Rab Latok Alpine Jacket: Expectations Bested

Posted on: February 15, 2008


MSRP: $274.95

Weight: 15.8 ounces

When I picked up Rab's Latok Alpine jacket for the first time I was skeptical. The Latok was lighter than any of the performance hard shells I'd worn previously, and the bright orange eVent label on the sleeve made me wary. Adding to my incredulity, I had never heard of Rab.

Learning to love the Latok took a good deal of research and a bit of a brand-name leap of faith, but—after a fall and winter season of epic approaches, climbs, bootpacks, hailstorms and vertigo-inducing white-outs—I've found I like the Latok; I like it a lot.

When I was given the chance to review Rab's shell I found I had to first wrap my head around the eVent craze. Though eVent has been kicking around for a couple years now, it's still dwarfed by the waterproof baron, GORE-TEX. Like many, I'd been hesitant to kick the habit. eVent tends to be catching on with European and niche Continental companies. Brands like Rab, Kayland and Feathered Friends are sidestepping GORE-TEX by picking up eVent for their pants, boots and jackets. eVent's claim to fame is its supposed breathability; unlike the diffusion process of GORE-TEX, where sweat passes through a saturated Polyurethane (PU) membrane, their Direct Venting membrane is billed as being more porous. As a result, eVent claims their membrane allows moisture vapor to escape sooner, subsequently causing less condensation (i.e. sweat).

The Latok, which uses the upstart eVent, is billed as a lightweight hard shell for summer alpine endeavors, and it measures up. I found the Latok great in September snow and wind on the Grand Teton, and in freezing rain and fall hailstorms. I also was delighted to find the Latok works well as a winter alpine shell: bomber for super wind-blown days on Teton Pass and great for riding the lifts.

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To clear up the eVent debate, it breathes better than any GORE-TEX jacket I've used to date. I still get clammy if I'm bombing up the boot pack, but, then again, that's what soft shells are for...

The Latok is ridiculously light (just under a pound), compact and both the outer zippers (main zipper is Euro-style) and inner seams are sealed and waterproof. The hood has multiple adjustment cords to fit both heads and helmets, and the visor is moldable, a personal favorite.

Since I demand many quirky features from a hard shell, my few minor gripes with the Latok should be taken with a grain of salt. I usually prefer a more form-fitting cut, so initially I was unenthusiastic with the extra torso room and sleeve length. That said, the jacket's roominess gave me a larger range of upper-body movement than most hard shells I've worn. And, as I mentioned before, the Euro left-side zipper took a little getting used to.

Raised in Massachusetts, the birthplace of the American Revolution, initially I'm wary of anything British, but this jacket makes me want to dredge the harbor, find the bags and share a cup of tea with Rab designers. And, I'm sold on eVent, at the least as a worthy competitor of the GORE-TEX juggernaut. I look forward to seeing more of both Rab and eVent in US retailers.

Pros: Lightweight; functional; breathable; allows a wide range of movement; adjustable hood.

Cons: Not form-fitting; Euro-style zipper is awkward at first.

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