Nothing worse in everyday adventures, be they urban or mountain microexploration, than getting soaked.
Rab gave me a chance (full disclosure: in the form of a PR sample, i.e. free product, without obligations) to try out an interesting piece of ultralight rain protection, their Flashpoint Pull-On…
The Rab Flashpoint, similarly to the Outdoor Research Helium II that I have been using for years (and reviewed before), is made of Pertex Shield material.
Thus, this is an ultralight jacket that does not offer much in terms of warmth by itself, but functions excellently as an outer layer to protect from rain and wind.
Lightweight and small to pack as it is, it is easy to keep it on you anytime, just in case.
Rab Flashpoint II Jacket vs. Flashpoint Pull-On
The Flashpoint Pull-On is a smock version of the Flashpoint II jacket, made from 3-layer Pertex Shield and simplified (and thus lightened) a bit more.
The jacket weighs 185 grams, owing to its having two (A-line) pockets and a drawcord in part of the hem as well as adjustable cuffs (and of course, a full-length zipper).
The Pull-On I have been trying out makes do with only one small chest pocket (also with a YKK AquaGuard zip) and cuffs and hem that are only partly elasticated. Add in the 1/2-length zipper of this smock, and the weight drops to only 130 grams.
Rather than fitting into an in-built pocket, Rab delivers the Flashpoint with a stuffsack to put it into.
It could still be compressed to about half the can-of-coke size of that stuffsack, but this approach makes it easy to push the jacket into that bag. No concern about bending a zipper too far or anything like that.
The stuffsack comes with drawcord closure and has a little loop for attaching it to a gear belt, backpack, or anything else; I am not the happiest to have an extra piece that could fly off in the wind, but it has made a lot of sense in usability to hang that bag somewhere on one’s gear, stuff it into an outer backpack pocket, not have to fiddle around with getting the raingear into its own stowaway pocket.
Oh, and the stuffsack’s weight is included in the above-mentioned 130 grams weight!
Pertex Shield Protection
Having had the Rab Flashpoint through the winter part of the year and into spring, it comes to mind that this is not a winter jacket.
That should be a matter of course, but as basically Alpine gear, it bears saying that it works well to add a little protection/insulation over a puffy jacket, for example, but not much more.
That Layer of Warmth
In terms of warmth, this is how I have been using such jackets, and this smock. Even when it’s not pouring down but just a bit cold for the clothing I would otherwise be wearing, because it’s the time of settling down into or breaking up a bivy, the Flashpoint has served well.
It keeps in just that bit more warmth, protects from any wind, to make things work in a way that would otherwise require a much heavier jacket (which would be too warm once I get moving again).
For wind and water protection – the really intended use – Pertex Shield jackets (and rain pants) have always served me well.
One has to know that there needs to be some layer underneath or the water’s cold will feel like it’s all seeping through even when it isn’t. That is a side effect of just how thin that material is – and normally, you would wear at least a top underneath, anyways. (If it’s a short sleeve, you will get such an effect on your arms, though.)
Breathability can be a bit of an issue when doing high-exertion activities like trail running in the rain.
There is a point where it’s not clear if the water on one’s skin is coming from the outside or from within.
It is much better than without a jacket, getting soaked and hypothermic from the rain, though. I went running with a wool top under the Flashpoint, in rain and quite a stormy weather, and it was great fun.
The smock version of the Pull-On, in particular, offers a nice balance between continuing protection from how it cannot be opened over your chest, but has some ventilation from the hem if it isn’t held completely closed by a backpack or running vest chest belt (remember, the hem is only partly elasticized; it is quite closed but not completely). And of course, it is always possible to pull open the half-length zipper if more ventilation is needed and there isn’t that much rain.
Finally, a Hood Keeping Shape
The hood is just a little detail, but perhaps the most important one…
On the Rab Flashpoint, I really like how the hood closes up.
The collar can be over one’s chin or just under it; it doesn’t necessarily stay in place, but it’s stayed up as I wanted it well enough when I went running with the hood snug on my head.
The top of the hood goes over one’s head relatively snugly. Pulling up the hood when the jacket’s zip is completely closed will not work, it is tighter than that.
Not cinching the hood closed with its drawcord in back, which can be used one-handed, may get it to move back so that the visor is flush on one’s forehead and loses its function – so remember to close it up.
Closed up, though, the hood fits snugly around head and face. There is still enough room for a cap and sunglasses without issues, and this way, it only moves with your head, but not by itself.
Most importantly of all, to me, the small visor of the hood then sits exactly where it should sit to protect one’s eyes from rain water.
