Rab Microlight Alpine Review

We tested the Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket and this is our verdict.

December 14, 2023
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The Rab Microlight Alpine is a warm, durable, and weather-resistant down jacket that is lightweight and filled with features. It’s a solid option if you are looking for a down jacket for alpine adventures, mountaineering, winter camping, or a thru-hike that might encounter consistent cold temperatures. Compared to other down jacket options, the Rab Microlight Alpine shines when tested in wet, windy, and messy conditions.

Product Overview

Rab Microlight Alpine

rab-microlight-alpine-down-jacket
Pros

✅ Durability

✅ Water resistance

✅ Wire-brimmed hood

Cons

❌ Weight

❌ 700 fill down is not as lofty

❌ Arm baffles are not tapered enough close to hands

KEY SPECS

  • Weight: 466.5g/16.5oz
  • Insulation: Recycled 700FP Down with Nikwax Hydrophobic Finish (153g, Size L)
  • Main Fabric: DWR coated 30D recycled Pertex® Quantum ripstop nylon
  • Lining: Recycled 20D nylon, 38g/m²
  • Fully insulated brimmed hood
  • YKK® zipped hand pockets and large zipped chest pocket

I love this jacket because of its durability, fit, and warmth. It’s a solid all-around down jacket that can be used in so many different situations and can be counted on to last for years. The only real drawback of the jacket is that it would be considered lightweight and not ultralight.

To see reviews on other down jackets, see our post on the best down jackets for thru-hiking.


Performance Test Results

How We Tested:

On my southbound AT Thru-Hike I added the Rab Microlight Alpine to my kit for the last two months as the temperature dropped. I used this jacket in snow, freezing rain, and consistent temps in the 10F-20F range at night.

This jacket was a camp essential for my trip and was a sleeping layer as I hit the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and the last section of the trail in Georgia. I also used the Rab Microlight Alpine for winter hiking and mountaineering in New Hampshire’s presidential range. It was used in all types of winter conditions.

Versatility/Durability

I hike in a lot of different conditions and I wanted a down jacket that was versatile whether I was using it for a day hike in winter weather or a thru-hike in colder temperatures. The fact that the Rab Microlight Alpine shows up on mountaineering gear lists, as well as thru-hiker gear lists, should speak volumes about all the different ways it could be used. Whether you have this as your go-to camp down jacket in the 100-mile wilderness or are layering it underneath a shell for a Mt Washington winter climb, the Rab will perform over and over again.

A big thing that influences my gear purchases is durability and failure probability. I tend to beat my gear down and use it a lot. I also hate having to buy expensive ultralight gear in hopes that it will last longer, it just takes a lot of the fun out of outdoor adventures for me.

rab-microlight-alpine-close-up-features

Retailing at $295, the Microlight Alpine down jacket is an incredibly versatile gear to own.

What I noticed right away compared to other down jackets that I owned (REI 650 and the MH Ghost Whisperer) is that the outer shell on the Rab Microlight Alpine is just so much stouter. It blocks the wind much better and if you are getting any freezing rain or snow, it is water resistant enough to not outright fail before you can properly layer with a shell.

If you hike in messy and cold conditions, in New England or, Pacific Northwest, for example, this is a great option. If you are getting into mountaineering, this also layers really well with a shell so again, it's a really flexible piece of gear to own.

That being said, if you are looking for the down jacket to round out your 8lb ultralight thru-hiking setup you’ll probably find a lighter option somewhere in the 8oz range. If you strictly want something for camp in dry conditions when temps fall in the 40s, you can probably also find lighter options as you won’t need all the features of the Rab Microlight Alpine.

Warmth

With 5oz of 700FP down, this jacket has plenty of warmth. I was warm in the 30-40F range with only a base layer on underneath. When temps got closer to 10-20F I added a fleece and was fine, though 10F is probably starting to push it. The waist adjustment and elastic cuffs keep drafts out and the hood can be adjusted for a great fit. The wire-brimmed hood gives a really quality feel and helps keep rain or snow from falling on your face.

hiker-wearing-rab-microlight-alpine-down-jacket

Cleaning

After 2 months of consistent use on the AT I washed the jacket twice with down detergent and it looks new. My only scuffs/tears were on the arms close to the wrist and they were mainly my fault, though I do wish the sleeves were tapered more by the hands. The jacket can get a little clunky when setting up stoves and cooking which can lead to burns and tears.

rab-microlight-alpine-close-up-features

When cooking and setting up stoves, the jacket sleeves might become a little uncomfortable.

Fit

The overall fit of the jacket is regular, and definitely not slim. I’m always a medium or large depending on the manufacturer. I have wide shoulders which makes for an awkward fit. In the case of the Rab, the medium fit fine, so I would consider it true to size and that it does not run as slim as other brands.

One thing that you will notice right away is that the zipper sides are flipped compared to US manufacturers. It’s something that feels odd the first time you do it and from then on it's a non-issue, but for the sake of the review, I have to mention it.

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Rab's general fit is not as slim as the other brands, and I would say that it is true to size.


Rab Microlight Alpine for a Thru-Hike

I think the Rab Microlight Alpine is also a great down jacket for colder months of a thru-hike. I think the general trend for thru-hikers is to carry a quilt over a sleeping bag, and if you are hitting temperatures below freezing in a quilt, having a durable down jacket with a hood is just such a comfort that does not get enough attention.

One night in the Smoky Mountains I stretched a 20F quilt down to 10F temps mainly by wearing this jacket and fleece. I’m not saying this is a good (or safe) idea, but for thru-hikers looking for versatility, having a more robust down jacket gives you a little more confidence that you can push a sleeping setup for a few days. I also loved having the large outer chest pocket for my electronics. I have a huge phone and I had no issues fitting the phone and a Nitecore power bank in there while I slept.

hiker-wearing-rab-microlight-alpine-down-jacket

Other Options

Some of the other jackets I considered were the Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody and the Arc'teryx Cerium Hoody. In the end, I thought that the Rab Microlight Alpine had better features - a more reliable DWR coated outer shell with 30d nylon over 20d and 15d, hydrophobic down, a better wire brimmed adjustable hood, and an external chest zipper.

It was also significantly cheaper as you can find the Rab on sale for around $200. The main drawbacks of the Rab were packability and weight as both the Arc'teryx and Patagonia jackets use higher loft downs that compress more. The Arc'teryx was almost half the weight of the Rab but was also almost double the price and less durable.


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About Matt Bernstein

Matt thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2022 and has hiked all the 48 4k footers in New Hampshire. In his free time he works on his Jeep and is a hockey referee. Check out his YouTube channel.


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After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

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