Reviews You Can Rely On

Rab Vital Hoody - Men's Review

A lightweight, versatile, DWR-coated nylon shell, all at an affordable price
rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review
Credit: Rab
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $85 List
Manufacturer:   Rab
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 12, 2022
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 12
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 8.0
  • Breathability and Venting - 30% 7.0
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 6.0
  • Fit and Functionality - 10% 8.0
  • Water Resistance - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

As a jacket that doesn't sacrifice wind resistance or weight for performance, the Rab Vital Hoody is an easy choice for overall value. Once our top choice for functionality, the most recent update to this jacket unfortunately stripped away some useful features to save a few extra ounces. But a positive tradeoff is a PFC-free DWR coating that bolsters this jacket's ability to keep you dry during passing showers. Perhaps the most annoying change is that designers decided to forgo a zippered stuff pocket in exchange for a stuff sack – just an extra piece of gear to lose in the bottom of a backpack. Fortunately, some notable features remain intact, like the stiffened brim to keep water out of your face, and a snap across the chest to keep the jacket in place, even when it's fully unzipped. While we can nit-pick details all day, the reality is that this supremely versatile jacket remains a mainstay in our packs, no matter the activity.
REASONS TO BUY
Affordable
PFC-free DWR
Elastic hood
REASONS TO AVOID
Stuff sack instead of zippered stuff pocket
Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 13, 2022, to include new testing information about the updated version of the Rab Vital Hoody.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Affordable, PFC-free DWR, elastic hoodLow price, simple and effective design, tiny packed-size, impressive DWR coatingSuperlight, tiny packed size, unique perforated back for improved breathabilityBreathable, surprising water repellency, stylish and comfortableStreetwear style, impressive wind resistance, zippered kangaroo pocket
Cons Stuff sack instead of zippered stuff pocketNo feature to stow away the hood, thin material can feel clammy during high-output activityShort cut torso, perforations allow water in during rainstormsWind cuts through elastane mesh, no storage pocket, specific fitStifling hot during any activity, lack of water resistance, awkward fit due to waist elastic
Bottom Line A lightweight, versatile, DWR-coated nylon shell, all at an affordable priceThe best overall value and performance in a lightweight package that sets the category standardAn impressively packable, highly-technical jacket that is perfectly designed for light and fast missionsThis running-focused shell isn’t the most wind resistant, but features an appealing balance of breathability and water resistanceOffered in unique colorways, this streetwear-inspired windbreaker is better suited for walking around the city than in the mountains
Rating Categories Rab Vital Hoody - M... Patagonia Houdini -... The North Face Flig... Salomon Agile Full-... Cotopaxi Teca Half-...
Wind Resistance (30%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
9.0
Breathability and Venting (30%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
3.0
Weight and Packability (20%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
5.0
8.0
Fit and Functionality (10%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
5.0
Water Resistance (10%)
8.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Rab Vital Hoody - M... Patagonia Houdini -... The North Face Flig... Salomon Agile Full-... Cotopaxi Teca Half-...
Measured Weight (size M) 4.8 oz 3.9 oz (size L) 3.7 oz 5.6 oz 4.4 oz
Material 20D Atmos woven nylon with fluorocarbon-free DWR 100% nylon ripstop, DWR finish 94% recycled nylon, 6% recycled polyester with non-PFC DWR finish 100% polyester upper, 88% polyester / 12% elastane lower Repurposed polyester taffeta, repurposed ripstop polyester with DWR finish
Pockets 2 zip hand 1 zip chest None 2 zip hand 1 zip kangaroo, two hand
Safety Reflective Material? Yes, reflective logo on chest No (company states reflective logo on left chest, too small to really be visible) Reflective logo on chest and back Yes, reflective inserts No
Stowable Pocket? No; included stuff sack Yes: chest pocket Yes: collar pocket No Yes: kangaroo pocket
Cuff Style Half Elastic Half Elastic Quarter Elastic Half Elastic Elastic
Hood Fits Over Helmet? No Yes No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Vital Hoody, a long-standing favorite of our testers, has seen some slight modifications in its newest form – some good and some more annoying. The most noteworthy update is that Rab designers have swapped a basic, 20-Denier nylon for their proprietary Atmos woven nylon that sports a fluorocarbon-free DWR coating. Unfortunately, Rab has dropped the internal pocket that used to provide so much additional storage. Most unfortunately, designers have decided to swap a zippered-storage pocket for a stuff sack. We would happily accept an additional fraction of an ounce for an added zipper to avoid the annoyance of having to keep track of this tiny stuff sack – or have it take up pocket space.

Performance Comparison


rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - the rab vital hoody is a perfect, lightweight jacket to take along...
The Rab Vital Hoody is a perfect, lightweight jacket to take along as a companion for your vertical adventures.
Credit: Jill Rice

Wind Resistance


This is one of the more wind-resistant jackets we tested. Rab designers employ super-fine yarns in the 20-denier weave of their proprietary Atmos fabric, providing more wind protection than your average nylon. Zipping around on bikes, we particularly appreciated how the Vital Hoody employs several features to block the wind. A storm flap behind the zipper helps block a piercing wind, and a fully elastic collar keeps wind from running down your chest and the hood from flapping around.


We backed up our bike commute findings by taking the Vital Hoody to the top of a high pass in the southern Rockies and tested it in a strong, wintry wind. Beyond a tight weave that keeps the air from flowing through the jacket, we also appreciated how effectively the hem drawcords closed. The half-elastic cuff easily slides over another layer and keeps the sleeves in place. Together, these seal you off from the wind very effectively.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - perhaps even better suited to the downhill than the uphill due to...
Perhaps even better suited to the downhill than the uphill due to the balance of wind resistance over breathability, the Vital Hoody is one of our favorite jackets for fall mountain biking.
Credit: Jill Rice

Breathability and Venting


This is where the Vital Hoody comes up a bit short compared to the top contenders in our lineup. In side-by-side tests while hiking and biking uphill, this hoody held more moisture than other similarly constructed windbreakers when fully zipped up.


