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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More on mid weight down jackets comparisons and a surprise

I spend a lot of time looking at and testing gear obviously.  How much time I spend doing testing verses actually just using the gear is dependant on how much I like it.  If I like the gear I do a quick review and then use it and forget about it.  My perfect piece of gear is one I never notice while it is being used.

If I get confused on gear, and I do, I am amazed that other consumers actually get what they what from all the gear that is available.

Here is a classic example from Greg at Gear30, another blogger @

A comment Greg left here on the blog which opened my eyes a bit on RAB gear,
"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."

And a current review            

I get confused as I said.  So do others.   It is too easy and none of us agree all the time.   For down jackets I have here a Eddie Bauer Peak XV and BC Micro Therm, a Narrona Trollveggan and Lyngen, Rab Neutrino Plus Jacket and Infinity.  BC Micro Therm is in the next review.

                                             weight              insulation             construction
                                              XL                  at the shoulder       box wall/sewn through

Eddie Bauer Peak XV          1091g/ 38.5               5"                    box
Narrona Trollveggan            1063g/ 37.5               3"                    box
Rab Neutrino Plus                794g/ 28                    5"                    box
Arcteryx Duelly                    794g/28                    2.5"                  non laminated syn
Narrona Lyngen                   737g/ 26                    3"                    sewn + layer
Mont Bell   PermaFrost        694g/24.5                 4.5"                  box   
Rab Neutrino Endurance      650g/ 22.9                 3"                    sewn
Mtn H Nilas                          652g/ 23                   3.5"                  box/sewn thru arms
EB BC Micro Therm            590g/ 21                   2.5"                  sewn + layer
Mont Bell Mirage                 420g/ 14.7                3.5"                  box
Rab Infinity                          402g/ 14                   3"                     sewn

There is a sweet spot between design, use and weight.  Hard to define what will work best for you.  But for my own use generally the warmth to weight ration will cut through all the fog.  What works best for me has little to do with the quality of these jackets.  All are high quality, state of the art, down jackets.  Any one of them  will keep you warm on most occasions.  Each has a forte' and specific use worth searching for if you want to spend your money wisely.  Without having all these jackets at hand in front of me there is no way I could have made a educated decision on what was best for my own use.  And I continued to be surprised almost every time I start making these kinds of comparisons. 

Between the fully baffled Eddie Bauer Peak XV and the sew through Rab Infinity there is a lot of leeway, weight and warmth.

I had expected the Lyngen Trollveggan to be one of the ultimate down garments.  The Lyngen certainly is.

"Bjørn-Eivind Årtun soloing high on the Cassin in 2010, wearing a Norrona Trollveggen.  Colin Haley photo.

The Trollveggen had a distinct lack of loft compared to other jackets of similar weight.  It  was disappointing. As was the over all weight.   I actually left this one to air out for a week and ran it through the drier a bit to make sure I wasn't missing something on the down's loft.  I wasn't.

The Eddie Bauer Peak XV, Narrona Lyngen, Rab Infinity I've all reviewed in depth previous.  Some more than once.  A quick search here will dig those up.

On the Trollveggen I won't belabor the point.  I don't do written  reviews of gear I don't recommend.  Sadly I'll leave it at that and the numbers posted above.

In my last comparison the Narrona Lyngen came out ahead of the Rab Infinity.  But it was close.   Easy to have a preference for either depending on your priorities.  In this comparison the Trollveggen wasn't even in the same ball game as the excellent RAB  Neutrino Plus.  The Peak XV is.  But if forced to choose I'd take the Neutrino Plus over the Peak XV.   The loft and warmth are similar...the weigh isn't.
The RAB will save you 10.5 oz.  And that is enough to notice in a big down jacket.  And I like the RAB's fit better for technical climbing

I'll admit it.  In just a week this is now my favorite down jacket.  I've spent a good bit of the week's time in this jacket.  And like it more every day.  A number of reasons for that so please bare with me while I explain.  Because I feel like I am cheating on my previous favorite the Narrona Lyngen.   Make no mistake the Lyngen is still also a very nice down jacket.

