RAB vs Columbia Outdoor Gear: Which is Better?

RAB vs Columbia Outdoor Gear Comparison

RAB is a British brand highly specialized in mountaineering gear. It’s also on the expensive side.

Columbia is an American brand with a wider range of outdoor gear and more affordable options.

Which is better?

Today, in this article we’ll put these two companies against each other to answer the above question!

We’ll look at their materials, features, durability, prices, and more. In the end, you’ll come away with a better idea of which is your best option.

Are you ready? Let’s begin!


1. RAB Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

RAB official website
RAB official website

RAB‘s origins can be traced back to 1981, when Rab Carrington, a Scottish climber, established the brand in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, using his own name.

Rab Carrington, known for his passion for nature, climbing, and adventure, gained recognition as a prominent mountaineer among his peers. In 1973, faced with a lack of equipment during a UK strike while in Buenos Aires, he learned to craft high-quality sleeping bags with the guidance of his friend, Hector Vieytes.

This experience motivated Rab Carrington to create Rab. The company prides itself on being “by climbers for climbers” and has made numerous products that have become iconic within the mountaineering and climbing communities.

In 2001, the brand entered into a partnership with Polartec, whose materials are still utilized in Rab gear today.

Since 2003, Rab has been under the ownership of Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd, which has upheld the brand’s ethos and has designed renowned jackets such as the Microlight Alpine, establishing the brand as one of Europe’s leading providers of technical outdoor clothing.

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Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

Every year, Rab demonstrates a strong commitment to eco-friendly production methods, including ethical sourcing and the use of PFC-free water-repellent treatments. The brand also emphasizes the use of recycled materials and the production of durable gear.

While polyester and nylon are the primary materials used, with nylon being more prevalent in their gear, Rab leverages various fabric technologies to ensure waterproof outerwear for winter. These technologies encompass Gore-Tex, Proflex, Pertex Shield, and Pertex Shield+, each offering distinct performance attributes.

Rab’s waterproof fabrics are available in 2, 2.5, and 3-layer constructions, tailored to specific purposes.

In terms of breathability, the brand employs Hydrophilic and Microporous technologies, both serving as effective moisture-wicking solutions.

For insulation, Rab provides a range of natural down and synthetic insulated jackets and sleeping bags, with a focus on responsible sourcing and the incorporation of recycled fabrics and down insulation.

Synthetic insulation, particularly Stratus and Cirrus, is also prominently featured in Rab’s product line. The company utilizes Pyrotec synthetic insulation in its sleeping bags and PrimaLoft in its gloves.

Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket | Masters of Insulation

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Read also:
RAB vs Patagonia Outdoor Equipment: A Comparison
Jack Wolfskin vs RAB Outdoor Gear: Which is Better?

Where is RAB outdoor gear made?

Rab’s gear is produced partly in the UK, where the company is headquartered, and the rest in Asia, predominantly in China.

Recommended Products

RAB Men’s Microlight Alpine Down Jacket

RAB Mens Microlight Alpine Down Jacket
Image: rab.equipment
Check it out at rab.equipment

The Microlight Alpine is a winter jacket crafted with 700 fill-power hydrophobic down for insulation, offering warmth and water resistance in wet conditions. Its Pertex Quantum shell technology ensures durability and breathability, making it suitable for various activities.

The jacket features two hand pockets and a chest pocket and is harness-compatible. Available in men’s and women’s sizes, it’s highly compressible for easy transport.

RAB Aeon 35L Daypack

RAB Aeon 35L Daypack
Image: rab.equipment
Check it out at rab.equipment

The RAB Aeon 35L Daypack offers versatility for a range of mountain excursions. Featuring the Air Contour X carry system, it provides a secure fit and robust support for heavy loads, ensuring stability on challenging terrain.

The semi-rigid, vacuum-formed back panel promotes air circulation and molds to the user’s body. With an adjustable back length, forward pull hip belt, and wrap-around stretch yoke, it delivers a personalized fit and optimal comfort.

Boasting a 35-liter capacity, it is well-suited for camping, equipped with TipGripper walking pole attachments, a walking axe loop, and convenient stretch pockets.

The zippered hip belt pockets offer accessible storage for small essentials, while the inclusion of 50% recycled nylon fabric and a protective rain cover underscores its eco-friendly design and all-weather readiness.


Rab does not fall into the most expensive brands category, but it also isn’t cheap. It’s among the mid-to-high-priced outdoor companies.

The price tag of the brand’s jackets starts at around $80 for windbreakers and lighter designs, reaching up to $850 for down jackets and technical designs.

As for the backpacks, their prices range from about $60 to $250, depending on the specific design. The other gear and accessories from RAB vary significantly.

Are RAB products worth the price?

In our opinion, yes. Rab is well-known for creating durable, quality products and their insulation is among the best. But it will also depend on your product expectations.

Read also: Mammut vs RAB Outdoor Gear: Which is Better?

2. Columbia Outdoor Gear

History of the Brand

Columbia official website.jpg
Columbia official website

Columbia stands out as a famous outdoor gear name, creating a wide range of clothing and equipment for various outdoor activities such as skiing, fishing, trekking, etc.

