Rab Xenair Vest Review


Our Rab Xenair Vest review details a versatile and adaptable garment from the masters of insulation.  We hope you find it useful.  

We are big fans of vests for outdoor activities.  Adding warmth to the core makes such a big difference in so many situations while avoiding the bulk of a sleeved garment. They also ensure freedom of movement and their lack of additional bulk and weight also makes them easily packable and lightweight.  

Our Rab Xenair Vest Review explores an option from Rab’s Xenair range.  We have used it extensively for Peak District cragging, ski touring in the French Alps and a late season winter climbing trip to Scotland.  Please read on to hear our thoughts.

The Rab Brand Heritage

The Rab brand needs no introduction.  Since 1981 they have produced ground breaking products targeted at mountain activists.  They are also industry leaders and innovators in sustainability.  From their use of recycled materials to their garment repair service and their support of environmental initiatives (including our Pick & Play litter collection activities), Rab are industry leaders.  


The Rab Xenair vest is a dual weight synthetic insulated top designed for mixed conditions.  The outer layer is made from highly breathable and weather resistant 20 denier Pertex® Quantum Air.  This weighs 47gsm (grams per square metre).  The inner is also made from 20 denier nylon called Atmos Ripstop.    

Rab have then used two weights of recycled PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation.  They have used 60 gsm through the front, back and collar.  Then, 40 gsm is used in the sides and spine.  Primaloft Gold is made from 55% recycled content.  

The principles of this body mapped insulation is to hold warmth when static while allowing airflow when your output increases.  This is designed to allow you to wear the Xenair for stop start activities.  

The Xenair vest has semi-elasticated armholes to provide a comfortable and unobtrusive fit. There is also a simple single sided rear hem adjustment with anti snag tether.

The vest has a lightweight (no 5) YKK front zip with chin guard. There are three YKK zippered pockets.  One is on the chest and there are two front hand warmer pockets.  The left hand pocket also doubles as a stuff sack with a harness attachment loop.


In Use

As mentioned above, vests are so versatile for so many activities.  We use them, amongst other things, for climbing, skiing, mountaineering and mountain biking.  They offer a compact and very lightweight core warmer when you don’t need the bulk around the arms.  The Xenair fits this brief perfectly.  

Pack Size

When stored in its pocket pouch it takes up very little space.  Also, at under 200 grams for a size medium, it won’t add much weight to a pack.  The insulation layer is thick enough to offer warmth, but thin enough to layer easily under a shell.  


Another key feature of a layer of this type is its potential to offer windproofness.  If, for example you have started a rock climb in fleece layers but then find yourself on a windswept belay stance, pulling a windproof layer of this type on will help protect your core.

Rab have used 20 denier Pertex Quantum Air for the outer shell.  This is a fabric designed to offer a balance between windproofness and air permeability.  We will explain why air permeability is so important later,  but Quantum Air is deliberately made with a more open structure. 

In use we have found this material does protect a user from wind, but there is also a point where the wind is noticeable.  It won’t really serve as a full windproof, but certainly offers a good level of protection.  Quantum Air also has a DWR (durable water repellant) finish so it will shed drizzle or light snow.

Air Permeability

But the increased air permeability of Quantum Air is also a key design feature.  Air transfer is essential for insulation layers to loft efficiently.  It also allows efficient transmission of body heat.  This makes it very well suited to intense mountain pursuits.  It also means users will stay comfortable over a wider range of situations.  This also offers a perfect solution for stop and go activities. The video below explains about Quantum Air insulation.


Having a very air permeable outer layer isn’t enough on it’s own.  It also needs the insulation layers to transfer the heat efficiently.  This is why Rab have used 2 weights of PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation.  

Gold Active+ uses a special fibre structure designed to maximise heat and moisture transmission.  The structure says PrimaLoft,  prevents microfibres from migrating and hindering breathability.  It is also designed to perform well in damp conditions. Please check out the video below which details the principles of PrimaLoft Gold Active insulation.


So, Rab have selected specific materials that will work together with the goal of providing excellent insulation and moisture transmission.  In action, this combo works extremely well.  In simple terms, it keeps you warm while allowing moisture and heat transmission when needed.  It is a great stop and go insulation option.  The upshot of this is that you can often put it on and leave it on when otherwise you’d need to keep adjusting layers. 


At 20 denier,  Pertex Quantum Air is very lightweight for a face fabric and lightweight generally means less durable.  This is something users need to be aware of and yet the vest has held up to everything thrown at it so far.  It has mostly been worn under a shell layer, but has also been worn as an outer layer for some rock climbing adventures.  

The use of these fabrics have also allowed Rab to build in some 4 way stretch capability for the Xenair vest.  As the vest features their ‘regular’ fit it is designed to be recently snug fitting.  This means the stretch makes it especially suited to sports like climbing where you will need a complete range of movement.  Rab have a useful size guide on their website to ensure you get the right size.


In terms of fit, we found it true to size.  However,  it is worth a mention that, although snug across the chest,  there was some bagginess in the lower back. This can be minimised by using the lower hem drawcord and wasn’t a problem. We just thought it worthy of a mention. One other feature to maximise freedom of movement are the semi elasticated arm holes.  


All the other designed in features on the Xenair work perfectly.  There is a useful chesty pocket that is plenty big enough for items like a phone.  Then, 2 side pockets offer a place for either your hands or other storage. In reality, we could happily have not had these on the vest as we don’t find this a great place for storage.  No matter, they aren’t in the way and when nothing is packed inside them they lay flat.  As previously mentioned, the left hand pocket also has a 2 way zip and interior hang loop.  It is a great option for storing the vest.

The Xenair vest is part of a range of Xenair products with women’s fit models also available. The Xenair vest is available in 3 colours.  There is a dark grey/ black colour called Ebony, a deep blue called Deep Ink and an orange colour called Firecracker.  The vest retails for £150. 



Our Rab Xenair Vest review reveals a very versatile multi-sport garment ideally suited to high output activities.  This is particularly important nowadays as many individuals are active in a variety of sports.   

As usual, Rab have carefully considered the end user and produced a high performance garment using state of the art materials and design.  It is also great that, in line with Rab’s sustainability aims,  the Xenair range is produced from mostly recycled fabrics.  The Xenair vest has become a firm favourite and well done to Rab on another winning product.  Fulls details on the Xenair Vest are available on their website here.  Please also have a watch of Rab designer Dan explaining the principles behind the Xenair range in the video below.

We hope you found our Rab Xenair Vest review useful. We has also reviewed a variety of other Rab products and they all are available on our blog.  For example, our Rab Kinetic Alpine Jacket review here may be of use or our Rab Mythic 600 Sleeping Bag review is available here.  Our most recent Top Gear choice of Rab’s Down Hut Slippers is also worth checking out here.