Welcome to endless mud season, which means tricky mountain biking and climbing down here, but another month of skiing up high–at least! Somewhere in there we’ll get some alpine climbing, too. I head to the Dolomites in July for four days of super-sending and I’m psyched on my latest Rab setup, the Flashpoint jacket ($325) and Fulcrum pant ($150).
Alpine climbing means skimping on mass whenever possible. To that end the big story with the Flashpoint is its weight: six measly ounces (180g, home verified). It’s practically the same weight as a windshirt, like Patagonia’s Houdini or Rab’s own Cirrus, but completely waterproof and it breathes exceptionally well (40,000 units on the “moisture vapor transmission rate” test, way higher than the popular brand). It’s still a three-layer shell, micro seam-taped, features a three-way adjustable wood, wire peak on the hood visor, Velcro wrist adjustments, and a drawcord at the waist. In short, it’s still a full-on alpine shell, but for mere grams more than your windshirt weighs.
Much of the weight savings comes from the 7-denier shell fabric. It’s light, which is mostly a blessing, but keep it in mind if you’re bushwhacking or chasing Charlize out on Fury Road. I haven’t punctured or ripped mine after 25 days in the field, but if you’re thrashing, the Flashpoint will eventually show it. Heads up!
Beyond that caveat, though, I can’t say enough good stuff about the jacket.
It’s small enough to take mountain biking or even road cycling–pack it carefully and you can squeeze it into a jersey pocket. It happily nests in a bullet pack while climbing or ties unobtrusively around one’s waist. Its diminutive size and feather weight mean you’ll take it everywhere, without the breathability penalty of micro-waterproofs like traditional PU-coated jackets (seems like everybody’s making a $99 hard shell these days, but beware the Hefty-bag breathability!).
The slim fit reminds me of Rab’s other performance pieces, so expect to wear this with a single layer underneath–this is not a layering shell for skiing or sitting at the ball game. I look at the Flashpoint as your go-to piece in case of rain or wet snow, essentially for bailing off climbs or unexpected squalls when ski-touring. If I expected a longer day of precip, then I’d probably bump to one of Rab’s NeoShell models like their “Myriad,” which offers more durability for another six ounces.
During our unbelievably wet (27 consecutive days of measurable rain in Boulder, and counting) spring, I’ve walked out of Eldo on several occasions in the Flashpoint, totally dry, comfortable, and psyched I had it stashed in my pack. Awesome.
Come summer in the high mountains, I’m psyched on a synthetic pant, but as light as possible. Especially heading to the Dolomites, where there are dozens of beautiful south-facing routes, temps can be uncomfortably hot…until they’re not. A synthetic pant dries quickly, rolls up into a knicker if it’s warm, and still breathes pretty well. Jeans or yoga pants might be “cooler,” but I’m sticking with my beloved synthetics!
New this season is a marvelous complement to the Flashpoint, Rab’s “Fulcrum” (336g, 11 oz., home verified) pant. There are plenty of good, synthetic pants for climbing, but what I’m buying with a Rab pant is its fit. In the case of the Fulcrum, it’s slim, with tapered legs so you have little-to-no material to snag around your ankles when climbing. There are also hem drawcords to make ’em knickers when climbing rock.
The four-way stretch fabric gives you as much mobility as the Lycra-clad manorexic sport climbers of the ’80s, too. The fabric dries quickly, as I found out rappelling off Redgarden Wall in Eldo–by the time I hit the trail I was fairly wet (not soaked) and the rain had stopped. I was dry by the time I made it to the parking lot, 20 minutes below.
I dig the integrated belt and low-profile pockets (one on the thigh, too), but the fit is what really keeps Rab relevant
for serious athletes and adventure hogs–long sleeves on jackets, trim cut in the legs on pants, comfortable for athletic body types. I’ve yet to put on a Rab product that felt cut for the chunky armchair mountaineer. Stick to your guns, Rab! (It will also force me to stay kinda skinny if I want to keep wearing your stuff.)
I know what I’m packing for the Dolomites–and the Flashpoint/Fulcrum combo will be with me every day. Except when I’m walking around Cortina… I’ve got a little something special for that.
Rob Coppolillo is a contributing editor at Elevation Outdoors magazine and an IFMGA mountain guide. He’s co-owner of Vetta Mountain Guides, in Boulder, Colorado.