Two pictures above are the Neutrino with and w/o helmet

These two are of the Lyngen with and w/o helmet

But it is hard to argue 5" of loft.  2 more full inches of loft than the Lyngen. And most importantly the  Neutrino Plus is not sewn through but fully baffled.  The hood is better on the Lyngen and the addition of the Primaloft in all the right places is a minor plus.  There are few, if any, better climbing hoods, than the Lyngen if you want to use a helmet.  The extra loft @ a full 5" is noticable when you are using the RAB as part of your sleeping system

You might sleep with the hood up but with big down jackets you don't always need or want a helmet.   What you'll always want when you pull one of these out of your pack is warmth.  One observation I had written previous is that true cold weather down climbing jackets were historically fully baffled.  That hasn't changed.  But true down "technical climbing" jackets are hard to fine in my experience these days.  Not all, but some of the best are listed in this blog post.

the Lyngen's hood actually being used at a belay

There are some exceptional sewn through down jackets mentioned here but given a choice I'd really rather have a fully baffled jacket.  Simple reason...they will always be warmer.
When a fully baffled jacket weighs in at the sewn through jacket's numbers or close we have a winner.

XL Narrona Lyngen  737g  or 26 oz

XL Rab Neutrino Plus  794g  or 28oz

The Neutrino Plus also has a 30" back measurement in a XL.   2" more than the Noronna all around.  It's hood doesn't fit a helmet as well but it does fit a helmet well enough.  But it also has a stand up collar that includes the hood with a velcro "latch".  The "latch" allows one to climb in the jacket with the hood buried and free of snow when it is not up.

Add articulated sleeves/elbows to that list and the Velcro and elastic wrist closures which work extremely well.  All in all you have a very sophisticated jacket from RAB here.  One that oozes warmth and comfort.  When wearing the Neutrino Plus all that is actually noticable.  I kid you not it surprises me just rotating jackets the obvious differences.

I love hoods for their added warmth and the little weight involved.  But I almost never climb in one.  Generally it is a hood up in belay mode and hood down, "I'm climbing!".   On big, cold routes where I might be climbing in a down jacket for a length of time on moderate ground I'd simply tuck the hood and latch the Velcro tab on the Neutrino Plus when the weather was dismal.  Easy enough to do and the jacket will stay drier for when you really need that hood.

the "latched hood" option which I like very much

the result is a huge stand up collar that offers a lot of protection and little chance of catching snow

The front and side zippers are all water resistant YKK.  Not the easiest zippers to manipulate but certainly more weather proof than some available.

The "hard warmer" pockets are interesting in that they have no internal insulation.  Smart design really as the pockets put your hand or gear directly against a single layer of nylon on the inside of the jacket, close to your body's heat.  All that makes the jacket more trim and less bulky around the harness/waist area.  And easier to dry out if required.   I like the design effort.

The shell is made of the very water-resistant Pertex Endurance fabric.   The fabric is almost waterproof.  Pertex Endurance is a reasonably breathable fabric, breathing nearly as well as popular waterproof-breathable fabrics with laminates, membranes, or microporous coatings.

RAB sez:

30D triple rip stop Pertex® Endurance

275g (L) of 800 fill power superior quality European goose down
Box wall construction
Long torso for better core-body insulation
Helmet compatible fixed hood, with wired peak and velcro tab adjustment
2 hand warmer pockets with YKK water resistant zips
1 internal mesh pocket, 1 internal zip pocket
2-way, water resistant YKK front zip and internal insulated zip baffle
Articulated elbows
Laminated velcro cuff tabs, and hem drawcord
Supplied with stuff sac

This video below is worth watching and likely better than my write up but doesn't really tell you just how good the Rab Neutrino Plus really is.  I like it enough to even keep the only XL I could get a hold of which was in the dark blue "Marin" color.   

Easy to find on sale currently and worth hunting down imo.

More on another RAB jacket the Neutrino Endurance, from my buddy in Chamonix, Dave Searle, as he gets back to it after a broken knee earlier this winter.

