Matthew Jones reviews the Rab Zenith Jacket and its Gore-Tex Paclite technology.

The Rab Zenith is a lightweight waterproof, mountain shell that uses the latest generation of Gore-Tex Paclite technology, known as Paclite Plus. This differs from standard Paclite in that the inner surface of the membrane has an integrated dry-touch, abrasion-resistant treatment. This eliminates the need for a mesh drop liner, like the old school 2-layer jackets, or a raised printed ‘half layer’ as with conventional 2.5-layer jackets.

Price $250 / £250

The upshot is that it saves even more weight, whilst largely eliminating the cold, clammy feel you often get with waterproof shells. Like most Gore-Tex jackets, Paclite Plus does still rustle a bit, but this is a minor drawback.

In the Rab Zenith, the membrane is bonded to a light 13-denier ripstop nylon face fabric, with slightly heavier 20-denier panels in the shoulders and hood. That makes it reasonably tough, though there are similarly lightweight jackets that promise better durability. Performance in terms of waterproofing and breathability is very good though.

As with many of Rab’s more technical mountain jackets, the cut of the Zenith is extremely slim fitting. This is especially true around the hips and lower torso. Ensuring that it fits nicely under a rucksack hipbelt or a climbing harness. However, it does make it tricky to wear anything more than a light midlayer underneath.

On the plus side, it is longer in the arms and body than most lightweight shells, which again is typical of Rab’s fit, which seems designed for rangy climbers. The contoured cuffs also provide good coverage and are fitted with Velcro tabs for a weatherproof seal – though these are quite narrow. The longer length and adjustable hem do a good job of keeping the weather at bay and prevent chilly gusts creeping up the jacket.

The centre front closure has a smooth-running, water-resistant zip backed with a storm flap. The chest area also features two large napoleon style pockets, which we liked for easy-access storage, though this configuration is a drawback if you like to keep your hands in your pockets.

Two-way pit zips ensure you can dump heat fast when working hard. This is a feature that is often omitted from lightweight waterproof jackets, since their addition tends to add a fair bit of weight, but we’re pleased that Rab has still included them on the Zenith. It makes this a considerably more versatile outer layer, and one that has an edge over many rivals.

The hood offers good protection from wind and rain, with a wired peak. It’s voluminous enough to accommodate a climbing helmet but also moves easily with a bare head. It’s worth noting that it only has one-way adjustment though, so doesn’t pull in as tightly around the face as we would like.

In terms of weight, this jacket tips the scales at under 350g. Given its near full complement of mountain-ready features, that’s pretty impressive. It also crams away into a minuscule stuff sack, which ensures it fits easily into a daypack.