So one of my more random purchases this year was a RAB Cirrus jacket. Bought on a whim as a lightweight, drizzle jacket I expected to just use it once in a while, post run when the weather wasn't too bad in the summer. Bizarrely it's turning out to be one of my pieces of go to kit for winter!
So firstly, what is it? Well it's a superlight jacket made out of Pertex Quantum 15 - this is thin material more often seen on the outside of down/synthetic jackets and sleeping bags. It feels basically like a silk handkerchief if not thinner, you can all but see through it. Weighing in at 110g and squashing into it's own little stuff sack near as dammit the size of a balled up sock it feels pretty inconsequential.
So why's it so good? Well first up it's not fully waterproof but it seems DWR coated as light drizzle beads off, but the point is it's totally windproof, as in seemingly impervious!
You know when you look at the weather forecast and see temperatures a few degrees below zero and think, not so bad then look at the windchill passing doube digits below? It's days like these when I've found the Cirrus perfect. I run warm anyway, but with the windchill negated even I was surprised by how little I could get away with.
On Snæfellsjökull, Iceland the Mountain Forecast prediction stated -4C and -15C with windchill, whilst I didn't have a thermometer with me, that sounds about right but here I got away with a standard baselayer and the Cirrus on top to stomp my way to the top. Despite the snow coming down up there, it was cold enough to stay frozen and just fell off the jacket, the little that accumulated soon melted and evaporated from my body heat, never did it feel wet.
Back in the UK it's been with me on a very windy, snowy day in the Brecon Beacons - windchill here wasn't so bad, not quite double digits but certainly chilly and the wind was impressive, swirls of spin drift whipped across my face, my two companions wearing many more layers than me to keep warm - baselayers, fleeces and heavyweight shells - again I had only a baselayer underneath this superlightweight jacket and was perfectly warm.
There were only a few things that weren't great; one problem I found was in descent, once we passed down through the freezing layer and the snow turned to rain, it got soggier and soggier and the Cirrus did wet out. That said I knew well in advance when I should have put my more traditional waterproof shell on over the top, but being close to the car I didn't bother until it was saturated. The thing is once I swapped the Cirrus for my shell, it packs so small I just stuffed it in one of my Napolean pockets out the way and carried on - perfect.
The second problem was up top in the wind, I found I had to put the hood up because otherwise it flapped around and even filled up like a parachute, which soon got annoying. It wasn't until I got home and got my jacket out my pocket that I remembered a novel solution to this problem; RAB have included a clip on the back of the neck and inside the jacket - a clip so you can roll the hood up and clip it in place, alleviating the flapping problem.
All in all, I can't recommend it enough; until it gets A LOT colder my baselayer and Cirrus combo will be my go to winter kit, with my shell in the bag for any heavy precipitation, I can always layer up for a bit of warmth and when stopping I always throw my Generator Alpine on top to hold heat.