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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The RAB Xenon jacket

Because I like and use the Atom LT so much and the Mtn Hardware Compressor before it I am always on the look out for first rate lightly insulated (60g) climbing jackets.

The Xenon first came to my attention and a few of my pals a couple of seasons ago.  I was pretty stoked...right up till I had a chance to try one on and found the side pockets had no zippers.  What was RAB thinking on that one?  I actually discussed that with one of the RAB reps earlier this fall.  I just figured someone made a huge mistake on that order to China.

But nope no zippers was intentional first time around to save weight.  Clearly stopped me and a couple of my friends from buying the Xenon though.

This year the Xenon does have zippers on the pockets, thankfully.  Makes them so they don't fill up with snow and you can actually store something in them with no worry of loosing what ever that happens to be.

The RAB party line:

"The Xenon Jacket is a super lightweight synthetic insulated jacket with a very light outer fabric.

The Xenon Synthetic insulated jacket is the culmination of several years hard work with fabric and synthetic insulation suppliers. We have taken Primaloft® synthetic fill and wrapped it up in the lightest Pertex® Quantum® GL 10 Denier fabric that is currently available.

You get a full length garment with a full length YKK zip, 2 hand warmer pockets and a chest pocket and all for just 340g/12oz!!! The whole jacket packs into its own chest pocket and is ideal as a superlight belay or over layer jacket, to be carried in a pack or clipped to a harness.

Ideal for Alpine Climbing, Mountain Marathon,Mountain Walking, Trek and travel and any fast and light activities. What more could you want?"

Sizes: S - XXL

Weight: 330g / 12oz

◦Pertex® Quantum® GL 10D ultra light rip stop nylon outer and lining

◦Light 60g Primaloft® One in body, sleeves and hood
◦Lycra bound hood fits snugly under a helmet.
◦1-way YKK front zip with internal insulated zip baffle and chin guard
◦2 YKK zipped hand warmer pockets and 1 YKK zipped chest pocket
◦Double exit hem drawcord
◦Packs away into chest pocket
◦Short cut

I am obviously not doing any climbing right now.  But I am using the Xenon almost every day.  I really like this jacket.  One of my projects has been to figure out where in my climbing clothing system I can use this one.

It would be a LOT easier if the hood fit over a helmet.  It doesn't.  Typically that would "kill" any climbing jacket for my ow use.  But the new Xenon (with pocket zips) is good enough that I have been  looking for places to use this jacket.   Here are the reasons I want to use this jacket.  First off the materials used, Primaloft One and Pertex® Quantum® make it a lwt package that is hard to ignore.  The nice detailing, zipper baffle, corner zipper reinforcements, and the fleece chin guard you notice.  Even the hood has a slick little retaining strap for when it is not in use.  The XL size is more like a comfy US large than a XL and it actually fits me very well after the chemo diet.  It might be the only jacket in the house that does come to think about it!

If I am not using the hood I don' want it full of snow...the hood retainer strap is a nice detail.

The Xenon tucked into it's own chest pocket with a loop for clipping it to your harness.  My XL (call it a roomy US large) weighs in at full 11.8OZ!  For once the "stuff" pocket is over size for the jacket and easily goes into this one.  The jacket would go into a smaller (more durable) stuff sack if the bulk is a concern on the harness.  Though you are on your own for that.

I may not get the winter use I had planned for the Xenon without a hood that will go over my helmet.  But this  will certainly be the jacket I throw in the pack for the rest of the year as required.  Yep, at under 12oz. I like it, a lot.    Really, who actually gives an honest garment weight these days..BRAVO, on that one RAB!

I like it enough that if they made the hood big enough to go over a helmet and kept the zippers on the side pockets I'd buy one of those too :)   After all how much weight is a bigger hood really going to add?

Here is a buying tip....if you find this jacket on sale via the Internet...make sure the version you are getting has the side pocket zips if you require them.


fulton said...

...still really like my Atom SV though. How's it stack up against it?

Dane said...

Atom SV is 100g insulation layer. The Atom LT is more comparable to the Xenon with the same 60g insulation. AAlthough the Xenon uses what I think is the better insulation with Primaloft One.

Other than the small hood...the Xenon kinda falls in between them for warmth. But much more comparable to the LT than the stellar and warmer SV.

Ian said...

Too expensive. Seriously, when you can by the equivalent Arcteryx product for less you know there's an issue.

James said...

Dane, I like your thoughts. I'm a big fan of the Xenon as well. My review of it is here:

As to Ian's comment, Arc'teryx is not the best in everything, even if they generally are more expensive, so it's not out of the question for something to cost more. The Xenon I believe fills a different niche than the Atom LT, and as such, the difference in price tag can be expected. I would rather actively climb in the Atom, but the Xenon is a better lightweight belay or backpacking jacket.

