The Rab Latok Alpine is billed as the hard shell jacket of choice for outdoor professionals and serious adventurers. With its 3 layer construction and breathable eVent® membrane it strikes a good balance, being both lightweight and durable.
The hood is one of my favourite things about this jacket. Ergonomic and adjustable, you can get it to sit where you want it, how you want it. It works comfortably over a helmet, and cinches nice and tight over a beanie.
The peak holds its shape well thanks to a bendy internal wire. This is particularly important to me as I wore glasses for many years and the hood kept them droplet free, even when the sky really let loose. The hood moves freely when I turn my head and doesn’t impede peripheral vision.
2. Stash capacity (pockets)
The water-resistant zip pockets are well positioned on the chest for easy access even when you’re wearing a pack with a hip belt or a climbing harness. There are also two internal chest pockets which are handy for storing food, batteries and your favourite audio technology.
3. Materials and membranes
The outer fabric has a soft finish which minimises the plastic raincoat rustle. Not necessarily a major consideration when buying a hard shell but it does keep things nice and peaceful on the trail.
Though relatively lightweight, the outer fabric has held up to some serious punishment in rough bush under a heavy pack (not its intended use). The fabric has shown no visible signs of wear in several years of use, though the durable water repellant treatment (DWR) did seem to wear away quite quickly, particularly in the heavy wear regions around the shoulders and hips. This is no big issue really, it can easily be replenished with reproofing products. But it is nice when the DWR lasts a couple of trips.
The eVent waterproof breathable membrane used in the Latok Alpine is known as one of the most breathable in the industry but also the one requiring the most maintenance. To keep it at its best eVent requires regular washes with a special product recommended for waterproof breathable fabrics. This is actually true for all clothing with waterproof membranes, but perhaps even more so with eVent. I wash it every month or so when I’m using it regularly and after any major trip.
4. Ventilation and keeping the elements out
There is an elastic cinch cord around the waist and Velcro closures to protect the wrists from the weather. No complaints here, they form nice tight seals against the wind and rain.
There is one area where this jacket falls a little short for me: venting. It has to be said that this is an alpine jacket and as such weight is at a premium. I think this is why they decided not to include pit zips. Some people have suggested that the membrane is so breathable that pit zips aren’t needed. This might be true, and if you used the jacket exclusively in frozen high alpine environments maybe pit zips wouldn’t be worth their weight. However I found that even at five degrees with one light layer underneath and a 15kg pack I’d be sweating up a storm and wishing for more ventilation as soon as the angle picked up. As a mid-weight jacket which is designed to cross over into summer I think it would have benefited from more active ventilation. That said, as an alpine jacket they probably made the right choice.
All in all I rate this jacket: durable, lightweight and a good cut. I’ve used it in all kinds of conditions from sleet and snow to torrential downpours. As an alpine jacket which has been pushed beyond its intended use (as a bushwalking, trekking, backpacking jacket) it had held up well.
If you want to find out more about Rab and their outdoor gear, click here to go to their website.