Testing Out Rab’s Microlight Alpine Jacket

This season we were stoked to add Rab to our brand list at the Palace. Rab Carrington founded the brand in 1980s Sheffield – which is a place close to our hearts. My partner and Palace co-founder, Ian, was born in Sheffield, we both went to university there, and I’m a Yorkshire lass too.

Rab Carrington originally hailed from Glasgow, but his growing climbing passion eventually inspired a move to the relatively drier climes of Sheffield, where he joined in the healthy mountaineering scene based there at the time. He started off sewing sleeping bags in his attic, and then opened a factory in Sheffield.

rab-factory
Mark Wilson, one of Rab’s first employee’s cutting fabric in 1980s Sheffield.

The Microlight Alpine Jacket is one of Rab’s signature pieces, so naturally we had to have it in our collection.  It seemed fitting to take it up to Rab Carrington’s Scottish roots to test it out  – on a hillwalking trip to Corrour in the Highlands.

Rab Corrour
The Microlight is not only a great technical jacket, we think it looks pretty damn sweet too.

We were booked in the seats on the sleeper train (no comfy cabin this time), and the Microlight immediately came into its own – as a handy travel pillow! It packs into its own stuff sack  – which makes it the perfect shape on which to rest a weary head.

Once in Corrour, the Microlight formed an essential part of Ian’s Munro bagging kit. Setting off for the summits, it was wet but fairly mild, so he started out just wearing a shell and Rab Merino Baselayer. The Microlight stayed packed in its stuff sack, and took up barely any space in his daypack. However as we neared the peaks and were exposed to the biting Highland wind, out came the Microlight.  We like to hang out on the mountain tops – picnicking, taking photos and generally soaking up the mind-blowing views. The Microlight made the perfect insulating mid-layer, and he felt totally snug even when stationary for a while.

Corrour
Soaking up the mind-blowing views

Rab are famous for their quality down, it’s in their heritage – hence the feathers in their logo.  The Microlight is filled with Rab’s special Hydrophobic Goose Down. Hydrophobic down dries faster, absorbs less water and retain its ‘loft’ – the fluffiness which is what makes it warm and cosy!


Rab Carrington and the early Rab logo with iconic feather

The outer fabric is Pertex, which is both breathable and windproof – a feature Ian was certainly glad of on this trip. The Microlight is weather-resistant but not waterproof, so as it was pouring down on our mountain days, he wore it under his waterproof shell.

On the last day we did some lower ground exploring, and it was dryer with just a few light showers. It felt colder without the hilly exertion, and the Microlight over the Merino base layer was a winning combo. He didn’t wear a shell and the Microlight stood up to the occasional light rain. Even the hood is down-filled which really does make it feel like you’re under your duvet, whilst enjoying the great outdoors!

Rab Corrour
On the bridge behind Corrour Station – made famous in Trainspotting.

Rab Corrour

Rab Corrour

Rab Corrour Summit
Walking along the train tracks at Corrour Summit.

Whether you’re braving the wilds of Scotland or Shoreditch this winter, Rab’s Microlight Alpine Jacket is an essential piece of kit!

Ethics

Rab’s Hydrophobic Down is Fluorocarbon free and developed in conjunction with Nikwax. Fluorocarbons are often used to make garments water repellent but they are toxic to humans and the environment. Nikwax and Rab have developed a safe alternative.

All Rab’s down is ethically sourced and traceable under the European Down and Feather Association Code of Conduct, this stipulates that no down harvested in a way that inflicts pain upon animals may be used.

 


Hiking Sgurr na Stri in Skye

Our last hike in Skye was Sgurr na Stri. Dwarfed by the surrounding Cuillin, Sgurr na Stri is only 494 metres high – a Marilyn rather than a Munro. Despite this, it is widely considered to be one of Britain’s finest viewpoints, and deservedly so.

You can hike in from Sligachan or Elgol, or get a boat from Elgol. We opted for the latter because we had to catch the train from Fort William that evening. We headed out on the early morning rig with Bella Jane Boat Trips.

Cuillin Ridge TraverseOur companions on the rib who jumped off the boat onto slippery rocks at Eilean Ramhair, and were heading up to do the notoriously difficult Cuillin Ridge Traverse.

stepping stones skye
Crossing the stepping stones by Loch Coruisk

Time was tight, so on the directions of our boat captain, which consisted of , “Head straight up from the loch, hook a right at the lochan.” We navigated over the stepping stones from Loch Coruisk, and up to the peak, which is a bit of a scramble at times and the path disappears pretty quickly once you leave the loch shore.

