Rab have been synonymous with down products ever since they were founded back in the 1980s. Items such as the Peak Smock and Summit Jacket have become classics of their kind and a benchmark which others are judged by. In recent years Rab have also led the way with their micro-baffle products such as the Microlight, but when the going gets cold you still need something that packs a bit more of a punch. The Electron is pitched at that exact market: a mid-weight, technical down jacket that is ideal for year-round use. After several months of use here's how it got on...
Despite being pitched as a Regular Fit, I would describe the Electron as having more as a more 'Active' Fit. However, without wishing to get lost in industry jargon I would offer the following simple translation: it's actually got quite a slender cut. The arms are definitely on the snug side, with potential (if you've got a large set of forearms) for them to feel quite tight. There is plenty of room around the shoulders/chest, but bearing in mind I am a traditional medium, the large I had on review actually felt quite snug. Were I to have bought the Electron for more technical winter climbing I may have even had to go up to XL (gulp...), as few extra layers and a shell would probably have probably pushed the large over the edge - it would certainly made seconding those awful pitches when you're so cold that you are completely unwilling to take your duvet off more of a challenge! As a result of this sizing issue I would recommend trying one on first, or buying a size up if you're planning on more technical winter use.
Moving on from the body, the hood is great - being large enough to fit over a helmet and sealing well around the face. The stiffened brim and elasticated draw-cords helps to keep the cold out on particularly miserable days too, with the cord locks being small, but not too small to use with a thin/medium pair of gloves on. There is a velcro volume adjuster on the back of the hood which I never used (in fact I can never recall having used one on any down jacket I have ever owned - does anyone?!). As with most jackets on the market these days it features a 'drop seat', another good techy description that essentially means it's lower around your bum, thus keeping you that bit warmed on seated belays.
The elasticated cuff are a particularly aesthetic feature. I thought I might miss a velcro strap (or the suchlike), but the seal from the elastic was good and hassle free; furthermore, it seemed to allow gloves to glide through easily, providing your arms weren't too large to fit through the sleeves in the first place. This is a particularly good feature for Scottish Winter + Alpine use, as velcro can always get balled up and stop functioning properly - thus leading to unpleasant drafts up coming up your sleeves.
Personally, for what is dubbed as a technical jacket I would have liked to have seen more technical features: two-way zips and a glove/boot warmer pocket on the inside of the jacket are conspicuous by their absence. The one way zip, despite being a high quality YKK anti-snag affair, does means that belaying is a bit of a pain as the jacket has to be moved over the device rather than just folding neatly around it. At £230 it isn't cheap enough to justify this omission in my eyes, particularly as all the other specs - the cut, the material, the down etc... - are in-line with something far more advanced.
Finally, the inside pocket is big enough for wallet and keys, but not a pair of gloves. For Scottish winter and Alpine climbing I have always kept gloves on the inside pocket and in my eyes an internal pocket for this purpose is an integral feature, as keeping your gloves warm between belays isn't just a luxury - it's essential. That said maybe I'm just stuck in my ways, because there is more than enough space within the outer pockets which have both a large volume and a wide opening.
The Electon features 190g of 800 fill power European Goose Down, which is a good quantity of good down. In order to reduce weight (and overall cost) Rab have used a stitch through construction, using modified baffles (i.e. some big, some small) in key areas such as the body and sides. The result is a very warm jacket for a minimal weight (Large = 500g). This is possibly in my case benefited by the snug fit mentioned previously, but all in all despite the lack of technical features it certain offers a technical performance when it comes to staying warm.
The down featured throughout the jacket is fluro-carbon free Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. Obviously this is beneficial on an environmental level, as the reduction of PFC use within outdoor products is something that the industry should be aiming towards, particularly when brands such as Nikwax have proved that it can be done without a compromise to the products performance.
Having used the Electron on a variety of the extremely wet/miserable days we have been blessed with recently, I can admit to being greatly impressed. The 'water-resistant' outer shell doesn't live up to much (wetting out almost instantly), but the down underneath doesn't get as immediately soggy as classical un-treated down used to - which inevitably became sodden and clumpy within a very short space of time. Whilst I haven't used this in Scottish mountain conditions I can imagine the experience would be much the same, but maybe steer clear of those warmer/wetter days (hydrophobic though it may be, it will still get wet if you push it!) then bring it out when the cooler/drier conditions prevail - warmth-wise it won't disappoint.
The Electron is a well made jacket, both lightweight, warm and comfortable to wear. Features-wise I felt it is lacking somewhat and the absence of a two-way zip and internal glove pocket mean that it is better suited towards a rock climber/boulderer wishing to keep warm throughout the autumn/winter than a pure winter climber + alpinist. The Nikwax Hyrophobic Down definitely a made a difference to it's performance and I suspect will have a positive impact on the jackets longevity and use throughout warmer/wetter conditions. If orange isn't your thing then there's also a couple of more conservative colours available too!
What Rab Say:
The Electron Jacket is a mid-weight, technical down jacket, with a water-resistant Pertex® outer shell, designed for year-round climbing and mountain use. New for Autumn/Winter '15, the Electron is designed with a stitch-through construction throughout, with varying size baffles to help reduce bulk in key areas and to help eliminate cold spots.
190g/7oz (size Large) of 800FP European Goose Down provides exceptional levels of warmth and features a small-volume helmet-compatible hood. Key technical features include YKK® VISLON® zips throughout, elasticated stretch woven cuffs and a zipped internal security pocket.
The Electron Jacket is designed for cold weather climbing and mountain use, however with high levels of comfort and packability, it is suitable for day-to-day winter use.
Weight: 500g (Large)