I’ve used and abused Rab clothing for years, but I can’t deny I was very sceptical about the claims the Rab team were making about the Kinetic Alpine Jacket. They were calling it revolutionary and told me to forget everything I know about waterproof fabrics. Their website says even more, calling it a breakthrough in technology and suggesting it will change the way you dress for the mountains.
Well it all sounds great I thought, but almost too great. So, although I was really keen to try this new technology, I must admit that I almost set out with a mindset that it couldn’t possibly live up to the claims being made. There was really only one way to find out……so I got busy testing.
On the face of it, the Kinetic Alpine is a minimalist jacket designed and featured for climbing. I’ll get onto the fabric soon, but the general features are all tailored to fast moving vertical adventures. There is a helmet compatible hood with laminated stiffened peak and drawcord adjuster. and a full length YKK Aquaguard front zip backed by a storm flap. The same zips feature on the twin side pockets and there is also a zipped inside pocket.
Besides that, there are concealed cord adjusters on the hood and hem, velcro adjustable cuffs and, for comfort, the hem and cuffs are welded rather than stitched. The fit is described as ‘slim’ and the supplied jacket weighs 391 grams for a size medium. It is also worth a mention that the Kinetic Range is available in men’s and women’s versions.
So, that’s the features – everything you need but nothing more. Now to the fabric. The Kinetic Alpine is manufactured from a fabric called Proflex. This is a stretchy, breathable and waterproof material with a durable nylon face and Rab have added ceramic overlays on the hood and sleeves. Finally, the final link is the lining which is made from a high gauge wicking material. This material needs more explanation, but I’ll do that in the section below as it better to describe it in relation to its performance.
I’ve only been using the Kinetic Alpine for a relatively short time, but it has been used for a selection of activities from climbing to hillwalking and in very varied conditions (the early summer of 2019 has been mixed to say the least!). I can’t as yet comment too much on its durability, but I can certainly comment thoroughly on its performance.
In using Proflex and creating the Kinetic range, Rab have taken a very different approach to the concept of a waterproof mountain garment. The focus of the Kinetic is all about prioritising breathability. It is waterproof, but not at the cost of breathability.
As a comparison, Proflex features a MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) of 35,000mm/sqm/24hr compared to Gore Tex Pro’s 25,000mm/sqm/24hr. It is much more breathable. This means, in the real world, that it can be used for high exertion sports and push out enough moisture to stay comfortable. Infact, the breathability is even getting close to what you might expect from a soft-shell.
In my tests so far, I can simply say that the performance of Proflex is simply fantastic. You often put this on, leave it on and forget it is on. I’ve used it in the warm and wet conditions we’ve been facing this summer and it copes with the warm but damp temperatures without issue. I have even deliberately worn it for a wet weather mountain bike ride and again it coped superbly – even when cranking hard. It is everything Rab claimed.
So, the other big feature of this jacket is that it is waterproof. Proflex has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm compared to, for example, Gore-Tex Pro Shell which is 30,000mm. This means, then, that it is considerably less waterproof than some other hard shell materials. If you were facing a day of full on rain I would take something else, but this isn’t what we often face. Many days there is more of a stop/start pattern to the rain and in my tests so far Proflex has shrugged this off with ease.
So, you have a jacket that will cope well in all weather (except full on gnarly conditions) and which breathes superbly – once you get to grips with the capability of the Proflex it is truly liberating. Where you might have taken a softshell and hardshell, now you have more of a one jacket fits all option.
The Kinetic Alpine, as the name suggests, is focussed on climbing. However, it is really just as well suited to hillwalking or any mountain activity. It arrived too late for winter, but I am also looking forward to taking this for some winter days out. The jacket will appeal to lots of users.
Having said that, as a climbing jacket it is great. The cut is slim and streamlined and the jacket fits well under a harness. I could actually have lived without the side pockets as I rarely use them, but they don’t get in the way and many people will like having them. The interior pocket is great for a mobile phone or some snacks.
Another really significant feature of the Kinetic Alpine is how the jacket lies. The slim fit works really well because the jacket stretches to provide uninhibited movement – perfect for climbing. The other thing of great significance is how soft the fabric is. When many hardshell materials are hard and crinkly, this drapes exactly as a soft-shell material. It feels plush. This also makes it exceptionally quiet with none of that crisp packet rustling you often get from some hardshell materials.
This also means it sits well. When many hardshell jackets bulk up at the front, the Kinetic Alpine sits close to the body. It performs well enough to wear all day and it is comfortable enough to wear all day.
It is hard to comment as yet on the jacket’s durability. the nylon face fabric feels like it will fend off some fairly rough treatment and so far there have been no problem after some tough days out instructing climbing on gritstone. To offer better wear resistance around the hood and sleeves Rab have used a ceramic print treatment. This surface treatment offers wear resistance without affecting the fabric performance.
I will be interested to see how the fabric and this treatment stand up over time, but at the end of the day this is a lightweight material and these will never have the same wear resistance as a thicker material. Like all lightweight materials, you save on weight but need to look after the garment – it’s the juggling act we all play in the pursuit of lightness.
Yep, they were right! Despite my reservations, the Kinetic Alpine is a hardshell jacket that breathes superbly and drapes beautifully. It solves many of the problems users can face when exerting hard in a waterproof jacket in damp conditions. It is a revelation.
All the other features, as you would expect from Rab, are spot on. The fit is great, the look is subtle but stylish and the construction quality is awesome. The Kinetic Alpine won’t suit every outdoor adventure but when it does suit your requirements I am sure it will become you must trusted ally. I also think, at a RRP of £200, that the Kinetic Alpine represents excellent value for money.
Tested and posted by Paul