UKC

Rab's Xenair range - a jacket for all seasons? Review

© Dan Bailey

Billed as 'intelligent insulation', Rab's Xenair range of synthetic insulated jackets is designed for stop-start mountain activities such as climbing, hillwalking and backpacking, combining lightweight and efficient insulation with a fabric that manages to be both breathable and wind resistant. These are intended to be jackets you can wear all day, keeping you at a comfortable temperature and not too sweaty both when working hard and when you're stationary. 

Xenair Alpine on a sunny, windy day on Ben Macdui - no need for a shell  © Dan Bailey
Xenair Alpine on a sunny, windy day on Ben Macdui - no need for a shell
© Dan Bailey

With a couple of recent additions, the Xenair collection now includes five models, all of which are available in both men's and women's sizes:

  • Xenair Insulated Vest
  • Xenair Light Insulated Jacket
  • Xenair Insulated Jacket
  • Xenair Alpine Light Insulated Jacket
  • Xenair Alpine Insulated Jacket

For the past several months I have been using three of these, between them spanning a range of uses from fast-and-light at the lighter end, to full-on winter mountaineering at the upper end: the Xenair Light Insulated Jacket; the Xenair Insulated Jacket; and the Xenair Alpine Insulated Jacket.  

The midweight Xenair jacket happily keeping out the spindrift on Ben More Assynt  © Dan Bailey
The midweight Xenair jacket happily keeping out the spindrift on Ben More Assynt
© Dan Bailey

The verdict? Synthetic insulated jackets that are genuinely breathable enough to wear on the go are pretty rare in my experience, and thanks to the combination of insulation and fabric used here, Rab have certainly managed that.

A coherent range that offers a different choice of jacket aimed at pretty much any mountain use and season, the Xenair collection is a strong concept. While I think each individual piece is let down a bit by finer points of fit and features, they are all easy jackets to get on with. Whether walking hard uphill, climbing, or hanging about on a windy summit, these are jackets you can wear for hours and more or less forget about - sufficiently weather-resistant that you don't have to keep stopping to change in and out of a shell in variable conditions, while still breathable enough that you're not constantly fiddling with layers to regulate your temperature. In terms of those key fundamentals, Xenair is a success.

For their relative warmth all the pieces in the range seem light and packable, and they share the very useful feature of stuffing into a pocket for hanging off a harness, something we'd like to see more often in lighter jackets:

L to R: Xenair Light, Xenair, Xenair Alpine, 1 litre bottle  © Dan Bailey
L to R: Xenair Light, Xenair, Xenair Alpine, 1 litre bottle
© Dan Bailey

Ethics and environment

Rab has fairly recently joined the Fair Wear Foundation, which has awarded them 'Good' status. They say they'd like to do better. "We'll continue working with Fair Wear and other brands to challenge, influence, and develop the working conditions at our factories. Each year we develop a plan with Fair Wear and our manufacturers, targeting efforts to maximise improvements across our supply chain" they say.

Overall Summary

Make and model

Rab

Xenair Light Insulated Jacket

Price: £150

Weight: 275g size L

Best for: High output activity in cool-to-cold conditions, lightweight backpacking, or an emergency layer for runners

Rab

Xenair Insulated Jacket

Price: £180

Weight: 367g size L

Best for: A warm midlayer or a light-ish outer, good for a summer camp or to wear all day on winter hills

Rab

Xenair Alpine Insulated Jacket

Price: £190

Weight: 468g size L

Best for: Midweight synthetic insulation offering a bit more protection, with features aimed at mountaineers

Xenair Light Insulated Jacket £150


The Xenair Light plays a similar role to a light lined softshell such as Rab's Vapour-rise range, combining a weather-resistant outer with a little insulation - but not so much that you instantly overheat when working hard. In terms of use through all seasons this may be the most versatile of the Xenair family, since it functions well as a midlayer, but proves equally adept as your main jacket in less-cold conditions, or when working at max output on a winter day. It's breathable enough to wear while hill running in cold weather, and packable enough for runners to carry as a just-in-case layer. But I think it'll prove most useful for hillwalking and lightweight summer backpacking.

