Fresh for spring/summer 2017 comes Rab's new Kinetic Plus Jacket. This superlight and highly breathable hybrid is unusual in being not just slightly showerproof, like a typical softshell, but genuinely waterproof like a hard shell. I've had a Kinetic Plus on test since midsummer 2016 - plenty of time to form an opinion. From using it as windproof warmth on chilly cragging days, through to scrambles and hillwalks in dank on-off rain, it's run the full gamut of autumn/spring/summer conditions. And my opinion? In its niche, it is hard to fault.
The Kinetic's Proflex fabric is interesting stuff, with a waterproof PU membrane sandwiched between two high gauge knitted layers. The outer layer is very thin, as crinkle-free and soft to the touch as any softshell, and super-stretchy; the inner layer meanwhile is designed to maximise moisture movement to keep you sweat-free and dry when on the move.
Weighing just 298g (size Large), it's about as lightweight as a softshell gets.
Remembering that this is basically a softshell, its on-paper score for waterproofness is impressive, with a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm. This may not be up to the level of a high end waterproof shell (try twice that, at least), but it's more than adequate in a light shower, and even after fairly prolonged light rain I've never felt wet inside. What's more its lower hydrostatic head reflects the fact that the Kinetic Plus also feels more breathable than a traditional shell. At this level of waterproofness it would be fair to wonder if the pressure of rucksack straps might feasibly create damp spots at the points of highest wear: all I can say is that I've not yet had a problem with this. I've found that rain beads very happily on the surface of the dry-treated outer fabric too, while taped seams help with the overall weatherproof feel. In essence, the Kinetic Plus is built and performs like a waterproof, and it would take heavy rainfall before I'd feel the need to don an additional more-waterproof shell over the top of it.
At a high performing 35,000mm/sqm/24hr, the membrane breathes a fair bit more effectively than your average full-on waterproof shell. Whatever the weather, even the most breathable waterproof shell can get a little close-feeling when you're really building up a head of steam - but in my experience you have to be working very hard in warmer, more humid conditions before the Kinetic Plus begins to feel like a layer too much. In feel it's more like wearing a windproof than a traditional waterproof. The result is a genuinely multipurpose and (as near as dammit) all-weather layer that you can happily wear much of the time when on the move, but that still takes a lot more rain than a typical softshell.
Warmth and windproofness
I've said the Kinetic Plus Jacket feels a bit like a windproof to wear, and that's often how I've used it. Whether on a breezy Munro summit or down at the crag, it cuts out a chilly breeze very effectively. It's a little thicker than a straight windproof, and thus offers a slightly warmer and more protective feel. There's no insulation in it however, so a cold weather or winter outer layer this is not; its remit is very much summer and bridge season use.
Stretch and durability
The sheer amount of stretch offered by the Proflex fabric is impressive - way more than I've ever seen on a fully waterproof shell. As a result it offers absolute freedom of movement. Perhaps that's why I like it so much for climbing. Despite its softness the outer face has a very tight knit, so it doesn't tend to snag or scuff on the rock. It also feels very tough for its lightness, and after nine months of use I've yet to make a mark on it.
Coming in a range of both men's and women's sizes, the Kinetic Plus Jacket has a slim, athletic cut. This keeps the jacket trim when you're climbing and cuts down on the amount of fabric that can flap and billow in the wind. It does also mean that there's limited room for extra layers underneath; I've worn it comfortably over a base layer and thin microfleece, but that would be about the limit. To reiterate, this is a summer-oriented jacket. In terms of body coverage for weather protection the hem sits just below the waist at the front, dropping lower at the rear to help keep at least half your bum dry. This long-ish hem stays well put below a rucksack belt or harness. There's no drawcord at the bottom, just a simple unstructured hem; you do get velcro tabs to fine tune the fit at the wrist though.
Up top, the hood is an interesting design, with a stretchy rim that gives a snug seal around the face and forehead, and then an additional laminated brim that creates a degree of structure to resist flapping in the wind, and a bit of a lip to keep drips out of your face. The stretchy fabric equals free head movement, and while there's no drawcord to pull the hood in really tight in a very high wind, a rear velcro tab offers a degree of volume adjustment. While you can't fit this hood over a helmet it is reasonably successful when worn beneath one - though I find the collar has to be unzipped. A lightly structured, minimally adjustable hood like this is plenty in reasonably benign weather. While it doesn't offer full-on storm protection, in that situation you'd be reaching for your waterproof shell in any case.
Backed with a snag-free draught excluding strip, the YKK Vislon front zip is chunky and durable, while the lighter gauge zips on the two pockets are of the 'waterproof' variety (none ever are, fully - but for the purposes of this jacket that definitely doesn't matter). These two hand pockets are roomy enough for gloves, hat etc, and positioned high enough on the body to remain at least partly accessible beneath a rucksack or harness. Two pockets are all you get, but as this isn't a winter jacket I've not felt the need for more.
In keeping with the minimalist feel, no other features are provided - and that's how I like it. Thanks to its thin fabric and overall simplicity the Kinetic Plus Jacket is lightweight and compact, stowing easily into the little stuff sack that it comes supplied with for neater packing, or for hanging off your harness.
Ultralight and extremely stretchy, the Kinetic Plus Jacket is a superb minimalist outer layer for changeable summer weather, equally useful on crags and mountain routes as for hillwalking and backpacking. Combining the waterproofness of a shell with the breathable on-the-move performance of a softshell, its versatility is its real trump card, and with this in mind the substantial price tag is easily forgiven.
The Kinetic Plus Jacket from Rab is a true hybrid: a lightweight and breathable softshell, which is also waterproof.
The Kinetic is a new breed of product that is constructed with a stretchy, waterproof layer sitting between two equally flexible, high gauge knitted layers. It is this structure that gives the Kinetic such a unique balance of characteristics and makes it ideal for varied outdoor pursuits in mixed conditions.
A breakthrough in protection, the Kinetic Plus Jacket relieves users from having to layer and de-layer during intermittent rain showers, remaining protective and comfortable throughout the day.
- Proflex™ stretchy, breathable and highly weather resistant fabric
- Breathable membrane and taped seams for water resistance
- High gauge wicking lining
- Close-fitting stretch-on hood with laminated and stiffened peak
- 1-way YKK® AquaGuard® VISLON® front zip
- YKK® AquaGuard® A-line pockets
- Stitch free hem and cuffs for comfort
- Velcro adjustable cuffs
- Fit: Slim
- Weight: 298g (size L, our weight)
- Size: S – XXL (Men) 8-16 (Women)
- RRP: £170
For more info see rab.equipment