An Alpine Technical Garment

Rab Kaon Jacket

Packing for the alpine environment often becomes a habit, the same bits of kit are thrown in time and time again, they are tried and tested reliable friends. I’ve never regularly taken a down jacket out on climbs, instead preferring the versatility of a lightweight insulated jacket that can be worn whilst climbing before the sun brings its orange glow over the horizon and the head torch switches off. 

The Rab Kaon jacket is a ultralight insulated jacket that combines a number of well thought out features into a highly usable jacket. Rab are no strangers to creating cutting edge down products and this jacket is their latest creation in this space.

The Rab Kaon jacket features both down and synthetic insulation, it uses Rab’s ‘intelligent zoning’ to place ‘Stratus’ (synthetic) insulation on the shoulders, hood, hips and cuff. Elsewhere 800 fill hydrophobic down keeps your core toasty. The jacket is designed with the alpinist in mind, as when carrying a pack down gets crushed on the shoulders and as such can’t provide insulation. Equally, when wet, down loses it’s its ability to insulate. This is where this intelligent zoning really excels, you have the right type of insulation in the right place. 

As previously mentioned, this jacket has been designed with the alpinist in mind. Weighing in at 250g for a men’s medium, its barely noticeable when stowed in your pack, however I have found this jacket to spend surprisingly little time stashed away. Normally, I’d be taking an insulated jacket off as dawn breaks, yet I found myself still in the Kaon jacket well into the day. I would attribute this to the uninsulated Pertex Quantum Air patches on the underarms. This allows the jacket to breathe extremely well and it became my go-to jacket for ski touring missions as well as more traditional mountaineering trips.

The Kaon’s fit is ‘athletic’. It contours to your body well around your hips, shoulders and arms while still allowing enough space for layers underneath. I found the fit to be great around the shoulders and arms when climbing easy ice or mixed terrain. It gave the mobility required and would not ride up under a harness. This is something insulated jackets struggle with and so I was particularly impressed with this aspect of the Kaon. The insulated hood is generous enough to accommodate a climbing helmet, although it would struggle with a ski helmet. It was cosy in the evenings and the insulation wraps around your chin when the jacket is fully zipped up. One elasticated drawcord around the waist gives some adjustability, which is a nice feature of such a lightweight jacket. The Kaon has one chest pocket that is large and well positioned to be used whilst wearing a backpack. The lack of hip pockets is noticeable if you’re tempted to wear the jacket down to the pub on a chilly night-but let’s be honest-that’s not this jacket's natural environment.

The Kaon’s small baffles hold the down in place well and the Atmos Ripstop nylon outer fabric has proven to be hard-wearing (for such a lightweight material). I’ve experienced very little down escaping the jacket and all signs are pointing towards this jacket being a hard-wearing companion for many more trips.

The Kaon comes with a neat bag for stowing the jacket. Once stuffed inside it’s only slightly larger than an apple, which is impressive given how warm the jacket is. My only gripe here is that the stow bag isn’t integrated into the jacket. It’s made of the same superlight Ripstop fabric as the jacket and I think it’s only a matter of time before this takes off with the wind. 

The bottom line is that this jacket really is excellent. While it is not warm enough to be a mid-winter belay jacket, it is warm enough for a night bivvying above the snowline and breathable and well-fitting enough for climbing moderate terrain. Take this jacket on a spring mountaineering trip on the Main Divide and you will not be disappointed. 

-Lightweight for its warmth.
-More reliable than a traditional down jacket (hydrophobic down and synthetic insulation).
-Athletic fit.

-Hood may be too small for larger helmets.
-Stow pocket not integrated into the jacket.

4.5 out of 5 stars (I’d give it 5 but I’m not that bold!)

-Francis Charlesworth