Rain Jackets

One of the top recommended items to take to South America (apart from Immodium) was a decent Rain Jacket, and for good reason. The climate is so variable, from scorching deserts and sun-kissed beaches to drenched Amazonian Basins and wind ravaged mountain peaks – South America has it all.

Expect the unexpected…This is the advice we have read in terms of weather and climate – especially in the high altitude regions of Peru and Bolivia as well as the southern tip of the continent in Patagonia. For this reason alone we decided to ‘invest’ in a decent rain jacket each and after hours of searching the web I believe we have stumbled upon two absolute gems, the Men’s Rab Stretch Neo and the Rab Tempo Women’s Jacket.

The type of jackets we were after are called ‘hardshells’, this basically means a stripped down lightweight shell of a jacket which is purely meant as an outer layer to keep the rain off you as well as a bit of the wind. The jackets on their own do not provide much warmth however we will be using them as part of a classic 3 or 4 layered system (thermal base layer, fleece mid layer, hardshell outer layer).

A lot of research went into finding the right jackets and so far we are both more than happy with the Rabs we found, they are a perfect example of a classic hardshell and the reviews for each can be found below…They haven’t been tested under any extreme conditions as of yet, but we will update the reviews after thorough testing in South America.

Men’s Rab Stretch Neo Jacket

This jacket came heavily recommended by a number of different outdoor specialists including ‘Outdoor Gear Lab’ and ‘Cotswold Outdoors’ as well as receiving excellent reviews from buyers. This jacket is a ‘high end’ hardshell, with the waterproofing relying on membrane technology rather than the cheaper ‘coating’ method of waterproofing.

Rab Stretch Neo Jacket Spring

Waterproof membranes are the ‘top dog’ when it comes to being waterproof, examples of popular membranes include ‘GoreTex’ and ‘HyVent’. The membrane itself consists of a piece of fabric with ‘pores’ thousands of times smaller than a rain drop, meaning that no water can enter the jacket – but crucially allowing the more autonomous water vapour molecules (caused by heat and sweat) to escape the jacket. It’s this breathability which is so crucial in hardshells – there is no point keeping the water out if you are going to get drenched from the inside by sweat.

Currently in the UK for something to be called ‘waterproof’ it needs to have a waterproof rating or hydrostatic head rating of 1500mm, this literally means that if you put a square tube with inner dimensions of 1” x 1” over a piece of said fabric, you could fill it with water to a height of 1,500 mm (1.5m) before water would begin to leak through. The higher the number, the more waterproof the fabric.

The Rab Stretch Neo uses the latest in membrane technology ‘Polartec Neoshell’ – this is one of the best waterproof/breathable membranes on the market. It may not have as higher rating as GoreTex (20,000mm) but its rating of 10,000mm is more than enough for even the biggest of downpours. Where is completely stands out is it’s breathability – even after hard exertion my base layers were kept dry, it’s ability to transfer vapour is remarkable.

The fit of the jacket is excellent, I am 5ft 11 and 11 stone and I went for the small and it fits just great. There are drawstring hems on the bottom of the jacket and on the hood which allows you to tighten everything up for a true waterproof feeling. The zipps are all YKK waterproof and have a backup storm flap to ensure no water leaks in.

I took this jacket when I went on a recent camping trip, typical of England it hammered it down with rain – however with the Rab on I felt invincible. I stayed out in the rain for as long as I could before boredom got the better of me and I retreated to the dry. When I took the jacket off every inch of my under garments were kept completely dry, very impressive indeed.

This jacket retails at £249 although there are many bargains to find by looking online, my particular jacket only cost £115 from BananaFingers.co.uk the only drawback was that it was the bogey green colour – but hey ho! I’m not fussy…

In conclusion I can strongly recommend this jacket as an excellent waterproof – it even comes with a lifetime guarantee. The design is well thought out and the material itself is excellent. I was shocked to see such great waterproofing coming from the soft and stretchy fabric. It fits well and if you buy it in the black or blue it even looks good…

The Spec:

  • Polartec Neoshell Fabric
  • Waterproof and highly wind resistant
  • Stretch fabric for ultimate comfort
  • Helmet compatible hood with wired peak
  • YKK Aquaguard front zip with internal storm flap and chin guard
  • 2 external Napoleon YKK Aquaguard zip pockets
  • 2 internal mesh zipped pockets
  • Double exit hem draw cord
  • Velcro adjustable cuff tabs
  • Reflective trim
  • Medium active cut
  • Machine washable

Women’s Rab Tempo

This jacket relies on a special coating called Pertex Shield for it’s waterproofing. Coated fabrics tend to be very waterproof but lack breathability in comparison to the membrane laminates. These fabrics are less expensive but are improving as manufacturers finds ways to make the coatings thinner and more porous.

Rab Kinetic

This jacket is the perfect combination for Grace, excellent waterproofing but ultra-lightweight, it also packs down to nothing as well. The fit is good, grace brought the jacket in an extra-small (size 8) and fits snug under a base and mid layer. The features on this jacket differ slightly, obviously it has a drawsting hem & helmet and adjustable cuffs but the pocket locations are different and it has a double internal storm flap on the front zipper, rather than a single.

The differences are minor though and the coated fabric stands up extremely well to the wet weather, yes the breathability is slighty reduced due to the coating but as Grace typically ‘runs cold’ vapour transfer is not a major issue. It does have mesh pockets that when opened act as a good source of venting and can allow moisture out of the jacket.

In conclusion it is a fantastic jacket which is a true lightweight hardshell – it easily packs into any bag or pack and provides excellent protection against the elements. No doubt it will be invaluable in the wet and windy high altitude areas we will encounter. We purchased this jacket through Gear for Girls who provide an excellent range of heavily discounted outdoor supplies. The Rab Tempo has a retail price of around £90-100 however we managed to pick this up for £59.95 from Gear for Girls – with cheap delivery and great service this was an absolute steal.

The Spec:

  • Pertex® Shield+ fabric
  • Helmet compatible hood, kitty clip roll down closure
  • YKK Aquaguard® front zip, double internal storm flaps
  • 2 YKK zipped welted, mesh lined A-line pockets, left side doubles as integrated stuff sack
  • Velcro® cuffs, half hem drawcord
  • Reflective trim
  • Fit: Regular
  • Designed for: alpine climbing / mountain trek / fast & light
  • Total weight:220g
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