with a helmet.
New Cuffs — Rab has added new anti-snag velcro cuffs to the sleeves of this jacket boasting full adjustability.
Change in Weight — The garment now weighs an additional oz with the addition of these updates.
Though we have not yet tested the newest version of this jacket, Rab assures us that other than the above mentioned updates, the rest of the jacket has remained unchanged. The text and ratings in this review still reflect the older version.
Hands-On Review of the 2015 Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket
The Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine Jacket is a solid performer and was one of our favorite jackets for high output activities like running. This softshell feels very cozy thanks to its drop liner, but still manages to remain very light. That said, it doesn't feel quite as durable as many of the other jackets we tested. Continue reading to see how it fared through our rigorous testing process.
Supreme weather protection is not an attribute found in the Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine. It seems to slow wind down, but does little to keep gusts from penetrating the thin face fabric. Water resistance is similarly bleak. When one tester jumped into a waterfall, he felt wet almost instantly. The DWR coating is adequate to keep dry snow from sticking to you, but in heavy wet snow, it melts right through. Still, this jacket was more protective than the Black Diamond Alpine Start and almost as protective as the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Hooded. All of that said, when you compare the Vapour-Rise to other layers like a fleece jacket, it sheds snow flurries quite well. It's worth noting that this jacket has a micro-fleece drop liner that makes it super cozy. In fact, it's nearly as warm as other softshells that weigh nearly twice as much!
Breathability is the single biggest reason to buy this jacket. It breathes extremely well and is an excellent active layer. For backcountry touring, spring hikes, cross-country skiing, or mountain running, it is ideal. The Black Diamond Alpine Start scored one point higher in breathability, but two points lower in weather protection. If you're looking for a lightweight active layer that breathes as fast as you do, the Vapour-Rise is an excellent pick.
Mobility & Fit
With a score of 7/10, the Vapour-Rise was adequately mobile. The fabric itself was less stretchy than many others, but the jacket fits well and didn't feel very restrictive. It fits well over a base layer, but if you want to layer more then you should consider sizing up, or consider buying a different shell. The material used on the BD Alpine Start feels more stretchy, but overall it feels more restrictive due to the seams that don't stretch. One great thing about the Vapour-Rise is that it feels very light - almost like you aren't even wearing it. Additionally, the drop liner slides smoothly on the Pertex Equilibrium outer shell allowing for free movement. Had the jacket stretched a little more, it would have scored a little higher. We used it for rock climbing and found it up to the task, but it didn't perform as well as jackets with a more generous cut and more stretch like the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol.
Weight & Packed Size
Because it breathes so well and feels so comfortable, you'll probably forget that you're wearing this jacket, which means you may never have to put it in your pack. But if you do need to pack it away, you'll have plenty of room in your pack for other things. Tipping our scale at a scant 11 ounces, this is the second lightest softshell we reviewed. The flexibility offered by this low weight means that you can pair it with a lightweight rain jacket like the Marmot Essence for a full mountain package that sits around 19 ounces. Or match it with an insulated jacket like the Rab Xenon X Hoodie for a sweet winter kit that'll keep you comfortable from the valley to the summit ridge. It's worth noting that this piece feels significantly less durable than other jackets tested. If you want something to wear while you scrape your way up a dirty chimney, this isn't the jacket for you.
The features of this jacket are exactly what you want if you're going to use it for activities in the alpine. Two high breast pockets are deep enough for light gloves and stay far from your harness or hip belt. They are them most usable front pockets of any of the softshells we tested, just don't expect them to keep your hands warm! There's also an interior pocket on the left side big enough for a phone.
We wish the wire brimmed hood was a little bigger. Although it fits over a climbing helmet, this feels quite restrictive. Two external cinches that pull the hood down are easy to use and we appreciated that the pull tabs are located far away from your face so that the wind can't slap them into your nose. The hood also has a cinch at the back to fine tune it to your head. Unlike other hooded softshells, this one has a clip at the back of the hood so that you can roll it up to keep it out of the way. We didn't use it much, but some people might enjoy this feature. You could always cut if off it you don't want it.
There are two sliders on the main zipper that live on the left side of the road just like British cars (Rab is a UK company). Having two sliders was much more annoying than useful as it makes starting the zipper more difficult. Finally, the hem adjusts easily to keep the jacket down when you aren't wearing a harness or hip belt. Overall, this is a pretty simple piece that has the simple but critical features you need for alpine use.
The Vapour-Rise looks and feels a lot like a windbreaker. It is quite comfortable to wear around or run in, but it isn't something that you'd probably wear around town (depending on the town).
The Alpine Lite excels for high output activities when you generate a lot of heat. Use it for cross-country skiing, backcountry touring, spring skiing, running, and as a lightweight part of your layering system.
For $200, it is much less expensive than our Editors' Choice winner, the $450 Patagonia KnifeRidge Jacket, but it's not as great of a bargain as the Best Buy winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi, which costs $130.
The Lite Alpine as a superb piece when used in conjunction with other layers. If you're in the market for an active layer that you can use on the move and layer over with a puffy jacket when it gets cold, this is the piece for you. It keeps a little wind off of you but breathes like a champ. The technical pockets and simple features are exactly what you want if you demand maximum performance for minimum weight.
In this article, we walk you through all of the criteria...
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.