Established in 1937 in Portland, USA, by Gert Boyle’s family following their escape from Germany, the brand has evolved from its origins as the Columbia Hat Company to become the Columbia Sportswear Company in 1960. Presently, Tim Boyle, Gert’s son, leads the company.

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Materials, Fabrics, and Production Process

Columbia Sportswear employs proprietary technologies to optimize the functionality of its outdoor equipment. For example, the Omni-Tech technology enhances the waterproof and breathable properties of Columbia’s jackets.

Also, the Omni-Heat Reflective technology, featured in select apparel, effectively retains warmth while facilitating the release of excess moisture and heat.

The use of recycled Polyester and RDS-certified down insulation, along with efforts to decrease the use of harmful DWR coatings, demonstrates the company’s commitment to sustainable practices.

Columbia Sportswear adheres to the strict standards of Gert Boyle, resulting in the production of high-quality apparel. The brand is renowned for offering a diverse selection of dependable outdoor gear at reasonable prices, representing a fair price-to-quality ratio.

Omni-Heat Innovation

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Read also:
Patagonia vs Columbia: Which Brand Offers the Best Outdoor Gear?
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Where is Columbia outdoor gear made?

Columbia continues to manufacture outdoor equipment in the USA and Europe, but the majority of its products, including its subsidiary brands such as prAna, Sorel, and Mountain Hardwear, are made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and India. (source)

Recommended Products

Columbia Men’s Whirlibird IV Interchange Jacket

Columbia Mens Whirlibird IV Interchange Jacket
Image: columbia.com
Check it out at Columbia.com

The Whirlibird IV Interchange from Columbia is a highly adaptable jacket suitable for mountain sports such as skiing and snowboarding. This jacket boasts a waterproof and breathable shell along with a thermal-reflective insulated liner that can be worn separately or together for optimal warmth.

It comes with a range of mountain-friendly features including multiple pockets, underarm vents, an adjustable hood, powder skirt, cuffs, and hem to ensure comfort and readiness on the slopes.

Constructed from Omni-Tech™ waterproof/breathable material and critically seam-sealed, the jacket effectively repels water. It also uses Omni-Heat™ thermal reflective technology to preserve body heat, while the Thermarator™ insulated liner offers extra warmth. It’s a perfect mix of style, comfort, and practicality.

Read also: How To Wash a Columbia Jacket (Omni-Heat, Down, Fleece, Rain Jackets)

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack

Columbia Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack
Image: columbia.com
Check it out at Columbia.com

The Atlas Explorer is a multi-functional backpack with a 26-liter capacity. It includes two main storage compartments, a front pocket organizer, dedicated sleeves for a laptop and tablet, adjustable sternum and shoulder straps, and dual water bottle pockets.

In addition, it’s designed with Twin Slot webbing for versatility, a padded laptop sleeve suitable for laptops up to 15 inches, a separate tablet sleeve, and front pocket organization. This backpack also features two water bottle pockets, reflective zipper pulls, and a padded bottom panel and top haul handle.


Compared to RAB, Columbia Sportswear items are priced more affordably. Typically, Columbia’s jackets and coats are priced from $50 to $300, their backpacks are priced under $100, and their hiking shoes begin at approximately $100.

Are Columbia products worth the price?

For casual or not very difficult outdoor pursuits, we think that the brand’s products are worth it. Take their outerwear, for instance, it offers the essential protection you need.

If you’re a seasoned or advanced outdoor enthusiast, you might consider a more specialized company. However, even then, you can find a suitable item or two within Columbia’s large product collection.

Must read: 8 Best Sustainable Outdoor Clothing Brands: Our Top Picks

3. Which is Better? RAB or Columbia?

Both RAB and Columbia are great brands for outdoor gear but you should know the type of customer and market they serve, so you can have a better idea whether the brand is for you or not. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you choose:

Origins and Focus: RAB was founded by a Scottish climber. Their focus has always been on specialized technical gear for climbers and mountaineers. Columbia was originally a hat company that expanded into general outdoor apparel. They have a broader focus on clothing for various casual outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, skiing, etc.

Materials and Technologies: RAB uses specialized fabrics and technologies like Gore-Tex, Pertex Shield, etc. tailored for technical mountaineering and winter use. Columbia uses proprietary technologies like Omni-Tech and Omni-Heat for breathability and weather resistance, but the brand is more general-purpose.

Quality: RAB is recognized for creating very durable, top-notch designs for demanding activities. Columbia is known for good quality at reasonable prices, but not necessarily the highest technical performance.

Pricing: RAB jackets can go up to $850 for technical models. Columbia offers competitive pricing with jackets that don’t exceed $300.

In the end, we think RAB is better if you need specialized technical gear for demanding mountaineering or winter activities. Their designs perform very well in these environments. Columbia is better for more casual outdoor activities due to their broader focus and more affordable prices.

Have you tried these brands? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Read next: Columbia vs Helly Hansen: Which Brand is Better?

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