It might seem an odd time of the year to be testing waterproofs with something like summer in the offing, but here's the thing, it's when it's warm and summery that you want your waterproof to be as light and compact as possible because most of the time - Michael Fish willing - it'll be sat in your pack unused. At the same time though, when you do need it, you want it to work properly.
On the face of it, there's little to split Montane's Minimus Smock and Rab's Pulse Pull-on - they even use the same Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer waterproof fabric, so have pretty much the same levels of wateproofing, breathability and durability and both are respectably light: 138g for the Montane and 186g for the Rab and that's actual weight in a medium.
Which might make you think the Montane is the automatic first choice, but there's more to buying a lightweight waterproof than just the weight and pack size - both pack impressively small too. Stuff to look at includes:
- Cut - is it suitable for your body shape and activities?
- Hood - will it do what you need it to, for example, fit a climbing helmet.
- Adjustability - can you tweak the hood, hem and so on to suit you.
- Pockets - does it have enough storage for you in the right place?
- Colour - yes, it's shallow, but hey, we're only human.
- Fabric - in this case it's the same, but look at breathability and durability.
So which would we choose - Rab or Montane, Montane or Rab? Check out mini-reviews of each and our final conclusion below.
The Fabric - Pertex Shield+
Before looking at the individual jackets, here's a quick look at the Pertex Shield+ fabric. It's a lightweight, fully-waterproof, 2.5-layer fabric. That '2.5' means that the inside surface uses a sort of printed pattern to both protect the PU membrane part of the fabric, but also to help move moisture outwards.
The '+' bit distinguishes it from the basic Pertex Shield fabric which is essentially less breathable. The numbers say that it's waterproof to 20,000mm which is impressive and very much more than adequate and has a breathability of a minimum MVTR of 25,000g/m²/25hrs (JIS L 1099 B-1). Again that's pretty decent.
Subjectively we'd say it's significantly better than most similar fabrics we've used. Still not quite as impressively breathable as eVent, NeoShell or Gore-Tex Active Shell, but certainly capable of taking a bit of hammer without instant broiling making it a great buy at the price.
Like most lightweight fabrics it's not likely to be massively durable if you insist on dragging it repeatedly across rough rocky things, but that's the price you pay for having a tiny-packing sub-200g shell.
More information: pertex.com/fabrics/shield-plus.
Rab Pulse Pull-on - £130 / 186g
The Pulse Pull-on is the lightest Rab waterproof ever at a measured 168g for a medium and while it's not as light as the Montane Minimus Smock, it's still pretty damn feathery and Rab emphasises that it hasn't pursued gramme counting at the expense of featured functionality.
That means the Pulse is set up for all-round mountain use rather than being aimed purely at weight-weenie whippet types. That means it uses a medium-long 'regular' cut that's happy worn over a thin mid-layer and doesn't leave you crotch exposed to the elements - always a good thing - though it also has a drop-tail for butt protection in face of adversity. Check the fit if you have broad shoulders, Rab's block is slightly narrow in this area.
There's a single chest pocket that's been sized to fit an OS map, so all good there and the hem cord is adjustable to give a snug seal down below. Gotta love seals. Where it differs markedly from the Montane jacket is the hood, it's a full helmet-compatible job that makes the jacket alpine friendly. It's not as huge as some, so try before buying but it should work with most lower-profile lids.
It also has a laminated, stiffened peak for a bit of extra protection, though no wiring, it works fine with a bare head too and moves with your line of sight, which is good, though there's not much lower face protection. Finally, on the hood front, you can roll it down and clip it out of the way. It's a bit of a clunky solution, but better than a flapping hood on a run or bike ride.
Last but not least, there's one very neat little touch that we like. There's a press stud at the top of the main zip which means you can open the zip right up for venting, but without the whole front of the garment billowing open in the wind. It's great for cycling and running and still handy for walking.
