Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, weather resistant, athletic cut, good movement, versatile
Cons: Narrower baffles compress down; slightly lower quality 750 fill down
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rab Microlight Alpine is a highly versatile jacket. It performs well across all metrics and is an excellent choice as an all-rounder.
The Microlight Alpine is impressively warm for its weight and size. It features 750 fill power down which is not the warmest for its weight. However, Rab uses Pertex Quantum fabric which is 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 out the award-winning 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, exposing your core to the cold air.
The Microlight is not the most micro nor the most light in this review. It's 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 ultralight equipment, and more concerned about durability, warmth while belaying, and sealing ourselves up from the crisp fall winds at our favorite crags.
The Microlight did not steal the show in the Compressibility metric. However, it's still compressible enough to be a logical choice for a lightweight mountaineering mission or a multi-pitch rock climb in more moderate temperatures.
It packs into a well-designed stuff sack that is easy to clip to your harness and features a burly clipping strap. Rab provides an extra stuff sack that comes loose in one of the pockets. The design was 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.
The Features metric is where the Microlight shines. It's comfortable to wear, and this is due to a thoughtful assemblage of features that more than make up for some of the losses in the Weight and Compressibility metrics.
The hood is very comfortable, with or without a helmet. The hood cinches easily with a simple, lightweight stopper; it also 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 for rigidity, but it would get bent when you stuffed it in a backpack, and often just looked sloppy. The current design 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 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.
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.
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.
Rab used Pertex Quantum fabric in the Microlight; 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 performs 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.
The Microlight 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 superb 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.
— Lyra Pierotti