In the Phantom Pull-On, Rab has created a peculiar ultra-lightweight option in their Skyline (mountain, trailrunning) line.
The Phantom Pull-On is enticing in its low packed volume and light weight, which make it an item that can easily be brought along even when the weather is rather good, just in case.
It also looks only too thin and flimsy to really be good bad weather gear, and experiences with it are paradoxical.
First off, full disclosure: Rab sent me this item as a PR sample, i.e. for free, without any obligations or demands. My writing here is my own.
Specialization Enabling Wider Uses
For me, the Phantom Pull-On has been interesting as one of those pieces of gear which are highly specialized for a certain purpose, but work all the better for my approach to active living.
Gear I look for is made to enable movement in adverse conditions, but not necessarily look like it.
I like highly specialized stuff for doing outdoors exploration with the minimum of essential gear, but I like it all the better if I can use it together with my performance menswear while traveling.
The Rab Phantom Pull-on can be stuffed into a fist-sized stuff sack that comes with it.
The stuffsack alone has a loop and drawcord that are nicely made.
It’s not the way of carrying it I would most recommend, but I have simply used that stuff sacks’ drawcord to loop it onto a belt loop on my pants; it will of course bounce back and forth that way, but works to quickly bring it along.
The better way to carry it, of course, is to throw it into a bag or backpack or running vest.
It weighs only 90g, and it can compress even smaller than the size of the stuff sack. Meaning, it won’t be noticeable.
The only potential challenge, putting it in a backpack, is putting it in a space where it can be easily found again when needed; its small packed size makes it easily disappear.
How Does the Phantom Get so Light? The Material
The Phantom Pull-On has already shed a little weight from only having a half-length zipper rather than being a full jacket. There are also no pockets whatsoever on this dedicated piece of raingear.
The biggest weight reduction comes with the material. Like several such lightweight rain jackets, the Rab Phantom uses Pertex Shield, here in a 2.5L construction and with only 7D.
The material is a waterproof synthetic that consists of an outer fabric, the waterproof membrane, and only a coating to protect it.
Compared to a 3L (like Rab’s Flashpoint), where a woven or knitted inner fabric protects the membrane, a 2.5L like the Flashpoint is lighter and more packable, if a bit less durable.
2.5L Pertex Shield (vs. 3L)
Looking at the Flashpoint smock versus the Phantom Pull-on, two pieces of Rab’s rain gear that I have practical experience with, both pack small enough, but the difference is very noticeable, too.
The Phantom not only uses this 2.5L construction, the material is also thinner again – and it is a stretch material that gets employed here.
The effect is that the Phantom wears very comfortably, but it feels flimsy to the touch, almost as if it were made of cling film.
Why so Light?
It is an interesting choice that Rab has made here.
Their other rain jackets in the Skyline range are probably easier sells (and they sure get marketed more, from what I have been seeing). They sound to be more sturdy, more immediately recognizable as rain protection.
The Phantom is, in Rab’s own marketing copy, “the ultimate stash-and-forget waterproof shell for stripped back mountain runners” – and I’d say that this captures it quite well.
Specialization for the Just-In-Case
It is the rain gear that can be put into a backpack for going into the mountains for a fastpacking overnighter, even in worse conditions.
It also fits into a running vest/pack for a quick trail running outing or ultra race, to be brought just in case and/or as race regulations demand.
For my pursuits and predilections, this is also the right piece of rain gear to bring on a city trip that may include downpours.
Ever since I got drenched in a tropical summer storm (in a windproof, not waterproof rain jacket) in Hong Kong one time, and the next time couldn’t have gone out at all if I hadn’t had some waterproof-breathable gear with me, I have found such dual-usage capabilities a necessity.
How Does the Phantom Pull-On Wear?
The Phantom is highly specialized not only in the choice of material, but also of cut and further details. These also determine how it wears.
Cut and Sizing
The material is not only thin, it also has some stretch to it. With that, Rab went for a rather slim cut. This combination of features is quite peculiar in wear:
The Phantom, worn under a backpack, did not feel as if there were any extraneous material anywhere that tried to bunch up. It felt rather snug just worn over a running shirt.
At the same time, however, I have thrown the Phantom over when rain suddenly became stronger, without taking off my slender running vest – and except for some maneuvering necessary to slide it over the (back storage bits of the) vest, it fit right over that without issues, all the same.
The only particular problem I have noticed with the cut is that the (half) elasticated cuffs, which extend further over the back of the hand (which is also the half part that is not elasticated) are quite tight.
I like that in terms of protection; the “problem” is that it makes it a bit hard to get to a sports watch.
For seeing the display, if it doesn’t already shine through the thin material sufficiently (which does not, at least, seem impossible), it was necessary to pull the cuff back over the wrist, to above the watch.
