First Look: RAB Borealis Pull-On

Softshells are by far my favourite outer layer: soft and stretchy, often with a soft, quiet hand and just the right combination of wind-proofness, warmth and water-resistance. But they are often a bit too warm for summer use, so I was quite excited to see the Borealis Jacket and Pull-On softshells at Outdoor Retailer earlier this summer: very thin, lightweight, unlined and stretchy. Perfect.

I was even more excited when I learned that I happen to be sample-size, and RAB had a Pull-On they could send me for testing before they’re released to retail in Spring 2018. (Though not quite as excited as I would have been if they had had a Jacket!)

The Borealia use RAB’s lightweight Matrix fabric, which has a soft hand for next-to-skin comfort and two-way mechanical stretch built into the textile. The weave is tight enough to block light wind, and the DWR coating easily sheds light precipitation.

Fit is very slim and though I am generally a Medium, I’m definitely a Large in the Borealis Pull-On. I can fit a lightweight mid-layer underneath, but I wouldn’t want to wear much more than that — so size accordingly. (I tried on both the Pull-On and the Jacket at OR, and fit is identical.)

I am not generally a fan of pull-on style jackets as they’re a struggle to get over my shoulders, but the Borealis is stretchy enough that I can wrangle it on without issue. I’m sure the deep front zipper helps, too, and it’s also great for venting.

The Pull-On has a single, left-hand chest pocket that doubles as the stuff-sack, with a double-sided zipper and daisychain-style loop for clipping to your harness. (The Jacket has dual chest pockets… I really wanted a Jacket.)

Hem adjustment is oriented towards the rear, keeping the front flat and bulk-free. The cuffs are similarly low-profile with a bit of stretch thanks to some lycra content in the fabric.

The hood is another one of those under-the-helmet types but thanks to the amount of stretch within the Matrix fabric it easily stretches over a helmet and doesn’t bind head movement. It’s a bit too roomy over a bare head, but I haven’t had it blow off even in high winds, so I can’t complain too much about it.

My size Large Pull-On weighs 264-grams and packs down to the size of a grapefruit. The Jacket will be a bit heavier due to its longer zipper and extra pocket. There’s also going to be Women’s version of the Jacket, though not of the Pull-On.

When it goes on sale in March 2018, the Pull-On will retail for an insane $95 USD while the jacket will be $115 USD. Stay tuned for a full review come spring but honestly at that price — and faultless performance so far — I can’t imagine any reason not to have one of these!

2 thoughts on “First Look: RAB Borealis Pull-On

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Raf,

    have you tried Rab’s Kinetic Plus jacket? Waterproof, breathable, stretchy, stuffable, very light softshell. This is a perfect combination for me in an alpine climbing jacket, and let’s me skip bringing the waterproof shell entirely. Wish it had a chest pocket though. I’ve never seen anything like it from other manufacturers.

    • Raf says:

      I got one a week or so ago but in what I suspect is the wrong size, waiting on a second one to see what fits better. But I agree, it’s like nothing else out there, and I can’t wait until Fall/Winter proper to start climbing in it!

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