Feb 27, 2011

The Women’s Latok Jacket

The Women’s Latok Jacket is the female equivalent of Rab’s Latok II. New in 2010, it’s one of the few women’s waterproof jackets designed for really high end mountaineering use. That means Alpine winter and mountain expeditions so it should be very tough, very breathable, and very functional.

So, is it? The Latok passes breathablity tests with flying colors. It’s made from eVent, which is about as breathable a material as you can get while maintaining full waterproofing, in a 3 layer construction. There are midweight panels under the arms and along the sides and heavyweight panels where greater durability and abrasion resistance is called for.

The lighter women’s Latok Alpine jacket is all midweight- the full Latok is tougher and will stand up to scrambling and axe/ice screw related mishaps better. It’s heavier by 150g or so and the fabric feels much more rigid to wear but not uncomfortably so. The hood is wired and helmet compatible. We found that the stiffness of the material makes it fairly easy to fold the hood away neatly, too.

Much to my relief, the fit is generous enough for climbing women. Rab, like many outdoor brands, sometimes assume all their female customers have skinny arms and no shoulder muscles, but this jacket allows plenty of room under the arms and I have no problem moving comfortably and hefting axes in my usual size. The dropped tail is long enough to keep cold wind off you bum but the whole jacket sits in the right place with a harness.

The one aspect of the Women’s Latok Jacket I’m still sceptical about is the zips. These are water-resistant, not waterproof, and there is no covering storm flap (although there is one behind on the main zip). On a jacket designed to stand up to the worst weather the mountains can throw this seems like a let-down. Competitors like the Marmot Women’s Spire Jacket and Mountain Equipment Ama Dablam Jacket both have external storm flaps over the front zip.

So far I’ve worn this jacket half a dozen times for activities ranging from pure waterfall ice climbing to foul weather hill walking and it has performed well. The zips haven’t let water in yet, although time will tell on that score. The Latok II for men has been out and about for a few years now and if the uncovered zips were a problem they probably would have fixed it by now, so maybe I should put my trust in Rab.

This year it comes in two colours, both fairly girly. I opted for the violet (in reality, so purple it very nearly hurts) over the turquoise for mountain visibility reasons and, in all honesty, because it’s just that purple. Compared to the popular Drillium, Latok Alpine, and Vidda women’s waterproofs it’s relatively hard to find in stores, but that’s not surprising in a jacket designed for fairly extreme use. If you can’t find one to try on in an outdoor shop near you, try on the women’s Drillium or the women’s Latok Alpine to find the right size and then order online. The Vidda seems to be a different cut, so your size in that one may not be the best guide.

If you’re a woman looking for the very best waterproof mountain jacket available, the women’s Latok is certainly something to consider but I would try the Marmot Spire as well. It’s a slightly different cut, so pick whichever fits best and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

Jess Spate is a South Wales climber and also editor of Outdoor Equipment Online, a UK price comparison site with a large range of waterproof jackets and outdoor clothing. She also acts as a green business consultant for selling indoor fountains and other home improvement products.

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