Hem and Length
The hem is half-elasticated, too, by the way.
The jacket is long enough and the elastic (and overall cut) slim enough for that to work perfectly, for once.
Many jackets have a tendency to ride up; I have never noticed that with the Phantom Pull-On (as I’m noticing only now, while writing).
The hood is low-volume, elasticated, without any adjustment (except for the wire in the slender brim in front).
It can be rolled down as a sort of collar and fixed with a push-button strap affixed to the inside of the Phantom and a loop at its upper back.
Protection and Performance
The hood, to continue right here, is not one for complete protection in a rain storm with winds blowing the raindrops horizontally… it does, however, protect nicely from rain and wind.
Without tabs and elastics to cinch it tight, I kept expecting the hood to be blown off my head, but at worst, it captures a bit of wind and starts blowing out and rattling a little from that.
When that happens, it has more of a nice cooling effect than anything adverse, though.
With or without the hood up, the jacket zips up nicely high; with the hood, not much of one’s face is exposed.
Of course, it is still good to wear sports (sun)glasses to keep rain from being blown into ones eyes.
Finally in the Cold
Having moved into winter, I finally also made it to cold conditions with the Phantom.
Of course, it is not made to be a winter jacket. For fast pursuits in the snow, for which a medium-weight top alone is otherwise sufficient, I would not hesitate to use it, anyways.
In fact, cold temperatures lead to less sweating, making the combination of a long-sleeved thin running top and the Phantom Pull-on warm and protective enough and only increasing the breathability and comfort.
(I have used the light 3L Flashpoint smock in such conditions, as well. and it was no issue. For stops, one needs something warmer, insulating!)
In Warm-Weather Rain
Most of the time so far, I have been out with the Phantom Pull-On in spring and summer downpours and drizzle, during cool to warm temperatures, and in high-aerobic pursuits.
In these conditions, such rain gear always becomes a bit hard to judge.
The Phantom does have one problem here: It feels so flimsy, so thin – and the stretch only adds to that – it makes it hard to believe that this is an outright piece of “all-day protection” (to quote from Rab’s marketing again).
Where’s the DWR? Did it Wet Out?
With any effect of DWR strangely absent from my Phantom (not sure what was the reason for this; this is the one true criticism of it I’d have, even given how fast DWR always disappears with washing), running in warm conditions saw the breathability unable to keep up with my sweating.
In the end, especially at the arms, I was rather wet.
This makes such clothing appear to wet through, particularly when the fabric looks all wet (without the effect of DWR).
In short sleeves, the material also feels cool-wet when it is directly on skin.
I had to give it a few tries, get myself outside to stand in downpours without sweating, run in different conditions, to determine that it was as I thought: It all easily feels like it’s wetting through, it looks like it may be when looking at the fabric… but when looking at something worn underneath, it’s clear that it does little, if any, of that.
Technology and Technique in Running Rain Gear
This is a point where – in a twist that I rather enjoy, always – the limits of a technology run into our own need for proper technique.
That is to say: A piece of rain protection like the Phantom Pull-On (like any piece of high-tech) does not do what it promises always and anywhere. It also has to be used right.
The breathability of a material as used here is of the highest, but in high-aerobic activities such as running, there is still more buildup of sweat than it can manage.
When temperatures inside and out are rather similar, i.e. running in warm conditions, this problem compounds.
In such conditions, however, it does not really make sense to even don a rain jacket. I did that to try its limits, but it should really only come out when conditions demand it.
Running in a thunderstorm through a cold night – that’s the place for such gear. I had that years ago on a 100-mile race, and without a similar jacket, I would have been one of those people who gave up right the next morning, soaked through.
On hikes across the Sarstein, for example, as temperatures (and/or my own body temperature) dropped when there was some rain and as the day was waning, I donned the Phantom.
I was not sweating too much, and with just a short-sleeve summer top underneath, I was comfortable.
On fall/winter runs and fast hikes, it was even more comfortable to quickly pull over the Phantom whenever the wind got too cold for a running top alone.
Winter precipitation was no problem, either.
The right use(s) of a piece of gear, the technique of knowing when and how to use a given piece of gear – and in the first place, knowing what conditions you will encounter and what gear you will want to use for those – is all still at least as important as the properties of said gear.
The Rab Phantom Pull-On is so specialized that it is not immediately apparent (unless you only look at weight and packability) that it will perform well.
It will not easily sell itself to anyone – and that’s just right, because it certainly is not a jacket for everyone.
For me, for my uses, the Rab Phantom Pull-On has so far proved just right.
There’s no hesitant “Shall I bring a rain jacket?” with it, it just comes with. Even with the danger of it not completely protecting me in an extreme downpour, I have never regretted having it with me.
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