It's not the lightest lightweight jacket out there, but the more generous cut, length and helmet hood plus the ingenious venting popper - you can roll the sleeves up too - and hem adjustability make it a proper all-mountain option. The downside of that is that it can seems a little long and slightly flappy for faster-moving stuff like running or biking.
Overall though, it's a cracking, super-versatile, lightweight all-rounder that'll handle anything from alpine mountaineering through to a local rain-soaked run in the park with decent breathability and weather protection thrown in.
Light, packable, decently breathable, long, generous cut, neat venting popper, helmet hood.
Peak stiffened but not wired, cut a little loose for faster stuff.
Product web page: rab.uk.com.
Montane Minimus Smock - £120 / 138g
So how does Montane's Minimus Smock save around 50g over the Pulse? In a word, focus. The Minimus is simply a more uncompromising beast. It starts with the cut. Whereas the Rab is relatively long for a lightweight jacket, the Minimus is short and closer-fitting than the Rab - stick a lightweight mid-layer on, just, and it's virtually skin-tight on us, so it almost demands to be used over just a baselayer.
That's a bit of a clue as the shorter, snugger cut works best for fast-moving stuff like biking and running where a shorter cut and a close, non-billowing fit are a real plus - arguably good for breathability and wicking too. As far as venting goes, the Lycra-cuffed sleeves will rolll up to near elbow level and you can obviously wind down the water-resistant main-zip, but there's no top popper to hold things together so it can billow in the breeze.
The hood really defines the jacket. It's a simple, head-hugging, non-adjustable design that's okay, but can't be cinched down or adjusted. There's no peak, though you could spend your extra grammes on one of Montane's waterproof eVent caps to wear under it, and no way of tabbing it down.
What you can do, if necessary, is wear it under a climbing helmet. Of course that means if you want to remove the hood in mid-climb you'll have to first remove the helmet, which isn't always practical or safe, but it does mean that those on a super-minimalist alpine mission, particularly skinny people, shouldn't write off the Minimus, though like the Rab it's not the toughest garment out there, so effectively best saved for emergency use.
Finally there's a big pouch-style chest pocket that you'll either like or not. It's slightly bigger than the Rab one and also mesh lined.
Montane has pretty much gone for broke with the Minimus Smock, it's all about saving weight and that means a focussed design that works well for fast and light stuff, but is more compromised than the Rab for all-round mountain use thanks to the closer, shorter cut, more minimal hood. It's much more marginal worn with a mid-layer, though that depends somewhat on your build. It might even be worth sizing up if that's an issue for you.
On the plus side though, it's super light, packs tiny - predictably we've loset the stuff-sac supplied - and works well for faster moving stuff where closeness and a short cut are an advantage.
Super lightweight, compact size, close, efficient cut, lots of reflective.
That close, short cut saves weight but reduces all-round useability. Not great for overlayering.
Product web page: www.montane.co.uk.
For two ostensibly similar jackets - same fabric, same format, British designed - the Rab Pulse Pull-on and Montane Minimus Smock turn out to have some quite significant differences. In a sense there's no winner or loser, both have different strengths.
Which would we choose? It depends very much on what you're looking for. If what you need is a lightweight alternative to a full mountain shell that's capable of accommodating mid-layers, giving decent protection with some crotch coverage and even taking a climbing helmet in its stride, we'd suggest you bite the bullet and spend the extra tenner for the Rab despite the additional 50 grammes or so in weight and bulk.
If on the other hand, what you want is the lightest, most packable waterproof you get your paws on, you're either slim and sleek or don't intend to use a mid layer under the shell and are probably focussed on running, biking or adventure race-style stuff, the Montane Minimus Smock makes more sense - check out their Mountain Minimus Jacket for more of an all-rounder.
You can use either of these in place of the other in a squeeze, but you'll compromise performance as a result and have to endure, so our advice would be to work out which way you naturally lean and choose the one that works best for that. Or if you're feeling flush, buy both...