The cold season is very much upon us, if last weeks weather is anything to go by. My transition from autumn to winter has been very much eased by the Rab Womens Xenair Alpine that I have been given to wear and review over the winter. I haven’t had it for long enough for an in-depth review, but have jotted down a some first impressions below. If you’re in the market for a warm midlayer or light belay jacket, this should certainly be a contender.
I would best describe Rab Xenair Alpine jacket as something for moving about in when it’s really really cold that also can be chucked on over your layers as a belay jacket. It is a synthetic jacket, so better suited to dampness than down as synthetic still offers some insulation when wet (down most certainly does not!).
The Rab Xenair Alpine jacket uses a synthetic insulation that is more breathable (Primaloft Silver Active), making it more comfortable for more intense activities where you’re generating your own heat. Coupled with the also very breathable outer fabric I can see this jacket being ideal for very cold days where you’re on the move. For any particularly intense activities it would be a little too warm for my tastes, as it’s on the warmer end of the spectrum when it comes to mid layer jackets. A lighter, less warm alternative might be the Xenair Alpine Light.
I can see this jacket really excelling as a lightweight belay/warm jacket to chuck on over all your other layers. Generally in Peak District autumn/winter conditions it’s not cold enough to justify putting a massive beefy belay jacket in your bag, nor do I particularly want to carry one! The Xenair Alpine’s soft breathable fabric also makes it super lightweight, and it packs down small enough that it is absolutely worth slinging in my crag or hill bag to throw on when I get cold. I used it as a warm layer for camp at the OMM, and frequently as a layer when stationary for a long time at the crag or for popping on at lunch when walking.
A bit more on the fabric – it’s super soft and the inner fabric is really cosy. I am a little concerned that I will tear it to shreds, although it has stood up well thus far. The outer fabric is not waterproof which could be a downside – this would not make a good Scottish Winter blizzard belay jacket… but everything is a compromise and the waterproof insulated jackets often take up far more space in your backpack which means you’re less likely to pack them in the first place! In contrast, I have taken this jacket on every Peak District hill/crag day for work or play since it arrived in early October.
The hood can make or break a jacket. I really like the Xenair Alpine hood, it cinches securely onto your head without falling over your eyes, is lovely and cosy, and doesn’t make you look like an alien (a big tick from me).
Feature-wise, it’s a simple jacket (which helps keep it lightweight) so not too much to report. That said I like that it has 4 well-sized pockets (2 x chest and 2 x hand pockets, the chest pockets can easily fit a modern smart phone and then some). On first impressions a two-way zip would be a welcome addition to make it more adaptable.
Finally, it’s worth bearing in mind that the sizing came up a little large.
Summary: a good cosy mid layer for moving in cold weather or lightweight belay jacket, I didn’t think I would use it as much as I have so far.
More detailed review coming in the new year!
Beyond the Edge Ltd is based in the Peak District, easily reached by train from London and within easy travelling distance from Sheffield, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and other Northern towns and cities.
We are one of the UKs most experienced providers of climbing, walking, scrambling, mountaineering and navigation training courses.
Most of our courses are run in the Peak District National Park which has some of the finest rock climbing, bouldering, walking and hiking in the world.