Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket: £170 / 305g (medium)
Rab's new Kinetic Plus occupies a small, distinctive corner of the galaxy all of its own. It's like a fashion model, that also does martial arts. Or maybe a footballer, who happens to excel at ballet too.
A jacket that's as soft and stretchy and just all round, well, nice as the Kinetic Plus just didn't also ought to be waterproof and very, very breathable as well. But it is. Even Rab seems a little confused. The brand website says it's 'a super lightweight stretch softshell' but with 'high levels of breathability and waterproofing'.
So what's going on? Technically the jacket is waterproof. Thats luxuriously, soft-feeling fabric is called Kinetic and uses Rab's Proflex technology to make it stretchy, which it is. The seams are taped and the jacket is fully waterproof to the tune of 10,000mm hydrostatic head.
That's not in the Gore-Tex league of waterproofing, but the trade off is loads of breathability, 'in excess of 35,000cc/sqm/24hr' if you're a lab stats nerd, or just very, very breathable for the rest of us.
Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket | Performance
The stretchiness of the fabric and a streamlined cut gives a properly neat fit. It's a simple design with just two hand-pockets, a minimally-adjustable, but wired hood, a fixed hem and adjustable cuffs. All of which helps keep the weight of a medium down to just 305 grammes.
That makes it eminently packable - there's a stuff-sac supplied - but ironically we found it worked best on cool to moderate days, particularly showery ones, instead of a windproof. On really wet days, we'd still drag out a full-on conventional hardshell, but the beauty of the Kinetic Plus is that it's only slightly less breathable than many windproofs, yet still copes just fine with proper rain.
In that respect, it's a little bit like Polartec's NeoShell and like that fabric is based on a PU membrane, in this case sandwiched between two layers of stretchy polyester knit.
The stretch and pleasant, soft feel means it never has that crackly, restrictive thing you get with some waterproofs and it looks very neat as well. So far we've used it for walking and biking and a low to medium level of effort and it's coped really well with both with minimal internal infernal fug.
There aren't a lot of features, but what there are work well. Main zip, for example, is a moulded-tooth YKK Aquaguard Vislon, which combines effective water resistance with clean aesthetics and a buttery smooth action.
We like it so much, in fact, that its become pretty much our new 'go to spring waterproof for pretty much everything. Feels good, looks good, keeps water out and doesn't feel sweaty unless you absolutely hammer it.
Rab Kinetic Plus Jacket | Initial Verdict
So far we really like the Kinetic Plus. It works far better in protective terms than anything this soft, light and stretchy has any right to. The fit is good too, helped by the stretch fabric and the quiet, non-rustling vibe is a welcome bonus. But where it really scores is in the mix of comfort thanks to that high breathability, weather resistance and all-round wearability.
So far the relatively low - in the lab - level of waterproofing hasn't been an issue in light to medium rain, but it's something we'll be keeping an eye on. Similarly, the soft polyester fabrics seem unlikely to be super durable if you drag them over rocks or do a lot of heavy pack hauling, but so far, so good is the situation right now.
It's not a jacket we'd suggest buying instead of a full-on mountain waterproof shell, but if you're looking either for a light-ish, but very breathable spring/summer waterproof or a soft shell with a lot of weather protection for a mix of walking, biking, climbing, running and anything else you fancy, we'd definitely add it to the list. It's also available in a women's version.