New for spring 2012, Rab's Vapor-rise Lite Alpine - and the new version of the hoodless Vapor-rise Lite jacket - mark the point where Rab's Vapor-rise system became genuinely light, or 'lite' even.
Regardless of how you spell it, the new Vapor-rise Lite uses a new, lighter version of Pertex Equilibrium fabric for the shell, together with a lightweight tricot fleece inner. Together that's enough to drop the weight of our medium test jacket to just 300g.
And that's light. Just like the original full-weight Vapor-rise, it's all about losing a little weather resistance for signficant gains in breathability and wicking performance, making it a great choice for anyone who runs hot on the hill.
Vapor-rise is Rab's take on the combination of a thin, wicking, fleece inner with a windproof outer fabric - Marmot's Microclime is probably the best known alternative - but it differs from other similar systems by using Pertex Equilibrium fabric for the outer.
Unlike windproof Pertex fabrics, which are so closely woven they compromise breathability, Equilibrium is a denier gradient woven fabric, which is a little less wind and water-resistant, but wicks really strongly thanks to the fabric's structure and breathes better too.
The new version here also slashes weight making for a garment around half the weight of a standard hooded VR top. The reast of the weight saving is from a lighter version of the Vapor-rise liner, though like the original, it adds a little insulation and wicks strongly.
We've been using the Vapour-rise Alpine a lot and so far we think it's an absolutely brilliant balance between protection and breathability, particularly if you move fast and run hot. You do lose a little weather protection compared to really closely woven equivalents and membrane fabrics, but we've used it in light to intermittent medium rain and the factory DWR has kept us surprisingly dry.
Cointinuous heavy rain would eventually soak it, but here's where Vapor-rise really scores, it breathes and wicks well enough that you can throw a light weight shell over the top and simply use it like a mid-layer.
It wicks impressively, dries fast when it does get wet and if you do get a tad warm, it's light and compact enough to simply take off and stow in your pack. So far though, we've not found that necessary - which may say something about the Great British spring...
Fit is classic Rab technical, which is to say medium-close fitting and medium-long in the body. Sleeves aren't quite as extended as some Rab hard-shell jackets, but still long enough to keep your wrists covered all day.
Twin Napoleon pockets and an internal zipped chest pockets handle stowage duties, sleeves with adjustable cuffs can be rolled up for extra cooling, while the hood can be rolled down and clipped out of the way too.
Speaking of the hood, it's lined the same as the rest of the jacket, has a wired peak and is designed specificially to sit under a climbing helmet for alpine use, which it does just fine. It also cinches down to grip your naked head and moves with it when you go into meerkat mode.
What else? It's brilliant. Oh, we've said that already. But it is. The nub of it is that the VR Lite stuff still breathes well enough to cope with peaky aerobic stuff like mountain biking and running, wicks well enough to handle the inevitable sweat and dries fast enough to keep your comfortable, while still shielding you from the worst of the weather.
If you don't run hot, then a 100% windproof alternative might make sense, but for those of use who do, this is the bomb.
Brilliant bit of featherweight, fast-moving, hot-running, mountain kit. All the traditional virtues of Vapor-rise, but cooler, lighter and greener. Ace.