Sunday, 7 November 2010

First Look: Rab Alpine Pull-On ultra-light softshell

Most of you know how much I love 'wind-shirts' for 3-season backpacking and hiking. In my opinion no other garment in my wardrobe is as adaptable or useful. The only time I ever found my current wind-shirt lacking was when skiing in winter where the minimal features and simple hood left me feeling a bit exposed. Enter Rab's new Alpine Pull-On, a wind-shirt for winter?

The two sides of Equilibrium. The fine outer filaments on the left and the larger inner filaments on the right.

Materials:

The Alpine Pull-On is constructed from Pertex Equilibrium, the same wonder fabric used on the outside of Rab's legendary Vapour-rise 'true' soft-shells. Pertex Equilibrium uses the capillary action of the 'denier gradient' fabric to draw moisture away for the inside of the fabric to the outside where it disperses and evaporates. It's also wind resistant and carries a DWR well. 

Design & construction:

Fixed hood. Crucial on any jacket calling itself a 'soft-shell' in my opinion. The hood on the Alpine Pull-On is a gem. There is an 'exoskeleton' external draw-cord that neatly adjusts the volume of the 'helmet compatible' hood (perfect when switching between headwear and eyewear during the course of a day) as well as a very structured foam and wire peak that should prove very useful at keeping wind driven snow out of my face. The hood also sports regular draw-cords for really pulling in the face aperture. There is also plenty of height and volume in the neck/face area preventing instances of torture when beards get chewed up by the zips on less generous garments.

The twin A-line pockets are an improvement over the 'kangaroo' pocket on my older model Vapour Rise smock. The deep pockets are mesh lined to allow even more ventilation. One feature that is a welcome cross-over from my Vapour Rise smock is the two-way deep chest zip offering plenty of ventilation adjustment, even while wearing a pack with a sternum strap. The sleeve cuffs are simple elasticated affairs that save weight and bulk .

Everything seems first class so far. The stitching is good and the YKK zips are quality. I may 'winterise' a couple of the zip pullers with lengths of 2mm dyneema to make them a little more 'glove friendly'. My size Medium weighs in at just 250g.

Fit:

Long sleeves are wonderful, especially in winter when I'll be swinging around on the end of long cross-country ski poles. Good body length with a slight drop tail seals the midriff up nicely and a slim, technical cut make this ideal for most 'active' users. Despite this being a 'shell' I went for the Medium as this fits nicely over base-layers and assists with wicking while allowing me to layer a burlier 'storm' shell over the top.

Usage:

A winter wind-shirt is basically what I'll be using this for, layering it over base-layers of various thickness, especially my Ibex Indie and Patagonia R1 hoody to hopefully give me a slightly more adaptable twist on Rab's Vapour Rise concept. The Equilibrium fabric should help keep me dry, especially useful during high aerobic activities such as ski touring and snow-shoeing. I will review the Alpine Pull-On in full in the coming months.

13 comments:

Maz said...

Doesn't look like a Villain on your shoulders there. Or is it one of the older/new versions...?

As for the Rab Alpine - the water resistance of softshells has always given me pause but pertex equilibrium is a very different animal. I've gone for Páramo this winter, mostly because I'll be in Scotland in hellish weather for some of it and, for my Snowdonia and Lake District overnighters as well. I'll only have a base layer underneath it - a thickish one for really cold (Páramo Mountain Pull On) and a thinner one for less frigid conditions. It may be I don't get on with Páramo but I like it so far. I can skip a mid-layer with it.

Nielsen Brown said...

Great photos in B&W, Joe, it seems that you had a helper for the photography, or you moved quickly : ). The jacket looks great, I love Rab stuff and I am forever looking for the perfect "for me" Rab outfit. I look forward to hearing more about all of your Rab gear.

Martin Rye said...

Nice kit and I have a weeks winter walk this year in Scotland. This might just be on the kit list as it would be comfy as heck. Then I do have a Paramo top and wonder if it does the same as the RAB top?

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

I really liked your review, nice pictures and just the right amount of information. Looking forward to hearing about your long term experiences with it.

Joe Newton said...

Maz - well spotted, it's not a Villain on my shoulders, it's the Villain's skinny little cousin, the Adventure Light 20. My 'running' pack.

Ahh, the Paramo debate. This year I have decided to finally give this Paramo malarky a try and I'm currently using a Velez smock to try out the concept before parting with my hard earned cash. There are some definate advantages to Paramo, such as it's simplicity (just leave it on all day) and it's adaptability (it's a mid-layer, softshell and hardshell all in one) that make it hard to beat. It does however have a few niggles and it's the fit and design of some of the pieces that I'm struggling with. I will go more into depth about it in a post later this week.

Roger - thank you. No photographer's assistant on this shoot, just imagination, bodging a tripod and self-timer! More Rab coming up this week...

Martin - there will be times, especially skinning up hill on skis where wearing Paramo, even in sub-zero temperatures will be too warm. Does that mean it would make sense to carry the Alpine Pull-On as well? I don't know, but I'm going to have plenty of fun trying out these combinations this winter! :-)

Thomas - Thanks. Expect a big Paramo v softshell v conventional 3-layer system post in January when I'm hoping to pitch all these options together during a week of ski guiding. The stop/start nature of a days guiding will hopefully be a really good test of the various option's abilities to deal with high exertion and long chilling stops.

Fraser said...

I have some Rab VR trousers, which are superb, particularly in the snow. The cut isn't great for me, I'd prefer them a touch looser, but the fabric performance is faultless...

So I reckon you're onto a winner here. Interesting hood setup, looks perfect for wind blown snow...

