Rab VR Alpine Lite

I’d be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a gear junkie – I tend to impulse buy kit I don’t really need, decide I don’t like it, whereupon it languishes in the back of the wardrobe until the inevitable date with Ebay.  Every now and again though, I buy myself a bit of kit that I fall head over heels in love with…

One of the best kit purchases I’ve made in a long time has been the Rab Vapour-rise Alpine Lite jacket. I’ve had a bit of a liking for Rab’s vapour rise kit for a while now, being the proud owner of one of the earlier VR pull ons (which is getting a bit baggy for me now, but I can’t bear to part with it and I’m hoping that I can make use of it come winter as part of a layering system with my new VR Alpine Lite).

I bought the VR Alpine Lite on the recommendation of Michael Thomson, who is a fellow fan of Rab’s VR concept – you may find his thoughts on the matter over on Scottish Mountaineer. In essence, VR is a windproof pertex outer layer with a drop lining which resembles a cross between fleece and velour. It’s not without it’s drawbacks, not the least of which is the difficulty of pulling it on over a merino wool base layer, an activity almost guaranteed to strip you of all dignity as the layers bind like Velcro and leave you looking like Quasimodo wrestling a goat in a straitjacket.

Despite that shortcoming, I’ve come to love my new VR; it feels light when worn, packs down into an Alpkit XXS mesh bag and, for me at least, has a ‘just right’ feel in terms of balancing insulation and wind resistance. I’m not sure I’d want to be plodding uphill for an extended period in the summer wearing one, but stick it on when you hit the ridge or plateau and you’re right in the path of the wind, and it’s perfect. The Pertex Endurance outer manages to shed enough water to not bother with a shell on the occasions when you’re passing in and out of showers, and dries out quickly when it does get a bit soggy. I’ve brought it along on a few overnight trips, including our recent wet and chilly outing on Sgor Gaoith, and it’s been toasty over a base layer throughout the process of setting up camp and settling down for the night.

Fit is a very subjective issue, but I find the VR pretty much perfect – I can slip on my Arcteyrex Atom LT over it to boost my insulation on chilly days, and while it feels close fitting over a base layer, it still manages to make space for a lightweight fleece or powerstretch top without that ‘binding’ feeling around the shoulders that I hate.Despite the light feel of the outer fabric, it’s proved fairly robust as well; I wore it continuously during my ML training and it shrugged off scrambling about on Cairngorm granite, getting used as a foothold by fellow trainees, and body belaying. It got completely soaked during our overnight trip, but continued to give decent performance as a thermal layer, and dried out pretty well overnight (although it was still damp and cold first thing in the morning).

Overall, I think Rab have found just about the right blend of materials for this VR jacket, and it will be interesting to see what they do with some of the ‘winterised’ VR kit in the future.