Gear Review: Rab Zephyr/Solar Softshell

The Rab Zephys/Solar pairs a multitude of features with one low price.

[all-purpose bargain]

In 2011, we gave the Rab Boreas/Aurora our Editors’ Choice Award for its effective weather protection wrapped in a lightweight, silky-smooth, quick-drying package. This year, Rab took that model and beefed it up to handle even worse weather and tougher excursions—and we love the result. “This jacket shines in cold, windy, sweaty conditions,” says one Rocky Mountain tester. “For such a light outer layer, it moves moisture very well, blocks most wind, and sheds moderate snow.” Stretch fabric (86 percent polyester, 14 percent spandex) on the torso enhances mobility and breathability, and mesh-backed handwarmer pockets double as extra vents, making this a go-to mid- or outer layer for cool-weather hiking, trail running, and skiing: “It was perfect on a cross-country ski trip at 10,000 feet in Colorado’s Sangre de Cristos,” reports one tester. “I never overheated, even when breaking trail in knee-deep powder, and I stayed comfortable in windy, chilly weather into the teens.”

A tougher, 90-denier double-weave stretch fabric (90 percent nylon, 10 percent spandex) drapes over the shoulders and arms for added strength and water resistance. “It’s durable enough to handle bushwhacking,” says one tester, and others report it repelled up to 30 minutes of moderate to heavy rain. Testers also liked the way the snug hood fit under a helmet. The slim fit easily slides under a puffy or hardshell. $100; 12 oz.;

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