The Pioneer is vintage-look fleece jacket with woven badges and a two-tone design.
Rab have had a double pile jacket in their range for as long as I can remember. The Rab Double Pile jacket is still in the range with its Classic badging and plenty of people love the warmth and retro feel of it.
The Rab Pioneer Jacket takes the Classic to a new level of retro styling, it still has the same double pile look but it is lighter and more wearable for warmer conditions.
Firstly the woven badges you can see on the website have been replaced by a leather embossed badge on the arm. So if you order one do not expect it to arrive with woven decals. That said the leather detailing is a nice, vintage touch that sets the Pioneer firmly into the very modern retro look and will please the hipsters amongst you. The leather arm badge could have been bigger in my opinion and the finish in brushed leather and not gloss – but hey I’m not a hipster!
The Berber pile is very warm and cozy and when worn with an outer shell was very warm indeed, in fact way too warm for me and I soon felt that the Pioneer was to become my one-stop jacket for bouldering, training at the wall and for casual wear.
Don’t think, however, that the Pioneer doesn’t perform technically the mesh lining wicks away moisture and helps keep you dry and the internal stash pocket is fine for gloves, food, etc. The Pioneer doesn’t come with a secure internal chest pocket however which I felt was a little disappointing. I like to keep my phone handy for messaging, taking calls or changing my music and although the stash pocket was adequate, the fact that it is located at the bottom of the jacket meant I had put my hand all the way to the bottom of the jacket to access the phone when I needed it.
It’s big enough to take your mobile and the small loop which acts as a headphone tether works OK, but the whole system would be better served by a more traditional zip secured chest pocket and a slightly larger headphone tether. I use Shure headphones and struggled to get the angular, oversized jack through the loop. All a bit disappointing as stash pockets are fine for belaying and stashing gloves in but on a more casual jacket are unnecessary.
The outside of the Pioneer has great looking reinforced shoulder, zip and elbow patches in contrasting colours. This isn’t in any way garish, which some retro style jackets can be and although the 1980’s were great I don’t want to go back there. So a more muted contrast is very welcome and the Matrix fabric is very tough and would easily stand up to a little gritstone chimney thrutching. The panelling extended to the collar and I thought the look would have been better if it was just left as fleece.
The zips are all YKK including the pocket one’s and have nice leather zip tags. The hand warmer pockets have microfleece lining and are big enough to accommodate mad layer gloves (such as Powerstretch).
In conclusion, Rab have a done a good job of producing a stylish and modern take on the retro double pile fleece. There is no doubt that the Pioneer Jacket will keep you very warm indeed and is breathable enough to act as a technical piece on the hill. It would feel much too bulky to climb in but you will definitely cut a dashing/hipster figure at the climbing wall.
Dave Sarkar has tested and reviewed climbing, mountaineering and outdoor equipment for over 10 years. He works as a qualified MIA both in the UK and Internationally: working full time as a mountaineering instructor and climbing coach for his company Wild Spaces. When he isn’t working in the mountains he’s playing in the mountains and enjoys all aspects climbing and mountain sports whether bouldering at his local crag or ice climbing; as long as he’s going upwards he’s happy!