Thin, lightweight insulation that's good to wear on the go  © Dan Bailey
Thin, lightweight insulation that's good to wear on the go
© Dan Bailey

Fit

For me, the cut of the Xenair Light is its big letdown since it limits what you can do in the jacket. Though it's quite an 'athletic' item, the fit is more roomy and regular than active and body-hugging. There's easily space to wear a couple of layers inside, a long-sleeved baselayer and a midweight fleece top for instance, and while this works if you're using the Xenair Light as your outer layer in winter, I think that at this weight being a bit more fitted might be more apt. I find the body quite boxy, both wide and short in the hem. It only just sits below my waist, and I'd feel more snug and weather-protected with a couple more centimetres of length.   

While the sleeves are long, the underarm articulation isn't great, and with arms raised I get a lot of hem lift. I have worn the Xenair Light climbing, but I wouldn't rush to do so again since the hem lift means it's always pulling out of your harness. By virtue of this alone, I would say the cut is better suited to walking than scrambling, climbing or mountaineering. However since clothing sizing is far from an exact science, other users may not suffer the degree of hem lift I do, so the best advice would be to try it on for yourself. 

The simple part-stretchy cuffs are roomy enough to fit over bulky gloves - in fact they do this more easily than the cuffs on the Xenair Alpine, which seems the wrong way round. They also feature concealed thumb loops, which I've found quite useful for keeping the wrists and backs of the hands warm when I've not quite felt I needed gloves. The Xenair Light is the only piece in the range to feature thumb holes. To help you cool down on the go, the sleeves are also loose enough to roll up to the elbow, something I often find myself doing when working up a sweat.

The only jacket in the range with thumb loops  © Dan Bailey
The only jacket in the range with thumb loops
© Dan Bailey

Weight

At just 275g in size Large (Rab say 254g size M) this is right down at the lightweight end of the synthetic insulated jackets scale, and for me the lightness, combined with the relative warmth on offer, is its big advantage, since it allows the Xenair Light to stand in for a softshell. For example, it's almost exactly the same weight and packed size as the the Jöttnar Asger HS, a thin lined hoodless softshell that I'm also currently reviewing. While the Asger feels like it wins on breathability and fast drying time, the Xenair Light is thicker and appreciably warmer.

Winter climbing in the Xenair Light on a warm day  © Toby Archer
Winter climbing in the Xenair Light on a warm day
© Toby Archer

Light and packable enough to carry when running  © Dan Bailey
Light and packable enough to carry when running
© Dan Bailey

Insulation

Throughout the Xenair range Rab have used Primaloft Gold Active+, a market-leading synthetic insulation with excellent warmth for weight, loft, stretch, and packability. It also contains 55% recycled material, which is a lot better than none. In the Xenair Light you get 40gsm of fill, and though this has quite a minimalist feel it's certainly snug for its thinness.

Typically you won't find synthetic insulated jackets to be all that breathable, and this has tended to limit their usefulness in sweatier, more active situations. This is in part down to the fact that densely woven fabrics have been needed to help prevent microfibres migrating from the insulation. But thanks to the structure of its fibres, say Primaloft, Gold Active+ is designed to be used with more breathable linings and outer fabrics, and this means improved comfort and better overall performance. Over a few months of use in varied conditions I've found that all the Xenair jackets feel surprisingly breathable, and I have to be working pretty hard (and perhaps over-insulated for the weather) before I start feeling sweaty inside.      

In the case of the Xenair Light, Rab have included a large uninsulated fabric panel under the arms, and I've no doubt this helps you keep feeling comfy on the move. 

Using the Xenair Light as a very lightly insulated and wind-resistant layer on a winter climbing walk-in  © Dan Bailey
Using the Xenair Light as a very lightly insulated and wind-resistant layer on a winter climbing walk-in
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

On the outside it's Pertex Quantum Air, a 20D ripstop fabric which, say Rab, has an open woven structure for greater air permeability - and thus improved breathability. You can certainly feel a strong wind through it, but not in my experience to an uncomfortable degree, so it's best to consider this jacket highly wind-resistant rather than full-on windproof. Since breathability is really the Xenair's key selling point, I'd say Rab have chosen the fabric well. While quite thin, the fabric seems sufficiently durable for a jacket aimed at mountain use. It's DWR-treated too, giving it a degree of resistance to light showers and spindrift. If the weather is on-off rather than fully raining, you probably won't have to stop to add a shell.    

