Of all the clothing in my gear cupboard, I would suggest that lightly insulated and windproof mid layers are the most widely used. They have really surpassed midweight fleece in many ways because, although they offer similar levels of insulation, their windproofness also makes them suitable for use in a broader range of situations.
They are perfect as warming layers under a shell jacket on cold wet days, can be layered with a warmer insulating layer on cold dry days and can be worn alone on chilly and windy days. I have worn a lot of this type of layer over the years and there is plenty of choice on the market – every major manufacturer makes them. The updated version of the Xenon is Rab’s latest offering in this category and recently I’ve been testing one out……..
The Xenon is a lightweight mid or outer layer jacket (depending on conditions) insulated with Primaloft Gold Active insulation with a Pertex Quantum outer shell. There are 2 zipped hand warmer pockets and an internal pocket, a 2 way YKK front zipper and a Lycra edged under the helmet hood. The chest pocket acts as a stuff pocket making the Xenon perfect for clipping on your harness for colder weather multi pitch climbing. The fit, as described by Rab, is slim.
Overall the jacket is quite simple in style and I really like it for that. Every feature you need is there and nothing more. Having said that, if I was designing this kind of jacket I could happily have missed out the hand warmer pockets but that is just my preference. They are at least positioned high enough to be out of the way if you are wearing a harness and lots of people like pockets of this type so I know Rab need to cater for all needs. Other than that, it is a thoughtful and yet pleasingly minimalist design.
As Rab say, the fit is sized for a slim build so if you are a little wider of girth then definitely try one on before buying. This slim fit means it will layer comfortably with other garments and yet still allows plenty of freedom of movement for reachy climbing moves. The Pertex Quantum outer shell, with its slippery surface, also makes it easy to pull other layers over the top.
The hood fits comfortably under a helmet and will at a squeeze pull over one too (although I’m not sure why you’d want to wear your helmet over the top really). I also like the simple Lycra cuffs that will pull over a pair of midweight gloves if needed.
And so to the nucleus of a synthetic insulated jacket – the insulation. Primaloft Gold Active is designed, as the name suggests, to allow users to stay comfortable in a range of conditions and at varying activity levels. It is slightly less insulating than its predecessor but has a more robust weave meaning it can be paired with a more open liner fabric and so cope with a broader temperature range. In the Xenon’s case that liner is ripstop nylon and the combination of liner and Pertex Gold really does work exceptionally well. I have used it for a broad range of outdoor activities and it has stayed comfortable for everything from cold weather cragging to much higher energy output mountain biking.
The Pertex shell is very lightweight but has so far proved to be very.durable – several thrutchy gritstone routes haven’t damaged it at all and that’s usually my benchmark test for fabrics. Beyond that, it has stood up to substantial use with a heavy rucksack and being generally used and abused in a variety of situations – my initial concerns about its durability have proved to be completely unfounded.
The Xenon X works well in such a broad range of situations and I have become very attached to it – it seems to be the one I choose most often for lots of activities and conditions.
It copes really well in a broad range of temperatures and energy outputs and has stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it with aplomb. It is very versatile insulating lye and I really think you will be happy with the investment. The Xenon X retails for £160.
Posted by Paul