Roads Rivers and Trails

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Tag Archives: Generator


Rab Strata Hoodie

Alpha test alpha
Written by: Bryan Wolf

If you have been to Roads Rivers and Trails then you know that we are big fans of Rab technical wear. To date there has not been a piece of gear that left us disappointed or that failed to out-perform our expectations.  While this gear test is on the Rab Strata Hoodie, the real test is on the new technology that is Polartec Alpha.

If you visit the Polartec web site as it is linked above you’ll find scientific proof along with reviews, backing, and support of our military forces that this technology works. This all has great substance and while hand selecting the gear that we use and sell in our store we find that the better gear has that substance. I want to know ratings for breath-ability and warmth, that is how you compare things. How do I know one piece of gear is better than another if not for the credibility of testing and user performance reviews.

That being said I am more skeptical than most when it comes to reading reviews on a website that is self promoting. We have personally found that certain pieces, while maintaining their claims, fail to be the most practical piece for our applications. For example, a high alpine piece created for ski may not be the best for an Eastern United States Appalachian hiker. With this exact issue in mind I wanted to get a little use of the Strata and the new Polartec Alpha technology before bringing it in to the store.

Off to my favorite gear testing stomping grounds; the Appalachian Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plan as it is now is for a few nights atop Mt. LeConte via the Boulevard Trail. Recent nights have been as low as -9 degrees with about 10 inches of snow on trail. The weekend forecast will most likely add to the snow and it doesn’t look to get warmer than highs of mid twenties. I plan on having proper layers on and will wear the jacket both in motion and while still. I’m a pretty fast hiker so I hope to mostly test the breath-ability of this piece. Since I previously have reviewed a competing technology with a Primaloft jacket (Generator) I feel I’ll be well suited to compare the leading brands and discuss the differences.

I can’t wait, I’ve been needing some mountain time!!  Review coming soon:

Rab GeneratorThe Mountain didn’t disappoint. Upon arriving at the Sugarlands visitor center we were immediately detoured in our plans. The roads were closed at 441  so there was no hope for the Alum or Boulevard Trails, furthermore it meant that we had to make alternative plans for that night. We grabbed a tent site at Cades Cove Campground and enjoyed the solitude of being absolutely the only people staying at the typically bustling site.  The next morning we checked again for changes in road conditions and things had only gotten worse. Cherokee Orchard was now closed half way to the Bull Head Trail. The rangers questioned if packing up the mountain was something we wanted to do with the nights forecast, we of course assured them that we would be just fine.Strata Hoodie

We had to hike up 1.5 miles of road before hitting the 7.1 mile trail to the shelter. Road walking was too easy of course and my pace up the mountain wasted no time in building up some heat. I started with the Strata jacket and some wool base layers. When we got to the trail head it was time to remove a layer and the jacket got packed away. I didn’t ever expect the jacket to last during a 3+ mile pace uphill.  Temperatures were under 20 degrees all day and as you may know they can change rapidly as you hike higher in elevation, or in and out of different ridgelines.winter trekking

It was around mile 4 (including the road) that we stopped for a short break and lunch. The pack comes down and before anything else the jacket hat and gloves go on to retain what heat I had built up. The break was only 20 minutes, but it was very comfortable. When we started hiking again enough heat had escaped that I wasn’t willing to lose the Strata yet. As the trail steepened and our feet slowed, I realized I was not going to take the jacket off for the rest of the hike. At this point I had on Ibex Woolies 150 base, Patagonia R1 Base and the Strata Hoodie. I can tell you that without a doubt the Generator would have been way too hot after even a half mile in this scenario. If you read my Generator Review, that is not a knock on its performance at all; it is a top layer piece for breaks and at camp. The Strata however had a very noticeable difference, it is built as more of an in action piece. Other then the occasional unzipping of the jacket for a quick vent, I had the perfect layer system for what was soon nearing 0 degree hiking.Mt LeConte view

You could assume that changing my layers, say excluding the Patagonia piece would have made this jacket comfortable for backpacking at temperatures closer to 15-20 without incident.  As a stand alone piece there are plenty of puffy jackets to retain more heat, however this is the first that I have comfortably hiked in. The test of the Polartec Alpha in my opinion passed and stood out for all the reasons that they claim. At the shelter that night we would reach -7 degrees while cooking dinner and melting snow. Overnight we would see -12 as a low. While moving around camp I sure was glad that I had my generator, was layered appropriately and had my shell for protection. There is no way the Strata was up for that test.  My suggestion would be to use the Strata as more as a mid layer in extreme cold of negative temperatures to the teens. From mid twenties and up you could probably use the Strata as a camp puffy.Frozen Rainbow Falls Ice Cone

*There are always other factors to consider when picking appropriate layers for your trips conditions, please feel free to comment or call for advice.

