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Rab Kinetic Ultra, Phantom Jacket and Phantom Pants Review

© UKC Gear

Earlier this year Rab significantly updated their Skyline Range for runners, and introduced two new waterproof jackets into the collection, the Kinetic Ultra and the Phantom. These two jackets couldn't be more different if they tried, but compliment each other as a result of this, with one being designed with all-day comfort in mind and the other being more of a 'just in case' layer, coming in well under 100g. Here I'll delve into both, alongside the Phantom Jacket's partner, the Phantom Pants.

Rab Kinetic Ultra - £180

Back in 2019 I reviewed the original Kinetic Alpine Jacket. It was (if I recall correctly) the first jacket to feature Rab's proprietary Proflex waterproof membrane (or if not, it was the first I used) and despite being designed with the Alps in mind it was a fantastic all-rounder, hitting a sweet spot in terms of its comfort and breathability. In fact, it was largely as a result of its breathability that it became my go-to running jacket throughout the winter, despite this not being what it was specifically designed for. As a result of this experience I was hugely excited to hear about the release of a running-specialised version, the Kinetic Ultra. It's been runner-ised quite significantly, with a slim fit and minimalist design, which is ideal for those marginal days where you're not sure whether you want to carry a windproof or a waterproof. 

In Use

The Kinetic Ultra is definitely a specialist running jacket, stripped back in terms of both the features and the fit. As a result it is going to be of most interest and relevance to runners. If you're a walker, climber or mountaineer you'd be much better off looking at either the Kinetic or the Kinetic Alpine, because their features, fit and fabrics would be much better suited to your needs.

In use, the main draw of the Kinetic Ultra is its breathability, which is truly exceptional. Creating a jacket that you can actually run in - and not get soaked from the inside out - is a challenge, because the levels of energy (and sweat) you're likely exerting will be difficult for any jacket to keep up with; however, the Kinetic Ultra and its Proflex membrane do a remarkable job in doing so. Were there to be a drawback it's that whilst it is light, it's not the lightest, and neither does it have the smallest pack size. Ordinarily these would be big issues, but thanks to its breathability the Kinetic Ultra is a jacket that's designed to be worn more than carried. On marginal days I've often found myself replacing my windproof for this, knowing that no matter what the weather did, and whether or not it rained, I was covered (plus I then saved weight, as I didn't have to double up on a windproof and a waterproof). The fact that it's soft, stretchy and silent further aids this decision making process, as it's a lovely jacket to wear compared to more crinky waterproofs out there.

Starting out on the Kinder Dozen, wearing the Kinetic Ultra  © UKC Gear
Starting out on the Kinder Dozen, wearing the Kinetic Ultra
© UKC Gear

Several hours later, still wearing the Kinetic Ultra  © UKC Gear
Several hours later, still wearing the Kinetic Ultra
© UKC Gear

The caveat in terms of its performance is that where there is greater breathability there is, more often than not, a compromise made in the jacket's waterproof capabilities. With a relatively low hydrostatic head of 10,000mm, the Kinetic Ultra is no exception, something that will likely be an issue if you're out for extended periods on particularly wet days. This is definitely something you can help mitigate by keeping the jacket regularly washed and proofed, but it's also something worth being aware of prior to buying it, as it'll definitely benefit from some TLC.

Fit

The fit of the Kinetic Ultra is athletic and slim, so that there isn't any excess material flapping around whilst you're running. I've found it offers good freedom of movement around the arms and shoulders, partly due to the cut and partly due to the stretch in the materials. There's a single adjustment point around the hem, which can be cinched up in bad weather, but is best when left loose in more mild conditions, as it aids ventilation.

Were there to be an area to improve it would be the cuffs, which are close to being perfect, but could do with being just a bit tighter, because in their present (slightly loose) state they're prone to letting water in. The arms themselves are of a good length, but not long enough to use as makeshift gloves over your hands (which can be useful in extremis), so a little longer would have been great - although perhaps I'm slightly biased, as I've got quite long arms.

Finally, the hood - much like the rest of the jacket - has a nice, snug fit. There's a single strap on the back which allows you to adjust volume, which is useful in high winds and really bad weather, when you really want to lock the elements out.

Weight

At 277g the Kinetic Ultra is light, but not super light, although it's worth putting my previous analogy into context, because due to its breathability it can double up as both a windproof and a waterproof on more marginal days - hence save you from having to carry both.

Features

One of my favourite features on the Kinetic Ultra is the peak on the hood. Whilst it does rely on the rain coming downwards, as opposed to sideways, it's a small luxury that works well at keeping the rain out of your eyes when running.

One of my most unused features is the arm pocket, simply because it feels like the least logical place to store something. Most of my shorts and tights have a pocket for keys and gels on the back and that seems like a much better place to put essentials and failing that, if I'm doing something longer I'll be wearing either a vest or a bumbag. As a result, this feature feels a little unecessary to me - plus it makes the arm feel that bit stiffer because of the water resistant zip. 

Summary

I loved using my old Kinetic Alpine for running, but now I've got the Kinetic Ultra it's not going to get a look-in. The fit is that bit better suited towards running, with fewer features and a more slimline cut that prevents excess material from flapping around. The fact it retains that same brilliant breathability is what makes it such a great jacket to wear all day, which is an unusual thing to say about a waterproof jacket whilst running, because usually you want to remove them the moment it stops raining! Though the Ultra verison is a bit specialised for your average hillwalker or mountaineer, we do think it'd work well for a particular breed of weight-conscious backpacker. 

