Temperatures have dropped considerably in the past month and it may have caught some of you unprepared for winter.
Those with jackets from the previous winter season may be all well and good, but there are many others who may need to purchase a new one this season. In particular those who need a quality garment for their outdoor activities and adventures.
The same goes for gear and essentials for going out on a hiking trail, up a mountain or just on a camping trip. Pants, boots, backpacks, tents, sleeping bags etc., are all very important and must not be overlooked.
While it is true that you can get away with a more affordable product of a slightly lower quality the rest of the year, during winter you need to get quite serious about it.
But which product to buy is a hassle all in itself. Which brand to go for, which design, can all prove to be bothersome feats in determining what you will spend your money on.
That is why comparing brands and products is something we have put quite a bit of effort on, as we find it more useful than just focusing on a single brand to help you figure out which one you should choose.
With that in mind, over these past two years we have gone through numerous brand comparisons and we will be doing that once more today, where we will look at Rab and Arc’teryx.
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A short history of the brand
A sports brand through and through, Rab‘s history dates back to 1981, when Rab Carrington, a Scottish climber founded the brand after his own name in Sheffield, South Yorkshire (here are some other outdoor brands from the UK).
Loving nature, adventure and climbing, Rab Carrington soon went on to become a renowned mountaineer among his peers at the time.
In 1973, facing a challenge that no adventurer would wish on anyone, stranded in Buenos Aires and without his equipment due to a UK strike, he set out to make his own with the help of his friend, Hector Vieytes, who taught him how to make quality sleeping bags. These skills are what prompted Rab Carrington to then establish Rab.
Read also: 8 Beautiful Rab Jackets to Have Fun Outdoors
The brand positions itself as being made “by climbers for climbers”, and over the years they have designed numerous pieces that have become classics among climbers and mountaineers.
In 2001 the brand entered into a partnership with Polartec®, the materials of which are still used to this day in Rab products.
Since 2003, Rab has been under the ownership of Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd, which has continued with the brand’s work philosophy, designing renowned jackets such as the Microlight Alpine and many others, earning the brand the reputation as being one of Europe’s fastest growing suppliers of specialist outdoor clothing.
Materials and Manufacture
As we often see with renowned brands, the materials used are of very high quality and there are great efforts being made every year to move towards eco-friendly production means, by ethically sourcing materials and using PFC-free water repellent products.
This is also the case for Rab, as evidenced from the use of recycled materials, PFC-free treatments and commitment to make durable products.
Waterproof outerwear are a must during this season in particular, and Rab relies on a number of fabric technologies to ensure that you remain dry in spite of weather.
These technologies include Gore-Tex®, which we have written extensively on in previous pieces (for example, here and here), and it is regarded as being the top waterproof fabric there is, Pertex Shield®, another fabric we have looked at before and even compared it to Gore-Tex, Proflex™ and Pertex Shield®+.
While they all serve a common purpose, that of protecting against the elements, they vary quite a bit in performance regarding how well they breathe, how wind resistant they are, etc.
The waterproof fabrics used by Rab come in three builds, 2, 2.5 and 3 layer, depending on what the use for them is.
Regarding breathability, the brand relies on Hydrophilic and Microporous technologies, both of which work as moisture wicking technologies as well. You can find out more details on the brand’s website.
Waterproof jackets are all well and good, but winter requires insulation as well, and Rab provides a wide range of both natural down and synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags.
Their natural down is responsibly sourced and they have also developed a range of jackets made from 100% recycled fabrics and down insulation.
While down is the best insulator there is, there are certain drawbacks to it, which is why synthetic insulation is also quite popular and widely used (read more: down vs synthetic insulation).
In the case of Rab, the brand relies primarily on Stratus™ for their synthetic-insulated jackets, along with Cirrus™, whereas the sleeping bags are insulated with Pyrotec™ synthetic insulation, and PrimaLoft is primarily used in the brand’s gloves.
Lastly, while the brand itself does not really provide much information on where their products are made, online research indicates that their products are made partially in Sheffield, where the brand resides, and the rest are made in Asia, primarily in China.
We will do things a bit differently today because Rab is primarily renowned for its gear, which is why we will include a sleeping bag along with one of the most popular jackets of the brand.
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket
The jacket we picked is the Microlight Alpine design, a very lightweight winter jacket insulated with 750 fill power hydrophobic down that provides both warmth and manages to do so under wet conditions as well.
The shell is made of Pertex® Quantum fabric, helping the jacket withstand the elements and also adding breathability, making this design suitable for a variety of activities, from very moderate ones to those who require you to move around a great deal.
There are two hand pockets and a chest pocket on the outside of this jacket, the former being harness-compatible, too. The Microlight Alpine comes in both men’s and women’s versions and is also highly compressible for easier carrying.
Rab Expedition 1200 Sleeping Bag
The sleeping bag we chose is the Expedition 1200 design, which is part of the Expedition series, insulated with 850 fill power European Goose Down and made to withstand temperatures as low as -35°C (-31F).
What’s different about this particular design is its size, which is slightly larger than other Rab sleeping bags in order to allow you to sleep comfortably while wearing winter clothing as well.
