Rab Paradox Pull-on - £110 / 330g (medium)
The Rab ParadoxPull-on is one of those brilliantly effective outdoor garments that seemingly hardly anyone knows about. In essence it's a layer of Polartec's lightest weight Alpha insulation sandwiched between a shell and liner made from a super breathable, stretchy, Polyester knit.
We've been using one for a month or so now and the easiest way to think of it is as a high performance alternative to a lightweight fleece. It's brilliant as a light, warm, fast-wicking and quick-drying mid-layer top in cold conditions.
Or when it's milder and not too windy - the Paradox doesn't have much wind resistance - wear it as an outer over a baselayer. Bear in mind it's not going to be as abrasion resistant as a shell.
The Paradox is beautifully straightforward too. It's cut very slim, which is great for layering under closer-fitting shells, but with a little stretch mitigating against extreme fit fascism. There's a simple collar, a deep, venting chest-zip with glove-friendly pull, elasticated cuffs and a single pull-cord hem.
And that's your lot. No pockets. No artful vents. No hidden hood or thumb-loops. Just a simple, insulating pull-on.
Like heavier weight Alpha we've used - Rab's own Alpha Direct for example or the VauDe Bormio - the Paradox has an uncanny ability to just keep you comfortable whether things are cold and dry or hot and sweaty. It breathes really well and dries quickly.
And the cut is excellent for mid-layer use. No bagginess means it fits neatly under technical shells and works more efficiently to wick moisture from your baselayer. Some purists will wear it next to skin too.
If you're looking for a pocket to stash your phone or a tenner, you're out of luck. Ditto if you like thumb-loops, which wouldn't be a bad idea here. And while the Paradox is brilliantly breathable, the pay-off is that the relatively loosely woven polyester has only a little wind resistance, so for outer layer use it needs to be either still and cool outside or steaming hot inside.
Oh, and so far, there's no women's-specific version.
Rab Paradox Pull-on - Initial Verdict
We've been using the Paradox for a month or so now and it's a brilliant, close-fitting, higher-performing, alternative to a fleece or microfleece. It's impressively light at just 330 grammes for a medium, wicks and dries with demonic zeal and is appreciably warmer than an equivalent weight fleece.
Don't be fooled by the way Alpha is normally used, the Paradox is at its best as a mid layer. You can wear it as a stand-alone top in stiller conditions - just like a fleece in fact - but it has limited wind resistance and we suspect that the knitted polyester outer won't play nicely with sustained abrasion from rubbing against rocks or pack-straps.
The downside to the top's streamlined simplicity is that it's devoid of pockets and gimmickry. And some users will simply prefer a jacket rather than than pull-on design. But we can live with that in exchange for the Paradox's mix of temperature regulation, wicking, drying and all-round comfort.
Don't buy a fleece, buy this instead!