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Hands-on Gear Review
Rab Xenon X Hoodie - Women's Review
Cons: No adjustable hood, not breathable, sticky zipper
The competition for the Editors' Choice Award was stiff this year, but out of 11 synthetic insulated jackets, the Rab Xenon X Hoodie took home the top prize for the third year in a row! Made of lightweight Pertex Quantum fabric, this technical full-zip jacket will keep you warm without weighing you down (plus it packs down into its own chest pocket!). At 11.2 ounces, it fell in the middle of the review's weight spectrum and provided more warmth than some of the thinner quilted jackets as a result of its PrimaLoft Gold insulation and its continuous shell construction.
Overall, we really loved the Xenon X Hoodie as both a mid and terminal layer, but it's not a breathable jacket. If you're looking for a hooded jacket that won't leave your pits so swampy, be sure to check out the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody - Women's, this year's Top Pick for Breathability. On the other hand, if you're looking for a jacket that's a little less techy, and more for a stylish romp around town, don't miss the Columbia Kaleidaslope II Jacket - Women's.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We chose the Rab Xenon X Hoodie as our Editors' Choice Award winner primarily because of its qualities as a technical jacket. We liked its durable construction, its cozy hood, and its water resistant fabric. But what we really loved was that when you put on this jacket, you feel like you're sliding into your sleeping bag. It's that feeling of instant warmth and satisfaction while still being able to move easily, whether you're 500 feet up a climb or five miles deep on the trail. And you look good while doing it.
Made with 60g/m2 of top-of-the-line, fluffy PrimaLoft Gold insulation and a lightweight Pertex Quantum shell, this insulated jacket has an excellent warmth-to-weight/ compressibility ratios of all the jackets in this review. With its elastic cuffs and hemline drawcord, this jacket really seals in heat, but still leaves you feeling agile and mobile. The hood fits well under and over a helmet to keep your ears warm and cozy; however, there were no adjustable cinches around the hood to ensure a perfect seal.
Although synthetic insulated jackets are never as fluffy or warm as down jackets, we were impressed by the Xenon X's loft. Plus, we loved how warm this jacket kept us, even when wet. One of the only other jackets that we tested that was warmer than these two was the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody - Women's, which features 120 g/m2 Coreloft insulation. On the other hand, if you're willing to sacrifice a little warmth for breathability, be sure to check out the Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody - Women's.
Compressibility & Weight
Although this jacket does not compress down as small as the minimalistic Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket - Women's, the Rab Xenon X Hoodie is much cozier and still doesn't take up much room in your pack. In fact, the piece packs down into its deep zippered chest pocket. At only 11.2 oz, it is a little heavier than our quilted alternatives, but we still think it's lightweight and compact enough to clip to harness and bring on a big adventure. Overall, this hoody is an awesome piece to toss on as an outer layer while belaying on a chilly day especially if it's windy out.
Comfort & Coziness
Did we already mention that putting on this jacket feels like crawling into your sleeping bag at the end of a long day? We can't think of many things more comforting than that, so we couldn't help but feel pretty darn cozy in this amazing jacket. Rab designed this piece without any quilting (like the Outdoor Research Cathode Hooded Jacket - Women's. The Rab Xenon X has insulation that feels more lofty and fluffy than many of its competitors, partially because it doesn't have stitching that "restricts" its insulation and partially because Rab uses the highest quality of PrimaLoft insulation. This piece feels more like down than its competitors.
Additionally, the Xenon X has deep hand pockets, a fleece-lined chin guard (love!), and a garaged zipper. Its hood also sits comfortably on the head, although we can't deny that the hood, like most technical hoods, looks a little goofy. It also features a high and roomy collar, much like the Arc'teryx Atom AR Hoody, our Top Pick for Warmth. Finally, this jacket has gusseted underarms, which allow for maximum comfort even during activities like ice climbing.
Unlike some of its competitors, this jacket has a continuous outer shell, which protects better against both water and wind. Jackets with quilted stitching can allow water to seep in, but the continuous Pertex Quantum shell on the Xenon (which is coated with a DWR finish) beads light rain quite well. In a heavier, consistent rain, this jacket will definitely not keep you dry; however, thanks to its high loft synthetic insulation, it does dry quickly and still maintains a high percentage of its warmth while wet. Moreover, the fluffy insulation tends to trap more water before it seeps through and gets you wet.
As mentioned above, a continuous shell is also useful in windy conditions. After wearing quilted jackets during our wind resistance tests, then putting on this piece, we immediately felt the heat come back into our core. Just as it sheds the water, this is another benefit of the Pertex Quantum fabric.
As a trade-off for fantastic warmth and weather resistance, breathability is seriously sacrificed. If you're looking for a jacket to take on a run - this is not the best choice. The Pertex Quantum shell does a better job at retaining heat than it does losing it. Even when trying to open pockets to act as vents, this garment has a really hard time losing heat. This is why it earned one of our lowest breathability ratings. If you're looking for a jacket to take with you on highly aerobic missions like backcountry skiing or winter running, check out more breathable jacket options like the Outdoor Research Uberlayer - Women's or our Top Pick for Breathability - the Patagonia Nano Air.
Style & Fit
Although we wouldn't necessarily call this piece stylish, our testers still wore it all over town and found the fit to be pretty flattering. We tested a size medium and found the sleeves and torso to be plenty long. Our main tester is normally a size small, but she loved the extra breathing room of the medium and didn't feel like she was being swallowed up by the piece. In fact, our Editors' Choice winner is more fitted than the boxy Patagonia Nano Puff, but not quite as flattering as the Mountain Hardwear Thermostatic or Patagonia Nano Air. The Xenon X has attractive darted stitching around the bust, the upper torso, and the side arms that help give the jacket shape. We also liked the use of complementary shades in their coloring selection.
One of our biggest complaints in the style category are the cuffs. When you put on this jacket (and the Rab Strata Hoody - Women's) the inner lining almost always peeks out from underneath. Sure, it's easy to tuck back in, but several of our testers noticed that this was annoying. On the other hand, the elastic cuffs are stretchy enough to push all the way up to the biceps! Although the hood does not cinch down tightly, it does fit well, but as with most technical hoods, it doesn't look very sexy.
This jacket earned our Editors' Choice Award because it earned high marks across all our metrics except breathability and style. We think it's a pretty versatile jacket: ready to perform during adventurous backcountry activities and awesome for cruising around town on a chilly day. Used as either a mid or outer layer, this jacket is ideal for alpine rock climbing and mountaineering, as well as skiing and backpacking.
At $235, we think this product has great value! Far less expensive than the Arc'teryx Atom AR or Patagonia Nano Air, the Xenon is also more affordable than the hooded version of the Patagonia Nano Puff. The only thing we love as much as an awesome piece of gear is an awesome piece of gear at a competitive price. That said, one of the complaints that we got with the Rab jacket was with its zipper. A few of our testers did note that this model's skinny coil zipper was not as easy to use as the wider toothed zippers and snagged quite a bit. Additionally, our testers noticed that when the jacket is cinched down at the bottom, the zipper is more likely to come undone from the bottom up.
Bottom line: the Rab Xenon X Hoodie is a great product! It's lightweight, compressible, warm, and weather resistant. Even though it's not very stylish and not breathable, we value this technical piece as one that is versatile and lavishly comfortable.
Rab Xenon X Hoodie
Neutrino Endurance Jacket - Women's
— Amber King and Amanda Fenn
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