With no vents or mesh backing on the pockets, even if you unzip it, it isn't possible to achieve good airflow. Additionally, the Vital Hoody's pockets are lined with an extra layer of nylon. This keeps your sweat from getting to the pocket contents — a thoughtful touch — but it also reduces your venting options.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - although the vital hoody is versatile enough to take along for...
Although the Vital Hoody is versatile enough to take along for adventurous trail runs, it is far from our first choice for breathability.
Credit: Jill Rice

The snap closure across the chest is an unconventional and extremely useful feature to help improve breathability. The snap closure lets you keep the jacket in place, even when fully unzipped. Although it looks like a cape, we appreciate this feature because it allows you to dump a lot of heat all at once without losing your jacket to a strong breeze.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - the snap feature on across the chest is an interesting feature...
The snap feature on across the chest is an interesting feature individual to the Vital Hoody. It allows you to dump heat quickly, without losing this jacket to the wind.
Credit: Jill Rice

Weight and Packability


At a weight of 4.8 ounces, our size medium is impressively light compared to many other shells out there but still is about 20% heavier than the lightest windbreakers in this review.


The most unfortunate consequence of the recent update to this jacket is that designers dropped the internal zipper to turn one of the hand pockets into a storage pocket. Instead, they opted to include a small, separate stuff sack. While this stuff sack allows the Vital Hoody to pack down smaller than a standard Nalgene bottle, the annoyance of having to keep track of this tiny stuff sack is not worth the minimal weight or space savings.

Packed up in its included stuff sack, the Vital Hoody is much...
Packed up in its included stuff sack, the Vital Hoody is much smaller than comparatively weighted jackets.
If you choose not to use the included stuff sack, the Vital Hoody...
If you choose not to use the included stuff sack, the Vital Hoody just as easily stuffs into one of its two hand pockets. Just be aware that there is no internal zipper, so you have to be careful zipping this package up.
While you can simply choose to stuff this jacket into one of its hand pockets instead of using the included stuff sack, it would be nice if designers included an internal zipper to provide packing options.

Fit and Functionality


We tested a size medium and found that the overall fit aligns with its purpose as a tech-hoody for alpine climbing or mountain biking. In contrast to some other tighter-fitting jackets, this one is long enough in both the sleeves and hem. It also provides enough space underneath for a puffy layer on colder days, proving that it works well as an outer shell.


While the updated Vital Hoody lost a useful internal pocket, a few other notable features remain that are worth pointing out. Already mentioned is the snap button across the upper chest, but we also loved that a simple velcro tab adjusts the hood. This tab has the double purpose of allowing you to roll the hood up and velcro it tight if you choose not to use the hood on a windy day. Flapping hoods are annoying, and this simple addition — plus the fully elastic collar — helps keep the hood from slapping you in the face.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - unlike many other jackets that utilize a pull-string to adjust the...
Unlike many other jackets that utilize a pull-string to adjust the hood, the Vital Hoody employs a simple, yet highly functional velcro tab.
Credit: Jill Rice

Water Resistance


The most notable addition to the newly streamlined Vital Hoody is the addition of a DWR finish. An exciting trend in technical clothing is the shift away from fluorocarbon-based water repellents. Rab has opted to integrate a PFC-free DWR treatment into its proprietary Atmos woven nylon.


Although the ultralight Vital Hoody is still nowhere near a full-fledged rain jacket, the improved water repellency puts it on par with the most water-resistant windbreakers we've tested. While all lightweight jackets will eventually begin to soak through in places – particularly through the shoulders – our 'laboratory' shower test reveals that the new fabric of the Vital Hoody beads and sheds water better than ever.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - the pfc-free dwr coating makes the vital hoody a more robust option...
The PFC-free DWR coating makes the Vital Hoody a more robust option during questionable weather. But it's still an ultralight, 20-denier nylon jacket that will quickly soak through in a downpour (or a shower deluge.)
Credit: Jill Rice

Should You Buy the Rab Vital Hoody?


When it comes to overall performance, the Vital Hoody is more than worth the price tag. It is a technical, lightweight jacket designed for alpine endeavors, that is equally home at the bottom of a commuter pack. All things considered, this jacket strikes a nice balance right down the middle of our best scorers — it is a highly valuable jacket for the athletically inclined, just as long as you aren't consistently pushing hills while running or riding.

rab vital hoody wind breaker jacket review - while we love the design of the elastic hood on the rab vital hoody...
While we love the design of the elastic hood on the Rab Vital Hoody, it doesn't comfortably zip up when pulled over a standard climbing helmet. This might be a deal-breaker for those shopping for an ultralight, technical jacket for alpine pursuits.
Credit: Jill Rice

What Other Windbreakers Should You Consider?


The Rab Vital Hoody is a very durable, impressively wind- and water-resistant jacket that only improves on its value, especially as price points continue to rise for this type of jacket. While there is no other jacket that presents a better overall value in our lineup, there are other options that excel in some key ways. If you regularly push peaks, consider a more breathable windbreaker like the Patagonia Houdini Air – but keep in mind that the tradeoff is diminished wind resistance. If the storage changes to the Vital Hoody sound too annoying to deal with, then the The North Face Flight Lightriser Wind Jacket - Men's is one of the lightest, most packable jackets we've ever tested.

Aaron Rice
 
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