The Rab Microlight Alpine is a highly versatile jacket. It performs well across all metrics to make an excellent choice as an all-rounder.
The Microlight Alpine does well in damp conditions.
The Microlight Alpine is not a big jacket, but it is impressively warm for its weight and size. It features 750 fill power down which is not the warmest for its weight, but Rab uses Pertex Quantum fabric which is specially designed to keep wind out and still air in—which translates to more efficient insulation (or less loss due to drafts and air flowing into and out of the baffles).
This jacket consistently surprised us in its ability to keep us warm given its relatively slim appearance. It beat an award winner, the Ghost Whisperer in this category largely due to its impermeability to the wind. These two jackets have a similar loft, but the heavier fabric of the Microlight kept the wind chill at bay. The shape also improves the warmth of the Microlight; notably, the slightly lower scoop in the back of the jacket. This ensures that the jacket doesn't ride up while climbing, exposing your core to the cold air. If you're after the warmest jackets in this review, turn to the Feathered Friends Eos or the Arc'teryx Cerium SV.
The Microlight is not the most micro nor the most light in this review. In fact, it is on the heavier side of the models in this review. It is still plenty light to earn a spot in your backpack, especially given its strong performance against wind and abrasion. We liked this jacket for single pitch rock climbing in particular, where we were less concerned about ultra light equipment, and more concerned about durability, warmth while belaying, and sealing ourselves up from the crisp fall winds at our favorite crags. The Rab jacket is excellent overall, but if you prioritize weight savings for your backcountry adventures, check out the Ghost Whisperer. For a similar utility, you might also like the lightweight Arc'teryx Cerium LT.
Keeping in line with the Weight category, the Microlight did not steal the show in the Compressibility metric either. However, it is still compressible enough to be a logical choice for a lightweight mountaineering mission or a multi-pitch rock climb in more moderate temperatures.
The Microlight is not as micro nor as light as we expected.
It stuffs into a well-designed stuff sack that is easy to clip to your harness and features a very burly clipping strap. Rab provides an extra stuff sack which comes loose in one of the pockets. The design was very similar to the Feathered Friends Eos, and not our favorite because it is easy to lose, drop, or misplace the extra stuff sack, and you have to be careful not to accidentally pull it out if you keep it in a pocket. Arc'teryx nicely addressed this problem by girth hitching the extra stuff sack inside the chest pocket. That way you won't drop it, and you won't scuff up the inside of the pocket as you might with jackets that stuff into their own pocket instead of a separate stuff sack.
The Microlight is light and compressible, but not the shining star of either category.
This is where the Microlight shines. This jacket was just so easy to use and comfortable to wear, and this is due to a thoughtful assemblage of features that more than makeup for some of the losses in the Weight and Compressibility metrics.
The hood is well designed with a firm but flexible brim.
First, the hood is very comfortable, with and without a helmet. The hood cinches easily with a simple, lightweight stopper. And it features a visor which helps keep falling snow out of your eyes. We like the design of this visor; for a long time, Rab used a flexible wire to give this visor some rigidity, but it would get bent when you stuffed it in a backpack, and often just looked sloppy and ridiculous. The current design always looks sharp and neat and requires no management to function correctly.
Moving down from the hood, we loved the raglan sleeves, which ensured that the Microlight fits a wide variety of shoulder girths, allowing for freedom of movement.
The hood fits comfortably over a helmet when rock climbing and the overall design of the Microlight Alpine kept us toasty.
The Microlight also has a chest pocket, which is one of our favorite features on any jacket. It is accessible on the outside of the jacket, too, so you don't have to unzip the jacket and lose body heat to get to it (some jackets have an internal chest zipper pocket, good for waterproofing, but a down jacket really shouldn't be getting that wet anyway). The chest pocket is such a great feature, giving you a spot to keep your phone, topo, snacks, etc. warm and accessible. There's nothing worse than a quickly draining cold phone battery or tooth-ripping cold gummy shot blocks.