Neutrino Endurance is sew through and  about the same weight as Lyngen and the 29" back length (almost same as Lyngen) makes for a very similar jacket in many ways.  But the Lyngen is much higher tech in construction and the pattern cut.  You'll also want to dbl click the picture above for full effect :)

Rab Neutrino Endurance?
by Dave Searle

With a baffling array of different down belay jackets on the market it can be difficult to know what to go for. You could spend hours deliberating between pack size, weight, length, features, fill power, down quality or even colour……or you could buy a Rab Neutrino Endurance and get on with the important stuff.

The most popular down jacket in the world is the North Face Nuptse Jacket. A classic piece of kit
adored but the masses for its clean lines and high fashion appeal. This jacket is however as about as useful to a technical ice or mixed climber as a walking axe on a M6 and has no place in this article or even on this site.

The second most popular down jacket (I am talking on British shores) is the Rab Neutrino Endurance. This is bought and used by everyone who knows that a North Face Nupste is better suited to the Pub Crawl than the Cold Haul. Simple, clean, effective. Nothing much has changed on the Neutrino Endurance since its debut nearly a decade ago which is a very good example of……

"if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

If I had it my way I would change one thing about it. I would add a lightweight mesh pocket on the inside for gloves and gas canisters.  That’s it.

I’ve had mine for a few months now and it’s had a pretty boring life so far. My circumstances have dictated more Pub crawling than cold hauling but despite this my Neutrino Endurance still got out and about with me dog walking and the such. I’ve worn it in the traditional UK weather of “light rain, light wind, sort of cold….. but not really” I was impressed with its ability to stand up to a light shower which bodes well for Ice Climbing on the slightly warmer, “drippy” days.

The first week I was back in Chamonix after two months in the UK I was greeted with -20C temps. At
these sort of temperatures my mind and body start to shut down and I was more than grateful for my Rab NE on those long waits for the bus in Cham or the 500m dash to the next drinking establishment.  Without it I probably would have died of exposure on numerous occasions but thankfully 225g of 800Eu fill down staved off any such tragedy. If it was any colder I would have needed something
more but for most of the temperatures that are encountered out here I think this jacket is pretty spot on for warmth.   I like the cuffs, they work brilliantly for sealing in the warmth and I like the design of the hood too which is slightly on the small side for going over a helmet, but only slightly. "

There is a trend here..might pay to take note of it :)

weight for a Large is: 625g (22oz)

RAB sez:

◦30 Denier large ripstop Pertex® Endurance, soft Pertex® Quantum inner
◦225g (L) of 800 fill power superior quality European goose down
◦Stitch-through baffle construction
◦Fixed down filled hood with wired peak
◦2 hand warmer pockets with YKK water resistant zips
◦1 internal security pocket
◦2-way water resistant YKK front zip and internal down-filled zip baffle
◦Adjustable velcro cuffs and hem drawcord
◦Supplied with stuff sac
◦Medium cut


James said...

I have a Neutrino Plus too. Incredible jacket... that I've never taken climbing. I took it to Hokkaido this past week absolutely DETERMINED to finally use the thing and stillvfound myself sticking with my Nano Puff + Microlight Alpine combo - it was colder than I've used it before but I was never past my comfort point.

I bought the Neutrino Plus before I really started winter climbing properly and now I can't really see myself ever using it on a route. A great jacket but just too full-on for almost any situation.

Great piece for wandering around the Sounkyo Icefall Festival at -20C, though!

Jimmy H said...

Interesting. Since the Neutrino and Lyngen are so close in weight but the Neutrino has a much thicker loft and is baffled, where is the Neutrino saving the weight? Is it just that it's overall cut is shorter (better for with a harness) and has a smaller hood? In the end, for places that are cold enough to warrant down, is the Neutrino likely warmer?

Dane said...

James? Multi days out up high in sub zero weather should do it. Nano combos will take you far though. Neutrino would be nice on Denali.

Jimmy the Neutrino is actually longer and baffled. Better fit and lighter weight materials with less of them by being baffled and all down as well is how they save the weight I suspect. But no question the Neutrino will be warmer than the Lyngen in any condition. Hood is smaller but not that much smaller.

I'll add some pictures for a better comparison later today.

Gear:30 said...

