Chris looks at Rab’s lightweight stretchy softshell/waterproof, the Kinetic Plus

When is a waterproof not a waterproof? I’ve been pondering this question with regard to the new Rab Kinetic Plus jacket. Rab describes it as ‘a super lightweight stretch softshell with high levels of breathability and waterproofing’ with ‘a waterproof component hidden inside’. The latter is a polyurethane membrane called Proflex that has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm and a breathability level of 35,000cc/sqm/24 hours, which is very high. The seams are taped and the zips are water-resistant AquaGuard ones. The fabric is very soft, very stretchy, and very comfortable. The outer fabric is polyester with a water repellent treatment, the inner is a wicking polyester.
Rab doesn’t call the Kinetic Plus a waterproof but it looks and performs just like one. Rab says ‘it will transform the way you dress for the mountains’. For me it won’t. It just makes for a super comfortable and extremely breathable waterproof jacket, which of course is good in itself. It’s still an outer jacket though. I can’t imagine wearing another shell jacket over it. I have found I need a warm layer under it in all but mild weather however.
The fabric is quite thin and no warmer than waterproof jackets of the same weight – definitely much more waterproof than softshell. The breathability is such that it can replace a windproof jacket and so is more versatile than many waterproofs though.
The Kinetic Plus is quite short with an extended back. There are two map-size pockets though these are cut off by a pack hipbelt. The hood is close-fitting with a stretch band inside a stiffened peak. The only adjustment is a Velcro-tab at the back but I’ve found it stays on in strong winds. The stretch means it easily fits over a hat when necessary. The cuffs have Velcro tabs and are just wide enough to allow some ventilation in the arms. The hem isn’t adjustable.
Rab describes the fit as slim. I can wear the Large size over a medium weight fleece. The stretch means it doesn’t feel baggy worn over just a thin base layer.
At 298 grams the Kinetic Plus is lightweight. I think it makes a good three-season waterproof jacket. The high stretch makes it particularly suitable for scrambling and climbing. Although it’s only just appeared in the shops I’ve had a test sample since last autumn and have worn it a fair amount. So far it’s stayed waterproof and it looks to be quite durable. I like it a great deal but it is a waterproof, whatever Rab says.