I’ve used a lot of Rab clothing and it is one of my ‘go to’ brands – by which I mean a brand I will tend to look to first when seeking out a new garment. In this case the product sought me out as Rab provided a Firewall jacket to test. I know they make great hardshells, but this is the first time I had used a jacket featuring Pertex Shield and so was very keen to give it a go. Here’s my review…..
The Firewall jacket is a fully featured hardshell with a regular fit, pit zips, a helmet compatible wired hood with Tricot lined collar and roll down Velcro tab. The main zip is a YKK Aquaguard with internal storm flaps and there are 2 zipped chest pockets with an additional third large chest height Napoleon pocket. Finally, there are Velcro wrist closure tabs and hem drawcord with wrist retainers.
The jacket fabric is Pertex Shield which is a 3 layer stretch breathable fabric. Rab describe the jacket as being suitable for year round use. The colour I tested was an orange colour (called Yoko) although it is also available in a blue colour (called Amazon) and black.
The Firewall is described as a regular fit (sized to allow layering underneath) and I found this to be a generous fit for my 40 inch chest at size medium. I could comfortably layer a base layer and a couple of mid weight synthetic layers underneath.
The length for me came down to around upper hips and the only thing I noticed was that the sleeves, in relation to the rest, were quite long. I actually quite like them to be like this because it allows good freedom of movement when reaching up and it also allows you to pull your hands up inside (which I often do when walking in the rain).
The hood is generously sized to comfortably fit a helmet underneath and the adjusters allow it to be cinched tight when needed. The neck is high allowing plenty of protection and a Tricot lining adds comfort.
The other features all work as efficiently as you’d expect on a Rab garment. There are two chest pockets that are well placed so they won’t get in the way of a harness but can be used for storage or hands. They feature zip garages for weatherproofness and the same type of weatherproof zippers are used for the main front zip. There is a third Napoleon style chest pocket that is plenty large enough to house a map and also closes with a weatherproof zip.
All the hem cuff adjusters work efficiently and aren’t really anything different to ones you’d find on any quality jacket. The pit zips are certainly a little out of the ordinary though. The system Rab have used is what they have termed ‘Escape Artist’ zips. This means that each side has a long 2 way YKK Aquaguard zip that reaches all the way from just above the cuff to way down to the centre of the chest on the other side of the arm pits. This allows them to be easily used for pit venting but also allows, when fully opened, the user to completely pull their arms out of the sleeves.
This isn’t a feature I’ve seen before on a jacket and the operation of it is simple. However, it is a feature I suspect I am very unlikely to use as I can’t imagine when I would be wearing a hardshell jacket and need to vent this much. Infact, I am not generally a fan of pit zips at all and even though many jackets feature them I really don’t see them as being that useful – especially if the fabric can breathe well. However, I know a lot of people love them and so I appreciate this feature could be very useful for some.
Which, with all this talk about breathability, conveniently leads me to the fabric, The Firewall utilises Pertex Shield which is a 3 layer hydrophobic PU fabric who’s breathability is said to rise as the energy output increases. I’ve no scientific way to test this but in use it certainly does breathe at least as well as other hardshells I’ve used. The fabric also has an element of stretch and this means you can size the fit reasonably snugly and still get complete freedom of movement. This is great for high reach or active pursuits. Pertex Shield is also a soft feeling fabric and this makes the jacket a real pleasure to wear. It drapes really well and doesn’t have the rigidity or rustling you get with some fabrics.
The jacket has performed brilliantlyl in all uses so far and has held off heavy rain without any problem. It is also completely windproof and seems, so far at least, very durable. It got a little scraped on a recent multi pitch day in Snowdonia but, given the thrutchy nature of the climbing, I was pleasantly surprised it didn’t suffer far worse damage.
I really rate the Firewall. I won’t be using the pit zips and could get by with only one Napolean chest pocket (but appreciate other users will really value the additional pockets and pit zips), but all the other features are well thought out and well executed.
The foul weather performance of the jacket has been great so far and the fit is good. I am also very impressed with the feel and performance of Pertex Shield. I can thoroughly recommend the Firewall and it has one other stand out feature – I think this is a hell of a lot of jacket for the RRP of £200 (and if you search around you might find it even cheaper online).
Posted by Paul