You can expect to find the Rab Strata Hoodie and other “approved” cold weather gear here at Roads Rivers and Trails

 

Rab Generator

Generating Serious Heat
Written by: Bryan Wolf

Outside of arctic sub zero situations there are few of us that want to wear a bulky marshmallow puff jacket in everyday use. Even in the backcountry, warmth can be achieved without high bulk; the Generator, despite its slim size, can pack a dependable punch in holding in your precious temperature.  I’m now entering my third winter with my Rab Generator Jacket and through backcountry use and everyday wear I have found the perfect all purpose jacket.

In an urban setting I like something that looks clean and is free of lines or eye popping style. The Generator has little stitching on the face and since it has a Primaloft fill it doesn’t need a lot of baffling to keep the insulating fill in place. I’ll get to the technical uses of this jacket but what was immediately important to me was its usefulness keeping me warm everyday. We all know know a Cincinnati winter isn’t the worst that can be thrown our way but it does get cold and can be unpredictable. This jacket was my winter jacket.  With sweaters, long sleeve wool tops, sweatshirts, cotton waffles, or hoodies I could layer up with what ever style I needed and be warm enough for all my Christmas parties, festivals, walks in the park, or runs to the grocery store. I know that my time waiting for my car to warm up is less painful and I couldn’t be more comfortable. With an everyday or urban jacket you want to feel good walking out the door but also walking in the door.  This is a tech jacket that looks less like a tech jacket.

Now what about outside the treacherous winter of Cincinnati? Well if you are looking at this piece as a active outdoors man/woman than you’ll like it even more. This jacket has been to the tops of several peaks in Maine with snow sticking to my face, and traveled with me to the Alaskan wild. The jacket has 100 grams of Primaloft ONE in the body and 60 grams in the sleeves.  That is almost twice as much fill in the body as other major brands. Primaloft ONE is the lightest weight synthetic fill on the market, and it is also the most resilient toward getting wet.  That means that when it gets wet, you’ll stay warmer. The jacket packs to the size of a softball and better yet does so in it’s own chest pocket (stuffed up it can be your camp or airlines pillow). Who has time for a separate stuff sack or who has the room for a big heavy jacket on top of your already cumbersome backpack?  When it comes to synthetic winter wear, Primaloft is the only way to go.rab wins

When on the trail the only way to really keep warm and dry is with an adequate layer system. This jacket as a stand alone piece could come up short if your looking to stay warm at the top of your favorite peak, but you’ve already lost the war if that is what your plan is. An active piece means that you are on the go, constantly moving and most likely changing in elevations and with it temperatures. If you haven’t already learned this, your ability to add and subtract layers as you move is crucial to your comfort.  The Generator is a flexible fitting, quick throw on piece that is going to hold your heat in fast and stuff back in your pack even faster.

Feature wise the jacket has tight elastic wrist cuffs to keep the temperature in. For the same reason they add a drawcord at the waist to block off one more exit for your life force. The jacket is cut a little longer too to protect heat loss from your lower back.  The neck comes up to the chin but not past (this is nice for those urban events so you don’t have a big goofy tech collar). The zipper is covered and lined at the top to be soft on the chin if it rubs. There are three pockets, one on the chest (the stuff sack) and two hand warming pockets. The insulation is on the inside next to the body when using the pockets. It would be nice if the fill was split between the top and bottom of the hand pockets to hold more hand warmth but that would add some lines and some dollars I presume.

The entire jacket is warm and sleek, and is also a good guard against mother nature. The Pertex outer material seems to be impossible to snag and has a DWR finish as well.  DWR is the water repellent finish put on the material.  This kind of thing needs rejuvenated every so often but when light snow or rain hit I’ve stayed dry much longer than I ever thought I would, and thanks to the Primaloft I didn’t notice a difference in my warmth either (synthetic fibers retain heat when wet). This has to be the single most complimented feature in our store too; I’ve had several Generator users amazed at the protection it provided from wind and rain.Bryan and Generator (This does not replace a shell however)

Altogether it takes a beating from mother nature, from Cincy streets, and from the shove and go backpack life all to keep me happily warm.  My name is Bryan Wolf, I am a gear junkie and outdoor enthusiast, and this is my favorite piece of gear! You can pick up the Rab Generator and other top notch Rab gear at Roads Rivers and Trails in downtown Milford, OH.