UKC

Rab Microlight Alpine jacket - Men's and Women's Review

© Rob Greenwood

Last year the Microlight turned 10 years old and along the way received a complete re-design; however, here we are 12 months later with another version altogether. Is it possible to get too much of a good thing?! Ordinarily we might say so, with development for development sake, but in this case Rab have gone above and beyond in making what could well be their most popular insulated jacket as ethical and sustainable as possible, with P.U.R.E. recycled down and recycled fabrics throughout.

The Women's Rab Microlight Alpine  © UKC Gear
The Women's Rab Microlight Alpine
© UKC Gear

The Men's Rab Microlight Alpine  © UKC Gear
The Men's Rab Microlight Alpine
© UKC Gear

Functionality

As down jackets go, the Microlight is a superb all-rounder and can be used for a wide variety of activities. Between us we've used it on cooler days whilst hillwalking, packed it as a 'just in case' layer when running, used it for belaying during trad/sport climbing, or as a jacket to boulder in. On a less technical note it's also been used casually, simply because it's a nice, comfortable jacket to wear.

Whilst the Microlight isn't designed to be the warmest jacket in Rab's collection it packs a surprising punch in terms of its warmth to weight - hence it's something you can rely on for a cool, breezy day. If anything, its light weight has made it even more versatile, and it's fair to say that the Microlight Alpine is one of the first jackets I reach for heading out the house, irrespective of the season - spring, summer, autumn and winter (and there's not many other jackets I can say that about). Heavyweight jackets are great for keeping you warm, but aren't great for when you're on the move. The Microlight can easily be integrated with a warmer layer on particularly cold days too, where it almost acts as a midlayer.

Fit

Rob: One factor that's key to the Microlight's success is its versatility, but the other factor is its fit, which is as close to perfect as they come. It's got a great, active cut and superb freedom of movement. It's snug, but not tight, which isn't something that is easy to achieve, but makes so much of a difference. The absence of excess material means there's no flapping around, which also means less material to get caught, but also has the added benefit of making it as efficient, lightweight and low bulk as possible. The arms are nice and long too, and the hood is a proper wired full-size mountain hood, which is great with or without a helmet (courtesy of volume adjustment on the back and sides. The fit is described as 'Regular' by Rab, which I take to mean that it's neither particularly narrow or particularly wide across the shoulders, which I would tend to agree with, not least because it fits me (and I'm somewhere in the middle).

Penny: The Women's model has a nice cut, being feminine without being too tight or figure hugging. From a climber's perspective it has nice, long arms and a subtle elasticated sleeve which stays where it should and doesn't get in your way. My shoulders are probably at the broader end of the spectrum, but I've found it to have ample freedom of movement, so much so that I often find myself climbing in it on particularly cold days. The fit was also true to size, with no surprises either way.

and a fit that is snug, without being too tight  © UKC Gear
and a fit that is snug, without being too tight
© UKC Gear

A good sized hood, with a wired peak  © UKC Gear
A good sized hood, with a wired peak
© UKC Gear

The Microlight Alpine in use on the World's roughest rock type: Dartmoor Granite  © UKC Gear
The Microlight Alpine in use on the World's roughest rock type: Dartmoor Granite
© UKC Gear

The Microlight's superb freedom of movement means it's perfect for climbing in  © UKC Gear
The Microlight's superb freedom of movement means it's perfect for climbing in
© UKC Gear

Weight and Fill

Rob: The Men's Microlight comes in at 400g in size Medium, which is clearly pretty light, although lighter jackets do exist. That said, it hits something of a sweet spot in terms of its size, weight and fill which makes it the superb all-rounder it is.

Penny: Due to its smaller size, the Women's Microlight Alpine comes in a little lighter than the Men's, with a total weight of 372g for Size 10.

When it comes to fill the Microlight features 700 fill P.U.R.E recycled down. P.U.R.E. is - for those that don't know - the world's first down to be certified by the Global Recycle Standard. This process involves a reduction of waste by recovering and upcycling existing down to create a more sustainable product. The remarkable thing about the end product - as far as we can tell - is that it's exactly the same in terms of performance. For more information check out the P.U.R.E. website.

Whilst Rab were tweaking the down, they were also tweaking the baffles, re-distributing fill to where it's needed most, but in our opinion this is pretty subtle (as it was already a very good, and very well refined jacket).

Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is very much the market leader as far as performance and environment are concerned, being PFC free. Not only does this treatment help the down shrug off water, but it also helps it to recover faster after it does get wet. For those that have got down jackets soaked before you will know all too well that they lose their insulating properties along the way, so this treatment is very much an investment in your own levels of warmth and comfort.

So far we've failed to scuff the fabric, even when climbing...  © UKC Gear
So far we've failed to scuff the fabric, even when climbing...
© UKC Gear

Fabric

This is the second area that has changed massively, with a move to 100% recycled fabrics both in the inner and the outer. The only exception is the zip, but hopefully that will change sometime in the near future.

The main outer fabric is a lightweight 50 denier Pertex Quantum fabric. This lightweight material can shrug off an impressive amount of wear and tear, but is something you need to look after - particularly around sharp edges. That said, we gave it as good a test as we could on what could well be the world's sharpest rock - Dartmoor granite - and it came out unscathed (although it wasn't like we were trying to fall in it!).

