Words by John Lowe
I’ve had the Rab Photon X for a few months now and have to say it’s my now my go-to jacket which is always in the car ready to go. When used in the environment it was designed for, (cold, damp and windy) and with the correct layering of clothing, I can’t fault it. Due to the mild winter months, we have been having, I have not been able to test the Photon X to its limits, but I know it will cope with driving snow and continuous sub-zero temperatures with ease when the time comes.
What is it made from?
Well, what can I say? My first impression was how light it was and how nice to the touch it felt thanks to the Pertex Endurance outer material. This outer fabric is tough, light, water resistant, wind resistant and relatively breathable, meaning it resists rucksack straps, strong winds and unexpected showers with minimal effort.
Providing the warmth in the Photon is up to 190g/m2 of Primaloft Gold. The Primaloft Gold insulation inside the Photon has been zoned giving maximum insulation levels where our body loses more heat, and less insulation and bulk in areas not requiring as much warmth. For example, 193g is used throughout the front of the jacket where our vital organs require more warmth and 133g in the sides and underarms where we’re naturally warmer. Given the high levels of insulation, the Photon X packs neatly down into a stuff sack no bigger than a pack of pasta and is easily stored in daysack.
One nice little touch on the Photon is the extra strip of insulation at the back of the neck; when the jacket is zipped up fully, this strip ensures that the neck is fully protected from the cold. The large lightly insulated baffle behind the main zip also ensures the wind doesn’t get through and heat doesn’t escape.
How does it fit?
I’m 5ft 6”, have a 46’’ chest, a 36” waist and wear an XL. The jacket sizing and cut allowed for a full range of movement, even with several layers underneath. It didn’t ride up and didn’t feel too tight around the armpits and back which I find other jackets tend to do. The length gives plenty of additional cover to the hips and bum on particularly cold days. The Photon X is as much at home fully layered up on the hills, as it is in only a T-shirt walking on the beach, or walking a dog on those damp miserable mornings. It is literally a jacket for all occasions when warmth and weather protection is needed.
The zips and cuff adjusters are all really easy to use and glove friendly. The main zip is a two-way zip, allowing you to use a harness and rope while still being protected from the elements. The hood is helmet compatible, but also fits nicely when adjusted correctly when no helmet is worn. Other useful features include 3 zipped external pockets and 2 stash style internal pockets; this gives plenty of storage space for any quick to hand items that may be needed.
Another one of my favourite features and main requirements of a jacket is the ability to wash it easily. Due to the use I have had with the Photon X, I have needed to wash the jacket a few times. When washed as per the instructions, using pure soap and low heat drying, I have not experienced any reduction of performance in weather proofing or insulative properties; it performs as well now as it did the first day I put it on. With frequent care, I can see myself using this jacket for many winters to come.
I have used the Photon X in temperatures down to a reported -4°C and have not experienced any issues with cold, drizzle, mist, low-cloud dampness or windchill. The insulated baffle behind the zip and the pre-elasticated cuffs seal in the warmth and prevent cold wind making its way into the jacket. I tend to run warm when walking in the hills whatever the weather, so when moving at a brisk pace, I found that the Photon X was a little too warm; but when stationary on a brew stop or to just take in the views, the Photon provided the perfect amount of warmth. Despite its technical abilities, the Photon performs as well in the hills in demanding weather as it does strolling on wind-swept Welsh beaches.
What could be improved?
What’s not to like? Nothing. It’s a great go-to jacket, for whatever you are doing.
Well what’s not to like; great fit, great protection from the elements, easy care, plenty of warmth… why wouldn’t you have one is the question?