Anyone who spends any time going out in the mountains in the UK and abroad, knows that the weather can be highly unpredictable in the big hills. What starts off as a beautiful sunny warm day in the valley can be anything but by the time you reach the top. Storms can roll in quickly, bringing rain, sleet, hail or snow, and dropping the temperature dramatically. Equally, even the effect of the wind higher up can make the sunniest days feel bitterly cold when exposed to it.
Have you thought too, about what would happen if you or one of your party had an accident and you needed to await rescue whilst up in a cold exposed place? You might feel like if you keep moving you can stay warm, but sometimes that's not an option.
As a climber, ski-tourer, mountain-biker and guide, I have always carried a spare "emergency" layer with me when I'm working or playing out on the hills, whatever the season. This is normally in the form of a lightweight, packable, synthetic insulated jacket. Something that weighs very little, can be shoved into my backpack, but is always there when i need it....and unsurprisingly, that's quite often!
I recently got hold of a Rab Cirrus Flex jacket to replace another older jacket which had lost some of it's warmth and was looking a bit battered after many years of service.
I've been a huge fan of Rab Equipment ever since I started to spend more time in the mountains whilst at University. My first "proper" bit of decent outdoor kit was a Rab Summit down jacket, bought with my student loan, which went with me on every outdoor adventure for many many years...from summer's spent in Chamonix climbing Alpine routes, to bikepacking trips in the Alps, winter bouldering in the Peak District, Scottish winter hill days, and even climbing Big Wall routes in Yosemite. I've since replaced it with another lighter version of the same jacket and I'm sure that will accompany me on just as many adventures.
The Cirrus Flex has been the perfect choice for that emergency layer I like to carry in the mountains with me. It's designed to be used as a lightweight outer or warm midlayer, and whilst not necessarily designed for mountain biking, the fleece side panelling and longer-cut back of the jacket means it feels breathable, and allows a huge freedom of movement and a good fit whilst riding. The synthetic insulation regulates temperature really well, so you don't feel like you overheat when moving, yet it is amazingly warm when you stop.
The outer fabric is light but tough and whilst not waterproof, it dries quickly, and remains warm even when you are soaked (tested last week on Helvellyn!). What's also really nice is that one of the pockets doubles as an integrated stuff sack so it packs away neatly when you’re not using it and want it to take up minimal space in a bag.
A lightweight synthetic insulated jacket features on every recommended kit list we send out to trip guests, and we often get questions asking if there are any we particularly recommend. There are so many to choose from these days, but our current favourite for year round use and long mountain days, which does the job we need it to brilliantly, is comfy, looks good and fits well, is definitely the Rab Cirrus Flex.
You can find out more about the jacket if you're interested here (mens and womens versions are available):