Last updated: 17-Aug-18
By Luke Jarmey
Ultra-lightweight waterproof shells are definitely at the sexier end of running products. Why is this? Well, it’s kinda strange really, as it is something you don’t necessarily wear that often. But with a large portion of our running taking place on remote trails, within the turmoil of inclement weather systems, it often pays to be prepared. And when the weather gods do decide to unleash hell upon high water, you want something that keeps you dry, makes you feel as lithe as a ballerina, but doesn’t turn you into a steamed potato.
Now achieving all those aims in a running garment, whilst seducing us fanatical gram- counting, weight-weenies, is actually incredibly difficult. And for this reason, it’s perhaps these ultra-lightweight waterproofs that have benefited the most from recent advancements in design and materials technology.
Stating their desire to offer a fully-featured technical jacket, while at the same time keeping it feather light. Rab have entered this competitive arena with a bang, with their Flashpoint Jacket. I’ve recently had the opportunity to thoroughly put it through its paces in the unrelenting environment of my back yard, which happens to be the high peaks and forested troughs of Wanaka, New Zealand.
- Super lightweight 3L Pertex Shield®+ fabric
- Minimal seams and micro seam tape
- Helmet compatible hood, lightweight flexible polymer peak
- YKK® Vislon AquaGuard front zip with overlapping internal storm flaps
- YKK® AquaGuard zipped napoleon chest pocket
- Micro Velcro cuff adjustment
- Half hem drawcord
- Lightweight stuff sack
- Slim Fit
- Weight: 180g (Men’s L), 160g (Women’s 12)
- RRP: £220
- See Rab
Pros: What’s good about the Rab Flashpoint?
Right, I’ll state this now, I love the Flashpoint Jacket. After a good six weeks of nearly daily use, I feel comfortably confident in backing up this statement in regards to the critical aspects of a jacket in this category.
The combination of 3 layer Pertex Shield+ fabric, fully taped, but minimal seams and a waterproof zipper really does work well. I ran for two hours plus in some seriously heavy downpours and the only wet area when taking off the jacket, was a small patch around my throat. This is where the, literally ‘sideways’, rain had come in through the hood opening. Breathability wise, I was very impressed. This is something that tends to be compromised in jackets of this weight class. And whilst not quite up to the standard of the very best Gore-Tex Pro, eVent and Neoshell equipped jackets, which often come in at three times the weight, it was surprisingly good.
I’m a real sweater and I only started to feel clammy after prolonged intense exertion. The fact that it’s 3 layer, probably helps here. Basically you’ve got a full fabric layer between your skin and the waterproof membrane, with another layer on the outer. In contrast, a 2.5 layer jacket, has a plasticity sprayed on ‘layer’ between the membrane and your skin. As soon as your start to sweat, this tends to give it a slimy feel.
There is no point having fancy technical specs in a jacket, if it fits like a bin bag and feels horrible to run in. Hats off to the designers at Rab, as the anatomical design and articulation of the jacket, i.e how it’s designed to conform to the shape of the human body, is spot on. Waving my arms about and twisting my hooded head from side to size, is a good test of this. It translates well onto the trail and combined with the feather weight, you hardly feel like you’re wearing it.
Sizing wise, I’m a slim 6ft (183cm). Length of the jacket in Large, was perfect, which stopped it riding up when running. There was also room underneath to give the option of layering up, which I personally like.
The design features also impress. With velcro tabs on the cuffs, elastic drawstring on the hem and hood and a bendable peak, you can micro adjust the fit of the jacket. I also liked the generous breast pocket, this was perfect for energy bars or a waterproof cased iPhone etc.
Durability so far has been excellent, with no nicks or abrasions noticeable from my regular forays into the prickly, gorse-strewn alpine. The 3 layer construction will also help reduce wear from inside the jacket. That said, this is an ultra-lightweight piece, so a bit of care is needed in comparison to say a 600g climbing hardshell.
Lastly, comes the weight and pack ability. 180g for the size Large in a jacket with this feature set and performance is pretty amazing. Especially when you note that it’s 3 layer and includes details, like a fully adjustable hood and hem. Furthermore, it all packs down into a bag, roughly the size of two average apples.
Cons: What’s not so good about the Rab Flashpoint
Honestly, after all the time wearing this jacket, there was only one thing that bothered me and that’s a niggle with the zip design. In a nut shell, the sliding zip itself has a habit of jamming on the inner storm flap of the zipper. I have the feeling a compromise has been made here. Perhaps to save weight, the zipper system is markedly less ‘stiff’ than heavier jackets. Which when combined with a narrower storm flap, could result in the aforementioned jamming.
This would have been a major design fault in my books. However, it was actually quite easy to adapt to this issue, by using a finger to keep the storm flap clear when zipping up.
Though not a ‘con’, I would love to see Rab offer a smock version of this jacket. This would save a further few grams, whilst reducing the issue with the zip.
It’s also worth mentioning the price at this point. £220 hardly makes it a bargain, and yes there are cheaper 2.5 layer options, but it is in line with other higher end 3 layer jackets within its class. And when compared to heavier duty hard shells, that can easily push the £350-400 mark, relatively speaking, it seems fairly priced.
Well if you’ve made it this far, it’s pretty evident that I’m just a teeny bit enamoured with the Rab Flashpoint. Often manufacturers overhype products, with lofty claims. In this case, it wasn’t all just smoke and no fire, the jacket really does deliver. The specs and features are top drawer and the fact that they’ve achieved all this within a weight of 180g (for men’s size L) is blooming impressive. What the spec sheet doesn’t allude to, is the fit and articulation. This is probably what was most impressive to me and really elevates it above similar products.
What could have been a major con with the zipper, can be downgraded to a minor ailment due to the easy work around, that once done a few times becomes second nature. Therefore, I can thoroughly recommend the Rab Flashpoint Jacket and it should be a serious consideration, particularly for anyone running in any of the big summer mountain ultras such as the UTMB.
Other jackets you may want to consider:
Arc’teryx Norvan Jacket – £280
Patagonia Storm Racer Jacket – £220
Montane Minimus 777 Jacket – £200
Montane Minimus Jacket – £150
About the author: Luke Jarmey is the RunUltra Community Manager and an Adventure Photographer. He is a keen mountain and trail runner and all-round outdoorsman based in New Zealand. He takes on the hardest trails in the worst of weathers and comes back with a smile on his face.
All images @Luke Jarmey.
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