In reply to blackreaver: I had a VR guide jacket for about a year, found it way too warm for summer cragging and not wind/water proof enough for winter. It was really only useful for perfect alpine conditions; cold, not windy and not raining. Those conditions don't happen very often so I sold it!
Alibi jacket gets a good write up, i'd look at that.
In reply to blackreaver: I've got a Rab VR Guide and it's been my most used top over the last year. It does get too warm for a month or two over the summer and I take a thin waterproof shell to put over it in winter (although I've only got wet in it once and that was climbing a (non-frozen) waterfall). It's comfortable in by far the majority of conditions, much more breathable than a normal softshell and more abrasion resistant than standard Vapour-rise. Love the loads of pockets too.
In reply to blackreaver: I'd recommend a pertex/ wicking combo. I like my Marmot dri-clime ether. I've tried powershield and found it good for trousers but less good for jackets, once wet it really takes a long time to dry again. You can't get away from taking a water proof in the UK, so not much point in the one-stop-shop approach of the Alibi IMHO (and it's heavy)
In reply to blackreaver: Ive got a Patagonia Northwall in L on Premier Posts if youre interested. Not a cheap jacket but probably one of the best scottish/alpine winter jackets Even Coldthistle raves about them.
I've used a VR Guide for the last couple of winters and really like it but I think it would be too warm (and bulky) for cragging outside of very cold weather.
It is true that it isn't that wind proof - the trade-off for better breathability - but I've used it over a base layer and an R1 in some really foul Cairngorm weather (wind on the point of being blown over and hailing) and been fine. I screwed up badly one day and got soaked to the skin on the walk in (should have taken a light waterproof just in case) but I was still warm enough and by the time we'd finished the climb, I was dry. I think the (thin) pile-pertex combination is the best choice to sometimes combine with a hard shell but retain decent breathability.
An important thing though, I'd suggest, is fit. The VR Guide fits me well, with good freedom of movement but something else might be a better fit for you.
In reply to blackreaver: I use a VR trail jacket (which, I'm pretty sure is what the guide superseded) literally all year round. Absolutely brilliant bit of kit, though only as part of a layering system.
I find it perfect for walking in on winter days, but not quite weather proof enough for the climbing, so I chuck a hardshell over it before getting on routes.
In summer, I find it's plenty good enough for keeping out the wind etc. Yeah, it's a bit too warm for it in June/July/August but in this country you can never be too careful...
My only gripe is that it's not very packable. Having said that, I don't think many softshells are.
"I use a VR trail jacket (which, I'm pretty sure is what the guide superseded)"
No, the Guide is a warmer, more substantial jacket with a looser cut, thicker insulation (a gridded fleece, like Patagonia R1) in the body and hood, reinforced shoulders and elbows and a fixed, helmet compatible hood.
I've just had a look on the Rab website and the Trail (I've got one too for the warmer months) seems to have been replaced by the "Vapour Rise Jacket" (as a heavier duty option) and "Vapour Rise Lite Alpine" (as a lighter weight version). Interestingly, both with fixed helmet-compatible hoods rather than the rather poor 'hide in the collar' design of the last Trail Jacket. http://rab.uk.com/products/mens-clothing/vapour-rise_1.html
In reply to BnB: I have used a powershield jacket, the rab baltaro, its very good in winter, windproof, warm enough, breaths well - far better than a hard shell, but I fully agree than if there us a chance of prolonged heavy rain then you well get wet and it will take a while to dry out. So in serious outings it would be wise to have a backup shell unfortunately. Isn't this the point someone talks of the merits of paramo?
Just about anything marketed as a 'softshell' these days feels uncomfortably clammy to me in the UK - they aren't that breathable under an outer layer and not easy to control the heat (IMO of course). My old nylon faced fleece is windproof enough most of the time and is still very breathable even under a waterproof. Equivalent to (but not as versatile) as a fleece and pertex combo mentioned above.