Sgurr na Stri
Hooking a right at the lochan

There is a longer, clearer path from the loch which is more straightforward, except the final part to the summit which is rocky and requires careful route-finding whichever way you approach it. If you get the boat, whatever route you take, you’ll have to cross the stepping stones and you’re going to get wet feet if the water’s high.

sgurr na stri view
View from Sgurr na Stri, including the Cuillin Ridge, Loch Coruisk and the sea crossing

dee sgurr na sgtriMe, very excited to be at the peak!

seals from the rig
Seals and shags from the rib on the way back to Elgol

Kit List

Greenland_Trousers_81200-630_grandeFjällräven Greenland Trousers – These trousers were perfect for the boggy, wet conditions because they have a water repellent wax coating and are quick drying.  The durable G1000 fabric with double knee reinforcements made them hard wearing enough for scrambling over the rocks.  The pockets have room for a map, compass, knife and everything else we needed on the trail. There’s even a pocket for an axe!

 

WBS15_83806_NVYBPatagonia Torrentshell Jacket – This shell is super waterproof for the changeable Skye weather, but still breathable and has pit-zips for extra ventilation. It cuts out the wind, which we appreciated at the exposed peak. It packs down into its own pocket so it fitted easily into our packs when we didn’t need it. The fabric is ripstop, so again, it was good for scrambling over rocks.

 

BerglerLady-Chestnut-1Hanwag Bergler Hiking Boots – This Alpine mountain boot was great on the rocky terrain on Skye, which is the closest we have to Alpine in the UK, and often used for Alpine training. The flexible Vibram sole makes them comfortable to walk in and the leather lining and tongue prevented rubbing. Our feet stayed dry, even going through the high water on the stepping stones (well mine did, Ian’s would’ve done if he didn’t always have to go for a paddle!)

 

See also:

Getting to, and around Skye

Campsites and Pubs on Skye

 


Campsites and Pubs on Skye

Campsites

Wild camping is allowed in Scotland under the Outdoor Access Code, but there are also some fantastically located and wild-feeling campsites on Skye, so we spent part of the time in campsites and part wild camping.  The campsites we stayed in were Glenbrittle and Sligachan.

poler stuff tent
Our Poler Stuff tent standing up to strong winds in Glenbrittle

Glenbrittle Campsite feels like a hidden, secret place. You drive down a long winding road until you eventually reach a stunningly beautiful sandy bay, overlooked by the imposing Black Cuillin mountain range. There is an excellent campsite shop/cafe serving their own coffee brand – Cuillin Coffee Co. – and the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. They also bake fresh bread and cakes daily and stock all the essentials too.

Glenbrittle Campsite
Our pitch overlooking the bay at Glenbrittle

Next to the historic Sligachan Hotel, in the heart of the Cuillin, Sligachan campsite is bleak and boggy and harsh and magnificent. When it all gets too much head over to Seumas Bar in the hotel and sup a local ale by the roaring fire.

sligachan-campsite
View of the Red Cuillin from our pitch at Sligachan Campsite

wild camp skye
View of Bla Bheinn (Blaven) from our wild camping spot on the last night in Skye

Pubs

Nothing beats a well earned pint after a hard day’s hiking and Skye doesn’t fail to deliver. Our favourites were the afore mentioned Seumas Bar and The Old Inn.

Seumas Bar is in the Sligachan Hotel, a few minutes walk from the Sligachan bunkhouse and campsite. It has friendly staff, live music, log fires, pub food and real ales, the majority of which are brewed on site at the Cuillin Brewery. And of course a great selection of Scottish whiskies.

The Old Inn is in Carbost, right on the shores of Loch Harport. It has a warm welcome, log fires, regular live music, homemade food and local ales. If you can’t stagger back to your tent you can always kip at their adjacent Waterfront Bunkhouse.

old inn skye
Live folk music at the Old Inn

See also:

Getting to, and around Skye

Hiking Sgurr na Stri in Skye

 


Over the Sea to Skye

After our visit to Glen Nevis in May last year, we’d been hankering after returning to the Highlands – be warned they are extremely addictive! This time we decided to head over the sea to Skye.

ferry-skye

May is the perfect time to visit the Highlands – the climate is temperate, the flowers are in bloom, and the hordes of midges (and tourists) have not yet descended.

cuillin from glenbrittle

I have so much to say about this mystical isle, I’ve split it into several posts:

Getting to, and around Skye

Campsites and Pubs on Skye

Hiking Sgurr na Stri in Skye

sguar-na-stri-ian
Ian on Sgurr na Sgri