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Rab Vital Hoody - Women's Review

A blend of minimalist design and technical features, this jacket offers solid protection from the elements
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $99 List | $74.21 at Amazon
Pros:  Many pockets, more waterproof, excellent wind protection, snap to allow unzipping during wear
Cons:  Elastic cuffs harsh, thin fabric can be seen through, large packed size
Manufacturer:   Rab
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 21, 2018
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Wind Resistance - 30% 9
  • Breathability - 30% 6
  • Weight and Packability - 20% 8
  • Versatility - 10% 7
  • Water Resistance - 10% 8

Our Verdict

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.

Color Updates

Rab is offering the Vital in some updated colors, like the violet shown above. The technical aspects and fit of the jacket remain the same as the red version we tested.

April 2020

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Rab Vital is a full-zip, hooded windbreaker made of Hyperlite and nylon. It weighs 5 ounces and features 2 zippered hand pockets, an inner zippered pocket and 2 inner open-top pockets.

Performance Comparison


The performance and technical features of the Vital make it a high-scorer in our side-by-side tests.
The performance and technical features of the Vital make it a high-scorer in our side-by-side tests.

Wind Resistance


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 Rab 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.

Stay protected from the wind with the Vital's elastic-lined hood.
Stay protected from the wind with the Vital's elastic-lined hood.

Breathability


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 Rab is 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.
Unzip the Vital to cool off without worry of it falling right off your shoulders.

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. However, with all the additional pocket zippers, the stiffened brim, and a few other extra technical features, the Rab can only be so light. It tips the scales at 5.0 ounces, which is about in the middle of the pack of windbreakers we tested.


While it can't come close to some of the featherweight models we tested, the Rab instead strikes a balance between usable features and weight. And unless you're really into ultralight gear, you probably won't notice much of a difference in a few extra ounces. 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. We also found that the jacket'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 folds into its own pocket to be brought along on any adventure.
The Vital folds into its own pocket to be brought along on any adventure.

Versatility


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 Rab 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.

The elastic band makes the Vital's hood more challenging to fit comfortably over a helmet.
The elastic band makes the Vital's hood more challenging to fit comfortably over a helmet.

Water Resistance


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!

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.
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.

Value


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.

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.
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.

Conclusion


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.
Windy day on the farm? No problem with the Vital.

Maggie Brandenburg