RAB Boreas Pull-On Review
The RAB Boreas Pull On has become one of my favourite pieces of kit and something I will often reach for by default when heading for the hills…
If you’re au fait with Greek Gods you’ll be thinking this is all about protection from the wind, however the RAB Boreas Pull-On would perhaps been more aptly name Helios, as its main feature and selling point is actually protection from the sun.
You’d also be forgiven for thinking this is just another baselayer, however the Boreas really does offer a great deal for surprising very little in terms of cost.
Constructed form RAB’s Matrix fabric, it’s a very lightweight stretchy pull-on top which is designed to keep you protected from the Sun whilst climbing or hiking at higher altitudes where there’s little shade. To be fair it does do more than just keep the sun’s rays off your back, providing relatively good wind resistance and insulation whilst maintaining good levels of breathability.
Not only this, it also has (2013 onwards) an antibacterial treatment which is ideal if you’re out in the wilderness for prolonged periods of time. Basically it won’t smell like a used sock at the end of the day and is ready to go again the following morning. Great if you’re sharing a tent!
Whether RAB realise it or not, they’ve actually produced yet another hugely flexible item of clothing which can survive and thrive in all manner of conditions. Add to this the Flatlock seems, helmet compatible hood, ¾ main zip and Napoleon chest pocket, all in a lightweight package and it’s hard to see why everyone doesn’t have one of these in their kit bag.
- Matrix SWS fabric
- Polygiene® STAY FRESH odour control treatment
- Under-helmet hood
- Deep venting YKK chest zip
- 1 YKK zipped chest stash pocket
- Flatlock low bulk stretch seams
- Open cuffs
- Fit: Slim
- Warp: 75d + 40d
- Weft: 75d + 40d
- DWR/Spray: 80/20
- HH: n/a
- Air Perm: 8-10CFM
- Weight: 131g/m²
- Composition: 86% polyester, 14% spandex
- 50+ UPF
The Matrix SWS fabric from RAB is lightweight, stretchy, promotes comfort and ease of movement. It is also very breathable, naturally wicking, fast drying and repels light rain. Added to this its ability to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays and you have a formidable piece of kit. Under exertion you don’t feel sweaty or clammy which is great for a product at its price point.
Summary of benefits…
- Excellent protection from the sun’s rays
- Extremely breathable, fast wicking and quick drying
- Good wind and weather resistant
- Reasonably durable and abrasion resistant
- Comfortable, lightweight and packable
I have to confess, embarrassingly, that I wasn’t very enamored with Boreas top when I first got my hands on it. It felt flimsy and gives the impression of being somewhat plastic to the touch. Not the most auspicious start!
The problem is partly my own, in that I possess so many baselayers, or what you’d categorise as baselayer tops, there was initially nothing about the Boreas that stood out from the crowd, with the exception of the hood. I therefore foolishly assumed it wouldn’t deliver anything over and above the ones I already possessed. In fact I was rather sceptical about the hood itself, especially as it’s not elasticated or offered any adjustment whatsoever. The Flatlock seems are a nice addition, however many other manufacturers offer a similar construction, so this wasn’t a big differentiator.
As my mother always told me when I was growing up, and to this day, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The Boreas Pull-Over has been somewhat of a revelation for me, not just in terms of its technical capabilities, but again RAB’s ability to deliver a product that is so versatile you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.
It has numerous applications beyond its designated pigeon hole. “What are those?” I hear you cooing; well read on.
As I’ve already eluded I do own quite a number of baselayers, both short and long-sleeved, crew necked, high-necked with a ¾ zip, Polo style – the list goes on! – all in various fabrics and weights. Now, let me be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the ones I do own, however they all share one common trait, their sphere of application is somewhat limited. The Boreas stands out from the crowd due it ability to work effectively in many different situations. It can indeed be used as a baselayer or form part of a layering system in colder weather, as well work very efficiently as a standalone top when hiking or climbing. Now I choose a slightly looser fit which for me works better as I can easily roll the sleeves up if I’m feeling warm, in addition to using the main front ¾ zip to cool down. I’m sure even with a more fitted top, thanks to the elasticity of the Matrix fabric, you’d be able to roll the sleeves up anyway. I just like something that isn’t too tight.
I’ve even worn the Boreas over a fitted baselayer, effectively turning it into a very lightweight mid-layer; again, something it does remarkable well. Even though the fabric feels flimsy to the touch, it’s surprising just how warm it feels in cooler weather. In Spring and Summer it’s been quite a revelation up in the mountains, providing warmth and cooling over the period of a day. Its weight and flexibility also means you’re not carrying a great deal of kit or layering up to the point of feeling encumbered.
