I was driving across Western Colorado after an extended weekend of ice climbing outside. When we arrived home, the temps had dropped about 30 degrees into the single digits, but we still had to unpack the car. Fortunately, this was a perfect chance to evaluate the gear I brought — something I always do after a trip.
What did I use most? Did I wear that puffy enough to justify space in the duffel? How many base layers does one gal really need? Was I missing anything? This is great practice for dialing in your gear kit for various adventures.
But this time around, there was one jacket that required no evaluation … because I was still wearing it. This layer felt like an extension of myself most of the time — a true sign of something good. In this case, it was the Rab VaporRise Summit Jacket — affectionately dubbed “the random Rab” by my partner because it’s always either on me, in hand, or among my gear.
Insulation, breathability, coziness, ability to layer, and a helmet-compatible hood — the Summit proved versatile for nearly any adventure. After more than 8 months of testing, I’ve decided this “random Rab” is a must. I tested the Rab VaporRise Summit from spring through fall, and across snowy pursuits — hiking, skiing, and rock and ice climbing — this winter.
In short: My favorite layers are those that can flex from winter afternoon dog walks, to uphill ski laps, bike commutes to the office, or even multiday ice climbing trips. The Rab VaporRise Summit Jacket does that, balancing light insulation with breathability. And it withstood the rigors of all the outdoor adventures I threw at it. Pair it with other layers for extreme cold, or rock it on its own in the shoulder seasons or on warmer days.
- Materials 20-denier Pertex Quantum Air, fluorocarbon-free DWR, YKK zippers
- Pockets 3
- Adjustable hood Yes
- Adjustable hem Yes
- Sizing available XS-XL (men's & women's)
- Claimed weight 304 g/ 10.7 oz.
- Verified weight 10 oz. for UK size 10
- Price $220
- Super-versatile midlayer
- PFAS-free DWR waterproofing
- Highly breathable
- Harness- and helmet-compatible
- Multiple pockets
- One-hand hem adjustment
- Limited sizing and colors
Rab VaporRise Summit Jacket Review
Who It’s For
Rab tailored this technical softshell jacket for climbing, mountaineering, skiing, hiking, and backpacking — basically any alpine pursuit on your list. I’ve worn the VaporRise so often that I’ve had the chance to test it with a dozen other outer layers: puffies, synthetics, parkas, ski jackets, and with base layers underneath.
Most often, I use it alone over a simple wicking shirt or long-sleeve base layer. It’s the most versatile choice when I leave the house and want a quick, light, insulating layer. But it’s good for nearly any activity outside.
Design & Fit
This layer has two features that may seem minor, but are huge for me — features I struggle to find on many women’s jackets, specifically midlayers.
First, the vertical zippered chest pocket. This is essential for quick access to a card, snack, or lip balm when you’re out in the wild. And second, a two-way front zipper, complete with a fleece-lined chin guard. Two-way zippers are essential to have on outer layers when you are climbing.
Likewise, the zippered hand pockets sit slightly higher up on the torso to accommodate a harness. This way, you can use all the functions of the jacket and pockets, and the ability to unzip and reach other layers at the crag.
The zippers all slide well and have held up to tons of use, even while wearing gloves or a pack, which was the bulk of testing I did in this jacket. The layer is designed to be pack-, helmet-, and harness-compatible — and achieves that.
The hood adjusts fairly easily one-handed, and the hem adjustment proved easy to use, too. An important note: the hood adjusts with two toggles and pull tabs at the neck, but also via a Velcro tab on the outside back of the hood. This was crucial when I wanted to adjust it to fit with or without a helmet on.
The VaporRise Summit’s hood allowed me to still see when looking up, without losing peripherals or upward visibility. And the exterior adjustment means the hood won’t slide off my small head.
For an active midlayer, there’s good room in the shoulders for movement, without feeling too loose or relaxed. In terms of range of motion, the arms are gusseted, and the side paneling and overall material are super stretchy and functional when climbing.
The layer does narrow slightly in the hips on the women’s version, but there are two toggles for hem adjustment, so you can tailor the fit to your body shape. The arms are just the right length of material, gusseted below the shoulders, and not too short on my skinny, lanky frame.
One of my favorite touches was the cuffs, which have added stretchy material and a flap for adjustments. The cuffs work perfectly to cinch into or under gloves or other layers. Overall, the fit is stellar.
Finally, the hand pockets are placed well on the torso, slightly higher, to accommodate a climbing harness. The women’s version of the VR Summit Jacket is slightly tailored with a drop hem in the rear (slightly narrower in the hips than I’d like).
Rab VaporRise Summit Jacket: Insulation and Breathability
Aside from being highly wind-resistant, breathable, water-repellent, and generally durable in variable weather conditions, this winner of a midlayer is also warm — without being overly warm.
The fabric lining is a light, comfortable fleece (83 gsm Rab VaporRise Warm lining). It’s got a mesh backing, and the fleece offers amazing breathability and softness. The brushed mesh backing carries through into the zippered pockets as well.
I run slightly warmer than the average person, so finding something that isn’t going to make me sweat (like you’ll get with a puffy), but still provides warmth when needed, is tricky. This layer pairs well under a jacket, depending on intended use or when temps really drop. But on most occasions, I’ve found this layer can do a ton all on its own. The PFC-free DWR is the cherry on top and was excellent at repelling light wind and moisture.
At first glance, the only thing missing on this piece are pit zips for venting. But this layer has proven so breathable on its own, I don’t think they’re necessary. And if you really need to vent this jacket, there’s a two-way main zipper.
I do wish the VaporRise Summit packed down and stuffed into a designated pocket. This layer is still lightweight, but not the best in terms of packed size.
Also, as I’ve noted, the softshell material allows for terrific breathability and stretch. However, it’s no match for the nastiest of environmental hazards — think frozen branches and pointy rock outcroppings. So, be mindful when trekking and climbing so as not to damage this jacket.
Rab has a good thing going with the “active ventilation” in the VaporRise Summit jacket. It’s simply a stellar balance of technical features, insulation, and breathability. Unlike many other midlayers I own, it’s also got awesome stretch and mobility I noticed most when climbing.
I’ve worn it while walking, hiking, downhill skiing, ski touring, rock climbing, traveling, and ice climbing (exercising caution around sharp objects). I’ve layered it in temps from 0 to 40 degrees, and I’ve worn it on sunny days, as well as in light wind rain and weather. It can flex from a midlayer to an outer layer easily, depending on the temp, and isn’t bulky.
Especially in fall and winter, if I only have the room to pack one layer, this has been it. My “random Rab” has won me over.