3-Layer Fast and Light Shells

A new direction in mountain clothing was pioneered a few years ago, says Jon Griffith - ultra-light. People had always looked for durability in their clothing but attitudes have changed a lot recently and the new light and fast alpine ethic demanded super light clothing as well. The aim of Patagonia's M10 range is to create a tough, breathable hard shell that has the thickness and weight of toilet paper. It was concieved for and by alpinists who were seeking to cut every gram they possibly could from their equipment. However, alpinist's demands from their clothing are huge so it's no mean feat creating clothing that has to be tough enough for full on alpine use yet incredibly light.

Viv Scott says: From a climber/mountaineer's point of view, given that dry weather is preferable for most mountain activities, waterproof clothing shouldn't be needed. However, in the real world the weather (particularly in the UK it seems) rarely chooses to play ball, making waterproofs a necessary evil. In this sense, the ideal waterproof shell is one that is as unobtrusive as possible to carry around when the weather is behaving itself, while also able to perform properly when the inevitable happens. The Rab Demand Pull-on is a very lightweight, simple smock-style shell that is designed to fit this niche.

Pulling through the A2 pitch on the Freney Pillar, 173 kb
Pulling through the A2 pitch on the Freney Pillar
© Will Sim

Patagonia M10 review by Jon Griffith

Both trousers and jacket are made of the same 3-layer, stretch-woven fabric with a tough ripstop outer. Patagonia eschews third party materials and instead of a standard Gore-tex membrane they have their own called H2No. I've used Patagoina kit quite a lot now and I do really rate H2No as a good breathable and fully water- and windproof membrane.

In the field they have been amazing over the last six months. With a combined weight of only 538g and packing into the size of a 1 litre bottle they are the ultimate for light alpine ascents. I've used them on all sorts of terrain from the Freney Pillar on Mont Blanc to the Colton Macintyre on the Grandes Jorasses north face and so far have no complaints.

At 309g, the jacket is so thin you'd be forgiven for thinking that it was a bit scary using this as your barrier against the elements. However I've thrutched up granite chimneys in this and put it through its paces on the Chamonix mixed and it is still in pristine condition. It has been invaluable this summer and it will be the perfect complement to a soft shell layering system in the winter for when the weather turns rough.

As usual with Patagonia products the cut and fit is incredible - this jacket was designed to climb really hard alpine, so a lot of thought has gone into it. It has two big handwarmer pockets, which extend out into full pit zips for extra ventilation (really clever design there) along with a normal chest level side pocket which is great for keeping your camera in. The collar also features a very thin but really soft micro fleece liner for comfort. The hood fits comfortably over all helmets and can easily be adjusted by pulling just the one toggle.

Crucially though, this jacket is for alpinists. The £349 price tag will put most people off for starters. On the face of it you don't seem to get much for your money ... but that's the point really - you are paying for less here as the key is weight and size. On the plus side it does feel like you're climbing in a t-shirt with this thing on. It's not encumbering at all and brilliant for what it's designed for. I wouldn't recommend this jacket for Scottish climbing but you'll be bowled over by how useful it is in the alpine field. Incredibly comfy to climb in, packs away to the smallest paclite, and completely wind- and water proof.

Near the summit of the Strahlhorn. We linked this with the Rimpfischorn (behind) and the Allalinhorn in a morning. Perfect terr, 140 kb
Near the summit of the Strahlhorn. We linked this with the Rimpfischorn (behind) and the Allalinhorn in a morning. Perfect terr
© Will Sim

My overall impression?

Well, I think that the M10 jacket is something that every alpinist can look into buying and using. It's tough and very functional but at the same time ridiculously light and small to pack away. However this is no Berghaus Trango - I have yet to put a tear in it and have worn it extensively but you have to accept that your £349 investment is not going to last you forever. That is the price you pay though for light kit - but if you are sensible and dont flash your kit about at the pub and when walking the dog you'll find that it will be an awesome accompaniment to alot of future alpine climbs.

Tiny weight and bulk makes the Demand ideal for carrying up routes on the back of the harness - Centurion, Ben Nevis on a threa, 134 kb
Tiny weight and bulk makes the Demand ideal for carrying up routes on the back of the harness - Centurion, Ben Nevis on a threa
© Viv Scott

Rab Demand Pull-On Review by Viv Scott

Over the last few months I've used the Demand for a variety of activities: as bad-weather backup clothing while climbing in the mountains of arctic Norway, for UK mountain cragging, wet weather hill running and mountain biking. It's so light and compact that it's been virtually unnoticeable to carry in a pack or clipped on the back of a harness, but thanks to the great fabric, cut, proper hood etc., it has also performed when needed.

The Demand is marketed as a 'fast and light' shell for gram counting mountaineers and adventure racers. My size medium (including stuff sac) weighed in at 278g on the local post office scales, spot on the official stated weight of 280g - the weight of the likes of three quickdraws, a big cam or lunch. The jacket comes supplied with a mesh (allows water to drain off a wet jacket) purpose-sized stuffsac with a couple of handy clip loops allowing the jacket to be carried in a neat package of around 2/3rds of a litre in volume.

The half-zip smock design obviously helps to keep the weight and bulk to a minimum. The lack of a zip below the waist also makes the jacket very neat to wear under a harness or rucksack waist-belt, and makes it feel more flexible when climbing, running or biking as there's no zip stopping the fabric flexing. The single chest pocket is big enough for a couple of chocolate bars or a small LED head-torch, plus allows the stuffsack to be carried with the jacket. The minimal water resistant zips are very neat and work well, and the small single internal stormflap does a good job of stopping the zip catching on layers beneath.

The fabric is the now well-established eVent, which breathes at least as well as anything else I've used, and has a nice soft crinkle free texture making it comfortable to wear. Clearly to make such a light jacket it's not the toughest fabric out there (I'd avoid climbing chimneys...), but as yet it's showing no wear from rucksack straps/general bumps and scrapes, and the water repellent finish is still beading rainwater well.

The cut is excellent - the medium I have on test has a neat, slim but unrestrictive fit with decent length in the arms. Additionally, the design of the neck and hood, plus the elastic cuffs, allow it to be pulled on or off without having to undo the zip/cuffs - minor details maybe, but ones that make the on/off process simpler and quicker, and demonstrates the thought that has clearly gone into the design. The hood fits well over compact modern helmets (e.g. BD Tracer or WC Rocklite) but works equally well under a helmet or without - the external elastic adjustment system is very effective and easy to use.

So, any criticisms... the Demand jacket is honestly hard to fault in almost any respect. I guess the hem drawcord arrangement could be a bit neater as tightening it up leaves a tail of elastic that occasionally tangled with gear but this is nitpicking to a trivial level.

Price-wise, you could possibly argue that the Demand is a case of 'paying more for less', but if less (weight) is what you're after then you're probably prepared to pay a slight premium. The combination of excellent design coupled with the excellent (and expensive) eVent fabric makes it definite contender for anyone looking for a high-performing ultralight shell, and very competitive with other ultralights on the market.


A perfect climbers' and mountaineers' lightweight waterproof shell - so lightweight and compact that it's barely noticeable when carried, well cut and highly functional in use - in a word: excellent.

Impressive beading on the eVent fabric, 89 kb
Impressive beading on the eVent fabric
© Viv Scott
The excellent minimal 'exoskeleton' hood adjustment system, 162 kb
The excellent minimal 'exoskeleton' hood adjustment system
© Viv Scott

Patagonia, 30 kb
© Patagonia
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Rab Demand Pull-On
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