Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Review: Rab Vapour Rise Lite Jacket


I walk very warm, even in cool weather. I find it easy to get too hot when heading off up a hill. I spend most of my time walking on the hill with just a long sleeved base layer for a top. Other than that, I only usually where a waterproof and a wind shirt if the weather demands. But as Autumn and then Winter sets in, these layers aren't enough.

Most of the softshells I look at are quite heavy and make me feel warm just to look at them. They would be okay for me in the depths of Winter, but what about Autumn and the normal winter days. I came across the Rab Vapour-Rise Lite Alpine jacket and thought it seemed worth a try. It's a lot lighter than most softshells. It's a little lighter than my Montane Dyno, at around 360g compared to the Dyno's 400g,which I assume from Rab will be for the size Large. But even though it's lighter, the Tricot lining should add to both the thermal and wicking capabilities of the jacket.
First Impressions

The jacket does seem a little flimsy when you try it on for the first time. It's outer material is Pertex Equilibrium in a much lighter form than the Pertex Equilibrium Eco that makes up the Montane Dyno. The fit is slim, but seems to fit me fine.  I like how light the jacket is, you hardly notice you are wearing it. The fit and finish of the jacket seems like a very high quality.

I've recently been into a popular outdoor retailers and witnessed some absolutely shocking stitching on some trousers from a well known maker. A company that probably sells vast amounts of these trousers. Trousers that I once bought a pair of and there was no button on them to fasten them up. There was no sign that one had EVER been attached. So the Vapour-Rise gets the thumbs up on first impressions.


Working from the top down. The hood, designed to go under helmets is roomy with a wired peak to help keep out the elements.

Hood wired peak.

There is an adjustable draw cord at the back of the hood for volume. Either side of the hood has draw cords to allow the hood to be closed down.  The hood can be stowed away using a buckled strap.

Rear hood volume adjuster.

Double hood adjusters.

Hood retention strap.

There are two YKK zipped Napoleon type chest pockets on the outside with quite a lot of room in them, big enough to hold a map or guide book. There is also a small YKK zipped pocket inside the jacket on the left which would take a phone, energy bar, or similarly sized pieces of kit.

Double Napoleon YKK Zippered pockets.

Inside YKK Zippered pocket.

The arms have plenty of room in them so as to permit reaching for holds etc when scrambling so as not to lift the jacket. The sleeves are adjustable using Velcro straps with a narrow section that is elasticated to make them more comfortable and give more flexibility.

Sleeve adjuster and elasticated section.

The hem of the jacket has draw cord adjusters on both the left and right sides allowing for easy cinching down to keep out the wind and cold.

One of the two hem adjusters.

The main zip is a YKK system with double zipper pulls to allow venting at the bottom of the jacket.

Double YKK Main Zipper.

In Use

Me on the Summit of Blencathra wearing the Vapour Rise Lite.

As far as wearing the jacket goes, it's down to when and where. I find that anything below around 12 degrees centigrade (about 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit), with an active base layer top, is the point at which I can start to wear the Vapour Rise in an active role. Above that and it gets way too warm. The Tricot lining does an excellent job of helping to keep me warm and dry. And working with the Pertex Equilibrium outer, keep the wind out.

The hood is very good, but, and there is a but, when considering the next jacket I will be reviewing, also by Rab. The hood, I think, could have been made more articulated, to turn with the head. I have bought a Rab waterproof to compliment the Vapour Rise that I feel has a far superior hood as far as articulation is concerned. I think the Vapour Rise would have benefited greatly from a hood that matched. I'm not saying it's bad, I just don't think it is as good as it could have been.

The pockets on the jacket have been more than useful. They are of a good size and hold maps, gloves and other items without a problem. The left hand pocket also has a small webbing strap in it around 2 inches long which would be useful for securing keys etc. The inside pocket will take my android mobile phone and possibly the new generation of larger screened phones.