It is made of Pertex fabrics both inside and out, and the insulation is placed inside the bag by hand, in order to ensure that everything lays as it should and that there are no blind spots in the finished product.
Price-wise, Rab is not a very cheap brand, but at the same time it’s not one of the most expensive we have come across.
Its jackets start at around $60 (windshells and lighter designs) and can go upwards of $600 (down and technical designs).
As for the sleeping bags, they fall around $700 depending on the design, whereas the rest of the gear and accessories vary quite a bit.
Are these products worth their price?
While the answer to this is dependent on what you are expecting out of a product, overall Rab is said to make quality designs that are also durable.
A short history of the brand
Arc’teryx is one of the most popular brands of outdoor clothing and, in our opinion, for very good reasons. Established by Dave Lane in 1989 in Canada, the brand was originally under the name Rock Solid and specialized in making climbing gear, a similarity shared with Rab.
In 1991, after Dave Lane partnered with Blair Murdoch and Tim Duholke, the official Arc’teryx name was set, which refers to the Archaeopteryx, the oldest known bird.
You might also like: 11 Arc’teryx Jackets for your Favorite Winter Sport
Throughout the years, Arc’teryx has designed and developed numerous products that have gone on to become iconic pieces among loyal customers.
We have mentioned these products in previous comparisons, the Bora backpack and the Vapor harness, both of which were made with thermolamination technology and were unlike any of the similar products.
While these developments took place in the early 1990s and were quite innovative for their time, Arc’teryx went on to expand its product range to include outdoor clothing as well. This was prompted due to obtaining the license for using Gore-Tex fabrics, which the company uses to this day in some of its highest-performing pieces.
Generally, Arc’teryx caters primarily to hikers and climbers, but they make some of the best snowsport clothing as well, thus providing options to a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts.
Materials and Manufacture
There are many reasons behind Arc’teryx’s popularity and it’s not all just because of how well its products perform.
Aside from using high quality materials, which are also bluesign® certified and undergo rigorous assessment through the Life Cycle Assessment protocols to establish the impact of the stages of product life, they are also sustainably and responsibly sourced.
The insulation used in jackets abides by the Responsible Down Standard, which is set in place to ensure that waterfowl are treated humanely and do not undergo live plucking or forced feeding. As for the synthetic insulation, the brand relies primarily on Coreloft™, which is often part of insulation blends.
Regarding types of materials, Arc’teryx uses both synthetic and organic materials depending on what the design calls for and they ensure that all finished products are of the highest quality, which is one of the major reasons the brand is so beloved albeit its high prices.
When it comes to fabric technologies, Arc’teryx relies primarily on Gore-Tex, especially for its garments, but it also uses its own developed technology, the AC2, mainly for backpacks.
The ethics of sourcing, manufacturing and employee conditions are all driving factors behind the brand’s quality and popularity, all of which we have explored in a previous piece that you can find here.
Arc’teryx products are made partially in Canada, whereas the rest are manufactured primarily in China and in other Asian countries.
For Arc’teryx we have picked a jacket and one of the brand’s high performance pants, since it is quite renowned for them.
Arc’teryx Men’s Therme Parka
The jacket of choice is the Therme Parka, a minimalistic and stylish design for men, which comes with an attached hood and is made of Gore-Tex cotton-like fabric.
This is an insulated winter coat, with 750 fill power European goose down mixed with Coreloft™ to help mitigate some of the shortcomings of down.
The insulation is placed using Down Composite Mapping™ and Down Contour Construction™, which help place insulation in key areas where they are most effective and the latter helps down form to the body and provide better insulation.
Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pants
For the pants, we picked the Gamma LT design, which comes in both men’s and women’s versions. This is a weather resistant design made with Fortius™ DW 2.0 fabric, which is both abrasion resistant and stretchy thanks to the durable quick-drying nylon and the elastane fibers.
They are made to have a next-to-skin feel, making this design highly comfortable. Gamma LT are an articulated construction, which allows for better movement during activities. This is a breathable design suitable for a variety of outdoor adventures.
Arc’teryx is not the most expensive brand out there, but its prices aren’t low either.
Falling somewhere between $200-$300 on average, the brand’s jackets can also go for more than $600 on a couple of designs. However, these are very high performance jackets, which, in our opinion, justifies the price.
Are their jackets and products worth the price?
In short, yes. Arc’teryx products perform flawlessly every time and they last for a very long time, making it a worthwhile purchase, in our opinion.
3. Which Brand is Better?
Depending on what it is that you are going for, you will find something that fits your requirements in both brands, clothing-wise we mean.
When it comes to gear, we find that Rab provides a wider selection, sleeping bags in particular.
As for jackets and other clothing, there are great options on both sides and Rab does have a good reputation regarding the quality of its clothing and those in Europe may favor this brand more, whereas those in North America may be more in favor of Arc’teryx.
In our opinion, both brands excel in certain products, but how they fit you and whether they have all the pockets and features you are looking for, is a better judgment than just basing your choice on brand alone.
Rab prices are also slightly lower than those of Arc’teryx, which may be a factor to consider, too.
All in all, we think that performance-wise, you cannot really go wrong with Arc’teryx products. However, if you are not in need of an extremely high-performance garment and are looking for alternatives, then we would recommend you look into Rab designs.