Launched in the early '80s by mountaineer Rab Carrington, Rab produces technical garments and gear for winter outdoor adventure out of the United Kingdom. SNEWS® testers got their hands on the company's Microlight jacket -- a piece that has been available in a men's version and is now also offered in a women's silhouette.
To give you an idea of what the Microlight is all about, it's impressively lightweight -- indeed living up to its "micro" name: The men's version weighs just less than 12 ounces (320 grams) and the women's is a little less than 11 ounces (310 grams) with their Pertex outer shell and 750-fill goose down insulation. Our testers used phrases like "light as a feather" when describing its weight, and they agreed the fit was spot-on size-wise. For two testers, the jacket contoured to the female form with flattering results, while still allowing for freedom of movement during activities like skiing. One tester found that the lower portion of the jacket looked "boxy" on her and the jacket bunched up to appear awkward. Obviously, no jacket is going to suit every body type.
Rab touts the jacket as having a "max warmth-to-weight ratio," and our testers couldn't have agreed more, putting the Microlight through the paces in various cold temps. Generally, the women said it easily kept them warm in various cold weather temperatures and snowy conditions. Skiing in central California, the mercury dropped into the 20s with a sharp wind, and one tester said it kept performing like a champ. No matter how hard the wind blew, it never made its way through the Microlight's outer shell to the tester's body. Indeed, all of the women hailed the jacket for its ability to block wind.
Another tester got caught in a rainstorm and found the water didn't penetrate the shell. The rain droplets didn't roll off but stayed on the Pertex outer shell until they dried.
Finishing details on the jacket are minimal and to the point. Arm cuffs and the waist hem are stretchy Lycra -- no toggles, Velcro or the like to fumble with or get cut on anything. The top edge of the collar has a swatch of fleece that also covers the zipper edge for a smooth feel against the face when zipped up. One tester who mainly wore the jacket without an outer shell noted that she would have liked the zipper to open at the bottom end, so she could vent from the bottom while still keeping her upper body core covered and warm.
The jacket has two outer hand-warmer pockets that are extremely roomy and able to hold ski goggles or even a larger water bottle. On the inside, it has one zippered pocket that the jacket can also be stuffed into with minimal effort, packing down to a bundle roughly 7 inches by 8 inches and 4 inches to 5 inches deep. Inside the pocket, there is a fabric loop about 2 inches long, so the stuffed jacket can be clipped to the outside of a pack via a carabiner. One tester said she also clipped a key ring to the loop to secure her keys while skiing.
The one chink in the Microlight's armor is that it tended to "bleed" down fuzz. One tester noticed down residue more than once on her base layers when she removed the jacket after prolonged activity. She also had down feathers work their way out along the stitched baffling seams. Pretty much the one bummer to an otherwise solid down jacket.
SNEWS® Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $160