When guys get together there is usually no lack of posturing. When it comes to climbing, the Internet allows all sorts of spewing that won't happen in person, face to face. "Stand and deliver" actually means something on the rock. It is how we measure ability..and mouth some times.
Some might have expected by now that I like measurement and comparisons. I see a lot of gear and the small percentage of what I do like I can easily put words to. But I find it even more interesting when very similar products are forced to "stand and deliver". Get down to the details and there is generally a different worth noting.
Two mid weight down climbing jackets I like a lot and have mentioned before on the blog seemed worthy of a side by side comparison. Both jackets run a little small compared to US sizing. The numbers listed here are for a men's XL in both jackets. I am 6'1" and 187#. Both jackets fit me well with even light layers under them. The RAB being the slightly bigger of the two for overall fit. But easy enough to call both patterns "athletic" for fit.
The Narrona Lyngen, 22.3 oz or 632g. 3" of loft at the shoulder. Retail? $348.95 Only one US retailer.
(3/4" of additional loft and a big drop of 9.5 oz in weight from my first Lyngen of 3 years ago!) One seriously has to wonder what changed?
"Aero™down proof 30 g
A super-lightweight and down proof technical fabric, aero™down proof weighs about 30 grams/m². It’s soft, water-repellent and windproof, and has a good strength for being so lightweight.
Our down products use the highest available down quality that we can find, which is a by-product of the food industry (in contrast to being killed just for insulation). Our down comes from the mountains of Pyrenees in France where the birds spend their days outside in a free gazing environment. All treatment of the birds complies with European standards, and the highly specialized washing of the down passes the Oeko-Tex 100 standards. Our down™750 means down fill power from 750 to 800 cu in/oz with the percentage of down cluster from 93–96%.
PrimaLoft™ One 130 g
PrimaLoft™ is a patented micro-structure that gives great thermal insulation to help the body maintain its temperature, minimizing energy loss. Extremely light and soft, it was originally developed by the US Army to replace natural down. As down absorbs moisture, it becomes wet and loses its thermal-insulating abilities. PrimaLoft™ absorbs three times less water, is 14% warmer when dry and 24% warmer when wet, than the competitive insulation."
130g Primaloft is used in the hood and neck, and in side panels from the wrist's cuff to the arm pit and back down to the waist's hem.
The RAB Infinity, 17.4oz or 492g, 3" of loft at the shoulder. Retail? $299.95 And many US retailers
"[shell] Pertex Syncro (10D ripstop nylon); [lining] Pertex Quantum (10D ripstop nylon)
850-fill European goose down" (It seems RAB likes a short description, but that is all they have listed :)
For a gear geek is was kinda fun to make this comparison. For the 3" of insulation both jackets offer with premium goose down one has to ask why the weight and cost differences? And which jacket offers an advantage for the climber?
After all RAB has made its reputation based on customers for the most part, members of the climbing community. Differing with what Narrona has done for the most part in the skiing community.
I have used both jackets climbing with great satisfaction. Again both jackets are sewn through baffling with an extra layer of material used as a wind panel across the chest. Simply sewn through in back. Both have hoods you can use over a helmet. The Narrona hood is much larger though and easier to use with a helmet and offers much more protection with a flexible visor and a tunnel design on the neck.
The difference in that 4" is a longer back on the Lyngen.
Below is a side view of the front to back taper on both jackets.
But the front, where the harness is, stays the same.
straight cut sleeves and arms
Raglan sleeves and articulated elbows
Sewn baffle comparisons
Hood and neck detail
Hood and neck detail
double cuff on left and a single cuff on the right
Nylon mesh chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack with haul loop
small internal chest pocket..of minimal use because of size
22.6 oz or 17.4oz ? As expected from two of the cutting edge climbing design teams you get a choice. 5.2 oz more in the Lyngen gets you a little more jacket for warmth and coverage. More hood, more garment length and the back up of Primaloft One in areas most likely to get wet in use. And most important a pattern more easily allows one to climb some very difficult terrain and stay covered.
For a bit less than a 1/4 pound in weight savings the Infinity gets you a very basic jacket with a great attention to detail and a little less of weight. Hard to turn a blind eye to that fact with all the basic needs covered and $50 less @ retail.
Both jackets have single slide front zippers. Too bad because both could use a dbl slider to get around the harness. Both offer good zipper buffers/baffles and coverage.
The integrated stuff sack and tie in on the Lyngen is a nice feature. The Infinity chest pocket barely has enough room to carry the stuff sack that comes with it. The integral pocket with the net backing seems a bit fragile on the Lyngen. But it stretches to fit. The Infinity comes with its own stuff sack. Both carry systems have integral haul loops attached.
Compression is about the same on both jackets. Either will easily fit in the RAB stuff sack.
The shell material on either jacket will shed water for a good bit of time. But neither material is "water proof", The Lyngen 's nylon is heavier physically than the Pertex RAB uses. Neither material will do well wrestling with limestone.
So what did I get from this review? Comparisons generally have a single winner.
I added up the "points". Lyngen has a better hood, better cuffs, better pattern and articulated elbows. It has a better internal pocket to dry gear in and would make a better pillow if that is something you require. Call it 6 points better than the RAB.
The RAB is simple. I like the fit and how light it is. I like the Pertex. I didn't notice the smaller hood or the simple pattern cut on the RAB while wearing it, only as I layed them both out on the floor for photos.
I knew I liked the Lyngen better but wasn't sure exactly why. But no question I like the $50 savings on the RAB. The RAB version might well have a better quality down and more of it. I can't tell.
I am obviously nit picking here. Others may prefer the simplicity and less weight above everything else on the RAB. Both are seductive.
Both of these jackets are exceptional garments for my own use. This review, like many I do was simply for my own edification. I am keeping and will use both jackets.