RAB is making some really interesting outdoors clothing of late and has been winning praise from more traditional outdoor gear reviewers. Specifically their Charge Rain Jacket and Phantom. The Phantom being a pull over which is regarded as one of the lightest waterproof jackets on the market, which still maintains extreme breathability.
I received the Charge Rain Jacket from my parents as a Christmas gift and I have been blown away by it. The Charge is a heavier version of the Phantom, full zip, and made to work both from trail running as well as hiking with heavier packs on.
First things first, I am not an expert on waterproof fabrics, so I will say that RAB lists this as: 40D Pertex Shield 2.5L fabric with stretch. Compared to my Arc’teryx Goretex Paclite jacket, this RAB Charge fabric feels impossibly thin. In fact RAB says the reason for this “thicker” material is to make it more durable. But it really messes with my head.
It feels like a normal rain jacket, but a fraction of the weight. It is really something.
Fit and Style
This is a decently trim rain jacket, which RAB notes will easily move with your body. The sleeves are long, the body elongated as well and the collar/neck rides up high to easily cover my chin. I generally wear a size large in everything, and I have this jacket in a Large as well — there’s a part of me that wonders if I could drop down a size, but as it is I have room for a layer or two and the jacket looks far from bulky. It fits great.
Except the hood. As you might see in other reviews of this jacket, the hood is not great. There’s no drawstrings anywhere on this jacket. Instead the cuff has a thin bit of elastic, as does the waist — that works well in both spots. The hood has elastic nearly all the way around your head (just not the bottom chin area) and a really silly useless bill at the top.
Because of that, the hood fits poorly. In use rucking, I found that the hood constantly drooped over my eyes and was never exactly where I wanted it. And because of how it is integrated into the jacket, you have to leave the jacket decently unzipped at the top in order for the hood and chin area to lay out of your way. It does close up well, and if you have more hair, a beanie, or a baseball cap on you should be golden. But otherwise, it’s not something I would want to wear over long periods of time. It works, but it is in the way—a lot.
The perfect rain jacket doesn’t exist, but there are niche rain jackets which work really well in certain uses. This one seems ideal for hiking in climates (like where I live) which get rain when it is warm out. My PNW self would have loathed wearing this as the light weight nature of it wouldn’t be as ideal for the cold drizzle. But here in the Houston area where it is often raining above 70°F, the light but durable nature works well for this jacket.
There are four key selling points for this jacket:
- Lightweight: and that it is. The Phantom is even lighter, but I cannot even imagine how that can be. This is easily the lightest rain jacket I have ever owned, and on top of that, it is almost the same weight as my windbreaker from GORUCK. Really impressive.
- Moves with you: both the cut and the limited stretch never cause this jacket to bind up. Even with a 45lbs backpack on my back, this jacket never restricted my arm or body movements. I think this is more the cut than the stretch, but stretch never hurts.
- Waterproof: no rain jacket is fully waterproof forever — at least none that you want to wear while being active in any temperate or warmer weather. So at some point most of these jackets are going to ‘wet out’. Even in very warm temps with constant downpours, and sweat building from my body — I’ve yet to see the jacket wet out. I don’t know how long it would last for, but I have had it on for over an hour and seen zero issues. The storms here are intermittent enough that testing beyond that was problematic for me.
- Breathable: all rain jackets could be more breathable. But this one is the best I’ve used to date.
From a performance perspective the only downside, is again, the hood. Otherwise I was surprised by the jacket in every other way.
I wouldn’t want this jacket for cold wet-weather hiking. I think a thicker more substantial jacket would be better if I knew I was wearing it all day. But here in a warm climate where it generally rains when it is warm — such that I really could go without a jacket and not feel cold — this jacket is what I need. The Phantom is likely really good, but it being a pullover means it takes more effort to put on and take off. The Charge is impressively light and thin.
I can pack it away in my office bag, or my rucking backpack and not eat all the space, while having a durable and comfortable rain jacket when called for. I recommend it, especially given the price at around $170-200USD it offers a great value.