I’m becoming a broken record–“check out this piece from Rab, it’s badass,” blah blah blah. Apologies if I’m repeating myself, but like I’ve said–the gang at Rab is on a roll and it shows. From their fit to the materials to their aesthetic (save for a couple color choices-WTF?!), Rab offers a full line of alpine-worthy four-season gear that’s cutting edge.
I’ve had the chance to test a bunch of different pieces over the past six months, but one I’m the most excited about is the “Sawtooth Pant.” A lightweight (13.5 oz., 385g, size medium) soft-shell, it’s double-weave and has a bit of stretch (gusseted crotch, too, for full-on yoga action), with two zippered slash pockets in the front, two zippered thigh pockets on the sides (big enough for a notebook, wind-shell, hat, or ninja throwing star), and lightly reinforced ankle patches. The waistband uses a bit of brushed fleece for comfort, but beyond that, they’re pretty minimalist.
So far I’ve guided rock in the Sawtooths in 70-degree temps, ski-guided down into the 20s, and done some alpine slogging, too. I also took them to Alaska for ski-touring and I modified them a bit just for that (adding Cordura patches on the inside cuffs and opening a little hole to be able to transition to/from ski/tour mode in my Dynafit boots). I have yet to dent the DWR (water still beads up happily after a dozen days in the field) and I haven’t managed to pop any stitches or cut up the cuffs from crampon points or ski edges. In short, so far, so (very) good!
Rab uses 90-percent nylon and 10-percent Spandex in their “Matrix” soft-shell material (same in the Sawtooth Jacket, which by the way seems like a great piece, too–lightweight, no hood, slim fit, perfect for alpine rock routes in the summer…if only I had one, in red, men’s medium, ya know…)–seems like a great blend; not enough Spandex to retain water, but enough to give it some good stretch. Zippers are inverted such that the teeth are hidden behind the fabric backing. It stands to reason this extends the life of the hardware by protecting it from dust and abrasion, but I have no real data to back up this claim.
Beyond the materials and construction, though, is the Sawtooth’s excellent fit. I keep harping on this, but the Rab folks still make gear for athletes–narrow body, long legs and arms, low-volume sleeves and pant-legs. I’m consistently amazed at jackets and pants that have, quite literally, an extra 40 percent of material in the sleeves, chest, and legs. Who can possibly fill these things out? People are either wearing down beneath their jackets, are fat as hell, or for some reason just love extra fabric to flap in the breeze, obscure their movements, or get in the way.
In a Rab jacket, for example, you’ll never look down to see a bulge of additional fabric protruding from the top of your climbing harness. This also means you’ll always be able to see your feet when climbing (rock or ice). I’m no hero (on ice especially), so seeing my feet is essential to me making upward progress. The lower legs, too, are sufficiently narrow they help you avoid catching them on crampon points–though they are definitely snug around ski boots, but fully workable on a Maestrale or TLT5. If the Sawtooth Jacket is anything like other Rab jackets, the sleeves are long enough they won’t pull up over gloves, and the torso’s long enough it will stay down beneath a harness when climbing.
(For the record, I think my body is pretty average-sized: 5’10”, 165 lbs, 41 suit-jacket size. Rab stuff fits me perfectly, while most other brands, particularly American ones, wear like Starter jackets for NFL fans.)