Rab and The North Face, one British and the other American, one founded in the ’80s and the other in the ’60s, are the two brands of today’s comparison.
Rab is regarded as a brand for climbers and has very positive reviews, while The North Face often has contrasting discussions on its products.
Despite that, one thing is for sure: both of these brands have made a name for themselves in the outdoor market and offer some great products.
So, who will win the title of the better brand? Let’s find out by going over these companies’ histories, materials, prices, and main products.
A Short History of the Brand
Rab‘s history dates back to 1981, when Rab Carrington, a Scottish climber, founded the brand in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, after his own name.
Rab Carrington, thanks to his love of nature, climbing, and adventure, rose to prominence among his peers as a renowned mountaineer.
In 1973, while stranded in Buenos Aires and without equipment due to a UK strike, he began to make his own with the assistance of a friend, Hector Vieytes, who taught him how to make quality sleeping bags. These abilities inspired Rab Carrington to establish Rab.
Rab official website
The company views itself as made “by climbers for climbers”, and has developed numerous products that have become icons among mountaineers and climbers over the years. In 2001, the brand formed a partnership with Polartec, the materials of which are still used in Rab gear today.
Rab has been owned by Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd since 2003, which has continued with the brand’s work philosophy, designing world-famous jackets such as the Microlight Alpine and many others, earning the brand the prestige of being one of Europe’s fastest-growing providers of specialist outdoor clothing.
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Materials and Manufacture
Every year, Rab makes significant efforts to transition to eco-friendly production methods, such as ethically sourcing materials and using PFC-free water-repellent treatments. This is also demonstrated by the use of recycled materials and the commitment to producing long-lasting products.
Waterproof outerwear is essential during the winter season, and Rab relies on a variety of fabric technologies to keep you dry regardless of the weather.
These technologies include Gore-Tex, which is widely regarded as the best waterproof fabric available, as well as Pertex Shield, Proflex, and Pertex Shield+. While they all have the same goal of protecting against the elements, their performance in terms of how well they breathe, how wind resistant they are, and so on, varies quite a bit.
Rab’s waterproof fabrics are available in three different constructions, 2, 2.5, and 3 layers, depending on their intended use.
In terms of breathability, the brand employs Hydrophilic and Microporous technologies, both of which function as moisture-wicking technologies. You can find more information on the brand’s website.
When it comes to insulation, Rab offers a wide selection of both natural down and synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags. The natural down is sourced responsibly, and the brand has also created a line of jackets with 100% recycled fabrics and down insulation.
While down is the best insulator available, it has some downsides, which is why synthetic insulation is so widely used. (Learn more: Down vs Synthetic Jacket: What’s the Difference? Which Insulation is Better?)
In the case of Rab, the company relies mainly on Stratus synthetic insulation along with Cirrus for its synthetic-insulated jackets. The sleeping bags are insulated with Pyrotec synthetic insulation, and PrimaLoft is usually used in Rab’s gloves.
Where are Rab products made?
Rab’s products are manufactured partially in the United Kingdom, where the brand is based, and the remainder in Asia, mainly in China.
Must read: Rab vs Arc’teryx: Which Brand is Better?
Now let’s see two popular products by Rab.
Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket
The Microlight Alpine is a lightweight winter jacket insulated with 700 fill-power hydrophobic down that provides warmth while also remaining water-resistant in wet conditions.
The shell is made of Pertex Quantum technology which helps the jacket withstand the elements while also providing breathability, making this design suitable for a wide range of activities, from mild to strenuous.
On the outside of this jacket, there are two hand pockets and a chest pocket, the former of which is also harness-compatible. The Microlight Alpine is available in both men’s and women’s sizes and is highly compressible for easy transport.
Rab Ascent Sleeping Bag Series
The Ascent series of sleeping bags uses 650 fill-power duck down for a good balance of durability, warmth, and size. The down is treated with hydrophobic Nikwax products to protect it against moisture. The fabrics are made of Pertex Quantum nylon which is recycled.
The Ascent collection includes different versions of sleeping bags suitable for various outdoor activities.
Rab is not a cheap brand, but it is also not one of the most expensive that we have come across.