The arms have plenty of room and have been up to the job when scrambling. The sleeves with their straps and elastic have been good at keeping an adequate level of tension around the wrist to keep out the wind and keep in warm air.

I find the hem adjustment easy to make, both in and out, again helping to keep out the elements and control, to some extent, body temperature. This task has been helped even further by the double zipper, allowing for venting at the bottom of the jacket.

As far as wear and tear goes, the jacket has, up till now, coped well. It's had to deal with a couple of tumbles in really wet weather, the riggers of scrambling in the Lake District and mud a bogs in the Peak District. So at this moment in time, as of writing this article, it has sustained no visible damage. The shoulder and waist material also seems to be coping with the weight of a 22 litre and a 44 litre rucksack with average load outs.


The jacket, for me, is of about the right weight (thermally) for use in the Autumn and Winter months in the UK. Or higher altitude walking in the warmer months where the temperature is cooler and there is a little more airflow from wind. Low altitude in Spring and Summer, the Vapour Rise Lite is a no go. But then, logically, this would probably be about right, as Rab seem to aim it as a Summer Alpine Softshell. 
Would I recommend it, that depends on your own particular system. If you tend to be on the cold side then a heavier jacket may be more suitable for winter, with the Vapour Rise Lite as a jacket for the warmer months. What I definitely know is that the heavier weight Softshells tend to be far too warm for me to use in the UK. The Vapour Rise, similarly to the Montane Dyno, just about hits the spot. Just a shame about that hood.


  1. Thanks for the review! I've been thinking about changing a powerstretch fleece layer in my winter system to a Vapour-rise top to be able to stretch the use of it as a "shell" towards colder and windier weather. But, it should still provide about the same amount of warmth as the fleece when used under a shell jacket in codl/bad weather.

    So, what do you think: Is the Lite Jacket about as warm as mid weigth fleece? And in how cold/windy it would still be okay for waling only with the Lite Jacket and a base layer?

  2. Hi,

    The Vapour Rise is extremely light. I have a Rab powerstretch fleece top which is quite close fitting and used as a base layer. It's just slightly warmer than the Vapour Rise I'd say, but not much in it, probably because of the close fit. Where the Vapour Rise would be better is windy conditions. When on Blencathra I only had a long sleeved base layer on underneath. Wind was blowing around 20-25mph in a couple of exposed places with the temperature down around 12 degrees C at that height. I tend to be quite warm and did notice most other poeple with a layer more than myself or a hardshell on. For me, I could probably wear that combination without wind down towards 0-5 degrees C. So with wind, the equivalent temp, considering wind chill.


  3. Forgot to say, 0-5 degrees C would be while being active by the way. Once stopped another layer would go on till active again.

  4. Hi there, have been sifting through your excellent reviews and have a query; I too walk warm and am interested in what your choice would be between the above Vapour-Rise and the Montane Dyno that you also reviewed. I'm looking for a very breathable layer that I could also use on my bike, wind-resistant is fine but something that will stop me getting chilled when I stop. Would appreciate your deciding vote.

    Cheers, Brian

  5. Hi, My preference out of the two jackets would have to be the Vapour Rise rather than the Dyno.

  6. Thank you, decision made.

  7. Nice review. I'm thinking of my first softshell for a 7 day hostel tour of the Lakes in late April. This Rab seems to be at the lighter end of the softshell family.

    Like you, I run hot quite easily. Maybe I don't even need a softshell at all for the Lakes in April. I might get away with longsleeve base layer. Paclite jacket if the wind gets up, though that can get clammy.

  8. Hi, your review was really informative and helpful! I'll be trekking to Machu Picchu in May, and have been tearing my hair out trying to decide which type of jacket would suit my needs for the varying temps. I've looked at Rab, Marmot, Mammut, North Face, Berghaus, Montane...and still undecided! In your experience have you tried and tested any of the above. All I know is the weather will range from warm to freezing temps, and have been advised on getting a lightweight, waterproof yet breathable and warm jacket! Any advice would be appreciated!