Whilst the outer is treated with DWR, as with many PFC free products the actual durability of this water resistance is pretty limited; however, coupled with the Nikwax Hydrophobic Down it makes a good combination that can shrug off a shower for an hour or two - just try not to be out for too much longer (or if you are, take a waterproof).

On the inside of the jacket is a 20 denier nylon. Rab have stripped away the excess weight from where it's not needed, as the inner doesn't require the same levels of abrasion resistance as the outer, and benefits from a lighter fabric that allows the down to loft to the max.

Chest Pocket  © UKC Gear
Chest Pocket
© UKC Gear

Hand Warmer Pockets  © UKC Gear
Hand Warmer Pockets
© UKC Gear

Features

One of the nice things about the Microlight is its simplicity, which ultimately means a lack of faff and features. It is a clean jacket, so its features are the basics: two nice, deep pockets for your hands, a chest pocket for your phone (or whatever else you might put in there) and that's about it.

Rob: One feature I would like to have seen is a reversible pocket, which acts as a stuff sack. Whilst the Microlight does come with a separate stuff sack, this is something that can easily be lost, so having it integrated into the jacket would eliminate that risk.

Looking a little deeper there are some subtle details worthy of note, including the internally elasticated cuffs, which keep themselves nicely in place - not too tight, not too slack - and mean that your wrists are kept nice and warm.

Summary

Whilst the latest version of the Microlight may not boast brand new features or increased warmth, what it does offer is a more ethical and sustainable product. This alone should be applauded, but the fact that Rab have managed to achieve this without sacrificing the performance of an already very good, and very popular product, is something they should feel doubly good about. Warmth to weight, cut, fit, and functionality have been preserved from the previous version, only now they're better as a result of the fact that they come to you courtesy of a jacket with a lower impact on the planet.

Rab say:

Our classic lightweight down jacket has been updated. With a fresh design aesthetic and recycled construction, the highly packable Microlight Alpine Jacket is the go-to system for rapid warmth when the temperature drops.

The redesigned Microlight Alpine Jacket takes the versatile, easy-pack insulation of the established classic and dials in some intelligent new upgrades. It features a combination of zoned micro and nano baffles to increase core warmth without inflating weight or bulk - and the jacket's ethical credentials are now equally sound. With 30D Pertex® Quantum ripstop nylon, as well as GRS-certified, 700 fill power P.U.R.E recycled hydrophobic down, the Microlight Alpine Jacket now features fully recycled shell, insulation and lining. Practical and user-friendly, both as an everyday jacket and as a mountain layer, additional features include three harness-compatible pockets, an easy-carry stuff sack and a down-filled hood with stiffened peak.

  • Sizes: XXS-XXL (men) 8-18 (women)
  • Weight: 400g size M (men's)
  • Adjustable hood with stiffened peak
  • Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon fabrics are soft and packable
  • Zoned lightweight micro and nano baffle stitch-through construction
  • YKK® zipped hand pockets and large zipped chest pocket
  • Internally elasticated cuffs and drawcord adjustable hem
  • Main Fabric: Recycled 30D nylon Pertex Quantum, 50g/m², with DWR
  • Lining: Recycled 20D nylon, 38g/m²
  • Insulation: Recycled 700 fill-power down Nikwax hydrophobic (water-resistant) finish (153g Size L)
  • Composition: 100% recycled polyamide outer with 100% recycled polyamide lining
  • Stuff sack included

For more info see rab.equipment



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5 Jan

Looks more like a paid promotion than a review?

I always find such feedback disheartening, as we go to great lengths to make our reviews independent. They are certainly NOT something brands pay for, as this goes against everything we stand for, and would also bind us into exclusively saying nice things about them (which we don't).

That said, this is undoubtedly a positive review. Not all reviews I write are as glowing as this (and I'd happily outline a few of the clangers I've written over the years), but this one is as close to perfect as they come, and why is that? It's because the Microlight is a pretty damn good product...

If it wasn't - or worse still, if it was genuinely poor - I would have had no hesitation whatsoever in giving it an absolute panning, which is something I've done to a great many other products over the years. The fact it's a good product, and that it also combines a fairly sound set of ethical credentials, raises the bar even higher.

It has consistently been my go-to since it arrived on my doorstep (or at least it was until last week when the temperatures dropped and I started using a larger/warmer jacket). Having re-read what I written I think it's both fair and honest, although I still wish they'd included a reversible pocket in which to stuff it, as that might mean I carry it on more routes throughout the spring.

5 Jan

Many thanks for clarifying that. There's so much advertorial in magazines/internet etc these days, and it's not always clearly marked as such.

FWIW we have a couple of these jackets (2019 model) and they've been great.

Great review and the thing that set it apart is not only the fact we have vid and text but feedback for both M/F. I really can't see how this could be any better, the level of detail is surgical.

I'm totally with you on this. It drives me crazy seeing what some publications (be that in print or online) are willing to masquerade as 'editorial', when it's clearly just advertising. It's often the brazen, lazy nature in which it's presented that gets to me too, as often there's little or no evidence that the product has been used. It's for this reason that we use actual photographs of people out/about using the jacket, rather than studio shots, because this goes some way towards proving that we've actually put it through its paces. At the end of the day what we aim to provide, and what I hope we achieve, is an honest appraisal.

How much did they pay you to say this ;-)

Sorry, bad joke...

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