I like the simple mid-height collar and weather-resistant fabric  © Dan Bailey
I like the simple mid-height collar and weather-resistant fabric
© Dan Bailey

Features

I feel I moan to an obsessive degree about the tendency for manufacturers to put hoods on every single item of clothing (well, not trousers), so for me one outstanding feature of the Xenair Light is actually something it doesn't have. A hoodless jacket like this is less bulky when layering up, slightly lighter and more packable, and arguably better than a hooded version for use in less challenging conditions when a hood is largely redundant. The simple mid-height collar is comfortable, and protects the front of the neck well - though ideally it could have come a bit higher at the back.

The Xenair Light's two zipped hand pockets are large enough to carry gloves, a hat, or even an OS-sized map. They've also been placed high enough to remain usable when wearing a rucksack hipbelt, a detail that designers don't always get right. A third inside chest pocket gives you somewhere safe and warm to carry a phone, and better yet doubles as a storage pouch, which is really useful in a jacket this light that you might want to squish down as small as possible for easy packing when running.

Around the rear of the hem is an elastic drawcord. This has a single toggle, which floats annoyingly rather than being tethered to the hem, and thus needs two hands to operate. Though the elastic tail is directed up inside the jacket, there's way too much of it, so it tends to flop down and leave you with a long cord dangling from the waist. The drawcord design feels unfinished, to be frank.

Rab say:

The Xenair Light Jacket uses synthetic insulation and breathable outer fabrics, ideal for use as a warm midlayer or as a technical outer. Highly versatile and hardworking with a super low pack size, this synthetic insulated jacket is perfect for high energy activities, from fast hiking to mountaineering.

The Xenair Light Jacket is built with a Pertex® Quantum Air outer. This fabric has an open woven structure which allows air to flow through it freely, and a DWR finish easily shedding light rain and snow. With maximum breathability and weather protection, the Xenair Light Jacket is ideal for intense mountain activities.It is insulated with body mapped, recycled PrimaLoft® Gold Active+, strategically zoned to areas where extra warmth is needed. High heat areas, such as under the arms, are insulation free to aid temperature regulation. Designed with an articulated fit and adjustable hem, the Xenair Light Jacket enables full range of movement when negotiating challenging terrain. It has a full length YKK® VISLON® ® front zip with an insulated zip baffle and chin guard for comfort.

  • Weight: 275g size L (our weight)
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Fit: regular
  • Body mapped insulation with zoned areas of uninsulated panels to aid thermoregulation
  • Outer Fabric - Lightweight, breathable 20D Pertex® Quantum Air ripstop fabric with acrylic coating (47gsm)
  • PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ synthetic insulation with 55% recycled content (40gsm)
  • YKK® VISLON® front zip with insulated zip baffle and chin guard
  • 2 YKK® concealed zipped hand pockets, one of which doubles as an integrated stuff sack
  • YKK® concealed zip chest pocket
  • Elasticated gusset at the cuff with a low profile and draft-free thumb loop
  • Articulated sleeves for mobility. Adjustable hem
  • Centre back length (Size M): 71cm / 28inch
View website

Xenair Insulated Jacket £180


The midweight of the trio, the Xenair Jacket has the versatility to suit a variety of uses, weather conditions, and seasons. Light enough for spring or autumn backpacking, while still sufficiently warm to wear on the move on winter hills, it's a jacket with a foot in many camps, and equally viable as a beefy mid-layer or a light-ish stand-alone. However on me the cut better suits walking than climbing or scrambling. 

