There was something profoundly odd about walking onto the Rab stand at this year’s ISPO show in Munich and seeing an array of jackets festooned with Gore-Tex swing-tags. It’s a bit like watching your favourite home town footballer suddenly and unsettlingly wearing your arch-rivals strip on the first game of a new season.
How so? Well, for years, despite a historical dabble with Gore back in the Middle Ages, or perhaps Victorian times, the Peak-based brand has used a variety of waterproof fabrics: eVent, Pertex, NeoShell and various own-brand options. But never Gore-Tex. All of which changes from next winter 2019, which officially begins around September time – summer, if you were wondering, starts in, erm, February.
Why the change?
Well, for one thing, such is the cachet of the ‘Big G’ that some customers simply won’t consider waterproof shells made from anything else, which in turn meant that for part of the market, Rab was never an option. On top of that, for all the positive attributes of both eVent and NeoShell, neither quite has the hard-earned reputation for durable waterproofing that comes with Gore’s meticulously developed and tested fabrics.
You might snort at that, but anyone who’s spent a day at one of the brand’s development bases will appreciate just how much endless evaluation goes into every aspect of Gore-Tec fabric development. You might resent its omnipresence, but it’s hard to argue with its almost obsessive thoroughness and lifetime guarantee. On top of that, Rab says it’s been given free-ish rein to do more interesting things with fabrics and combinations of fabric – see the Muztag GTX Jacket below for an example of that.
Rab’s new Gore-Tex waterproof clothing
It would have been easy for the brand to simply take its existing designs and just remake them in a different fabric, but to its credit, Rab has taken the opportunity to tweak and refine its shell clothing at the same time. The names do stay the same though. Meet the new Latok GTX Jacket. Like the current version – still around until September 2019 or so – the Latok is Rab’s ultimate mountain shell with all mod cons.
The fabric is tough, heavy-grade 70D Gore-Tex Pro and that’s just the start of it. The cord adjusters at the hem are designed to sit upwards, so they’re hidden away to avoid snaggage. It gets four roomy pockets, rather than the existing jacket’s two, and the same bombproof YKK Vislon zips with their interlocking plastic teeth. Pit-zips have been re-angled for easier operation and neatly, their twin zip-pulls have different profiles so you can tell them apart by feel, or that’s the theory. How’s your memory…
One nice touch, the pockets have been re-made 3D-stylee so 3D objects sit properly in them rather than bulging out uncomfortably. Cuffs have an additional flap to cover the back of the hands. And finally, the hood has had a rather neat make-over in the way its adjusters work. It still has top and front tensioners, but once you’ve snugged up the face opening, there’s a final additional pull action from the rear of the hood, which takes in the loose ends of the cords and stops them lashing you in the mush plus pulls the rear of the hood in at the back of your neck. All very neat. The bad news is that the price goes up from the current £380 to a top-endy £440, but despite the added features, the weight goes down from 630g to 580g thanks to the lighter Gore-Tex Pro fabric. Looks good.
Also thoroughly tweaked at the matching Latok Bib. Same fabric, but the bib section is now a more amenable stretch soft shell for improved breathability, greater comfort and a better fit for short people.
There are tough crampon patches, a revised, integrated gaiter with adjustable hem and complete with swanky eyelets and lace hooks. Most importantly they’ve been narrowed down for climbing use with the promise that ‘you can see your feet when you look down’. Full-length zips double as vents.
Last but very definitely not least mountaineers can rejoice, the Latok GTX Bib now features a drop-seat for tied-in convenience, ahem. Weight is 700g, which is more than the jacket, price £400. Also thoroughly tweaked is the Muztag GTX Jacket, which was only just redesigned for this winter. The ‘light but tough’ ethos remains, but that fabrics are now Gore-Tex.
What’s neat is that they’ve combined 40D Gore-Tex Pro in the body with lighter, more breathable panels made from 30D Gore-Tex Active, which was originally designed for runners and bikers.
