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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quick mid weight down jacket comparison?

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.

28" back

24" back

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.


Gear:30 said...

Rab Neutrino Endurance may be the more comparable jacket to the Norrona. I see the Norrona and Infinity being designed for two slightly different applications (depending on climb, temperature, weather, length of time out, etc). I imagine that's why you're keeping both.

Dane said...

Your suggestion is NOT a good comaprison at all, sorry. Rab Neutrino Endurance is better compared to the Norrøna Trollveggen Down 750 Jacket as both jackets are fully baffled construction and much warmer jackets than what I wrote about. Eddie Bauer XV is in that catagory as well. The Lyngen and Infinity are both sewn through mid weight down garments.

The jackets I compared are the specific manufacture's suggestions for mid weight down climbing jackets not as you are suggesting, "slightly different climbing applications".

Dersu said...

I have the Infinity and it runs quite large. I bought a size large and it is larger than the other manufacturer's size large (54 vs. 52 in EU sizes). Other than that a very good jacket, I just expected it to be a bit warmer maybe. I'm loving the lightness and softness of the material however.

Daniel said...

I agree, the Infinity (as well as most Rab jackets) runs large.

I like my clothing rather tight-fitting and wears Medium on the three Rab jackets I´ve got. 186cm ca 85kg, (6"2 180-190 lb?)

My chest is not a weighlifters chest and I´ve got pretty short arms so the armlenght isnt an issue.

Dane said...

Good comparison on sizes EU verses USA, thank you. I think in general the USA sizes run really big. So no surprise the EU sizes run a little small. I know RAB and people like Mont Bell have been dealing with those kinds of issues in the past.

A note on sewn through jackets like the two reviewed. In the old days before synthetics, a proper down climbing jacket was fully baffled and expensive. They also offered much more warmth than either of these are capable of.

Rab Neutrino, Norrøna Trollveggen and Eddie Bauer XV are fully baffled jackets, much more expensive and all are much heavier and don't pack as well.

Gear:30 said...

Rab Jannu would be more in the Peak XV, Trollveggen range (30-35oz overall weight, baffled, etc). Neutrino Endurance is sewn-through, Neutrino Plus is baffled, two different jackets. Neutrino Endurance is about the same weight (22oz) as Lyngen, 29" back length (almost same as Lyngen), almost identical jackets.

All I meant by different applications was that I would take the Neutrino or Lyngen on a colder, longer trip than the infinity because there's more coverage. I'd take infinity when less weight and smaller pack is the priority.

Dane said...

Guess it was me that was confused..not you.
"Neutrino Endurance is sewn-through, Neutrino Plus is baffled, two different jackets. Neutrino Endurance is about the same weight (22oz) as Lyngen, 29" back length (almost same as Lyngen), almost identical jackets."

I'll take a look.

Spot on on how I will use them as well.

James said...

You're using these as a final, outer 'belay jacket', over something like a Nano Puff pullover, right?

I've had good success recently with an even lighter jacket - a Rab Microlight Alpine. Plenty warm enough for most conditions with a synthetic layer underneath.

I was under the impression that the hood on the Rab Infinity wasn't properly helmet-compatible. If it does actually fit over a lid then it's a bit more attractive to me. Can you zip it up properly over a helmet? The hood on the Alpine will fit, but won't zip up (which is terrible).

Dane said...

James, not the best hood on the RAB but it will go over my Petzl Meteor and fully zip up. So good enough for my use. But not my favorite hood by any means. It works but just barely.

Yes I am using a 60g Primaloft under it. And like you use a lwt weight layer system generally. But remember most of this stuff I am using for winter alpine. I want to be warm but not sweat to death either while trying to climb. With these mid weights it gets to be a lot...too much for some short of a bivy and then usually not enough warmth for the bivy.

I am have a bunch of it but not a big fan of the micro light weight down stuff. Two of my partners are big fans of the Rab Microlight Alpine. I have yet to try one.

James said...

Cheers Dane, interesting. I also use a Meteor - I'll take it into the shop sometime and have a play around. I'm fed up with using shop helmets, labels and all!

I like the Microlight Alpine and would recommend it but watch the sizing - it's sized as a midlayer. I got my usual size (M) but given the chance I'd size up to an L next time.

Funnily enough I have used it as a mid/outer for a few hours of walking in. Totally soaked out the back under a pack as you'd expect. Took it off at camp and just left it to air out (maybe -5 C air temp, a little sun) and within a couple of hours it had dried and was fully lofting again. Pretty impressive to me.

Dane said...

Just takes a bit of sun :) Thanks for the heads up on the sizing!

Thomas Hornsby said...

Dane, do you find the extra 4 inches on the Lyngen quite noticeable? I always seem to have my layers ride up and become untucked from my harness. I do have quite long arms which is great for climbing, but not for keeping my lower back warm!

Thanks again for this blog, easily the best of any blog that I read.

Dane said...

Hi Thomas, I do notice the extra length on the Lyngen. The back is longer than the front of the jacket for added warmth. I also added a picture with this comment on the review so you can more clearly see how the Lyngen's pattern is cut. It is a full 4" longer in the back which still allows a harness to clear in the front.

Between the articulated arms and the longer back panel the Lyngen has one of the most technical patterns used in a climbing jacket I have seen. Both details will help keep a climber covered and warm when you are actually climbing.

Anonymous said...

Dane, you should check out the current range of Mountain Equipment Down Jackets.

They are much better jackets than the current Rabs. The Vega is probably the jacket that will interested you most.

Rab are trading on their past reputation, unfortunately.

The current Neutrino isn't a patch on the original Neutrino of ten years ago.

If you don't believe me buy a Rab jacket and take it apart. The materials and construction you can't see it pretty shoddy.

Also the Infinity is posy jacket for the pub. It is hardly a technical alpine piece. It doesn't even have a water resistant shell.


James said...

Dane, I got to a shop yesterday and had a play with the Infinity. Yeah, the hood just fits. The sizing is WAY bigger than the Microlight Alpine - definitely an outer rather than a mid. If you want the same kind of fit from the MA then you'd be looking at two sizes up, probably! I think one up is find. Heck, I use the same size and it's snug all round and just a little tight in the forearms really, no biggie.

Anonymous said...

Rab appear to have dropped the Neutrino Endurance and also the Infinity but kept the Infinity Endurance. Maybe they'll be back next season. I concur that M E make some good kit for sure but Rab appear to be using higher fill down?

Anonymous said...

Well what do ya know, they've both suddenly re appeared!