Saturday 12 April 2014

Rab Boreas Pull On - Goldilocks Gear

A very lightweight, stretchy, highly breathable softshell sounds too good?

On my recent trip around Kinder I decided to try out the Rab Boreas Pull On.

I wore it over my L/S merino top and under my Dri-Clime Vest.

On one day the rain/sleet/hail was horizontal and I wore my PHD Alpamayo Smock over all three other layers. The wind chill was significant! I remained warm and comfortable with no water ingress and no sweating up inside.

When it stopped raining etc, the wind remained very strong. With the base/Boreas/vest set up I was warm and comfortable, with no overheating.

It remained very windy on this trip.

When it was less windy I kept the same set up on.

When the sun shone, briefly, I kept the same set up on.

I kept the same set up on all day every day and remained comfortable.

On one night I slept in the Boreas and was comfortable.

You can read the technical blurb on Rab's site.

Goldilocks test

I found the Boreas met a missing requirement - I wanted a very breathable top which was able to keep my comfortable in cold high winds, or, in warmer conditions; with a L/S base layer and my Dri-Clime Vest.

With the PHD windshirt, or with a Montane Litespeed, I wore the base and vest underneath.

With the Boreas, I wore it over the base and under the vest.

The Driclime Vest cut out any wind from my body and the Boreas did not let the wind become an issue - my arms stayed just fine. I could also put my hands in the vest pockets with my pack on; something I couldn't do wearing a normal windshirt.

There were combinations of layering which I didn't even try. But the scope for varying the options with the Boreas was, for me, much better than the options available with a windshirt.

The fit

The body of the Boreas is long. I'm 6'2" and it was plenty long (L). The arms are made for a gorilla. They are very, very long. No problems with cold wrists.

The fit is close, the fabric is slightly stretchy, and, I could pull the arms up at a squeeze, but I found that they didn't really suit being pulled up. Just a little too tight.

The hood covered my head easily, but I found it flapped around a lot in high winds and fell over my eyes to become a bit of a pain. It did cut out the wind, but would really need to be worn with a peaked cap to prevent it flapping into my eyes.


I don't like the classic base, fleece, windshirt, waterproof set up.
For me this combination can be just a little too warm. 

I do like the base, Driclime Vest and windshirt, waterproof set up.
The Driclime vest has not insulation on the back section and light microfibre to the front and sides and is a great piece of kit.

I've now found, for me, an even better set up:

L/S Merino base + Boreas + Driclime Vest + Waterproof.

This combination kept me warm and comfortable in all the conditions on this trip and I'll wear this set up for future trips.

The Boreas was just right in high winds/cold, not so cold, and warmer conditions and I never felt like I was too cold or too hot. It met the Goldilocks test and I would rate it highly.

Mine's beluga (a dark blue-ish).

Update: 28 April 2014

Following on from the comments below,  here's Alan's Blog - pt3 - on the clothing he'll be taking.

I don't, ever, comment on any gear that I haven't bought. I have refused to receive gear for testing and will always do so.


  1. Used one for a few years now. I kinda like it, but at times don't take it. For me on wet days a base/fleece/shell works. The Boreas is good for shoulder season maybe. I don't know. I just cannot be bothered to find out. Used, ok and not bothered with it. Wind proof top offers more, weight is less and thats my take.

  2. Its a funny old thing this top. I have one and my thoughts are same as Martins. I keep trying it but it ends up back in the wardrobe. I just cannot use it long term and its a real shame. I wish I could.

  3. Gear preferences are strange. I never could feel comfortable with a fleece, preferring a Driclime vest for backpacking trips.
    I love fleeces for casual wear.
    What worked so well for me was having the Boreas, which breaths more than a normal windshirt, effectively replacing a fleece, but being virtually windproof. With the Driclime vest as well, I had total wind block to my body and some light insulation too.
    I was surprised to find that I did not need to change what I wore over the trip. A normal windshirt would be on and off. That's what made it for me.

  4. A good point Gordon on the off/on nature of wind shirts. It's part of a integrated system your using, so works. I might revisit mine. Has to be a layer system and weight effective mind you.

  5. I would like to give it a go with a Driclime vest and see what difference it makes. It sounds plausible. With a Rohan ultra silver long sleeve base layer it could be ideal.

  6. I have also been using a Boreas for a while, and found it very good in most situations especially as a mosquito barrier in Lapland. What struck me about your review was the the Dri Clime vest over the Boreas, as soon as I read that, I thought that makes sense. I have always felt that a vest is an important part of the clothing system and often carry a vest for warmth. But I had not considered a vest in the way you used it. I am now wondering what options are readily available that are the same as the Dri Clime. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Nielsen,
      I hope you manage to find either the Driclime Vest or equivalent (ish)
      Any more insulation and I find I get too hot. That's why I prefer the Vest to a fleece.
      As I said earlier, it was the comfort of not having to put on/take off layers that worked so well for me. This was a surprise. The base has a long zip (Arc'teryx) as does the Boreas and the Driclime zips down completely. If it got warm, down came the zips. No sweat.

  7. Hi Gordon,
    I managed to find a Dri-clime vest and so i splashed out. I like the fact that the back isn’t insulated so my back should stay relatively dry. I was going to take my Uniqlo vest on the chally but now i will leave that at home and take this instead. Still need to try it with the Boreas though. I hope it works for me.

    1. Hi Alan,
      Pleased you found the Driclime Vest.
      It is piece of kit that gets little mention, but it's been one of my favourites for a long time.
      I just hope you, and Nielsen, find the combination with the Boreas works.
      It worked for me, so fingers crossed it does for you too.

    2. It turned up today and i must admit that i like it. I will be trying out the set up this weekend, Rohan Ultra Silver L/S base with Boreas mid and Dri-clime top. I will let you know what i think on Tuesday. Fingers crossed.