Do you remember when you were a little kid and you got something new and you loved it so much you took it to bed with you? Maybe it was a new stuffed animal or a book or something larger, like a bike. Whatever it was you loved it and couldn’t bear to be parted with it even while you slept. Well I remember that feeling and that’s actually how I felt when I first got the Rab Snowpack Jacket. The Snowpack is part of Rab’s 2014 line-up of waterproof down products. Not only does the Snowpack have hydrophobic down on the inside (as do all of Rab’s down jackets for 2014) it also has waterproof fabric on the outside making this a great jacket for cold and damp conditions. The Snowpack Jacket is a waterproof version of the Alpine Microlight jacket, which has been a staple in my closet for several years now. My favorite thing about the Snowpack Jacket, and the main reason I didn’t want to be parted from it, is that it is super comfortable; like curling up in a big cozy sleeping bag. When you live in the Rockies but hate to be cold a warm, a comfy jacket is a wonderful thing.
The Snowpack jacket is constructed with a few different materials.
First, on the inside is hydrophobic down. As I mentioned above, all of Rab’s down products are now filled with hydrophobic down. Numerous reviews on backcountryskiingcanada.com have explained that the main disadvantage of down is that when it gets wet it looses its loft and, consequently, its warmth. Although Rab’s hydrophobic down is not waterproof it is designed to absorb less water, dry faster and retain its loft better than non-treated down.
The quality of down is dependent on the ratio of feathers to down clusters in the product. A higher percentage of down cluster equals higher quality down because it is the down clusters that give a product its loft. The Snowpack Jacket has 10 % feathers and 90% down clusters.
Second, the down in the Snowpack jacket is enclosed in 100% ripstop nylon sewn in a traditional baffle construction.
Third, the jacket is covered by Pertex Shield. For those of you who don’t know, Pertex is an independent fabric engineering company. On their website they describe their eight different fabric types. Rab uses a number of these fabrics in their products and for the Snowpack Jacket they used the Pertex Shield. The main features of the Pertex Shield are that it is waterproof, windproof and durable. The fabric is also permeable to moisture vapour giving it what Rab calls a medium level of breathability.
In order to test just how waterproof the Pertex Shield really is I took the Snowpack Jacket to, you guessed it, the shower. As a comparison, I also tested the Alpine Microlight to see how much of a difference not having the Pertex Shield makes in keeping water out. Please be aware that my Alpine Microlight is an older version and, as such, the down is not hydrophobic as it is in the newer versions of the jacket.
As you can see from the table, the water soaked through the Alpine Microlight in a third of the time it took to soak through the Snowpack Jacket. Also worth noting is that at the end of 30 seconds the outside of the Microlight was sopping wet and the inside was visibly wet. In contrast, at the end of 100 seconds the Snowpack jacket was wet on the outside but a lot of the water was still running off of the jacket and the inside was slightly damp.
Based on this experiment, it is obvious that the Pertex Shield creates a waterproof layer. As usual, I will be interested to see how this waterproofing withstands the test of time, but for now I feel confident that the Snowpack Jacket will keep me dry.
One of my favourite features of the Snowpack jacket is the fleece lined collar. I found the collar to be really comfortable against my skin and a simple but great addition, especially for colder days.
The cuffs on the snowpack jacket are a combination of elastic and Velcro®. I liked having the Velcro® as it allowed me to either tighten or loosen the cuffs to fit under or over my mitts.
The Snowpack Jacket has three pockets: two zippered hand warmer pockets and one inside chest pocket. Since the hand warmer pockets get covered up by a pack waist belt I would have liked an outside chest pocket (as on the Microlight Alpine Jacket).
The hand warmer pockets are closed with YKK AquaGuard® zippers, adding to the waterproofing of the jacket.
The hood on the Snowpacket jacket is large enough to fit easily over a climbing helmet and reasonably well over a ski helmet. I did find that when I wore the hood over a ski helmet the collar was uncomfortably tight; although I was able to do the zipper up, it was not comfortable.
The hood is two way adjustable: both around the face and around the head. I found the head adjustment easy to use. Unfortunately, to tighten the adjustment around the face you have to open the top part of the zipper which is annoying in snowy or windy weather.
The drawstrings on the hood are the one area that needs improvement on the Snowpack Jacket. Specifically, the drawstrings constantly poke out and make it difficult to do the zipper up all the way. Although the drawstring feeds under the fleece lining inside the collar, too much of the drawstring sticks out past the fleece. In contrast, on the Microlight the drawstrings are kept out of the way with a fabric tunnel.
Since the Snowpack Jacket is a version of the Microlight Alpine Jacket I wanted to see how the two jackets compared. The main similarity between the two is that they both have 750 fill power of Hydrophobic European down. The main difference is, of course, that the Snowpack is waterproof (Pertex Shield) while the Microlight is not (Pertex Microlight). Below is a table with some of the other differences between the two.
Outer Fabric: Pertex Shield®
Inner Fabric: 100% nylon ripstop
Down: 750 fill power Hydrophobic European goose down (140g in UK 12)
Hood: Down-filled with wired peak
Zippers/Pockets: YKK front zip with external & internal storm flap and rain drain, 2 YKK AquaGuard® zipped A-line pockets, 1 YKK zipped internal security pocket
Cuffs: Elastic and Velcro
AquaGuard Zips, nice touch.
Down hood with adjustability.
As I clearly stated above, one of the biggest draws of the Snowpack Jacket is that it is comfy to wear. I love the fleece lined collar and, for me, the regular fit feels great. The other main feature, of course, is the windproof and waterproof Pertex Shield®. In the Rockies, where it is typically drier than other areas, having a waterproof down jacket has meant I can leave my hardshell at home most days. This has been great as it is one less thing to carry. In wetter climates, such as the Selkirks, I still often take my hardshell but the Pertex Shield® makes it so I am less worried about exposing my down jacket to moisture than I would otherwise be.
The hood drawstrings are one area on the Snowpack Jacket that still need some work and an outside chest pocket would be nice as well. I found the Snowpack Jacket warm enough to about -15 but have been taking my bigger down for colder days than that.
Overall, I’m excited to own the Snowpack Jacket and I think with a few small adjustments this will be an excellent jacket for Rab.
Colours: Aubergine, Ebony
Sizes: UK 8 - 16
Weight: 640g (UK 12)
-Fleece lined collar
-Regular fit (good if you prefer a looser fit)
-Only two colour options
-Drawstring cords get in the way of the zipper
-No outside chest pocket
-Regular fit (a con if you prefer a fitted jacket)
Quality / Price 2/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.