Sunday, 10 April 2011

Rab Vapour-Rise Pull-On Initial Analysis

In 1981, Rab Carrington started a small company in Sheffield. He drew on his own mountaineering experience to manufacture lightweight down clothing and sleeping bags. From the outset, he committed himself to high quality products and an ethos which was to design garments for the "new breed of lightweight alpinist" and which were designed "for the most extreme conditions in the world". Since then, Rab has become one of the most highly regarded outdoor clothing manufacturers in the United Kingdom, with a steadily growing presence in Europe and the US. I have always been a fan of Rab, but my clothing selection is predicated on particular needs rather than brand loyalty. I do not, in fact, have much Rab clothing at all but I was looking forward to the incoming parcel.

The Rab Vapour-Rise series was recommended to me. The V-R Pull-On is my newest purchase and, at 548g for a size large, it sits well with ultralight principles in that it is an item versatile enough to be used in a variety of theatres. The Vapour Rise  series was developed through Rab's collaboration with Pertex to provide a 2 layer (single garment) system that offered windproof, breathable, high wicking and quick drying performance clothing. It has a Pertex Equilibrium shell with a DWR treatment and wicking micro-fleece inner. In this sense, it is designed to be worn next to the skin, as well as above a wicking base layer. The Pertex Equilibrium shell is not a membrane fabric so it more breathable than Gore-Tex or eVent. The DWR treatment is not waterproof, of course, but it is water resistant and I will come to that in due course. That it is not waterproof sits with what the V-R series seeks to achieve - an athletic garment that performs across a multitude of environments and activities.

When I pulled the V-R from its plastic packing sheath, I will admit to some excitement. It comes with a reputation. It is my intention, primarily, to use this as my principal garment for the CHR. I'll explain how, later. It will, however, be taken on early-to-mid spring and mid-to-late autumn trips in the UK, either next to the skin, or with a base-layer, depending on the weather. I've used it on a few walks wearing nothing but a Montane Bionic SS crew in temperatures down to 6C and in strong wind on the North Downs and the Surrey Hills. So far, it has proved to be more than adequate. It's comfortable and pleasant to wear. It breathes so effectively for active movement that I have yet to experience a bead of sweat whilst wearing it. It will require a more forceful reckoning but I am quietly confident that it will achieve a level of performance that most Pertex garments do.

The dappled Pertex equilibrium is soft to the touch - unlike the hard crispness of Microlight and silky sheen of Quantum. It has a durability that is unlike Microlight or Quantum too. I ran a tap directly onto the fabric for 30 seconds - all the water rolled off like a river over wet rock. The fabric remained totally dry with no evidence of wetting out. For a 'water resistant' fabric, this was startling. I don't see this being a cause for shedding a waterproof shell layer but the circumstances in which the deployment of a shell layer would become necessary are diminishing. Something that I confess to having a good deal of pleasure in.

The addition of features is sparing but considered. Small, thin wrist velcro adjusters; a voluminous, adjustable hood, with a malleable visor, in the same fabric marriage as the rest of the pull-on meaning warmth and weather resistance in the hood as well as elsewhere; deep, dual zip on the chest to permit venting; venting too through the two well-placed pockets (they do not, for example, restrict access with a rucksack on); one-handed hem adjustment toggles and a Napoleon pocket. This latter is big enough for smaller items but I am not one for these pockets anyway so I paid it little attention.

The inner lining has the feel of a thin microfleece and is soft and smooth to the touch. It is not laminated to the Pertex outer, meaning a degree of movement which makes the garment easier to wear.

This is a top to be used as a base layer, mid-layer, both or either. Wear one, and then another on top if you so desire. Breathability is still excellent. It's lovely against the skin too - far more so than, say, the Montane Prism 2.0 jacket. It's warm too, even on its own. With the Bionic only underneath, at 6C with considerable wind, I was only just about feeling the chill - more a kind of vague sense of it, rather than a direct assault on my warmth. I'm impressed with this versatile top and I can see it being a utility top for me - not quite perfect in any one environment but damn near in many. On the Classic Haute Route, I will use it alone in cooler weather; then as the altitude gets higher and the atmosphere colder, I will add short sleeved base layer to the mix. I can then replace that short-sleeved base layer with the Patagonia R1 Hoody above 3,000m and in really cold weather, as we might expect getting on for 4,000m, both will fit beneath the V-R. That's what makes this top so versatile.


  1. A nice looking jacket, but as Alan says I will have to resist temptation.

    Oh yes I will!

  2. Maz, You never know....after this weekend it may be a necessity.

  3. Hi Maz, I hope you're well. I've previously avoided the Rab VR as it initially reminded me of cheap 'shell-suit' tracksuit material but I'll have to take another look. I have been hunting for a Patagonia R1 Hoody but seems like you nabbed the last one!

  4. Maz,
    Humblest apologies, i just noticed my error. Richard?
    I had probably just read "staying alive"blog or it's my age.

  5. Yes, I can see the 1980's shellsuit relationship but the feel is far nicer than that. I grabbed an R1 over the Christmas period and I am glad I did.

  6. It's great - temptation is not something I have to resist at the moment as a lot of my kit is on eBay so I feel vindicated!

  7. Hi Maz, I got the previous model to the current version about a year ago, and it's been out on every trip since! Outstanding product!

  8. I used the V-R in the Black Mountain recently in what was very varied weather and that is where it performed well - it's ability to deal with different conditions. Loved it!

  9. This is a perfect brand for mountain hikers like me. The clothing manufacturersdid a great job because the layers of the cloth does give warmth specially when the atmosphere gets colder.