Extensively tested and reviewed by Cairngorm Treks in both summer and winter conditions 2018/19 in the Cairngorms, Lake District, and other UK mountainous regions.

The Rab Borealis is the lightest softshell jacket Rab have on offer. Weighing in at a minuscule 308grams in a medium size it has the weight and feel more associated with a base layer. Rab advertise the Borealis Jacket as wind resistant and highly breathable and state thatwhether your objective is climbing a big wall or a day cragging in the valley, it does everything you need it to in one tiny package. With its low weight and a sun protection of UPF 50+ this is a shoftshell aimed towards the warmer months of the year where protection from wind, light showers, and strong sunshine are needed but without the garment feeling constricted and heavy. Lightweight Matrix single weave with 2-way stretch material is used throughout the jacket and instantly when worn we found it fitted snugly to the body but in no way hampered movement. 2 large chest pockets are well positioned to provide easy access when using a rucksack or climbing harness, and offer plenty of room to store items such as a map, compass, snacks or electronic devices. The hood is made of a simple design with just a Lycra binding which, although fits snugly to the head, is more suited for use under a helmet than for protection against wind and rainfall. The cuffs also follow this simple design with the same Lycra binding which do fit tightly around the wrists.

In a size medium the torso length is generous enough that you wont find it riding up at the back when stretching or bending down. Arm length is similarly a slightly extended fit, we believe this is deliberate design to stop any riding up of sleeves when at full stretch whilst scrambling and climbing.

The colour choice we received of Evergreen is very neutral and almost pastel in appearance, which makes it a winner for us, especially when blending in with the mountain environment. Our guides were certainly impressed with the initial inspection of the Rab Borealis, which resulted in a long and heated discussion over who got to review this jacket.

Rab say the Borealis is inspired by the demands of big wall climbing. The perfect climber’s piece, it’s as at home on a windy crag as it is high up the climbing wall. Although we certainly are not big wall climbers, from the opinion of humble Scottish mountain walkers we found this to be a layer we had been missing for a long time. The summer of 2018 certainly was a summer of two halves; early on we had long spells of very warm days with plenty of direct sunshine followed by a period of very wet but equally warm muggy days. The Borealis offered great protection from the sun and wind, whilst also being light enough that overheating was kept to a minimum due to its excellent breathability. Although not claiming to be protective against heavy rainfall it certainly brushed away shorter light showers, which meant covering long distances were not interrupted by having to dip in and out of the rucksack for extra layers.

In terms of comfort we also found the Borealis to be at home under other garments as well as being an outer layer. From late summer into the colder months it had a transition from being a layer of protection against wind and sunshine to adding a thin layer of warmth and comfort under a waterproof shell jacket. With its lightweight nature and great comfort this is certainly a product which lends itself for a multitude of day to day activities and we found ourselves reaching for the Borealis for running and mountain biking adventures.

An area of concern we had was with the Borealis being made of such a thin fabric we expected to see signs of wear early on, especially when being mostly used with a large backpack containing multiday trekking and camera equipment. After a few months of heavy use we are pleased to see that almost no signs of wear are visible. Rab can often be relied upon for a quality build throughout their products and the Borealis appears to be of no exception.


Our Verdict

The Rab Borealis has the comfort and weight more associated with a base layer rather than a softshell jacket whilst still giving the protection needed against wind, sunshine, and light showers. Packing down to almost nothing it can be stored away almost unnoticeably within your pack, although like us you'll be finding an excuse to wear it as much as you can. A versatile garment that lends itself to most outdoors activities. With its lightweight nature it offers excellent breathability and although a snug fit never feels constricting due to the stretch and movability of the matrix 2-way stretch material. Although the Rab Borealis is more suited to the warmer months it can also work its way into the autumnal season offering a comfortable thin layer under a heavier outer garment.

Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...