It's a good weight for active use in autumn, winter and spring  © Dan Bailey
It's a good weight for active use in autumn, winter and spring
© Dan Bailey

Fit

While there will be times when the lack of a hood is a disadvantage on a midweight synthetic insulated jacket like this, on balance I'm in favour of the Xenair Jacket's hoodless simplicity, and I certainly value having a hood-free option of this weight in my cupboard. The collar sits fairly high at the front, giving you protection right up under the chin, but as with the Xenair Light I do find it a fraction low-cut at the back of the neck. It's not a close-fitting collar, so you'll need something like a Buff underneath to keep the wind out in colder weather.  

At 1.83cm, and fairly broad, I'm generally a benchmark size L in Rab clothing, and this jacket is no exception. The hem sits below my waist, which is good for the general feeling of warmth, dropping lower at the rear to give almost full bum coverage. In the body there's enough volume to fit over a couple of inner layers, which will be useful in winter. In fact, the same as the Xenair Light, the fit around the middle is loose and boxy compared to the figure-hugging 'athletic' tailoring of a lot of modern midweight jackets. I'm not skinny by any means, but even on me the cut in the trunk feels baggy. 

I like the snug drop hem  © Dan Bailey
I like the snug drop hem
© Dan Bailey

Going hoodless suits me too  © Dan Bailey
Going hoodless suits me too
© Dan Bailey

While the sleeves are apparently cut with articulation for freedom of movement, this is entirely unsuccessful on me. With insufficient volume under the arms, the hem lifts right above my waist when I reach up, and the jacket instantly rides up out of a harness. I find the arms are cut quite short too, so the sleeves pull off my wrist when reaching upwards, and if wearing a long-sleeved baselayer the cuffs of this tend to push out under the jacket. On me, the fit at the elbows is too close, and there's no stretch in the fabric to compensate. There's only just enough give in the sleeves to pull them up over your forearms if you want to cool down on the move, too, and you may also struggle to fit the cuffs over bulkier winter gauntlets. 

On the strength (or rather, weakness) of the arm tailoring alone, I would not choose the Xenair Jacket for climbing or scrambling, and I'd only use it for walking. Of course we are all built on different lines, and others may get on better with the tailoring than I have. As ever, you'll need to try that for yourself.

The cuffs fit over medium-bulky gloves, but not full weight winter gauntlets  © Dan Bailey
The cuffs fit over medium-bulky gloves, but not full weight winter gauntlets
© Dan Bailey

Weight and warmth

At 367g in my size L (Rab say 337g Size M) it's fair to class this as a lightweight insulated jacket, the sort of thing you can chuck in your pack year round, and barely notice the weight, but something that's still thick enough to give you quite a warmth boost when needed. If used as your primary insulation it best suits cool-to-coldish weather - think bridge seasons on the Scottish hills. But at this weight it's also good for active use in full-on winter cold if you have something warmer on standby, and in that niche it performs a similar sort of role to a mid-to-heavyweight softshell, while being both lighter and warmer than most.

Proving its worth as both outer layer and primary insulation on a windy winter day  © Dan Bailey
Proving its worth as both outer layer and primary insulation on a windy winter day
© Dan Bailey

Insulation

Key to the Xenair Jacket's good level of warmth for its weight is, again, the use of PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation. Here Rab have gone for two different weights: 80gsm in most of the body, shoulders, and upper side of the arms, where you'll benefit from more insulation, and 60gsm under the arms and side panels, and a strip down the middle of your back, where less thickness should aid breathability and comfort on the go. It is appreciably thicker and warmer than the Xenair Light (as you'd expect), making it a bit more jacket and a bit less mid-layer.

The fill has plenty of loft, goes on working (as well as anything) when damp, and most importantly in the context of the Xenair range it can be combined with more air permeable fabrics to give you a synthetic insulated jacket that genuinely feels breathable. While the Xenair Jacket would be too warm on the move in summer I've found it ideal when used as my main insulation in winter (with the backup of a thicker belay jacket in my pack), and in around-zero conditions it works well worn over a lighter layer or two. For use in cooler spring and autumn weather it should be equally good, with something lighter underneath. In summer it ought to be sufficient as your sole insulated jacket. Overall then, the weight/warmth of the Xenair Insulated Jacket makes it pretty versatile.  

