It has been quite some time ago since I have reviewed any waterproof jackets, and during this fall, I have been testing my latest waterproof jacket, the Spark by Rab.
In the past I have been using The North Face Venture HyVent 2.5l jacket and the Millet Goretex jacket (review will follow up soon), but due to the fact the Millet has lost significant factor of the waterproofness, I wanted to be dry for the winter mountaineering activities, and therefore I got the Rab Spark jacket.
Nowadays, ultralight doesn’t mean sacrificing protection in the mountains. Rab’s gear tends to be very technical with little interest in anything else; the Spark totally embodies their design ethos by including all of the necessary alpine features while packaging it in an unapologetic technical aesthetic.
Rab intends the Spark to be ‘the go-to waterproof for high-intensity activities in harsh, wet environments’. It weighs 310g, is helmet compatible and offers a stretch fabric design that promises great comfort along the way.
The Spark’s foundation is Pertex’s Shield+ fabric – I’ll just give it away now, but I was really impressed by its performance. It’s woven with a tremendous amount of inherent flex and it disappears while climbing. Waterproofing and breathability is always tough to quantify precisely, but I’m going to lay things out simply for the sake of the review; Shield+ is waterproof with an emphasis on breathability and a slight decrease in durability.
Waterproofing is an absolute measure. Either something is waterproof or it’s not. However, higher standards of waterproofing allow for more durability and a jacket that will stay waterproof for longer.
The standard test for waterproofing is to build up water pressure on the surface of the fabric and measure how much it can withstand before it allows water to pass through. Imagine a very tall, open-ended laboratory test tube standing on the fabric and being slowly filled with water. As more water is added, the pressure on the fabric will slowly increase. When we talk about the level of waterproofness in a particular fabric, we are expressing the height of that column before the waterproofing surrenders e.g. 20,000mm. This measurement is known as the hydrostatic head.
Rab Spark has a 2.5L waterproofing. In a 2.5 layer waterproof the waterproof technology is again bonded to the exterior fabric but, rather than using a lining or third layer to protect the waterproof element, there is instead a coating or print applied to the surface. This construction is lighter and more packable than 3-layer construction. However, it also tends to be less durable.
Design & Fit
There are only two pockets to play with here, but they’re excellently designed and sit flush in between the chest strap and waist belt of most rucksacks, either side of the main zip. They’re very sizeable and can easily accommodate a map or pair of gloves.
The main zip has very cannily secured storm flaps on either side, which overlap in place beautifully. Combined with the water resistant design of all three zips (dubbed ‘AquaGuard’) this is one of the best solutions to zip-driven ingress in heavy rain that we’ve seen. You can also use the left-hand chest pocket as an integrated stuff sack – a snazzy touch.
The Pertex’s stretchy properties and the overall cut of the jacket help it disappear as you reach for holds or start working hard while climbing. Rab cuts their sleeves rather long and roomy and, while that aids in range of motion, I found that the sleeves flapped annoyingly in high-wind situations if I wasn’t wearing many layers beneath the Spark.
The Rab Spark does exactly as it claims, and if you’re a fast moving outdoors person. It is comfortable enough, has all necessary features and it packs small. In terms of durability, with proper care the user will not face any problem.
- Helmet-compatible hood with wired peak and kitty clip roll-down closure
- YKK AquaGuard® front zip with internal storm flap and rain drain
- Napoleon mesh lined YKK AquaGuard® zipped chest pockets, left side doubles as integrated stuff sack
- Velcro® cuffs
- Hem drawcord
- Size tested: Large
- Fit: Regular