The lighter panels are tucked away from abrasion sites, fit is trim and you get both unobtrusive pit-zips and twin pockets. The hood and cuff design mirror the Latok. Not super lightweight at 480g claimed for a large, but not bad. Price is £350. Matching Latok GTX Bib are 40D Pro throughout. Low-waisted and with a neat rear-sited waist adjuster. There’s no integral gaiter, but the ankle cuffs can be snugged in. On top of that, there’s been a bunch of cutting work to make them a really neat fit apparently. For most of us, they look a more useable choice than the Latok version.
Finally on the jacket front, there’s a brand new model called the Ladakh. It still has a helmet hood, but is less technically focussed and made from bog standard Gore-Tex but with the alluringly soft and lovely C-KNIT backer.
Insulation gets Gore fabrics too
We won’t go too deep on this, but a trio of Rab’s down jacket range uses Gore fabrics. The new Infinity Jacketis a proper warm, technical down jacket with a helmet hood and stuffed full of 800 fill power water-resistant Nikwax down. It’s – we think – box wall throughout, we think.
The Gore bit is a fabric called Gore-Tex Infinium, which first appeared this winter. It’s based on the EPTFE Gore-Tex membrane with a tough Nylon outer face. The fabric is effectively waterproof, but seams aren’t taped.
Rab’s overlaid the fabric on the trunk to cover seam lines and add weather protection. Bottom line, you’re not going to wear a 715g, £400 down climbing jacket in the rain, it’s simply too warm, but it should be ideal for coping with wet snow and dripping ice-fall belays.
There’s also an Infinity Lightversion which has the same fill power down and Infinium fabric, but – we think – mixes box-wall and stitch-through construction at the sides to save weight and bulk. Again it has a helmet hood and mean looks. It’s 50 quid cheaper too at £350 and weighs 555 grammes.
Sort of like Shake Dry…
Finally on the down side of things, Rab were one of two brands – Arc’teryx were the other one – using a variation of Gore’s ‘membrane on the outside’ Shake Dry fabric for insulation. It gets a new name – Gore-Tex Infinium with Persistent Beading Technology. which is a bit of a mouthfull – but has the characteristic black, rubbery look of the original fabric. Used in the Verglas Jacket, it lacks taped seams so isn’t strictly waterproof, but should be pretty damn water resistant. As with the original fabric, no DWR is needed as the membrane is effectively the outer layer and can’t wet out.
The rest of the gig is 750 fill power down housed in stitch-through microbaffles, stretch hood and cuffs plus two hand-warmer pockets. That hood uses a synthetic fill and isn’t a helmet one.
It should be ideal if you’re the sort of person who insists on wearing down jackets in the rain. What the outer doesn’t stop, the water resistant down should vaguely shrug off. Price is £300, weight 470g, so around the same weight as the excellent Microlight Summit jacket.
The Gore-Tex gets into gloves too. There’s a revised Guide 2 GTX glove – current version uses eVent – with goat hide construction, Gore ‘Warm’ liner and PrimaLoft insulation with added pile. The fit feels neater than the current version and PrimaLoft Grip Control palms – they move about less – should make for a confident grip on your tool.
Oh, there’s also the Pivot GTX Glove, Rab’s new ultimate technical gauntlet with a Gore Active liner, zoned PrimaLoft insulation, roll-top finger tips, pre-curved palm and reinforced knuckles for bashing ice with. Rab is particularly proud of the leather snot-wipe which is specced for added, non-cracking durability compared to more usual synthetic wipes that tend to crack after multiple freeze, snot, thaw cycles. So now you know.
All in all…
It does feel a little like the end of an era, though not necessarily in a bad way. On the plus side, Rab’s taken the opportunity to do some interesting stuff with design tweaks and fit changes. Plus some of the insulation construction looks interesting in a slightly niche way. It also means that the brand is on the horizon for those who insist on Gore-Tex as a basic. And if you don’t like Gore-Tex, you have until August or so to snap up the last of the eVent Rab technical jackets.
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