For its warmth, it feels pretty breathable on the go  © Dan Bailey
For its warmth, it feels pretty breathable on the go
© Dan Bailey

Fabric 

The Xenair Insulated Jacket uses the same 20D Pertex Quantum Air outer as the Xenair Light, and the fabric does seem to offer a good balance of breathability and wind resistance. Because this midweight member of the range is a bit thicker and warmer, it does feel less troubled by wind, and I've found it quite viable as my outer layer in some pretty chilly mountain conditions. Though light, this ripstop fabric seems tough enough for the uses to which the jacket is most likely to be put (in my case, walking more than climbing). 

While the insulation and fabrics are designed for breathability, it's worth saying that with just a short-sleeved t-shirt underneath the inner fabric can feel clammy on my bare arms when I'm working hard. That's really not a reflection on its actual performance, but just the 'skin feel' (for want of a better term). In that regard the jacket is probably better paired with a long sleeved baselayer.

Features

As a hoodless jacket the Xenair shares the simple, functional feel of the Xenair Light. The two zipped hand pockets are large enough for insulated gloves or a map, and one of them doubles as the stow pocket. They're placed high enough to remain more or less accessible when wearing a harness or rucksack hipbelt. The single chest pocket is phone-sized, but because it is placed outside the insulation this isn't actually a very good place to keep your phone when trying to preserve battery life in colder weather.

Heavier-duty than that on the Xenair Light, the YKK Vislon main zip feels robust, and has a small draught-excluding baffle. You get only one zipper, whereas on the Xenair Alpine it's two. 

Better than the Xenair Light, the twin hem drawcord adjusters are attached to the fabric and thus can be operated one-handed. Having a toggle on each side means two shorter elastic tails rather than the single long one found on the lighter jacket. 

Rab say:

Adaptable, warm, and versatile, the Xenair Jacket is a dual density synthetic insulated jacket that excels in mixed conditions and start stop activities. Featuring a highly breathable, weather resistant Pertex® Quantum Air outer and two weights of recycled PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ insulation, it has been engineered to hold warmth when you're static and allow airflow as soon as output increases. Strategically body mapping the different densities of insulation the jacket efficiently balances body temperature and eliminates the need to constantly change layers.

This lightweight, multifunctional layer is the perfect outer jacket on light and fast hikes or as a hard working midlayer in winter conditions.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) 8-16 (women)
  • Weight: 337g  (Size M)
  • YKK® VISLON® front zip with insulated zip baffle and chin guard
  • 2 YKK® concealed zipped hand pockets, one of which doubles as an integrated stuff sack
  • YKK® concealed zip chest pocket
  • Body mapped insulation to maintain warmth and aid thermoregulation
  • Elasticated gusset at the cuff for optimum fit when wearing gloves
  • Sleeve articulation for freedom of movement
  • Dual hem cord adjustment
  • Outer Fabric - Lightweight, breathable 20D Pertex® Quantum Air ripstop fabric with acrylic coating (47gsm)
  • PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ synthetic insulation. 55% recycled (80/60gsm)
  • Centre back length (Size M): 75cm
View website

Xenair Alpine Insulated Jacket £190


The warmest of the three Xenair jackets I've looked at, and the only one with a hood, the Alpine is, as the name suggests, the most mountain-oriented piece in the range. Though notably thicker than the Xenair Jacket, I've still found it comfy on the move in colder winter conditions on the hills. This midweight number would work as a year-round belay jacket too, or for camping in coldish (if not absolutely baltic) temperatures. Unfortunately for me, as a layer to actually climb in it's let down by the tailoring. 

Xenair Alpine on a pretty 'alpine' Scottish day  © Dan Bailey
Xenair Alpine on a pretty 'alpine' Scottish day
© Dan Bailey

Fit

While I've tended to wear it directly over a long sleeved baselayer, the Xenair Alpine is cut with room enough in the body to fit over a midweight fleece too, so in colder weather you can layer up. This jacket shares the slightly boxy feel of the others in the range, and might suit someone who's fairly broad but not perhaps that long in the trunk. Length in the hem is about middling, coming sufficiently below the waist to keep the midriff well covered, and dropping a bit further at the back to give pretty decent bum coverage. I would not personally have minded a couple more centimetres in the hem, since every little helps, but since we all come in different shapes and sizes there are bound to be users who find the hem length spot on.