Rab Phantom Jacket and Pants - £160 and £110

Whereas the Kinetic Ultra is designed to be worn, the Phantom Jacket and Pants are likely to be worn a whole lot less, with the vast majority of their 'use' being in the bottom of your pack. Their combined weight of 165g is pretty remarkable, as is their minimalist packsize, making them an ideal choice for either those days where you want a backup (just in case it does turn out to rain) or in races where you need to carry FRA mandatory kit. That said, it'd be pointless carrying them if - when it does rain - they didn't work, which they thankfully do; however, due to their extremely light weight they're going to be something you want to be very careful whilst wearing, because their 7 denier fabric isn't something that's made to last - it's made to be light!

In Use

Whilst the Phantom Jacket and Pants are indeed waterproof, they're not the first shells I'd reach for if it's raining. This isn't to say that they're not waterproof, because they are, it's just that due to a blend of other factors - namely the fact they're not quite as breathable, plus that because of how light and thin they are they don't feel like they offer quite as much protection - I'll tend to favour taking something like the Kinetic Ultra or Montane Spine Jacket if it is actually pouring down.

Where the Phantom Jacket and Pants come into their own is on those days where showers are forecast (or maybe aren't) and you want something with you just in case, because due to their weight they are something you can pack and forget about until you need them. When you do, they provide a good level of waterproofing and a respectable level of breathability, but thanks to their paper thin nature aren't something that's going to keep you warm. In fact, due to just how thin the jacket is you can feel exceptionally cold if you're only wearing a t-shirt or vest underneath, as you can literally feel the drops of rain on your skin (which is quite surreal). This is something to be aware of, especially when it's cold, as you'll defintely want a spare layer underneath, which isn't something you'd necessarily need with a more substantial jacket.

On the note of substance, due to the Phantom Jacket and Pants' lack of it, they're not going to last as long as something heavier - particularly if you're giving them regular use on rough terrain. It cannot be overstated just how thin a 7 denier outer fabric really is and whilst it may provide protection from the wind and rain, it doesn't from rocks and rough terrain. Whilst I haven't personally had any problems, this largely comes down to the fact that I am extremely selective about when I use them, as they tend to be reserved for 'just in case', rather than frequent use. If you're using them a lot, they simply won't last, and if you're after something as your sole waterproof I would highly recommend looking elsewhere.

Fit

The Jacket has a slim fit, much like the Kinetic Ultra, which is good, but does mean it requires a bit of wrangling to get on due to it being a pull-on - especially when wet. Once on I've found it has fantastic freedom of movement and potentially has an even better cut than the Kinetic Ultra.

The Pants have a little larger cut, with articulated knees and a bit of stretch. As a result of these three factors they're surprisingly good to run in, although much like the jacket, I'd only want to in an actual emergency.

Weight

To recap, the Phantom Jacket comes in at 86g, the Pants 79g, and a combined weight of 165g. We've already talked about the pros and cons of this earlier so I won't repeat myself here, other than to say 'yes, they're light, but that comes at a cost in terms of durability'. Be aware of this when you're thinking about buying them.

Features

Perhaps unsurprisingly there aren't many features on either the Jacket or the Pants.

The Jacket features elastication around both the hem and the cuffs, both of which provide a good seal (the cuff seal is significantly better on the Phantom Jacket than it is on the Kinetic Ultra). The hood is pretty snug, with good protection around the sides, and a thiny wired peak on the top. The latter is probably something of a luxury, but a wortwhile one just to give the hood some substance, because without it'd likely whip around in the wind. The zip goes down halfway, which makes it easy to vent, although when it's not raining you're realistically going to want to take it off. When you do, there's a neat little stuffsack to put it into.

The Pants feature a partly elasticated waistband, with a toggle to top up according to fit. They feature a zip around the ankle which helps to get them on, but I have been seriously hesitant about stuffing my feet into them with shoes on, mostly because of their extremely thin nature. Maybe you could, but personally I wouldn't recommend it, just in case they did rip. They also feature a in-built stuffsack, which makes them really quick and convenient to pack away.

Summary

The Phantom Jacket and Pants are supremely light and packable, making them ideal as 'just in case' layers on a showery day. This is defintiely what they were designed for, and is what they should be used for, becuase if you're using them more frequently they will be extremely susceptible to wear and tear. If you're careful with them, and use them sparingly, they'll last a whole lot longer and provide protection when you most need it, but be aware of how cold they can feel, because due to their extremely thin nature they don't provide as much protection as a more substantial waterproof jacket. Specialist items then, but in their super-ultralight niche they're hard to fault.


For more information Rab


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1 Nov, 2022

semantics, but i am reasonably sure the Kinetic came out before the kinetic alpine, because when i bought it i remember thinking "this is very nearly the perfect alpine shell, just with 1 or 2 tweeks..." and low and behold, a year later they bring out the alpine, with some of those tweaks!

also, i would assume the arm pocket in the ultra is for ski lift passes, for those who run lift to lift in the alps.

1 Nov, 2022

Is the ultra more breathable than the original kinetic or is the fabric still the same? My kinetic is getting a bit tatty now after some years so the ultra sounds good but ideally it would need to be more breathable for fell running use

Having just checked (something I should probably have done prior to publishing the review) I think the first was the Kinetic Plus, which we reviewed back in 2017. The Kinetic Alpine came out a couple of years later in 2019.

Whilst I agree that's what the arm pocket could be used for, it'd be a pretty niche addition, as I suspect that the number of people doing this is a minority within a minority and even then - it's not like they wouldn't have other places to put their pass.

I didn't use the original Kinetic Plus, so can't comment on that, but it's the same fabric/membrane as the first generation Kinetic Alpine. The only difference is that there are vents at the back, which will add to its breathability.

Hope that's of help!

2 Nov, 2022

ah yes, 'kinetic plus' is what i have!


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