Rab kindly supplied a couple of their new jackets for me to test on my recent Knoydart trip. They sent an Arc jacket, which is a slimmed down version of their Firewall waterproof jacket, and the widely acclaimed Rab Kinetic Plus waterproof softshell. Continue reading to find out how I got on with both of the jackets.
When Rab announced the release of the Kinetic Plus jacket I were keen to try one. A highly breathable softshell jacket that also works as a waterproof shell sounded perfect especially given its lightweight and very small pack size. Given the potential for extreme weather in the Highlands in March I decided to take both jackets. I wanted to test the Kinetic Plus Jacket but decided to take a backup in case the weather was more extreme. I knew the Arc would keep me dry and protected from the elements if the weather turned wild so I took that as well as the Kinetic Plus jacket. The weather was so good for the first few days that the Kinetic Plus was initially used as a windproof and on an evening sitting around camp when it wasn’t cold enough for an insulating layer but the breeze was cool enough to want a windproof barrier. The fit is closer than some waterproof shells but the fabric is very stretchy so it never feels uncomfortable. It’s a jacket you don’t notice that you’re wearing.
After several days of glorious weather with temperatures in the high teens, the sunshine gave way to gale force winds combined with constant heavy rain and sleet. This isn’t perhaps the weather than the Kinetic Plus was designed for but I was determined to see how it would cope. For the first hour, the Kinetic Plus worked brilliantly keeping me dry. After that the soft touch fabric wet out and at this point the breathability was greatly reduced. I think that’s something common to a few fabrics with a softer face. After several hours climbing up and over Mam Meadail from Carnoch in this weather I did get wet, through I suspect it's because when the fabric wet out it stopped breathing. Not really a fault of the jacket because it’s not intended as a mountain jacket for these conditions. After that I turned to the Rab Arc jacket for more extreme weather. The Kinetic Plus has become my everyday jacket, it’s so comfortable and versatile that I always seem to reach for it. Whether it’s going to the pub, out for a walk or in pack on a mountain bike ride, I’m usually wearing or carrying the Kinetic Plus. If I know the weather is going to be more extreme and I’m out for a longer day or trip I’ll take the Rab Arc.
Men's Arc Jacket is a stretch, waterproof jacket using Pertex Shield®+ 3 Layer fabric. It is essentially a Rab Firewall jacket that has been on a weight loss programme with pared-down features to make it lighter and more packable. Gone are the pit zips and the chest pocket of the Firewall resulting in a jacket that is still a great all-rounder but weighing 80g less. The Pertex Shield+ 3L fabric was soft and quiet and the stretch means that I never felt restricted when wearing the Arc jacket. It’s an extremely comfortable jacket to wear whether pitching a tent in the rain or scrambling up a bealach.
The 2 external A-line chest pockets sit above your hip belt when wearing a pack and are usefully large. You can fit an OS map inside easily plus a pocket camera. There is no internal pocket which was a shame because Rab suggest that the external pockets are not fully waterproof. In my own experience the external pockets have remained bone dry during significant downpours. The zips are water resistant rather than waterproof hence the drain holes but it would have to be constant torrential rain to be an issue. The Arc retains the excellent helmet compatible hood from the Firewall which can be snugged down when used without a helmet and gives great weather protection.
Having enjoyed several days of glorious sunshine, the weather inevitably became more typical of March in the Highlands. The DWR was effective and the rain beaded off well ensuring the breathability of the fabric was maintained. The hood offers great protection even when strong winds were driving the rain horizontally on the ferry back from Inverie to Mallaig. The Rab Arc jacket is my new go to jacket when I know the weather is likely to be bad.
I have a few shell jackets to choose from (according to my wife I have way too many jackets) but these 2 Rab jackets have become firm favourites. Between them they cover so many activities and seasons. The Kinetic Plus is brilliant for travelling fast and light whether on foot or by bike as it doubles as both a waterproof shell and a windproof layer. It also makes a cracking everyday jacket due to its comfort and casual look. The Arc is a great all round mid-weight waterproof shell that packs small and is reasonably light. There are lighter shell jackets but when the weather turns wild you appreciate the protection that the Arc offers.