This visor’s edge is reinforced and held in shape by a wire. Meaning, if the visor was bent out of shape from being pushed into (and kept in) the stuffsack, one pinch along the visor’s edge puts it back into the shape you want it to have.
Not having had the Flashpoint for too long yet, it has only been through some use and one or two washing cycles. In my experience with Pertex Shield materials, they last for a pretty long time without using their waterproof function, and they can be used underneath backpacks.
I actually tried pulling the Flashpoint over my running pack, and it basically worked. It got snatched somewhere towards the top of the (only half-filled) Fastpack 35 I was wearing, which made the whole process a bit complicated. Once everything was in place, it was usable, though.
A Pocket of Caution
This really belongs to the aspect of protection, but maybe this is the point to mention that the jacket is not so breathable that there wouldn’t be any water (read: sweat) on its inside. That’s a point being made about the Pull-On’s chest pocket, which is technically waterproof, but shouldn’t be used for a phone that isn’t waterproof or for papers, because there will be a build-up of moisture.
That’s something that I have seen happening with any and all jackets/materials, though!
There is less beading-off over time, of course. It can be restored somewhat with the proper wash-ins or sprays, but that does happen. I’m tempted to try some Gore-Tex Shakedry which would keep beading off water all the time – but then again, that comes at the cost of a material that is absolutely not recommended for use with a backpack…
In my use of the Flashpoint Pull-On, I only found one issue: I have been able to move the zipper pull so far down that it got unhooked from the zip. It was no problem to just hook it back in, but it usually feels like it snags a bit, and my piece may not be sewn together quite the way it should be.
That said, the zipper is a waterproof YKK AquaGuard with a storm flap behind it (and a rather nice chin guard on top). Meaning, it is high-quality but also a version that is rather hard to pull (as all waterproof zippers are).
Owing to the material of the jacket and the version of the zipper, it is always necessary to hold the jacket so that the zipper is pulled taut in order to open or close it. Otherwise, there is just too much give for it to work well – but that, again, is the same with all such ultralight jackets.
Comparing the different Pertex Shield rain jackets I have, they are very similar. The Rab seems to be just a little bit less boxy because it is slightly longer.
Frankly, this surprised me a bit because it felt to me like it had a slimmer, more athletic fit…
Anyways, whether on mountains hiking or on trails running and on my bike as well, the size – in my case, a Medium – felt very good.
The sleeves are long enough to protect over my wrists – and by the way, the elasticized cuffs are just the right size to go over sports watches well and make it easy to pull back the sleeve for a look at the watch.
The hem is long enough, and longer in the back, that it felt very good even on the bike, even with CW-X tights as my legwear (which are notoriously low-cut in the waist).
It still surprised me that a hem without a drawcord would work so well. Sometimes, it adds to breathability, letting in air in a way that is not always the best. Only too often, it has been working better than a hem cinched tight and then riding further and further up my waist with all the motion.
You could decide between different ultralight rain jackets by throwing a dice and you would probably not go completely wrong. With their light weight and high protection, going hand-in-hand with great packability, they are excellent gear for a surprisingly wide range of conditions.
I typically keep such a jacket close-by to throw it into a daily go-bag just in case it might get colder than expected or start raining. (And where I live most of the time, we have lots of wind which can make things uncomfortable… and makes umbrellas a losing proposition.)
Traveling, these 130 grams can make the difference between a day lost to rain or enjoyed anyways; for Southern China / Hong Kong this year, I will definitely be bringing the Rab Flashpoint after an earlier experience there. – And that way, I will be able to add how it worked out in hot-and-humid conditions with tropical downpours…
For trail running and mountain microexploration, there is good reason such rain gear is a part of mandatory race equipment. It can make the difference between continuing when conditions turn worse, surviving unplanned stops, and simply being alright as temperatures plummet with wind and as night falls – or not.
Between its ultra-light weight, great packability, and high usefulness – if you haven’t noticed, I really like how the hood and visor work to protect and keep shape! – the Rab Flashpoint Pull-On has its distinct advantages.
Things to Consider
There are two aspects that might make you wonder, price and color.
At €249.95 RRP, it is not exactly cheap. (The jacket is 279.95 RRP, by the way.)
Many comparable rain jackets/smocks are cheaper; they don’t use the 3L version of Pertex Shield and weigh more, though. This will come down to what you want to invest, how much you trust/like Rab over other brands, or whether there are particular features or sizing aspects that appeal to you.
A part of the appeal may be the choice of color you have: It’s Deep Ink or Deep Ink.
(The jacket would also be available in a slightly greyish-white “Silver” colorway.)
For outdoor pursuits, you might like something more visible. Then again, I rather like it because it works in urban walks just as well as anywhere else.