ROBERT said...

Joe,

You said" Expect a big Paramo v softshell v conventional 3-layer system post in January when I'm hoping to pitch all these options together during a week of ski guiding. The stop/start nature of a days guiding will hopefully be a really good test of the various option's abilities to deal with high exertion and long chilling stops."

There is of course another option: Buffalo the one layer for winter.I use a Buffalo Mountain shirt with nowt underneath once the temperature falls below 0C and at lunch stop I put on my Montane Toasty over the Buffalo.

I only use "layers" when it is above 0C, usually Paramo Analogy if it is torrential rain or one of my windshirts (Paramo/Buffalo/Montane )over a baselayer when it is just showers.

I also use Buffalo Techlite for transition months as it is a comfortable top.

I never use membranes as they just don't work for me.

I still have my Rohan salopettes which are great in snow from the 80's only thing that has needed replacing is the braces which my wife did for me.

There are so many variables and what works for one will not for another.

Tomorrow I'm in the hills and there is plenty of snow above 2500' so it is a Buffalo day.

The wonderful thing about both Buffalo & Paramo is excellent breathability - nothing quite like it.

Hope you have a great winter in Norway.

Cheers,

Rob fae Craigellachie

Joe Newton said...

Fraser - the idea of VR pants for winter is awesome but I look for a couple of features in winter pants that the current VR pants don't have. Thigh vents are highly desirable, especially when cross country skiing in Spring. I also like my winter pants to have 'crampon patches' (useful for crampons, snowshoes and skis), internal snow/mini gaiters so I don't have to wear seperates and braces, to keep them up and snug (useful if you 'enjoy' rolling around in the snow when you fall off your skis...).

Rob - I see Buffalo as a 'true' softshell, the same as Rab's VR concept. The VR gear is just thinner and that suits me as I run very hot and skinning skis uphill in Spring can be very warm. I have worn the Montane Extreme 'Buffalo' style products and they work very well in deep cold conditions.

I agree with your comment about membranes, I am trying to rid them from my winter clothing systems. I will be wearing softshell trousers exclusively this winter (albeit with membrane material on the knees). I will also swapping between softshells and Paramo on top in an effort to find the best solutions for the kind of trip I'm on. A multi-day, cold ski tour has completely different requirements than what I might wear on a short, sunny fizz around the local groomed ski trails.

ROBERT said...

Hi Joe,

I’ve been incommunicado since my post on the 9th.

You said on the 14th November: “A multi-day, cold ski tour has completely different requirements than what I might wear on a short, sunny fizz around the local groomed ski trails.”

Agreed, and I certainly think you are doing the right thing in trying the various options to find what fulfils your needs.

One of my brothers ski tours in Norway every year and has used Paramo for at least 15 years now – if you have a copy of Chris Townsend’s book The Backpacking Handbook (3rd Ed) and go to the chapter Adventure Travel – backpacking abroad - there is a photo of my brother (2nd from left) on page 398.

Today I was in the hills - lots of snow and it was a perfect day: wall to wall sunshine and a balmy -3C. Lovely to sit on the top, put on a brew and just enjoy the view for an hour. Then the wind got up and spindrift galore and time to head down. I was really toasty – I wore a Buffalo Mountain Shirt and Paramo Cascada trousers. With the benign weather sitting in the sun I did not need to put on another insulating layer over my Mountain Shirt.

Cairngorm Mountain opened for the downhill mob this weekend – there is lots of snow in the Scottish Mountains at the moment – all the signs for another hard and snowy winter.

Good luck in testing your softshells vs Paramo for your ski touring.

Best wishes,

Rob fae Craigellachie

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Hi all. I reviewed the Alpine Pull On for UKClimbing earlier this year. http://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/review.php?id=2685 I think it's a good top - but one important thing to note, Rab doesn't favour the stocky or broad chested. I'm a medium with just about all brands but the Pull On in medium is very slightly tight across my chest. Otherwise arm and body length are spot on, and for those reasons I wouldn't want to use a large. I'm sure it is a great fit for slim folks though!

Joe Newton said...

Toby - "Rab doesn't favour the stocky or broad chested" - and we are happier consumers because of this fact! Mountain Hardwear, The North Farce, Berghaus, Patagonia, Paramo, Mountain Equipment, etc, etc all produce wide cut, boxy apparel for the big and burly out there. Rab, Montane and Haglofs, to name a few, make clothes for the slimmer, multi-sport crowd. Everyone has their 'brand' and there is plenty of choice for everyone.

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Hi Joe. Just saw your reply on this. Interestingly I find Haglöfs medium fits me excellently and has done with a few different items over the years. I would happily mail order Haglöfs medium without a second thought. So I think RAB has a particularly slim fit, which is obviously great if you slim - just like you say! :-) But it's perhaps worth emphasising for people who have to order online rather than try on in a shop. I've found this with consistently with three sized medium Rab tops, and one size large Rab Duvet.

I have a Montane Extreme smock from some years back which is a bit of disaster in its fit - but I think they had a 'bad' season back then. Good to hear they are now consistent. It is great to find a brand that consistently fits you. For me I've found Haglöfs and Marmot both very good for my shape.

Joe Newton said...

Toby - our conversation on this topic spilled over onto BPL forums when someone else was having problems with Rab's fit. I'm sure there are many people that don't fit Rab's clothes and many that do. Rab keeps churning out good gear so they must have a good market share. As you mention, I will always try to remind people that Rab products have a slim cut.

Yeah, I remember PTC saying that Montane had a bad year with their cut and shape. Thankfully they seem to be back on track!