New this spring, the Rab Flashpoint is the brand's lightest waterproof shell and while there are outright lighter waterproofs out there, there's not much that can match the Flashpoint's mix of features - a helmet hood, full adjustment all round and a large chest pocket - and relatively robust three-layer fabric.
And to make this review just a little different, the entire OM team took to the Peak District hills on a wild and wet day wearing the jacket. Here's what we made of it.
- £200 / 177g (medium)
- 3L FlashPoint fabric
- Minimal seams and micro seam tape
- Helmet compatible hood, flexible polymer peak
- YKK water-resistant zipped Napoleon chest pocket
- VISLON® AquaGuard® zip, overlapping storm flaps
- Micro Velcro® cuffs, half hem drawcord
- Complete with lightweight stuff-sac (6g)
There are plenty of lightweight waterproof jackets around and quite a few of them are lighter than the 177g Flashpoint - the Berghaus Hyper Smock for example weighs less than 80g - but what makes the new Rab shell different is that it uses a feathery, but reasonably robust feeling three-layer lightweight fabric and, on top of that, it hasn't skimped on features. And all that, on paper at least, should make it both more comfortable and more useable than its rivals.
The heart of the jacket is the new Flashpoint fabric which mixes a super-light 7D face fabric with a PU membrane then finishes it all off with a similarly light liner fabric. In lab tests it scores a prodigious 40,000 g/m2/24hrs, but all you really need to know is that means it should be super breathable, more than twice as breathable as most decent waterproof fabrics.
Real World Impressions
All great on paper, but how does it roll out in the real world of Peak District gnarliness? First, it's light, but it doesn't feel particularly fragile and the three-layer construction means there's none of the shuddery sliminess you get with some so-called 2.5-layer materials.
The detailing is awesome. The seams uses an ultra-narrow micro-tape, the Vislon main-zip is backed with a storm-flap and there's even an ultra-lightweight chin guard liner in contrasting orange. Neat. The cherry on the top is a proper, large-sized chest pocket.
The fit is slim and tapered, but without restricting movement, great over a softshell jacket or a micro fleece top, but I found I could still roll up the sleeves for a bit of additional cooling - mostly though, that was irrelevant. Even heading uphill on a chilly June day, there wasn't even a hint of sweatiness.
Impressive stuff and it kept the rain out too with the factory applied DWR treatment working really well straight out of the packet.
I also found the helmet-friendly hood impressively effective even worn over a bare head. The top cord grips your crown effectively so the hood moves with your noggin, while the mouldable polymer stiffened peak may not feel as butch as wire, but does the same job keeping the peak firmly protective in the face of some serious wind.
Overall, it doesn't feel like a compromised, ovderly-short, minimal lightweight thing, more a scaled-down mountain jacket and possibly, based on experience so far, the best lightweight all-round shell I've ever used.
The Team Says...
But what did the OM team make of it? Here's their take:
Ed Greenland - Staff Writer: 'Demon exposure fan'
'Breathable, had a great fit and kept me dry in pretty horrendous conditions. The jacket fitted like a full mountain shell with adjustable cuffs and with a helmet-compatible hood that had a surprisingly sturdy peak. At no point did I feel overly warm or sweaty despite the climb being quite strenuous at times, and I kept pretty much bone dry from start to finish. The super lightweight jacket is also easy to pack away and although it is a little pricey at £200, it'll be worth it if it stands the test of time.'
Dominic Murray - OM Publisher: 'Hardcore obstacle racer'
'Overall I was very impressed with the jacket. The slim fit proved ideal in the conditions we faced - deceptively warm, wind and waterproof given the lightness. First time I’ve really experienced the benefit of such a lightweight waterproof. Hood tensioning was a great feature and I used it on/off a lot as we progressed and the amount of shelter/exposure changed dramatically. In the same way, the adjustable cuffs were an important feature too – I used them (as well as main zip!) to help cool down or warm up as needed.'
Chris Goh - OM Commercial Manager: 'Extreme tennis player'
'I liked the feel of the jacket which was light, comfortable and well fitted which is a big preference of mine. Certainly kept me dry on walking Ringing Roger! I did have a slight issue with adjusting the hood in the 20-30mph wind but perhaps that was just me.'
Stelios Marcou - Commercial Director: 'Crocked triathlete on the comeback trail'
'Well thought out jacket. Amazing light and very convenient as it packs down into a pack which is only slightly larger than a tennis ball. Impressively well made with taped seams kept the water out and was highly breathable so didn’t feel like I was wearing a plastic bag.
'Looks cool too being a stylish jacket. Only negative was that with the hood up and the wind howling its not the quietest of materials…haven’t got any others to benchmark against. More pockets?'
We were all impressed with the Flashpoint's cut, lightness, protection levels and breathability on a pretty nasty Peak District day. It's not so much that it's light and compact, though it is, more that it does all that without compromising its function.
A lot of jackets this light are fine for short-term emergency use, but the Flashpoint has most of the features of a full-on mountain jacket, but at half the weight, which makes it a lot more versatile.
Great as a 'run-away fast' emergency shell for mountaineers, but also fine for hill and mountain walking use when the short shower turns into more of a day-long soaking.
The one proviso is that the lightweight fabric means it won't be as durable as a full-weight alternative, but if you can live with that and the price-tag, initial signs are that this is one of the best lightweight waterproofs out there.
Full details at rab.equipment.