Jay said...

Anyone seen the new Wild Things Insulight jacket? They don't give a weight, but on the Wild Things blog it's compared to Atom LT and a men's hooded version is due out soon.

Dane said...

I have seen but not used the Wild Things jacket. Comparable to the LT..may be. The LT is the gold standard for that style of jacket. Both Wild Things and Mtn Hardware copied it. I'll reserve judgement until I actually use either. But I am in no hurry to get either.

James, I completely agree. The Xenon doesn't compare to either the SV or the LT which was my point in the comments. As you implied in your review...if you know what it as designed for and have a use nothing else on the market in the same game. And there are lots of 60g jackets out there. Some great designs I've tried but fit and patterns are hit or miss. Patagonia is a perfect example.

Nice blog btw ;)

Chris said...

BMW Cocoon pullover. 9.4oz in a medium with pertex and 60g insulation. Hood fits over my helmet. Pretty nice piece of kit. I do take care of mine though as they're no longer being made :(

James said...

The Wild Things jacket is something I haven't seen before, and it looks pretty cool. The shell uses EPIC fabric, which is the same stuff Black Diamond uses on the old Hilight tents, so you'd get better water resistance than the Atom, it uses Wind Pro on the side panels as well, which might do a little bit to alleviate the problem Dane has in that it lets wind in through the side panels.

Thanks, Dane.

Dane said...

The breathability of the Atom lt both in shell material and the side vents is what makes it so useful to me. Cut the performance in either material and the jacket wouldn't be very useful to me in the same circumstance.

Always fun to see what new gets produced and how it works.

James said...

Rab used exactly the same 'weight saving' justification for lack of pocket zippers and small hood on the Microlight Alpine downie. Again they've since added pockets, but the hood is annoying.

Great jacket - I love mine - but as a lightweight belay jacket it's somewhat crippled. The hood will actually go over a helmet but it pulls up at the shoulders.

I would argue that with down, even more so than synthetic, the hood on a self-titled 'alpine' garment should ALWAYS be helmet-compatible.

Dane said...

"I would argue that with down, even more so than synthetic, the hood on a self-titled 'alpine' garment should ALWAYS be helmet-compatible"

Agreed..but be it down or synthetic..and zippers on the pockets as well. Obviously the design team hasn't done a lot of climbing (or actually used the garment they have designed) if they aren't on board with that.

Ian said...

My comment wasn't a comparison of quality between Rab and Arcteryx. $250 for a 60gr light belay jacket with a non helmet compatible hood is not reasonable. I understand your point about the fit of Patagonia jackets, and I really do love the fit of Rab clothing, but for the money I guess I'll just have to suffer with the trashbag fit. Or, in this case, I'll make do with the slightly heavier Igniter jacket.

However, regardless of the price, the hood is a deal breaker for me.

Julian said...

I have a gut feeling what ends up happening is that the people on these design teams say to themselves "the hood can go under the helmet just as easily as over it, and by doing it that way we can cut weight!" without thinking about the fact that no climber is going to want to take their helmet on and off (and risk dropping it, among other things) in order to manage a hood.

James said...

I actually used my Microlight Alpine down jacket as a belay/bivvy booster layer over a Nano Puff on a recent 5-day trip. It was great and the hood will actually *just* fit over a helmet (Meteor III) although not brilliantly. The jacket would be perfect if they sized up the hood to make it fit more comfortably...

Synthetic insulation will at least work passably under a helmet. No-one's going to want to remove their lid to actually get it under there, but it would kinda work. With down it's just completely inexcusable - think of how sweaty your head gets under your lid.

Small hoods should be a thing of the past. I have a frickin' microfleece (Mountain Equipment Shroud) which has a hood big enough to put over a helmet. No adjusters at all. The weight argument carries almost no water and is the laziest of lazy excuses as far as I'm concerned.

Andrej said...

Could you post more pictures how retainer strap looks like on jacket. For me this is really bad design solution for this. Most of shell jackets use better solutions. Thanks!

Walker said...

Hi Dane, The Xenon looks like a very nice synthetic insulation piece, but my only concern is length. It looks a bit short, and perhaps the shorter length means giving up some warmth. I've used a Montbell Thermawrap Parka with the same weight of insulation, and it was a few inches longer front and back.

Dane said...

I have both and didn't find a signifigant difference in length of either jacket.

Travis said...

Have you seen the new Rab Xenon X Hoody and Strata Hoody for this year? The Xenon looks like it now has a over the top hood, like the Atom LT, and the Strata is an 80g/m hoody with polartec Alpha. Looks like good things are coming from Rab in the synthetic department!

Dane said...

Hi Travis, I have seen both and will eventually be writing about them here. Strata I think will be very interesting.