I have used the Neutrino Endurance quite a bit, but I have been really curious about the Neutrino Plus. Thanks for the review. I was hoping the Nilas would be a warmer option than the Neutrino Endurance (which it is), without adding weight. Unfortunately I found that one of the main areas MHW saved weight is in getting rid of glove-friendly adjustments. Much easier to adjust the Neutrino than the Nilas. Still a great jacket though.

Anonymous said...

Trollveggen has more durable (and heavier) fabrics than other jackets? I just ripped one of the super-lightweight jackets. Depends what you need. Durability or light weight?

Morten Johansen said...

Hi Dane,
Whats your thoughts on the Mountain Equipment Hooded Xero Jkt? Seems comparable, but comes in a bit lighter at 500 grams.

Dane said...

Hi Morton,
Sorry no clue as I haven't seen one.
Might well be a great piece of kit. But I have learned to never-ever trust the weights any company advertises. If it is a concern best to weigh them yourself.

Dane said...

More here:

Morten Johansen said...

Hi Dane
Yeah saw that video any I was quite positive after seeing it. Shame you haven't seen it, as there is a very good deal on it at the moment.

Morten Johansen said...

ok, I bought the jackt, just waiting for the postman to deliver it. When I have it I will post some pictures, and measurements, to compare it with the other jackets in this review.

Dane said...

The Mountain Hardware Nilas?

"Neutrino Plus is a baffled version with slightly more down than the Neutrino Endurance. It is 5 ounces heavier (27oz) than the Nilas"

The Nuetrino Plus has a bigger hood that will take a helmet if requirred that is also much thicker (5") on the insulation there. Nuetrino Plus is also longer in the body and totally baffled in the body and arms. 5" of loft instead of 3.5" by my comparisons and a LOT warmer than the Nilas.

5oz in this case that is likely well worth the weight and $100 cheaper @ retail. More than that on sale when you make a direct comparison. Sad note..the Neutrino Plus gets really hard to find. My bet is RAB doesn't make a lot of money on that one. Jacket is worth more..the Nilas less imo.

Dane said...

I think the Nilas is better compared to the Narrona Lyngen @ 737g and 3" of insulation with sewn + layered construction. Lyngen has a much better hood and longer body with a much more complex construction with a Primaloft and down combo.

Nilas is 1 lb. 6 oz. / 631 g.

Still the Nuetrino Plus is a much warmer jacket than either.

Vince said...

Dane, any comment on why the new Lyngen down jacket doesn't have primaloft anymore?

Did you ever get your hands on the Nilas? Steck's line for MH seems to have gotten pretty good reviews from what I've read (and it looked well done in store).

Dane said...

Hi Vince. Saw that on the Lyngen. Glad I have an older one. Not impressed with the other versions of down I have seen from Narrona. But haven't seen the newest versions. The Nilas? I have a review/comparison coming on it shortly. I think the Nilas is best compared to the old Lyngen or some of the sewn through RAB versions. It has 75% of the down and 75% of the loft as the current RAB Neutrino Plus. Take a look at the numbers on the blog above. The Nilas is light but the insulation is lacking IMO at 3.5". It is no 8000M jacket. Details are lacking as well by comparison. Better go fast on Denali if you are planning on using it there is my thought ;) If so, it might be great. With sewn through sleeves and imo a distinct lack of down fill it is a little to speak compared to the spiel coming from Mtn H.

6 or 7 ounces is just a pair of decent Julbo glacier glasses and a Swiss Army knife... at the cost of 1.5" of insulation compared to the Neutrino Plus. I may yet convince myself that the drop of another 6 oz is worth it in the right place. Might be a harsh reality in May though...we'll see if I have the stones to pull that trigger. More to come on the Nilas and the Neutrino Plus shortly. And a couple of other cool new toys I am playing with.

Dane said...

Forgot..the Lyngen is now advertised at 539g for a large. "100g lighter than last year." My xl is a good bit more than 700+ more like 200g heavier. Nilas is light...very light for the warmth. I really doubt the Lyngen is going to be lighter or warmer.

But I haven't seen the new Lyngen...and I have been wrong before and will be again.

Dane said...