Giving it a test climb on a springlike day  © Dan Bailey
Giving it a test climb on a springlike day
© Dan Bailey

The tighter cuffs fit under big gloves, not over  © Dan Bailey
The tighter cuffs fit under big gloves, not over
© Dan Bailey

While the body is quite roomy the arms really aren't, especially from elbow to wrist, where the sleeves taper quite steeply. The cuff is too tight to fit over bulky winter gloves, so you'll end up wearing them outside your sleeves - not the end of the world but not generally my preference (and annoying given the alpine/winter climbing remit of this particular piece). It's pretty much impossible to push the sleeves up over climber-sized forearms too, which I do like to be able to do if I want to cool down on the go.

The drop hem gives good bum coverage  © Dan Bailey
The drop hem gives good bum coverage
© Dan Bailey

On me, the sleeves feel quite restrictive with a bent elbow. Worse is the trait common to all the Xenairs - the sheer amount of hem lift I get with raised arms, when the jacket rides up miles to expose my belly (note to self: fewer pies). Add a harness on top and I find the jacket is generally held in place, but freedom of arm movement is still not great.

For me the shape of the Xenair Alpine is fine for hillwalking but makes it marginal in its key role as a climbing layer, and ideally it'd have been good to see as much attention given to tailoring as the choice of materials. Other people may find less of an issue here; but at the very least I'd strongly suggest trying it on in the shop (miming a full range of climbing movement) to check it works for you.

Love the snug high collar  © Dan Bailey
Love the snug high collar
© Dan Bailey

Hood

While the hood is described as helmet compatible, I'd call it borderline. Yes there's enough room to pull it up over your helmet, but with the zip done right up head movement becomes really very restricted and it's hard to look up, down or side to side. Meanwhile the collar pulls uncomfortably tight across mouth and chin. If you want to climb or belay with the hood up then you've got to drop the zip to your neck, at which point movement is freed. However if the weather's nasty or cold enough that a hood feels necessary then it'll probably seem a good idea to zip the collar right up too, but the problem is that you can't have both. There's a little more joy fitting the hood under your helmet, though it's still not what you'd call comfy or free moving.

So long as it's not windy, the hood minus helmet is OK  © Dan Bailey
So long as it's not windy, the hood minus helmet is OK
© Dan Bailey

But it's tight and restrictive when worn with one  © Dan Bailey
But it's tight and restrictive when worn with one
© Dan Bailey

For helmet-free walking the hood is better, albeit still not perfect. With one rear adjuster, tightening elastic around the crown of the head and across the peak of the hood, you can cinch the fit down reasonably snugly onto the top of the head. The elastic cord is not comfy against a bare head, but in wintry weather you'll probably want to wear a hat under it anyway since, with no side adjustment, the hood's fit around your face remains loose and open, letting in wind and weather at the sides. A soft brim with no peak or stiffener means this can be quite a flappy hood. In windier conditions you may end up reaching for your shell sooner than you might otherwise have needed to, thanks to this.

I'd almost say the hood is best when not being used, in the sense that this gives you a nice high collar that really protects the neck.

Weight

At 468g in my size Large, the Xenair Alpine classes as a midweight synthetic insulated jacket. It weighs about 60g more than a near competitor I reviewed in the autumn, the Montane Fireball, and of the two it's thicker and I'd say marginally warmer (there's not much in it). In terms of weight and warmth this is the top end of the Xenair range, and the one you'd be most likely to take winter climbing (if the fit works). I think it's warm for its weight, but for an additional 100g or so (plus extra dosh) you could have something much warmer and more belay worthy such as Rab's updated Generator Alpine. However they are for quite different niches and I know which I'd rather wear on the move.

Xenair Alpine on an unseasonably warm December bivvy  © Dan Bailey
Xenair Alpine on an unseasonably warm December bivvy
© Dan Bailey

Insulation

In the Xenair Alpine you get a bit more of that lovely snug Primaloft Gold Active+ synthetic insulation, with 100gsm in much of the body, for maximum warmth where most needed, while in the side panels, parts of the hood, and a strip down the middle of the back it's 80gsm. These areas of lighter weight fill correspond to places where you're more likely to get hot and sweaty, which helps the jacket stay comfy in active use.

