Review - RAB Strata
The RAB Strata range of insulated clothing is a relatively new range encompassing a jacket, hoodie and vest design.
The Strata is constructed from the new Alpha insulation layer from the reputable outdoor material manufacturer Polartec. Alpha was originally commissioned by none other than the US Special Forces. They wanted an insulated garment they could essentially live in during cool weather carrying out demanding physical tasks, without overheating as they have done in normal insulated clothing.
Polartec came up with a new solution to the issue of clammy sweaty insulated layers. They created a lightweight low-density fleece like material. This material can be combined with different shell and lining materials for varying warmth.
The Strata uses the option of combining alpha with a windproof outer shell and a highly air permeable mesh lining material. The mesh is designed to let sweat straight through into the insulation layer and not build up on the lining, where it is eventually wicked through the insulation and out through the outer shell.
The inner breathable fabric does have the effect of making the material less warm than conventional insulated garments. So you need to choose the material that is going to suit your purpose best. If you are going to be standing around a lot in between being energetic, Alpha may not fit the bill in cold conditions.
I ordered a large vest, I already have a RAB windbreaker in medium and found it on the tight side. The vest is listed as a trim fit, but I didn’t find this, I would regard it as more true to size, with ample room for my lanky 178cm frame. There was enough room for me to layer underneath if needed. The collar was a nice fit to keep out the wind, with a soft brushed tricot lining. There are two main hand warmer pockets with a shell and breathable tricot lining.
The outer shell is Pertex Microlight nylon with a soft feel to it and a small amount of two way stretch.
It weighed in at 290gm.
In the Field
The moment of truth, will the garment live up to the hype.
The first decent test I gave the jacket was on a three day spring trip to Great Barrier Island.
The jacket was used in temperatures in the low to mid teens. On a couple of windy walks, one walk I was exposed to a range of conditions from sunny and calm to a steady 50km wind for an hour.
The first thing I noticed in the calmer sections was a lack of any clamminess when I was sweating, I could unzip the jacket to let the heat and sweat out easily since little heat was retained in the insulation once the jacket was opened up. I climbed above the bushline into a strong wind, zipped the jacket up to hold in the warmth. Despite wearing a t-shirt underneath I was adequately warm the whole time in the strong wind, but not too warm. The goldilocks effect. Coming back down out of the wind, unzip the jacket to let the warmth out again, no problems.
After two hours I’d been through a range of weather conditions and was able to comfortably wear the vest the whole time just using the zip to regulate my temperature without any problem.
I’ve worn a large range of insulating materials in a wide range of weather in 30 years of exercising in the outdoors, and the material the vest is made of is the best I’ve come across for the range of conditions I can wear it in... most other fabrics would have been either too hot or too cold at some point in my walk.
Am I impressed? You bet I am. This is a well thought out, researched, tested and implemented material. At under 300gm it’s also nice and light and packable into its own pocket stuff sack.
I”m looking forward to getting a lot more use from the vest in the future.
Reviewed by Wayne Clark avid trekker and outdoor gear reviewer.
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