Looking farther into the Narrona line. The newest Norrøna Trollveggen now has Prima Loft 1 in it. I am hoping it is as light and as technical as the last Lyngen was...and if the lyngen is really a 1# down jacket I'l lbe impressed.

R said...

Loft alone wont tell you how warm a jacket is. The amount of insulation and the quallity of the insulation is a better indicator on how warm a jacket is. The Neutrino Plus jacket has 275 g of 800fp down and 5" loft. The Trollveggen has 240g (size L) 750+ down and 55g primaloft in the shoulders and in some parts of the arms. So the fill weight of these jackets is about the same, but the neutrino plus has about 70% more loft. Does that make the neutrino 70% warmer than the trollveggen? No it doesnt! the differens in warmth is maybe 5-10% in favour of the neutrino. but its also 70% bulkier than the trollveggen. I have used my trollveggen jacket in around -20c with just a t-shirt underneth. It was a slow 1hr walk and i stayed warm.

Dane said...

Robin, I suspect there is some confusion. First that is the last version of the Narrona Trollveggan 1063g/ 37.5 @ 3" and not the new Primaloft hybrid you are talking about. And yes it is the loft that makes these jackets warm and their fill weight along with the quality of the down.

For climbing we look at warmth verses weight. Which is exactly why the Narrona Trollveggan was redesigned. It wasn't warm enough for the weight.

Rab Neutrino Plus @ 94g / 28 and 5" of loft will be hard to better. Even the MH Nilas is hard pressed to do so for warmth. The past Lyngen was a very good jacket. The Trollveggan was not. I haven't been bothered to look at the newest Trollveggan. I suspect they simply bettered the last Lyngen pattern. Easy enough to do. The hybrid Primaloft and down combo was brilliant first time around.

R said...

Ok i didnt know that the trollveggen had recently been redesigned. I have the down/primaloft design and i think its a nice warm jacket and was surprised to read that someone would say that its useles as an insulating jacket. But if you tested the old design then i understand. I know that its not the lightest jacket around, but i love that its verry warm and not so bulky at the same time.

I also have a Mountain Equipment Gasherbrum jacket. I highly recomend it! ME makes top quallity stuff! 5" loft, 380g down (750 eu fp) box wall throughout and it only weights 785g in size L. you can get one for about 250 euro.

Kangri said...

RAB's just come out with the Jannu jacket..looks impressive...cant decide which one to get -the Jaanu or the Narrona Trollveggan. Suggestions


Dane said...

I really liek the RAB stuff..consistant performers but haven't seen either new jackets sorry.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I really want to know what is the absolute best mid-weight jacket for mountaineering. There are pros and cons to every jacket but I want to know what is the best one for technical mountaineering!

Dane said...

How about the jacket that fits you?
The best? If you are asking likely we would have different opinions on what is the "best".

If it helps I don't bother reviewing jackets I don't like.

And I could likely live with anything listed here. The RAB Neutrino Plus is THE standout of the bunch IMO, everything considered. jacket

Comfort color cool jackets said...

I like this stuff!
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I think it's worth pointing out that loft is at best only a rough indicator of a jacket's warmth. Several studies have shown that down can be compressed up to 2.5 times its nominal density (i.e. minimum density, i.e. max loft per unit mass) before you get a decrease in warmth. So for example a jacket with 100g of down and 1" of loft will be significantly less warm than a jacket with 200g of down and 1" of loft (with loft being limited by the baffling). If you assume all manufacturers overfill to the same level then loft is a reasonable way to compare jackets, but this is not always the case nor is that information easy to get. A better indicator of warmth is a jacket's fill weight.

This is why I'm not convinced by the Neutrino Plus. 275g of down seems low compared to some other jackets of similar spec.

Dane said...

What you say about the amount of down used is true. But there are many factors that need to be looked at, considered. Amount of down, quality of down and how much over fill is used. I don't make this stuff up and it is easy enough to see the differences when you have the jackets in hand, side by side. Few jackets I know of are as "plump" and as warm for the weigh as a Nuetrino Plus. Few yet that will retain that loft in wet conditions as the N-Plus will. Another nice jacket I really like is the Mount Bell Mirage. But it would be an even better jacket if it had 3 or 4 more oz of down. It is under filled iMO.