  9. The Vapour Rise isn't waterproof. It will take a very light shower. It works well with the Rab Volt which I find excellent as a light waterproof. Together they are pretty warm and would handle temps down to freezing and maybe a little lower while you are active. I also have the Montane Dyno, also reviewed on here. It's a tougher softshell than the Vapour Rise and would be as warm, but more resilient to knocks. It also tends to be a little cheaper than the Rab.

    1. Thanks for your response. Sorry if this sounds daft, but with all the names of materials used in Rab and Montanes clothing, I'm confused as to which material will benefit me for the purposes of my trek. I've had a look at jackets with eVent, is this the same as Pertex equilibrium? The Montane Lite speed seems to be a good bet for a lightweight windproof in warmer temps. Some of the jackets look so technical for me, that I just want a simple all round, breathable, lightweight jacket, preferably with no down, JUST for trekking purposes! Help!!

    2. eVent is a hardshell material, very waterproof, generally more breathable than Gore-tex but not quite as tough and no where as breathable as a softshell generally. Pertex Equilibrium is a softshell material, so quite windproof, slightly water-resistant but not waterproof and very breathable. Thats why I would highly recommend a light softshell and light waterproof. The Montane Litespeed is made of Pertex Microlight which will resist a light shower but not much more. If your trek will have the occasional heavy downpour then something more waterproof like a paclite material such as Pertex Shield or Gore-tex Active might be a better idea. It's a case of chosing between a jack of all trades but master of none or two jackets with different properties. Two very light jackets will not weigh much more than 600g or so. As I mentioned in another response, the Rab Vapour Rise Lite and the Rab Volt work very well together. If forced to a single jacket I would tend towards a Rab Volt, a Montane Minimus or Montane Atomic.

  10. Do you have any thoughts on this for UK spring walking, as an alternative to the Vapour or Dyno? http://www.montane.co.uk/range/men/trail-shirts/mountain-star

  11. For me the material it is made of is an unknown quantity. The weight and cut look good for Spring. I would track down the specs for the material and compare it to Pertex Equilibrium to find out where this garment lies in the performance area. It's a case of finding a balance between the windproof and breathability of the material. I would rather use two to three thin layers than one or two thicker layers. More flexibility. So for me, in typical UK spring weather, a good baselayer, a lightweight softshell and a wind shirt make a good combination. Then a lightweight waterproof for the seasonally predictable rain.

  12. Hi Paul,

    Just today a montane mountain star arrived for me. I'd describe it more as a wind shirt than a soft shell. It has a great cut, is well made and looks cool. But its not a wind shirt I'm after so I think I'll return it and swap for the Rab vr alpine lite.

    1. Very interesting, Lordyosch. I'll have to take a look at it.

      I tried on a Vapour Lite in Ellis Brigham. Nice fit and a nice weight but I wasn't so keen on the light fleece inner. Might make things a bit warm for my purposes. I also wonder if it'd soak up sweat and smells - probably an unnecessary concern.

      I tried on a Rab Cirrus jacket and that was more like it. Horrid colour though and they didn't have the black in stock. I think they've improved the material for 2013.

      Montane are frustrating because it looks like they've got some great gear, but it's difficult to find a shop in London with enough of their range to try on.

      I tried the Paramo Fuera wind smock on too. It seemed thicker and heavier than the Rab, although I guess it'd be tougher. Wasn't really taken by it and the cut was too baggy.

      I think a good wind shirt is a must for me. Rab Cirrus wins it so far, unless I can see some Montane gear first. The Dyno or one of the new windshirts look like the frontrunners.

    2. I can recommend the Dyno.

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  14. Can someone provide some more info about the fit/sizing of the Vapour Rise Lite? Height/weight/ chest perimeter and size? Thanks!