We like the separate stuff sack that can be clipped to a harness with our down jackets, but this one is not attached to the jacket in any way, so it is easy to lose or misplace.
This model comes with a separate stuff sack which can be clipped to a harness. We appreciate the use of a separate bag to ensure you don't scuff up your jacket, but we were annoyed that the stuff sack was loose, because it would fall out when we put other things in our pockets. Our favorite solution to this problem was with the Arc'teryx Cerium SV Hoody, which features a separate stuff sack girth hitched to a tiny loop inside the chest pocket. Brilliant. The Cerium LT has the same design.
As with all of our favorite mountain-ready jackets, this one also features an adjustable drawcord at the bottom hem, allowing you to seal out any cold drafts. But Rab added one more finishing touch; they extended the back panel down just a bit more, which set the jacket much lower on our back. We cannot stand a down jacket that rides up our waist, and this lower scoop improves comfort and, ultimately, warmth.
The Microlight scores very well for durability. The Pertex Quantum material holds up well to abrasion and resists snagging with its slightly stiffer texture. The fit of the jacket is close to the body which also helps keep it out of harm's way as you walk past sharp and pokey obstacles.
We loved the external chest pocket.
The only jacket that was more durable than this one was The North Face Aconcagua which is more of a town jacket, quite heavy, and made of very durable fabric. For another high performance, lightweight, durable down jacket, check out the Editors' Choice winner, the Feathered Friends Eos.
In this version of the Microlight, Rab used Pertex Quantum fabric. This is designed primarily to block wind and keep still air locked inside the baffles, thereby increasing the insulating properties of the down. This fabric does impeccably well, as advertised. It is not designed to be waterproof, but we found the durable water repellent finish to work quite well on this fabric.
The Microlight is very water resistant, never wetting out on drippy ice climbs or when we got caught in a sudden flurry of wet snow. It quickly became one of our favorite around-town jackets, too.
During fall and winter in the Pacific Northwest, we are often dashing from one place to the next through deluges, downpours, sprinkles, and mist. In every case, the Microlight repelled water and never let the down get wet inside. We could shake off the precipitation and carry on with our day. This is certainly a feature that will wear off as the DWR coating wears out, but it proved durable in our months of testing. Remember that you can rejuvenate DWR coatings by throwing your jacket in the dryer on low, so proper wear and care will help reduce the wear and tear. Rab did a fantastic job of balancing weight, durability, features, and weather resistance. If the most important quality is water resistance, we like both the Arc'teryx Cerium SV and LT, but remember, a down jacket is not designed to be waterproof, so you may want to invest in an excellent hard shell.
The Microlight Alpine does well in challenging weather conditions.
The Microlight Alpine jacket from Rab is, as advertised, an excellent down jacket for the alpine. It is one of the more durable and wind/weather resistant down jackets in this review, making it a great standalone outerwear layer. It is not the warmest, so we didn't find much use for it on cold midwinter ice climbs unless you're layering it under a hard shell jacket when you're climbing on those seriously cold days. We were impressed at how many compliments we received wearing this jacket around town. The quality manufacturing certainly shines through, and the subtle color schemes and simple, flattering cut look sharp. This was a great all around down jacket that could spend all day outside and still look clean and sharp—even when we felt dirty and exhausted.
At $280, this is a moderately priced down jacket. Given its high score overall, the impressive durability, and the impeccable versatility, this jacket is an excellent value.
The Rab Microlight Alpine Hoody is an excellent all-around down jacket. It performs well enough for any backcountry or climbing adventure, is quite durable and weather resistant, and looks sharp enough to cruise back into town for happy hour. It's not a winner this time around, though it has often been in the past. This category is just getting more and more competitive.
The Microlight Alpine jacket from Rab didn't score as high this time around, but we still think it's a worthwhile and well-designed jacket - it just has steep competition.