I am outside in the cold a lot. Usually in the very early morning, or the evening, because that is when the light is usually the most interesting. But that is usually when the sun is not around. So, I need help in order to stay warm. Every winter, Altitude Sports offers their “One Jacket Two Stories” Jacket exchange program for gently used jackets. The premise is that you send in your older well-cared for jacket, and they give you a discount on a new jacket, and donate your old jacket to a local shelter. It’s a sweet deal, full of literal and metaphorical warm fuzzies.
I used this opportunity to pick up a Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket. I wanted something with a better hood than the jacket I had, plus something that was lighter, had a higher fill power, and was more water resistant. On paper, at least, the Rab seemed to offer all of these things.
This was in the early winter of 2015. 2016 is nearly over now, and I have been wearing this jacket in a variety of winter conditions, because I wanted time to properly test it. It’s the middle of December in Eastern Canada, and the temperature has been below zero for a while now. I’ve worn it in much warmer conditions, in light rain, and almost all of it while wearing a full camera pack which has let me test how warm it remains when it is being compressed in the shoulders, chest, and waist area. I also had the opportunity to use the jacket as my main insulation layer while dogsledding in Arctic Norway last February, where the temperatures dropped below -40C.
The quick answer is that it’s a great jacket. But let’s talk about some of the technical details first.
It’s rated to 800 fill power, which makes for a jacket that has a high warmth to weight ratio. Jacket manufacturers can use high fill power numbers in one of two ways – they can go extremely light while making something that is reasonably warm for shoulder season days or summer nights, or they can make something incredibly warm while still keeping the weight down to something that keeps the jacket in your pack even when you aren’t sure you will need it. I think Rab went the latter route with the Neutrino.
With a short sleeve merino base layer, I have worn this jacket in -20C temperatures and stayed comfortable when moving around. After adding a light fleece midlayer, I was perfectly find at -30C. With a thicker base layer and an extra hard shell on top to cut the wind, I stayed completely comfortable in Arctic conditions. I am a pretty small guy and as such I get cold easily, so this has been a revelation for me. It’s also longer than some other jackets I have worn, but not parka-length.
The jacket’s Pertex® Endurance outer layer seems to repel water very well. While the jacket is not completely waterproof, it seems to hold up fine in light drizzle, and also in wet snow, especially when the jacket is in contact with moisture for longer periods of time. The Pertex Quantum® inner lining is soft and comfortable. For a down jacket, it seems to dry quickly. It is down, though, and it is worth mentioning that if down gets wet it does lose a lot of its insulating power quickly. Some other manufacturers have created alternatives to down that still remain warm when wet.
The best thing about this jacket is the hood.. It’s not detachable, which I like. One less seam to leak, and no chance that you will remove the hood and misplace it. The hood easily fits over a climbing helmet, and there is a wire-rimmed peak that can be adjusted to make the peak conform to a certain shape. The zipper on the front of the jacket rises high enough to completely cover my mouth which vastly increases my comfort level when hiking in exposed, windy conditions.
The whole jacket can be stored in a stuff sack found in the jacket pocket. This sack is not attached to the inside of the pocket, so I moved it to the zippered inside pocket of the jacket when I wasn’t using it, in order to keep from losing it. It’d be nice if it had a clip to keep it tethered to the inside pocket when not in use.
The YKK zippers are sturdy and seem to block wind very well. They can be a bit stiff to get going, though. There are two outside pockets. While deep and roomy, and warm, they are unfortunately placed low on the jacket which means that getting into them while wearing a pack with a hip belt is probably not possible. You also probably don’t want to keep anything bulky in the pockets while wearing such a pack either. It’s a minor quibble, but I do wish they were higher up on side of the jacket. I absolutely love the cuff velcro attachments. Velcro is not the same everywhere. This stuff is super grippy, and thick. When it gets closed, it stays closed.
All in all, awesome. It is far warmer than I thought it would be, very compressible, and the fabrication seems top notch. I’ve been using it for over a year now and it has held up extremely well. A recommend!