This is the 4th review in the Midweight Softshell Review Series.
The Rab Baltoro Alpine is another jacket using the Polartec Powershield Fabric, this time the Lite version. However that’s the only light thing about the Baltoro Alpine as it is the heaviest jacket in the test at a claimed 690g, although the medium we used in the test was only 620g. It is a very protective softshell jacket which as it’s name suggests can withstand some tough conditions but it’s the only jacket to break the 600g barrier.
The fabric is more durable and less flexible than the Powershield Lite used in the ME Astron, so would last longer if you are a keen chimney climber but not so suited to faster aerobic sports where the jacket is a bit restrictive. Out running this morning the collar was constantly slapping me on the chin as I ran along rather than hanging down. Inside Rab have been innovative and used a high wicking fabric backing for the underarm panels and the standard microfleece backing elsewhere to aid moisture management in these areas.
The Baltoro Alpine has 2 large pack friendly chest pockets which double as vents and an inner zipped mesh pocket. The Baltoro Alpine is the only jacket so far to have adjustable sleeve cuffs which is nice for a jacket that will often be worn with gloves. One handed elasticated waist drawcord which adjusts on both sides. There is a hood tie down but it’s too flimsy to hold the hood still and cannot easily be undone as you walk along with gloves on. The hood is helmet compatible with a wired peak and a circular volume adjuster, all of which worked well. The front toggles to cinch the face hole down are good with one handed adjustment. The cord ends exit outside the jacket rather than into a pocket (like the Gamma MX Hoody) which is more functional.
I would definitely put the Baltoro Alpine next to the Gamma MX Hoody as a softshell for those who do plenty of winter work and prefer protection and durability over flexibility and air permeability. The features are a mix of the good (cuff tabs, hood cinch) and not so good (hood tab) but overall there are no glaring problems.The baffling thing about the Baltoro Alpine is that I can’t see where the extra weight comes from. The Gamma MX seems to have extra pockets and is more of a jacket but weighs less, although it should be noted that the Baltoro Alpine is half the cost of the Gamma MX!
So far the Baltoro Alpine is my least favourite of the jackets tested so far because it’s neither light and breathable like the Astron and VR Lite Tour nor the best full jacket like the Gamma MX. However as a full jacket I am comparing it to the Gamma MX which is twice the price, so you could turn that around and say the Baltoro Alpine is a solid and excellent value for money membraned softshell. None of the tested jackets are in any way poor so really I am splitting hairs but I don’t think the Baltoro Alpine is top of my pile.
I would love to hear from you if you agree or better still disagree with me, so feel free to leave a comment on the blog or drop me an email. After all it’s just one man’s opinion…