The Rab Photon X is Rab's latest winter belay jacket. Designed specifically for our regular climbing location, Scotland, we couldn't wait to get our hands on it.
When we talk about Scottish winter climbing, we immediately think of synthetic insulation. Although synthetic down and hydrophobic down has come a long way in recent years. We still think a typical Scottish winter day of the full spectrum of precipitation from fog, to rain, to hail, to blizzard all in 50 mph winds while thrutching up some Gabbro chimney is a bit much for a £500 down jacket.
Our first impressions of the jacket were good, our ladies 12 comes in at 625g and feels nice and lofty. We suspect that Pertex may have tweaked their Endurance fabric line as it does feel the tiniest bit rustly which may be a little nit-picky. Nevertheless, out the bag this jacket really exudes quality.
The main fabric, Pertex Endurance, we think its just as good as it always has been, a real solid performer. With regards to insulation, which is what this jacket is all about, Rab have managed to cram a heck of a lot of insulation into this comparatively light piece. The jacket uses zoned insulation with193g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Active on the front torso, 133g in the arms and sides and underarms and170g everywhere else...toasty. Adding to that, Rab are using PrimaLoft’s new active line of insulation. This has a few new features including 4-way stretch gives you more freedom and higher breathability. This means that Rab have been able to remove the quilting that is the mainstay of this level of insulating layer, no cold spots in the Photon X!
We didn't note many features but all of them well thought through, just what we like! Glove-friendly pulls (really good ones), nice running zips (quick one-handed action), no wired hood (no need over a winter hard shell), standard double zip for access to harness. Good length to keep the drafts out, internal mesh pocket for a sneaky hot water bottle!
In terms of size we could comfortably get a ladies 12 into a Podsacks small drybag (180mm x 180mm) or an Exped small drybag (150mm x 250mm). The reviewer of the jacket was between sizes and went for the upper size which is bang on for a belay jacket that comfortably fits over our usual climbing layering system and as long as your partner is not massively different in size you will manage fine if you are switching leads.
We have used this all winter for a range of activities, belaying (clearly), walking, skiing and the odd snowball fight. It performed great during it all. This reviewer tends to run a tad cold so found themselves constantly reaching for the Photon X and never regretted it. Put side by side with our Mountain Equipment Citadel; insulation is comparable, Rab wins on weight, Rab wins on price. All but the coldest of days will see us reaching for the Photon.
Things we like: Warmth - PrimaLoft gold ‘Active’ has impressed, large zip pulls, build quality.
Things we don’t like: Not a lot!
Succinct Gear Reviews are a collaborative team of reviewers based in Glasgow, Scotland. They have varied interests including; hill walking, climbing, mountaineering, camping, backpacking, kayaking, skiing, mountain biking and running which make them suited to reviewing a host of different outdoor products.