The History of Rab | The Mountain People

Adam Warrington5 min readBrand Info

From humble beginnings, the name Rab has become synonymous with adventure, grit and unpretentious quality. What started as a prototype sleeping bag designed in the attic of a Sheffield terraced house has grown into one of the most trusted manufacturers of outdoor gear in the world. But how did it get there? And how does the brand’s heritage influence their latest pioneering gear?

To tell the story of Rab, we have to tell the story of Rab Carrington – the brand’s founder and one of the most respected names in the world of mountaineering and outdoor adventure.


The 70s - Rab's Formative Years

While most were buying Austin Allegros and decorating their homes with questionable (at best) wallpaper, Rab Carrington spent the majority of the 1970s exploring the world and embarking on epic expeditions.

In 1973, whilst en route to an expedition in Patagonia, Rab found himself stranded in Buenos Aires. A dock strike in the UK had delayed the arrival of his equipment, and he was in need of some cash to save the trip. Rab turned to his friend, Hector Vieytes, who employed him and began teaching him the skills that would come to redefine the future of technical sleeping bags.

An image of a man walking amongst the mountains in a yellow and navy waterproof Rab jacket.

An image of two people on the side of a mountain in Rab clothing and Rab sleeping bags.

The 80s - Honing His Craft

Following on from Patagonia, Rab moved to Sheffield with his family and began working on a new sleeping bag – one he had envisaged whilst working in Buenos Aires. He took to his attic and when he came out, he proudly presented the first sleeping bag to bear his name.

Word quickly spread amongst Rab’s close group of climbing friends and demand for his handmade bags grew rapidly. Charming as it was, it wasn’t long before the attic was swapped for a local factory. The range expanded from bags to down jackets, including the Andes Jacket which is still for sale today. Adventurers couldn’t get enough of Rab’s no-nonsense approach to outdoor gear. No bells and whistles, just outstanding quality and durability!

The 90s - Expansion and Innovation

Rab’s desire to innovate saw him partner with Pertex® to develop the Vapour-Rise™ softshell system. It was a revolutionary all-in-one mountain system that removed the need for a layering system and allowed climbers and hikers to wear just one layer for multiple situations. Vapour-Rise™ has stood the test of time and is still used in Rab’s latest garments. It has been redeveloped and improved over the years, but at its core, it still consists of a moisture-wicking and insulating inner layer with a weather-resistant external layer that’s both protective and breathable.

The 1990s also saw the creation of classic pieces which are still spotted on shelves and summits to this day, such as the Kinder Smock and Downpour jackets.

An image of a climber wearing a helmet and a Rab waterproof jacket. On the left of the image another person passes the man climbing cams.

An image of two climbers on a mountain wearing Rab down jackets and Rab waterproof jackets.

The 2000s - A New Age

The new century started as the previous one ended, with Rab introducing groundbreaking technologies to the world of outdoor adventure. A key moment was the partnership that Rab formed with Polartec® materials, who still work very closely with the brand today.

In 2003, Rab Carrington retired from his role at the summit of Rab and handed the reins over to Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd. His adventurous spirit as strong as ever, Rab climbed his first 8a at the age of 60 at Malham Cove, Yorkshire.

The 2010s and Beyond - Sustaining Excellence

The brand has gone from strength to strength in the past decade thanks to its continued devotion to innovation and responsibility. Rab’s most iconic product, the Microlight Alpine Jacket, was introduced and is now regularly seen on mountains and trails all over the world.

Sustainability is now a huge focus in the outdoor industry. Rab are ahead of the curve and have updated key products in their range to fully recycled constructions, such as the Downpour Eco Jacket. The brand is also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation, which strives to improve the lives of those who produce Rab’s garments on the factory floor and challenge, influence, and develop the working conditions within the factories.

An image a man walking in the rain, in the forest, wearing a red Rab waterproof jacket.

The brand is also Climate Neutral and has committed to further improvements in carbon footprint by 2030. Improvements that have already been implemented include the use of recycled materials and packaging, green-energy powering the brand’s offices and vehicles as well as car share and cycle-to-work days for employees.

In His Own Words

Rab Carrington discusses the birth of his legendary brand back in 2016

Whether you’re climbing Matterhorn or enjoying the UK’s vast network of walking trails, Rab is there to help you live a #EverydayLifeOutdoors. Discover the range with Blacks.

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Adam is a lover of the outdoors who’s recently moved back to rural Lancashire after living in the urban confines of Leeds for the past few years. His favourite pastimes include cooking, playing countless sports to a barely acceptable standard and exploring the local countryside with his dog, Chip.

When the weather gets in the way, Adam can be found at home watching films & TV and listening to music. If he’s not there, he’ll be in the pub down the road.  


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