From Caribbean sea spray during boat rides to painting sheds on blustery Midwestern days, we tested these windbreakers to the max. The Rab was an impressive performer, though it didn't take home any awards.
The performance and technical features of the Vital make it a high-scorer in our side-by-side tests.
The Vital is adorned with a lot of features that make it one of the most wind resistant jackets we reviewed. With an internal storm flap behind the zipper, a single-sided drawcord on the hem, and an elastic hood with a stiffened brim and rear Velcro adjustment, this jacket stands tough against the wind.
It is easily adjustable and snug-fitting around the cuffs, hem, and hood, which keeps the wind from chilling you on those extra breezy days. The Rab also has a longer torso than our Editor's Choice winner, the Patagonia Houdini, which you can wear long and loose or cinched up out of the way. We are solidly impressed with the wind resistance of this little jacket.
Stay protected from the wind with the Vital's elastic-lined hood.
While this jacket's lightweight and windproof Hyperlight fabric is superb at standing up to those stiff fall breezes, it also traps body heat and moisture inside the jacket.
To aid the venting process, Rab included a short snap strap just under the neck to keep the jacket from falling off your shoulders if you want to unzip it nearly all the way. However, during our tests, sweat built up quickly and easily inside this jacket, even on a cool, breezy morning with it unzipped and just the snap closure in place.
Additionally, we found that the crinkled design of the sleeve cuffs leaves harsh marks on your skin if you push your sleeves up, even when they're only pushed up just enough to stay put. Overall, we felt the Rab was less breathable material than some of its competitors, but the added snap closure helps to mitigate this a bit.
Unzip the Vital to cool off without worry of it falling right off your shoulders.
Weight and Packability
Like most windbreakers we reviewed, the Vital packs into its own chest pocket and features a sturdy exterior loop to clip it onto your backpack or harness. However, with all the additional pocket zippers, the stiffened brim, and a few other extra technical features, the Rab can only be so light.
While it couldn't come close to the featherweight 1.2 ounces of the Houdini, the Rab is still just a few ounces more. Unless you're really into ultralight gear, you probably won't notice much of a difference. This jacket's fabric is quite thin, which helps with weight and packability, but also means you can easily read t-shirt graphics and see patterns of whatever layers you wear underneath. We also found that the jacket's wrinkles fade with the body heat of being worn, but it takes time.
The Vital folds into its own pocket to be brought along on any adventure.
The Vital features a longer than average torso, which provides coverage for activities requiring a more full range of motion. The active snap under the neck also allows you to unzip the jacket for additional breathability while the elastic hood helps keep the wind out when you need it.
It's a small, packable jacket that's easy to bring with on your adventures. While it does have hand pockets, they're conveniently located a bit higher on the jacket, making it compatible with most hip belts and harnesses, and add extra organization and hand warming capacity.
However, we also found the Vital to be not overly versatile - unlike our Top Pick for Versatility, the Black Diamond Alpine Start. It's also relatively boxy and unstylish. If you're hoping for a jacket you can just as easily wear out to coffee as you can mountain biking, the Rab isn't our first choice. However, if you're down for a solid technical piece that can be worn for quite a few activities, the Vital is pretty solid.
The elastic band makes the Vital's hood more challenging to fit comfortably over a helmet.
While windbreakers are meant to protect you from the wind, any water protection is a bonus. We are impressed with how long the Vital withstands wet weather. Though we couldn't find mention of any water-resistant treatments from Rab, this jacket protected the wearer from water for longer than almost any other jacket tested.
We even put it through the wringer by trying to stay dry on a bumpy, windy Caribbean boat ride through some choppy waves. While it didn't keep us dry, it did stop our tester's hair from getting wet, and her back was still mostly dry as well. This is more than we could say about the Alpine Start during the same boat ride!
The Rab Vital (in red) kept a tester's hair dry during a choppy Caribbean boat ride, while the Black Diamond Alpine Start (in blue) soaked up the salt water and left our tester drenched.
We think this windbreaker is a solid technical piece of gear that's a great choice for active folks who want a little extra wind protection for technical applications. The neck snap helps this jacket transition a bit more easily into medium to higher level activities while the added water resistance helps keep you drier during a short, sudden outburst. If performance and technical features are what you're after, the Vital has that.
For a cold morning run, we loved the warmth of the shell-like Vital with its handy top button closure that allows you to unzip the jacket for additional venting.
Retailing for about $100, the Rab is in the middle of the pack price-wise, and right in line with our Editor's Choice, the Patagonia Houdini. For the wind and water protection this jacket affords, we think it's a great value. However, if you're looking for something that can more easily make the crossover from active to every day, you might consider the Black Diamond Alpine Start instead.
The Vital is a lightweight, packable windbreaker that is exceptionally wind resistant and surprisingly water resistant. It comes with a bunch of technical features that make it convenient without sacrificing too much for weight. While it's not overly breathable, we don't think it's unduly stifling, and we were happy to wear it for colder running days, breezy dog walks and chilly mountain biking mornings. With a reasonable price tag and solid all-around technical performance, the Vital is a solid windbreaker that gets the job done.
Windy day on the farm? No problem with the Vital.