The Rab Vital offers solid performance and impressive protection against the elements for a reasonable price. This Best Buy award winner is a top scorer in both wind and water resistance. As a more technical windbreaker, it offers many features not found in other minimalist models, such as additional pockets and a stiffened brim over a fitted hood. While some of its technical prowess causes it to suffer in other categories, the Vital is still an excellent performance piece - and a great value - that outdoor enthusiasts are sure to love.Editor's Note: This review was updated on August 9, 2022, with info on the new version of the Vital Hoody.
Rab Vital Hoody - Women's Review
Cons: Elastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed size
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Rab Vital Hoody - Women's
$84.95 at Amazon
$109.00 at REI
$89.95 at REI
$27.99 at Amazon
Check Price at Backcountry
|Pros||Many pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wear||Helmet compatible, lightweight, extremely packable, dries quickly||Huge vents, large hand pockets, very breathable, water resistant||Decently wind resistant, moderate precipitation protection, lightweight, less expensive||Hand pockets, easy to layer, comfortable, inexpensive|
|Cons||Elastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed size||Not the most waterproof, can see through thin fabric||Lets in wind, doesn't pack into own pocket||Sleeves a bit short, small pockets, sloppy construction||Heavy, doesn’t stow into pocket, relaxed style may be unflattering|
|Bottom Line||A blend of minimalist design and technical features, this jacket offers solid protection from the elements at a reasonable price||A true featherweight model that continues to impress, combining excellent performance with great value||A highly vented jacket with solid water protection that's easy to wear||A simple, casual jacket that's best for mild days and small budgets||A good, lightly insulated jacket to keep you warm in those chilly breezes|
|Rating Categories||Rab Vital Hoody - W...||Patagonia Houdini -...||REI Co-op Active Pu...||SoTeer Waterproof H...||Columbia Flash Forw...|
|Wind Resistance (30%)|
|Weight and Packability (20%)|
|Water Resistance (10%)|
|Specs||Rab Vital Hoody - W...||Patagonia Houdini -...||REI Co-op Active Pu...||SoTeer Waterproof H...||Columbia Flash Forw...|
|Weight (oz)||4.3 oz||3.1 oz||6.1 oz||6.6 oz||12.8 oz|
|Material||Hyperlite and nylon outer||100% nylon ripstop with DWR (durable water repellent) treatment||Nylon with polyester mesh||95% polyester, 5% spandex||100% polyester plain weave and 100% polyester microfleece|
|Pockets||2 hand, 1 inner zip and 2 inner open-top||1 chest||2 hand||2 hand||2 hand|
|Cuffs||Half elastic||Half elastic||Half elastic||Elastic||Elastic|
|Stuffs Into Pocket||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Safety Reflective Material||Reflective logo on front and back||Reflective logo on front and back||Reflective logo, cuff stripes, and back vent stripe||None||Reflective logo and hood strings|
|Fit||Regular fit||Slim fit||Relaxed fit||Relaxed fit||Relaxed fit|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Product Update Note — August 2022
Rab updated the Vital Hoody since our last test period. The photos above show the old version we tested (left) and the new Vital Hoody (right). The new jacket is essentially the same, except that Rab substituted the standard 20-Denier nylon with their new, proprietary Atmos woven nylon. Even though the new Vital Hoody now sports a DWR finish, this jacket is part of their fluorocarbon-free lineup, so even the DWR coating is free of PFCs. Our review is still for the old version, but we are linking to the updated Vital Hoody which is now readily available.
The Rab Vital is a full-zip, hooded windbreaker made of Hyperlite and nylon. It weighs 4.3 ounces while featuring a pair of zippered hand pockets, an inner zippered pocket, and two inner open-top pockets.
The Vital is adorned with a lot of features that make it the most wind-resistant jacket we tested. Half elastic cuffs help keep your hands and wrists protected without stifling them in warmer weather. 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 Vital also has a longer torso than many other, hip-length jackets we tested, which means you can wear long and loose or cinched up out of the way. This makes it one of our favorite options for biking or breezy yard work, or even wearing over thicker underlayers. We are solidly impressed with the wind resistance of this little jacket.
While this jacket's lightweight and windproof Hyperlight fabric is superb at standing up to those stiff fall breezes, it does trap some body heat and moisture inside the jacket but has a unique feature to help mitigate that. 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. 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. However, the snap closure and open zipper let the sweat quickly evaporate from the inside of the jacket. It's not a perfect system, but it does make a significant difference.
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. It's not our favorite choice for a high output activity like running, but it still works on a cooler day's strenuous adventure. Overall, we feel that the Vital is less breathable material than some of its competitors, but the added snap closure helps to mitigate this a bit.
Weight and Packability
Like many of the windbreakers we tested, the Vital packs into its own chest pocket and features a sturdy exterior loop to clip it onto your backpack or harness. Impressively, even with all the additional pocket zippers, the stiffened brim, and a few other extra technical features, the Vital is still very light. It tips the scales at just 4.3 ounces, which is far below average among windbreakers we tested.
While doesn't quite make the list of featherweight models, the Vital retains some very usable features and comfort details. And unless you're really into ultralight gear, you probably won't notice much of a difference from that extra ounce. This jacket's fabric is quite thin, which helps with weight and packability, but it also means you can easily read t-shirt graphics and see patterns of whatever layers you wear underneath, particularly through the lighter colors of this jacket. We also found that the Vital's wrinkles fade with the body heat of being worn, but it takes more time than many of the other models we tested.
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 you 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. For everyday use, we appreciate the existence of hand pockets, where so many others cut them out to lower the weight of the jacket. They're also large enough to fit most smartphones - another big plus for heading to the store or walking the dog.
We appreciate the utility of adding a brim to the elastic hood, though it might not be the most fashion-forward design. 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 Vital isn't our first choice. However, if you're down for a solid technical piece that can be worn for quite a few low to moderate output activities, the Vital has got you covered.
While windbreakers are meant to protect you from the wind, a little water protection is always a bonus. We are impressed with how long the Vital withstands wet weather. Though we can't find mention of any water-resistant treatments from Rab, this jacket protects the wearer from water for longer than almost any other jacket we 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. In contrast, many other windbreakers we tested couldn't even keep us dry in an intermittent light sprinkle in a dry climate!
This is another area where the Vital shines brightly. It falls about in the middle of the pack price-wise, while offering some of the same protection as more expensive models. For the technical usability and impressive weather resistance this jacket affords, we think it's an exceptional value that's truly hard to beat.
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.
— Maggie Nichols
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