This is a review of my Rab Valiance waterproof Down Jacket, designed for use in tough winter conditions. I bought this jacket as an extra-warm layer to throw on over everything at stops during winter hikes, and in the evenings once I’ve camped. Down copes better than synthetic material with being repeatedly crushed into a pack, so this sounded like the ideal jacket.
The Rab Valiance Down Jacket is not completely down filled. The cuffs and hood are filled with Pyrotec synthetic material, as these are likely to be the first places to wet-out in continuous wet weather. This material doesn’t absorb water, and so shouldn’t lose its insulation quality like down would. This may seem like over-kill in a waterproof jacket but it’s better to be safe than sorry in tough winter conditions.
The jacket has bonded box-wall construction which allows the down to expand fully in the pockets. It traps the maximum amount of air for the given weight of down.
The jacket’s main filling is 800FP hydrophobic goose down. Hydrophobic down has been treated to make it more water resistant. It should retain its loft and warmth for longer than untreated down, even when damp.
The shell fabric of the Valiance jacket is made from Pertex Shield and is a fully taped, waterproof outer material. It’s a breathable waterproof PU film laminate between face fabric, which makes the jacket breathable and gives it high levels of wind and waterproofing. It feels well made and pretty tough, so I’m not going to be worried about catching it on the odd thorn bush. It doesn’t feel like it’ll get ripped to pieces easily, like some lightweight alternatives.
The jacket has a waterproof membrane in it to make it waterproof, like a hard shell waterproof jacket. This means it doesn’t breathe as well as a more usual down insulated jacket, that is windproof but not waterproof. Condensation can build up inside the jacket if I’m working hard and haven’t vented it enough. This can make the down damp or even wet if working hard and sweating a lot. It gets especially damp on my shoulders and back if I’m wearing a rucksack.
The hood has a wired peak and is big enough to be used with a helmet on. It has drawcord adjustment around the front as you would expect, and another drawcord for volume adjustment. This is a really nice feature to get a good fit and stops the hood flapping in the wind.
The Rab Valiance jacket cuffs have velcro adjustment around the wrists, which makes them fit nicely with or without gloves on.
There’s a YKK front zip with an internal zip baffle which helps to keep out the wind and rain. All the zips and draw cords are easy to use with gloves on. They feel tough and easily up to the job they’re intended for.
The jacket has two zipped hand warmer pockets and one internal zipped pocket. The two hand pockets are reasonably low so they’re comfortable to use. The pockets have fairly long access zips so you can still use them even if you’re wearing a rucksack hip belt. The internal pocket is plenty big enough to hold a map and also a 500ml drinks bottle if you needed to stop it freezing.
The jacket also comes with its own waterproof drybag, so it can be kept dry in your pack until you need it.
I’ve found the Rab Valiance jacket is best used as an extra warmth layer at stops, but not for walking in for long periods unless it’s extremely cold. This is because the jacket doesn’t breathe particularly well, so if you sweat it’s not able to escape through the waterproof outer material very well. The moisture then accumulates in the down, making it damp and lessening the thermal value of the jacket.
The jacket is reasonably expensive but it’s extremely well designed, very user friendly and best of all waterproof. Its turned out to be most useful on my narrow boat. It’s the perfect layer to slip on in the winter while I’m stood outside driving the boat and packs away small when its not needed.
Would I recommend the Rab Valiance down jacket instead of a synthetic insulated jacket?
Yes and no. It’s a great jacket but you need to understand its limitations if choosing this over a waterproof synthetic insulated jacket.
It is very important that you don’t let the down get wet from the inside. If you can do this, then the Rab Valiance jacket is a good buy because it is lighter than a similar warmth synthetic jacket. The down should last a lot longer than the synthetic insulation when continually packed and unpacked.
If I just want a warm jacket that I can put on at stops and around camp, it’s ideal for our damp climate. But if I’m going to be hiking in it a lot as well, then I would take the Paramo clothing system.
Rab Valiance Technical Specification
- Rab® Fluorocarbon free Ethically Sourced Hydrophobic Down developed with Nikwax®
- Bonded box-wall construction
- Hood – helmet compatible and wired peak
- YKK® VISLON® front zip with internal zip baffle
- 2 YKK® AquaGuard® zipped hand pockets
- 1 Internal zipped security pocket
- Drawcord adjustment on the hem and hood, plus velcro adjustment on the cuffs
- Stuffsack – waterproof
- Fabric – Outer: Pertex Shield – Lining: Nylon
- Insulation: 170g of 800FP R.D.S Certified European Goose down. Pyrotec™ synthetic insulated hood and cuffs.
- 800FP R.D.S. Certified European Goose Down (170g/ 6oz size Large)
- Fit: Regular
- Weight: 757g – size Large
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