The outdoor-gear company Rab originated when its founder Rab Carrington began designing sleeping bags and jackets for climbers in his attic in England in 1981. Now, decades later, his brand has expanded in versatility and availability but remains true to its commitment to produce “nothing fancy or over-engineered – just honest, hard-working pieces that you’d rather repair than replace.”
I have had the pleasure of experiencing just that with the four pieces of Rab trail running apparel that I’ve tested: the Rab Men’s Phantom Waterproof Pull On jacket ($200), Rab Women’s Skyline Tights ($85), Rab Women’s Sonic Long Sleeve Tee ($65) and Rab Women’s Sonic Zip Tee ($60).
Rab Men’s Phantom Waterproof Pull On
The Rab Men’s Phantom Waterproof Pull On jacket ($200) feels too good to be true… ly waterproof. The shell uses waterproof two-layer construction with taped seams and lightweight 7D Pertex Shield 2.5L fabric. Stretch fabric caters to a slim cut and low-volume elastic in the hood negates the need for bulkier adjustable toggles. As a result, the jacket weighs in at a svelte 3 ounces and prides itself in being exceptionally packable. The Phantom is currently available only in men’s sizes. I tested a small, which feels a touch short if you raise your arms (though that seems to be all the rage in style currently), but allows for plenty of range of motion while still achieving a slim fit. Not having worn an abundance of men’s clothing, I’ll go out on a limb and say the men’s Phantom may run a little small.
Much to the displeasure of my running partners, I have been doing the rain dance all spring in anticipation of sufficiently rainy long runs to put this jacket to the test. After a recent progressively intense rain, I would say this jacket performs the best at a “spring sprinkle/light shower” level of precipitation. At this kind of intensity, the Phantom checks all the boxes of being lightweight, breathable, and waterproof. The sentiment I expressed to my running pals was, “I feel like I’m running in a bubble!”
However, once the intensity of the rain increased, the almost transparent, delightfully lightweight fabric started sticking to my arms and the waterproofing began to fail. I live in a generally temperate area that doesn’t get a remarkable amount of rain. The Phantom is an appropriate choice for many foggy winter or misty spring days in Southern Oregon where I live, but the perfect balance between light, breathable, and waterproof is something I personally have yet to experience while running in significantly wet weather. When the temperature is warm enough to rain, I’ve historically found heavier rain protection to be a bit stifling. When the amount of sweat beneath a jacket exceeds the rain outside it, waterproofing becomes a moot point!
That said, if you’re expecting to be hit by significant rain, and/or you are out long enough that you’re liable to get cold wen wet, you’d better pull out some bigger guns! Rab carries about 15 heavier-duty waterproof jacket options, including one that is running-specific, that may fit this bill.
Rab Women’s Skyline Tights
The Rab Women’s Skyline Tights ($85) are accurately marketed as midweight, high-wicking, and durable tights comprised of Reflex, a flexible and robust combination of nylon and polyester. Reinforced Matrix double-weave panels provide added protection for the high-wear areas of the backside and knees, and are lined with polyester for moisture management. The face of the tights is water repellent thanks to nylon with DWR. A thick double-layer waistband with a drawstring houses a zip pocket in the back, big enough for a phone, keys, and similar. Because of the way the waistband is constructed, you can max out that back zip pocket without your pants falling off.
I’ve been impressed with how well the panels of fabric result in an anatomically appropriate fit. Most of my other running tights fit well as a byproduct of being comprised of fabrics that stretch, recover, and occasionally offer some element of compression. It’s not compression or elasticity that keeps these tights in place throughout the duration of your run, but their structure and shape. Zip ankle gussets maintain the slim-fit look and feel while offering the airflow of a capri, if unzipped. I’m 5 foot, 7 inches tall with a shorter torso and longer legs, and the 30-inch inseam fits perfect. I tested the U.K. size 10/U.S. small, which leaves little give around my waist but otherwise fits well. If I were to order another pair, I’d likely try the U.K. 12/U.S. medium for a little extra room.
When I find running attire I love, I tend to wear it hard. Why it hadn’t yet occurred to me to seek out tights with reinforced high-wear areas, I’m not sure. Perhaps because my mom has so pleasantly resigned to repairing the backside, crotch, and knees of countless pairs? If the Skyline Tights holds up through the next couple hundred miles and allows her to retire the stretch-stitch setting on her sewing machine, Rab will have gained not just one fan, but two.
Rab Women’s Sonic Long Sleeve Tee and Rab Women’s Sonic Zip Tee
I honestly didn’t have as high performance expectations of the Rab Women’s Sonic Long Sleeve Tee ($65) and Rab Women’s Sonic Zip Tee ($60) as I did the other pieces in this lineup. However, Rab’s efforts to create ultra-lightweight shirts with the latest, lightest fabrics did not go unappreciated! Advertised weights are 3.9 ounces for the Long Sleeve Tee and 3 ounces for the short-sleeve Zip Tee. Despite a closet that some would say is disproportionately filled with active wear, I found myself nabbing these shirts off the top of the laundry pile all spring.
The Sonic shirts feature textured Motiv single-jersey fabric that prides itself in being fast-wicking and fast-drying. Once sweat has been wicked up and evaporated away, antibacterial Polygiene odor control works to keep the fabric (and you) socially acceptable. The long-sleeve tee has open-knit mesh panels under the arms, at the cuffs, and in the lower back to create exceptional moisture management and airflow right where you need it. Despite feeling notably lighter than most of my other long-sleeve shirts, I found it to be warm enough on runs in the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit.
Both the Long Sleeve Tee and short-sleeve Zip Tee have a zipper on the chest that extends down to the sternum, providing venting without obstructing pack straps. The front zip is bonded into the fabric to prevent chafing. Micro-seam stitching also works to eradicate chafing and keep the garment light. Rab has managed to engineer an ultra-lightweight top without compromising durability; both the long and short sleeve have emerged unscathed after hours of friction under a running pack.
I tested U.K. women’s 12/U.S. medium and they fit great: plenty roomy and true to what you’d expect from a size medium. These shirts were the perfect choice for a recent two-day running extravaganza where every lightweight, fast-wicking, quick-drying, decent-smelling, chafe-resistant, resilient, and pack-compatible feature was appreciated to the utmost. I look forward to many more adventures with the Sonic tops.
A Note on Sizing Rab Apparel
Those of us not in the United Kingdom might want to take note that U.K. sizing is very different. Since I received my products, Rab has started listing the U.S. sizes on the company’s U.S. site instead of U.K. sizes. Previously, I utilized the aid of sizing charts and a cloth measuring tape to end up with U.K. sizes 10 and 12 in the tights and tees (U.S. size small and medium, respectively). By U.S. women’s standards, I’m notoriously a medium and more specifically, a 6 in shorts and tights (give or take depending on the brand). Based on my experience with this line of clothing, if you’re measuring between sizes, I’d recommend opting up.
Rab Trail Running Apparel Overall Impressions
I have been pleasantly surprised by Rab’s line of trail running clothing, which is thoughtfully designed to enable the mountain runner to “do more and take less.” Without being overkill, Rab offers the details I hadn’t even realized I needed and now possibly can’t run without.
All in all, Rab has put together some exceptional gear at competitive prices, and I’m anxious to explore more from the brand!