Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Gear Review: Rab Baseline Jacket

The Rab Baseline jacket (as well as the pull on variety) is part of a raft of new, lightweight gridded fleeces that have flooded the market in recent years. Mountain Equipment have the excellent Eclipse series and Patagonia have the legendary R1 Hoody - all of which use the same concept. I've owned the pull-on version of the Rab Baseline for a few years and the jacket was a welcome addition to the All The Gear arsenal.
The Rab Baseline Jacket

So, what's thinking behind a gridded fleece? First, let's look at the fabric

The Baseline Jacket uses fabric designed by the wizards at Polartec, this one in particular being Polartec Power Dry HE (or High Efficiency). The Power Dry fabric is constructed using two different types of yarn; one next to the skin that promotes the uptake of moisture and one on the outer face that spreads the moisture over a wider area, increasing its potential for evaporation. What this creates is a mechanical means of wicking that does not fade after prolonged use (as a chemical application might) and a garment that dries quicker and subsequently keeps you warmer.

The inner face of the Baseline jacket consists of the HE aspect of the Power Dry fabric or, in other words, the gridded fleece. Where a regular fleece is comprised of a continual layer of fibres, the fibres on the gridded fleece and bundled into little squares with channels running between them to form the grid. While the fleece does what fleece does best, the channels trap more air and subsequently keep you warmer. Remember however, this is all relative to weight. A thicker, heavier fleece will undoubtedly be warmer but much bulkier.
A close up of the grid
Let's look at the actual jacket in more detail:
  • Fabric: Polartec Power Dry Hi-efficiency
  • Polygiene STAY FRESH odour control treatment
  • Under helmet hood
  • YKK Vislon front zip, internal zip flat and chin guard
  • YKK zipped chest pocket
  • Thumb loops
  • Flatlock low bulk seams
The Rab Baseline Jacket
Fit:
This is a close fitting piece but I don't think it's unflattering - you could almost get away with wearing it on a more day to day basis. The close fit enhances the efficiency of the gridded fleece, allowing the warm air to circulate within the jacket, close to the body and prevents it escaping through gaps.

The Details:
As you may expect from a base / mid-layer there aren't that many features to discuss. The Baseline Jacket has a chest pocket for odds and ends and a full length zip. I tend not to use chest pockets much, especially on a mid-layer as they are generally buried beneath some form of jacket.

A grown on hood fits over the head like a wet suit hood (it's designed to fit underneath a helmet) and while it provides some extra warmth, it looks ridiculous on its own. I find, if wearing the hood for a long period, it starts to feel a bit restrictive, especially across the forehead.
The hood on the Baseline Jacket
The arms are long which is a fairly typical Rab trait though the addition of thumb loops can prevent the sleeves from rolling up. I like thumb loops on tops as you can pull them over a pair of liner gloves and create a seamless link between arms and hands, eliminating any exposed skin at the wrists.
The long sleeves and thumb loops
Conclusion:
I really like this jacket (and the pull-on version) because I tend to be a warm person anyway so being able to provide the right level of warmth beneath a shell (without getting too warm) has always been a bit of a challenge. This does hit the spot in terms of warmth and breathability and I've found this works best as a mid-layer over a long sleeve base-layer - that combination in itself can be warm enough on a winter day with little or no wind. Add a waterproof or softshell over the top and that temperature can be extended well below 0°C, as recently tested out in the Lake District.