Comfort, something very close to my heart, is also an area where the Boreas excels. It’s a joy to wear which is a world apart from what I’d have said when I first picked it up. The hood is remarkable effective too, having endured midges and mosquitoes in the Lakes, Northumberland and indeed North of the Trossachs!
The Matrix fabric keeps you warmer in cooler weather, wicks moisture away from your body when working hard thereby keeping you dryer and cooler AND really does keep the sun off your back (and neck) during hotter spells. Last year during the unprecedented heat wave we experienced it protected me from the sun during prolonged periods outside. Something I’ve struggled with in the past. I still use high factor cream but when combined with the Boreas Pull-on it’s another level of protection and actually seems to stop you overheating. As I shave my head, the hood is superb at keeping your neck and head free from burning.
With the addition of the handy Napoleon pocket for small items or personal possessions it delivers on a number of levels. Added to this its price, approximately £50, it really is worth the investment.
Even though initially I wasn’t bowled over the Boreas, with every outing I’ve got to know it a little better, as well as all of its great features and RAB’s typical attention to detail. The RAB logo sits proudly on the left hand side of the Napoleon pocket, above which you can clearly see the Flatlock stitching. Whilst a common feature these days it ensures the top is comfortable and doesn’t create any pressure points when worn. The absence of which would, I’m sure, be more apparent as it is a slim fitting top.
The front ¾ zip means it’s easy to put on and remove the top as well as providing a very effective ventilation system. There’s also a Microfleece beard guard which is a surprising feature for a top of this type, as it the storm guard behind the main zip itself. Both of which add to the comfort, feel and protection from the elements.
Another great little feature is that both the main zip and the chest pocket have what are commonly called ‘zip kennels’ however in this instance these are more likely for comfort and to reduce abrasion than any other reason. I hope you’re now realising how much thought and effort have gone into the production of the Boreas.
The Napoleon pocket provides sufficient storage space for either a mobile phone, small GPS, change etc. but certainly it’s not something you’d want to stuff full of gear. If you’re travelling fast and light it’s invaluable and again, not something you’d expect for this type of garment. Kudos to RAB, how could I even have doubted you!
The hood provides excellent protection from the sun, something I found invaluable during the hot summer we experienced in 2013, which could have left me exposed especially in locations where shade is at a premium.
I have on occasion wondered if the hood, sleeves and hem would have benefited from some form of adjustment, especially in windier conditions. However, that would potentially affect its performance during the warmer months and would undoubtedly increase cost. On balance the current configuration works well and in tandem with other layers provides superb weight saving and flexibility.
As mentioned above, the cuffs are not elasticated and do not have thumb loops; the latter is something I’m not a fan of, however I could see how this might be of use if climbing. The fact the cuffs aren’t too tight is something I quite like, as it’s possible to roll the sleeves up. If there were elasticated this could potentially leave a welt around your arm or indeed created numbness in the hands.
In The Field
Being a natural sceptic, when I first got my hands on the Boras Pull-On Top I was less than enthusiastic. I thought it was flimsy, wouldn’t stand up to any level of abuse and certainly wouldn’t provide warmth or protection from the elements. How wrong could I be?
Well, as it turns out I was left a little red faced and have grown to love yet another great piece of kit from RAB. The Matrix fabric is superb, providing protection from both the sun and the wind as well very light rain. Out in the field it dries remarkable quickly which equates to comfort and warmth. Added to this some excellent features such as the Flatlock seams, hood, ¾ main zip with beard guard and storm flat plus the handy Napoleon pocket and you have to ask yourself what’s not to like.
Once you’ve eased the top over your head and shoulders it instantly feels comfortable, conforming to the contours of your body without being tight or restrictive. Thanks to the stretchy qualities of its construction, several of my other baselayers have been confined to barracks ever since. Indeed, the Boreas goes beyond the remit of a standard baselayer as its flexibility knows no bounds. I’ve never felt overheated when wearing the Boreas, even throughout hotter days. In fact, I’ve actually put the hood up to protect my head and neck from the sun where previously I was likely to feel a little sunburnt by the end of the day.
Having worn this from sea level to relatively high altitude it’s proved itself to be far more worthy that it’s £50 price tag. When combined with mid-layers and or a shell it does cover quite a few bases or standalone when travelling light or climbing; great when you don’t want to be bothered with constantly changing layers.
The Boreas has become one of my favourite pieces of kit and something I will often reach for by default when heading for the hills.
- Great protection from the sun, 50+ UPF
- Breathable, wicking and quick drying
- Good wind and weather resistant
- Impregnated with a an odour control treatment
- Comfortable, lightweight and packable
- Fabric perhaps not to everyone’s taste
- No adjustment in the hood, cuffs or hem
- Needs a little more care when washing
- Sizes available in S – XXL
- Weight 259g in Large
- Colours available, Burnt Umber, Breaker and Mineral
- RRP £50.00