I know by simply making direct comparisons that the Nuetrino Plus is one of the very best down jackets available...when I made the comparisons. I doubt much has changed with that jacket in a year and a half. I know some of the "best" jackets I tested back then are not nearly as good IMO now. Nuetrino has added 800-fill hydrophobic and Pertex Endurance fabric. If the new down holds up if is still a contender. I have a new Patagonia jacket here now and it is nice..if the new down holds up under use. But btter than a Nuetrino Plus? Not IMO.

NaumHN said...

Which jacket would you recommend for general alpine use, (alpine and ice climbing, ski touring..). New Norrøna Lyngen Down (250 grams of down) or New Norrona Lyngen Lightweight Down750 (185 grams of down and no chest pocket)? Because I got a good deal for both and The price difference among them is negligible.
Thank you!!

Dane said...

New Lyngen with 250g of down looks to be a very good climbing jacket.

Would seem the lwt version is intended to be a ski touring jacket.

Anonymous said...

Who makes the lightest weight baffled down jacket?

Dane said...

Mount Bell..try a search for the Mirage

Jeremy said...

Are you sure that weight for the Infinity is correct? Rab advertises it as 500g not 400g.

Also I notice Crux are now selling in the US. I think their gear is right up your alley, Dane. (

Anonymous said...

How does the rab neutrino plus compare to the month bell permafrost?

Dane said...

Compare? Really? Data on both is listed above.

Kolin said...

Debating between Neutrino Endurance and Neutrino Plus - will be using it this summer on Kilimanjaro, and hopefully later on Aconcaqua and Denali - better to get different jackets for the different mountains, or do you think one of these Rab jackets could work for all 3?

Dane said...

Three pretty drastically different climates. You could get buy with one for Acon. and Denali. But Denail is a LOT colder generally if you are making Jan/ May comparisons. Kili...? No need for something that warm.

Anthony said...


My wife runs very cold and I am picking up a parka for her, the options are Montbell Frost Smoke(175g fill weight fill, baffled), $215. Peak XV, $175, and Neutrino Endurance, $205. Of the bunch based on my research the XV is going to be the warmest, the weight winner is the frost smoke, plus it's baffled, and the endurance although sewn through and slightly heavier has more down than the frost smoke. I have a few montbell jackets and I absolutely love them. of the bunch, if forced to buy one belay parka to last for as long as possible/provide most warmpth for weight, what do you think? The XV is warm but relatively heavy, and I am mainly wondering what your thoughts are on 175g fill baffled vs 200-225 sewn on the frost smoke vs endurance. Fit would also determine it but I dont have access to these, I know comparatively the XV will be larger than the other two because of US sizing vs euro and japanese plus my experience with the brands. My wife is tiny so really it seems, unless you think the XV is that amazing (plus crazy warranty), that the choice is between the frost smoke and endurance. I value your opinion and time and I appreciate your thoughts! I'd get her the neutino plus but i can't find her size. Lastly, at the $200 price point anything else off my radar?

Dane said...

Hi Antony. I too think the Peak XV will be the warmest. My wife ended up with the model down from the Peak XV, still a serious winter coat, but looks like it is no longer available. Best buy is the XV for sure. I use a Montbell Mirage myself. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Now that Rab replaced Neutrino Plus with Positron which has a stitch-through construction on sides and arms, how does Positron compares to Neutrino Plus and MH Nilas?

Dane said...

Sounds like the Nilas and Positron are now very similar in construction. I haven't kept up with all the new versions, sorry.

While I have a few others in the closet including a new Nilas, I'm using a Mirage myself currently and have for the last 2 seasons.

Tim said...

Have you had a chance to play with any of the new "hydrophobic" down jackets by Rab and others? I would be very curious about your opinion on those. I really like down, but I can sweat like crazy and have soaked out my older neutrino endurance in subzero(Fahrenheit)weather. Not an experience I am anxious to repeat!
I really enjoy the blog and have found some excellent winter climbing garments thanks to your efforts.