I’d like to note first and foremost, that the Rab Baltoro Guide Pro review is impartial and off my own back, I have not received the goods from Rab and they were purchased with my own hard earned cash.
I aim to do more and more reviews over the coming months of various products aimed more at the landscape photographer. Often when researching outdoor gear a lot of it is aimed for walking/climbing and reviews always reflect this. I want to highlight products that are designed for the former two activities but have a place for photography. I will also endeavour to review some camera equipment as time goes on, though this will mainly be my own I imagine! The reviews will always be as simple as possible, in laymans terms with as little technical information as possible.
I must also note, first and foremost that this Rab item is out of the factory shop and therefore may not be up to shop standard.
First off a little blurb from Rab about the Baltoro Guide Pro jacket:
The Baltoro Guide jacket made from a winter weight Powershield fabric provides a durable weather resistant and highly breathable soft shell for year round mountain use. The Baltoro Guide provides superior comfort and flexibility to a traditional hard shell during cold weather mountain activities, and excels for mountain walking, winter and ice climbing. Although not fully waterproof the outer face is highly water repellent and highly breathable so that you remain more comfortable through a range of conditions.
- Polartec® Power Shield ® Fabric – Weight: 760g
- Contrast Paneling, Weather resistant and highly breathable
- Helmet compatible hood with wired peak and roll down tab, Laminated velcro® cuff tabs Adjustable waist and hem drawcords
So thats the technical things out the way. So the first thing really is why did I buy it? Well I was after a windproof jacket to replace my fleece, that was weather proof and allowed me to stand around without layering up at times and to work as a good all round jacket while still looking quite stylish. I bought a plain black one for this reason.
With a soft shell you are meant to buy I am advised a close fit but not as close fitting as you would buy a waterproof. Therefore I opted for XL over my usual XXL fitting for fleeces/jumpers. The fit is really good and more notably it just feels comfortable. The outer material is stretchy, feels tough and of high quality. Inside, the majority of the jacket is lined with a thick pile fleece including the hood. The fleece is soft to the touch making it even more comfortable when on. There is a large hood with a wire peak, designed mainly for climbers with a helmet. For photography this to me is still useful as there is a lot of freedom to move your head left to right assessing a scene without having to take the hood down.
I just want to highlight now about durability, so far the jacket has proved strong but I also own a pair of the Baltoro Alpine trousers made of the same material (I think) and while in Wales, while sat down on some limestone rock when I got up I had gained a small hole them. Now, I have to admit the rock was a little sharp in places but it wasn’t sharp enough to be uncomfortable to sit on, so I was slightly disappointed here and leaves me to question how long my jacket will last. This is meant to be a material that is suited to climbers, at home on the rock.
Something that always matters to me with any product I wear on my top half is the breathability, I run very hot. I may be stood around for hours at spot B needing to keep warm but getting from spot A to spot B I need to keep cool, especially with a heavy load being carried as well. In truth, I didn’t expect the jacket to perform here, I thought it was a thick softshell with no room to let the sweat and heat escape. Put it this way, I still run hot and feel sweaty with the ultra breathable eVent material. However, I was quickly proven wrong the first day I wore it in anger going up the Band in the Lake District to Three Tarns. I felt cool at all times and the heat was quickly escaping and has continued to do so at all times. The only thing I would say is that sweat does tend to hang in the fleece and that stays damp, but once dried oddly doesn’t leave a smell – I can only assume it works like merino wool.
So that’s the on the move stuff, what about where it matters most? Keeping you warm when stood in one spot? Well again, it does a great job. It’s been with me through snow, hail, wind, sun and rain. The draw cords on the waist area and hooded area do a good job of keeping any drafts entering – though I do find you have to really ensure you have a close fit because if not a draft will quite easily get up and into the jacket and dispel any feeling of warmth you may already have had. The fabric is also highly windproof thanks to the Polartec Powershield, there’s not much else I can say on that fact. Water resistance is pretty good, it’s not fully waterproof but will see you through passing showers. If it’s looking slightly iffy now days I generally know I can rely on the jacket to keep me dry and I don’t carry a full waterproof unless I’m hours away from the car. It’s also a pretty warm jacket, because its wind proof and fleece lined you tend to feel the elements a lot less. I’ve been out in heavy snow with no other gear on and been fine, though I probably wouldn’t advise wearing it on it’s own at less than 2 degrees celcius. This also depends on your tolerance to the cold.
The styling of the jacket as well is also very good and smart, so smart in fact I actually wear mine from day to day as it doesn’t look like an outdoors item. It’s that discreet. It’s also that comfy making wearing it day to day a doddle, it just slips on without any faff and does the job.
Unfortunately, the last time I checked there was no wash guide for this material on the Rab site and as such I have just put through the normal wash. This doesn’t seem to affect it in any way so far and has maintained its water resistance.
I’ve owned the jacket since December and haven’t had chance to see whether or not it’s going to be too warm for summer use. However, as in recent weeks the temperatures have rose to 20 degrees that it’s still been very suitable and when I get too warm I’ve been quite comfortable not wearing it and just a base layer as the air temperature is hot enough anyway.
The only thing which I have left until last is the price, it is £180.00 RRP and the cheapest I can find it is £168.99 from GoOutdoors. This is a large sum of money for a jacket in anyone’s book, especially if you are replacing a fleece. On the one hand, this is a tough winter jacket that may see you through year round use that can be used as an every day jacket too. Also as a waterproof shell from Rab will cost you around £200 it’s kind of in line with that price point. On the other hand, it’s twice as much as most soft shells on the market from makers such as Berghaus and North Face, though this is the Rab way.
- Comfy and a good fit.
- Highly water resistant.
- Usable every day even when not in the field.
- Keeps you warm when stood still.
- Questions over durability when used in some terrain faced as a landscape photographer.
If you are a landscape photographer, who stands about a lot but often has to do a long walk from the car to get on location that wants a comfy well fitting jacket that breathes easy and is waterproof enough to withstand a light shower then this is the jacket for you. I absolutely love mine and wouldn’t be without it. I know my first review sounds too positive to be impartial, but I chose to review this item as my favourite item of clothing currently, so that’s why. The only thing I have to ask myself though is would I pay £168.99 for this jacket? That is a very tough question, it is a lot of money considering you still need a waterproof layer on top just in case. I’m very lucky and got mine from the outlet and a reduced price and didn’t mind paying what I did but if I didn’t own one I honestly wouldn’t spend the asking price on one. In hindsight though, if I knew what I did about the jacket before owning one I may perhaps purchase one and a lower priced waterproof shell for those “just in case” moments.