For a very long time I have been searching for the perfect jacket. Now, before this gets too carried away, allow me to clarify exactly what that is. This holy grail of outer layers has always gone something like this in my fantasies: It’s waterproof, windproof, has a (very) generous amount of mechanical stretch, a slim and active fit, looks good enough on to wear around town but doesn’t skimp on mountain function.
Finally, partly because I live in the sweat capital of the world, Brisbane Australia, but also because I often undertake high output activities such as climbing, cycling and hiking, it needs to be breathable. Super breathable.
Well I’m not sure if it was the Gods of Old taking pity, or simply the fact that I was clearly not alone in wishing such a jacket existed, but the good folks in the design department of Rab® have answered my prayers.
The Kinetic Plus Jacket is a 3-layer membrane based hard-shell that acts, feels and performs much like your favourite un-lined active soft-shell. How you ask? Well I’m honestly not entirely sure, but I do know that at the heart of this outstanding layer is Rab®’s newly developed proprietary Proflex™ fabric. This snazzy Proflex™ membrane has of course been sandwiched between a soft stretchy face fabric, and an equally flexible and highly wicking liner.
The whole ensemble has been carefully stitched or bonded together to create a very bulk-free garment. If you’re partial to looking at numbers, and please let’s be honest, many of us will, here are the vital statistics: The weight is a very reasonable 320g (men’s medium), The water-head rating clocks in at a solid 10,000mm, but the big one for me is the 35,000cc/sqm/24hrs breathability level. Without entering into a direct comparison, that’s significantly better than most top performing hard-shells on the market today. The fit is slim, perfect for myself (a very lean 190cm) to wear my large sized Kinetic over a base-layer and light mid-layer. The hood is comfy and fits well under my climbing helmet. But digits and specs aside, “how does it actually feel?!” I can hear you asking.
Well you may have already guessed it, very much like my aforementioned wish list above alludes to; the Kinetic Plus is simply a pleasure to wear. Never before have I desired to wear a hard-shell so much. Mine arrived in August 2016, at the tail end of our Australian winter. What that translates into for those from Northern climes, is cool days with highs around 20°C and lows (occasionally) dropping to single digits.
Yes… I know what you’re all thinking, that’s NOT a real winter! Anyway, it is at least great rock climbing and hiking weather. So the Kinetic joined me on a few local hikes and several cool windy days at the crag. It joined me crack climbing a couple of times and I never even came close to overheating. Even during that one occasion, where I was jammed in a worrisome off-width for far too long… Nor was I ever concerned about it getting torn to shreds. The soft stretchy face fabric is burly enough to take a beating, but the jacket still feels light to wear and packs down quite small.
Come October I was off to Nepal for over six weeks of trekking and mountaineering. The Kinetic saw use often, mostly as a wind-shell trekking at higher altitudes, but also whilst acclimatising and climbing on Ama Dablam. We had excellent weather for the full month spent in the Khumbu, so I actually never got a chance to test it under any icy Himalayan rain. Up high it was of course very cold and occasionally windy, so I often wore the Kinetic under heavier down or synthetic insulated layers.
Alas, upon returning home to steamy Australia, in the midst of the hottest summer since dinosaurs roamed the earth; it wouldn’t be long before I had some serious rain to contend with. Not to be disappointed I encountered the occasional summer storm, both whilst outdoors and just getting around town. Which is a perfect Segway to my next point, this is a very capable alpine and mountain jacket, but it looks and feels so darn good. So good in fact I’ve often found myself wrapped in it’s soft folds at a local drinking establishment or diner.
Through the early months of 2017 the weather was quite dramatic, first with a Tropical Cyclone causing not only widespread damage but also deluge category rain and flooding. Luckily my immediate area escaped fairly unscathed, but not before I managed to subject the Kinetic Plus to a serious amount of wet weather on some local hikes. In short, it loved it. Sure the face fabric would wet out quicker than say my eVent® Latok Alpine would for example. But granted this jacket has now seen over six months of use and multiple washes, the DWR might be almost for a re-apply. That said, water has never penetrated the shell, plus it breathes so well I’m not even getting wet from my own sweat. An issue I’ve experienced with basically every other hard-shell I’ve owned over the years.
Thankfully, with a rather late onset of autumn, the weather here has finally turned with cooler days prevailing at last. Over the last few days I’ve commenced another season of trad climbing at the local crack wonderland of Frog Buttress. Once again I’ve been reminded of just how great it is to have a jacket doesn’t impede those long reaching moves, keeps the wind off and when needed serves as a very capable hard-shell when rain is on the forecast.
The Kinetic Plus has firmly cemented its place as my take anywhere, do anything shell. It’s almost always in my pack or on my back when I leave the house, and I look forward to testing it across an even wider variety of activities and climates during adventures yet to come.