It's a good layer for active use, but has a bit of insulating oomph for stationary periods too  © Dan Bailey
It's a good layer for active use, but has a bit of insulating oomph for stationary periods too
© Dan Bailey

On the go in winter mountain conditions the fill weight feels spot on, while there's still enough insulation here that you don't instantly freeze when you stop moving. It'd be too much for UK summer hills, but I can see it working very well on alpine peaks. The Primaloft insulation compresses well, has a nice loft, goes on working when damp, and generally doesn't feel as vulnerable as down, making this jacket ideal for all-round knock-about mountain use. As an added bonus, the insulation is 55% recycled.

Fabric

As for the rest of the range, Rab have used Pertex Quantum Air outside, a light but reasonably tough-feeling 20D fabric with, they say, quite a high air permeability. While this helps with the overall feeling of breathability - something I'd say definitely works - there's still a good measure of wind resistance, and perhaps also thanks to the warmth of the extra fill, I've found that the wind has to be pretty full on before I need to think about adding a shell to my layers. The usual DWR finish helps the fabric shrug off a touch of light precipitation or spindrift, so the Xenair Alpine stands alone in on-off weather but as for most insulated jackets you'll need to add a shell if it's raining or snowing hard.

A cold, dark night, but I'm comfy in the Xenair Alpine  © Dan Bailey
A cold, dark night, but I'm comfy in the Xenair Alpine
© Dan Bailey

Features

Cut into the insulation, so you can keep your hands warm, the two zipped lower pockets are a decent size for a hat or gloves, and will hold an OS map - a useful feature if you're wearing this as your main jacket in typical Scottish winter visibility. These pockets are partially compromised by a rucksack hipbelt or harness, and maybe it wouldn't have hurt to position them slightly higher. As with the rest of the range, the Xenair Alpine very handily packs into one of its own pockets. With a hang tag to clip it to a harness, I can certainly see this being a good belay jacket in less full-on conditions (spring on The Ben maybe). As for the midweight Xenair, it's a shame the single chest pocket sits on top of the insulation, since this would otherwise be a good place to keep your phone warm.

The main zip is a chunky YKK Vislon, which should be good for years of hard use, with a double zipper to allow easy harness access if you're wearing the Xenair Alpine as a belay jacket. Hem drawcords with one-handed toggles complete the feature set.

Rab say:

Offering reliable, instant warmth and working hard to regulate temperature when output increases, the Xenair Alpine is an adaptable synthetic insulated hoody, perfect for alpine adventures on foot or skis. Built with a lightweight Pertex® Quantum Air outer the jacket is highly breathable and weather resistant. It is insulated with two densities of recycled PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ insulation, strategically body mapped to provide warmth where you need it and breathability in high heat areas. This effectively regulates temperature when the incline steepens or the temperature drops, maintaining warmth when static and increasing airflow on the move.

Negating the need to change layers and providing warmth when you need it most, the Xenair Alpine is an intelligent, hardworking layer ideal for fast and light alpinism, mountaineering and climbing in winter conditions.

  • Sizes: S-XXL (men) 
  • Weight: 449g size men's M
  • Helmet compatible hood with a semi-elasticated opening and a single lightweight rear hood adjustment
  • 2 way YKK® VISLON® front zip with insulated zip baffle and chin guard
  • 2 YKK® concealed zipped hand pockets; one doubles as a stuff sack
  • YKK® concealed zip chest pocket
  • Body mapped insulation to maintain warmth and aid thermoregulation
  • Elasticated gusset at the cuff for optimum fit when wearing gloves
  • Articulated sleeves for mobility. Adjustable hem
  • Outer Fabric - Lightweight, breathable 20D Pertex® Quantum Air fabric (47gsm) (1cfm)
  • Lining - 20D recycled Atmos ripstop (41gsm)
  • PrimaLoft® Gold Active+ synthetic insulation. 55% recycled (100/80gsm)
View website


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