Microlight Alpine Updates
This staple in Rab's lineup has been tweaked slightly since we tested it last, with updates including a new material, more eco-friendly down, and a price increase. See the updated version on the left, followed by the version we reviewed, right.
- Material Updates — Where the previous version used Pertex Microlight on the outer shell and ripstop nylon inside, the updated version uses Pertex Quantum for both the inner lining and outer fabric of the jacket.
- Down Updates — Responsibly sourced down is now used to insulate the jacket.
- Price Increase — The price tag increased to $280, $5 more than its predecessor.
- Color Updates — Some fresh colors are available for the Microlight Alpine, like the bright red shown above in the comparison photos.
We're currently testing the latest model, so in the meantime, the text that follows refers to last season's version of the jacket.
Hands-On Review of the Microlight Alpine
The Rab Microlight Alpine is a highly versatile jacket. While it does not steal the show in any one category, it's strong performance across the board ensured it an award-winning spot.
The Microlight Alpine is at home in all types of climbing.
The Microlight Alpine is not a big jacket, but it is impressively warm for its weight and size. The Nylon Pertex Microlight is highly wind resistant, which ensures that all the warmth you generate stays inside to keep you warm. It has relatively high quality 750 fill down, which improves the weight to warmth ratio.
This jacket consistently surprised us in its ability to keep us warm. It beat our other 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.
At 9 ounces, 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 our fleet.
It is still light enough to be above average, and certainly light enough to earn a spot in your backpack for your next climbing adventure. We gave this jacket a strong 6 out of 10 for this category. We liked this jacket for 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.
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 Rab,second from the top right in orange, was a decently compressible jacket.
We gave the Microlight a fair but critical 5 out of 10 in this metric, based upon its rank in our lineup of down jackets. It is light and compressible, but not the shining star of either category. However, its overall performance still added up to be impressive, earning itself third place overall in our review. The durability of the Rab jacket makes it a bit bulkier, which we thought was well worth it, but if you really want something compressible, we also appreciated the Ghost Whisperer and the REI Magma.
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.
We love the new supple brim on the hood.
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 new design of this visor; for a long time, Rab has 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. This new design always looked sharp and neat and required no management to function properly.
The hood is comfortable with or without a helmet.
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.
Next, we relish the chest pockets. This one is easily accessible, with the zipper on the outside of the jacket; an excellent feature for the modern climber, it's a great spot to stash a smartphone. But it is also a convenient pocket for snacks, maps, etc. that keeps the contents of the pocket out of the way of your harness, and easily accessible while wearing one.
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.
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. Rab got second place for features in this review, after the stellar Arc'teryx Cerium.
The Microlight scored the highest for durability among the mountain-ready jackets in this review. We gave it a 7 out of 10, which comes behind the Canada Goose Hybridge Perren and The North Face Aconcagua Jacket.
Those two more durable jackets suffered so severely in the weight and compressibility metrics that they were much less competitive overall. This makes the Rab jacket stand out for its durability.
The Microlight is solidly built.
The Nylon Pertex Microlight fabric is a little stiffer than our other award-winning jackets, the *Arc'teryx Cerium* and the Ghost Whisperer*. The stiffness of the Microlight helped prevent snagging it on sharp objects or rough surfaces, which is an easy way to damage a down jacket. Overall, it's very well constructed, and we found that it still looked brand new after several months of testing, while other models more easily showed signs of wear and tear.
Rab uses Nylon Pertex Microlight fabric with a durable water repellant (DWR) coating.
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.
Pertex Quantum, rugged and water resistant.
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 an amazing job of balancing weight, durability, features, and weather resistance. If the most important quality is water resistance, we like The North Face Aconcagua.
The Microlight is designed to be a rugged mountain-ready jacket.
We loved it for rock climbing trips, ice climbing, and ski touring. But we also found ourselves reaching for it when we wanted to look sharp around town. We like the color choices and accents, and we think the shape and baffle styles is also very flattering.
The Microlight even looks stylish.
The Microlight Alpine is, as advertised, an excellent alpine jacket. It is useful as a standalone outer jacket in mild midsummer conditions, or as a midlayer on cold winter objectives. It is warmer and more durable than most models designed as a winter midlayer insulation piece, which makes it cross over to year-round use more readily, as it is much more durable and wind resistant. This is also a savvy city jacket, if you like the style, but also because the durable fabrics hold up so well to abuse. This was the only contender in the review that we felt we could roll seamlessly from ice climbing or rock climbing during the day right into an evening in town with friends, 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 a repeat award winner in this review. It is durable, warm, and allows great freedom of movement. It is a bit heavier for its size and weight, but it's worth it.
Rab nailed it again with a great climbing and "general adventuring" down jacket.