The brand’s jackets start at around $60 (windbreakers and lighter styles) and can go up to $600 (down jackets and technical designs).
The sleeping bags cost around $300 to $700 depending on the design, while the rest of the gear and accessories vary considerably.
Is Rab’s outdoor gear worth the price?
While the answer depends on what you expect from a product, Rab is known for producing high-quality designs that are also long-lasting.
2. The North Face
A Short History of the Brand
The North Face official website
The North Face is a well-known American brand in the outdoor gear market. It is popular among many enthusiasts, with people remaining devoted to their products for a long time.
Since its inception in 1966, the brand has focused on producing technical mountain clothing and equipment. Hiking packs, tents, sleeping bags, skiwear, and other outerwear were among its first products.
The North Face became so popular in the 1990s that their clients were no longer limited to those looking for technical wear. Celebrities had begun to wear and use the brand’s products. In 1993, for example, the Steep Tech jacket appeared in a music video by a rapper.
The name of the brand is derived from “the north face” of a mountain in the northern hemisphere, which is regarded as the coldest and most challenging to climb.
Materials and Manufacture
The North Face combines several technologies into its products, one of which is the FUTURELIGHT membrane.
FUTURELIGHT provides jackets with a very thin nanomembrane that allows air to flow while keeping water out. Its waterproofing properties have been tested to withstand even the harshest outdoor conditions.
Another material used by The North Face is goose down. It incorporates thermal insulation into its products to provide customers with the comfort and warmth they require on long trips. What’s more, this type of insulation is very light, giving users freedom of movement for any challenging activity. (learn more: Duck Down vs Goose Down Jacket: A Useful Guide)
Many of The North Face’s products feature the famous Gore-Tex technology. This type of membrane adds waterproofing, windproofing, and breathability to the brand’s clothing. Gore-Tex is notable for allowing moisture to pass through while helping to keep water out.
Where are The North Face products made?
The North Face outdoor gear is mainly made in Asian countries, but the company also has collections made in the USA.
Here are two popular products that we’ve picked from The North Face: a jacket and a pair of hiking boots.
The North Face Women’s 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket
Check it out at thenorthface.com
An icon of the brand, the 1996 Retro Nuptse jacket is great for mountain activities but also for everyday life in the city. It features a water-repellent fabric, goose-down insulation, adjustable and stowable hood, and offers great comfort.
The North Face Men’s VECTIV Fastpack Insulated FUTURELIGHT Boots
Check it out at thenorthface.com
Great for cold-weather activities, these durable boots come packed with many features and technologies, including the FUTURELIGHT and VECTIV technologies, Surface Control rubber outsole, high-rebound EVA midsole, etc.
The North Face’s products are slightly more expensive than those of other brands. Many of their jackets, for example, cost more than $200 – $300. However, some products in the $50-$100 range are also available.
Is The North Face’s outdoor gear worth the price?
If you are a serious mountain hiker, skier, or adventurer, The North Face products are well worth the price. Their gear is designed to provide the comfort, functionality, and performance you expect.
If you’re looking for casual wear, however, it depends. Overall, you will be able to find one or two reasonably priced items from this brand, so we believe The North Face is worthwhile even in this case.
3. Which Brand is Better?
In our opinion, Rab has managed to maintain its “by climbers for climbers” feel among customers over the years. In fact, it can count on thousands of outdoor enthusiasts that have no less than stellar reviews about this company.
For example, check out this Reddit discussion where Rab jackets and sleeping bags are said to be of excellent quality.
On the other hand, The North Face has become more of a fashion brand in the last few years. This also has to do with its marketing efforts, its presence in music videos, etc. However, this is not to say that the brand doesn’t offer high-performance outdoor- and sports-wear. There are also many online discussions on The North Face being both a fashion and an outdoor brand.
In addition, Rab and The North Face both have countless innovative technologies in their products that are noteworthy.
So, to answer the question, we’d choose Rab for clothing and equipment to use in mountain activities and The North Face for casual clothes to wear in the city. But, in general, you can’t go wrong with either of these two companies if you choose their high-end items. And the final decision will depend on the specific piece of gear you’re looking for and on your specific situation.
We’ll end this comparison here but we’d also like to know your experience and thoughts on these brands. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
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