Britain has a rich and varied heritage of home grown kit manufacture. Mo Anthoine producing Joe Brown helmets in his Nant Peris workshop, Pete O'Donovan sewing up top notch rucksacks in his Sheffield lock up or the Yorkshire boot maker Altberg giving the European manufacturers a run for their money with excellent performance, quality and value. Even better, this tradition looks set to continue with young companies like Drew Haigh's fantastic handmade chalkbags (OCD) and established faithfuls like Pete Hutchinson's PHD team still sewing up quality clothing in a converted Stalybridge mill.
Rab Carrington followed a similar route when he started Rab in 1981. He had spent 6 months learning his trade in Argentina (after an abortive climbing trip to Patagonia) before starting to sew sleeping bags in his Sheffield cellar. The business went from strength to strength and even though Rab sold it to Equip Outdoor Technologies a few years ago (although he stays involved as a design consultant), the brand remains as strong as ever with innovative products and great customer service. The Neutrino Endurance Jacket is part of that heritage and after several years, it still remains one of Rab's benchmark products.
The Neutrino is primarily designed for mountaineering and alpinism. It uses 220 grams of 96% goose down (fill power 750 EU/850 US) which puts it at the upper end of the down quality spectrum (top bags tend to use EU 750 – 900 fill power down). Down of this quality lofts really well allowing more warm air to be trapped between the down resulting in a warmer jacket.
The Neutrino contains this down within a Pertex Endurance outer shell and a Pertex Quantum inner. Endurance fabric has an ultra thin breathable membrane that's bonded to a nylon face fabric for abrasion resistance. The resulting fabric is highly water resistant (not waterproof), 100% windproof and very breathable. Pertex Quantum is used as a liner because its high breathability aids lofting and at 30 grams per square metre, it's amazingly light.
The Neutrino has a water resistant main zip, two exterior hand warmer pockets with water resistant zips and a zipped inside pocket. There's also a wired down filled hood, velcro sleeve closures and velcro hood volume adjuster and fasten back system. The jacket I tested was black but it is also available in red, sunset and blue. The stated weight is 625 grams and my large model weighs just about that - 632 grams including the supplied stuffsack.
The Neutrino Endurance is the benchmark down jacket for modern mountaineering and lightweight ascents. The Pertex® Endurance outer provides protection against storm and spindrift while retaining minimal weight and packsize, and high lofting is provided by the 220g of 96% pure white goose down. Featuring:
I have been using the Neutrino for the last 3 months and so far it has had several outings on Welsh and Scottish mountains as well as being used regularly as a cragging belay jacket in the Peak District. It's also proved very useful for belay duty on winter visits to chilly local climbing walls and it recently spent time in a French ski resort and went to Cogne for a few days.
The understated features, flashy zips and clever styling make this a very smart and technical looking jacket. For my 5'8” height the arm length is perfect and the jacket back, which is slightly longer than the front, sits at about upper buttock level. I guessed the size I would need but I think the large is perfect for my 40” chest as it leaves enough room for the jacket to fit over a few fleeces and a soft shell or hard shell layer.
The hood is great too – deep, generously filled and well insulated with a simple front closure drawcord and a wired visor. It can be pulled easily over a helmet although it doesn't feel as big as the hood on something like my Patagonia DAS Parka. At the back of the hood there's a velcro volume adjuster and a long flap that can be used to fasten the hood back. The volume adjustment works well but I find that when I put the jacket on, the flap of fabric often ends up outside the jacket and needs to be tucked back in. I was tempted to cut the flap off but in the end I thought it might be handy to make a cosy collar at some point.
The jacket lofts quickly when you pull it from the stuff sack and feels luxuriously well filled. The silky feel of the Quantum lining allows the Neutrino to be pulled on easily over fleece or shell layers and means the jacket slides smoothly over the layers giving the feeling, weird as it sounds, that it's floating on top of you. I've had problems with down 'leaking' through the fabric or seams of some down jackets in the past but so far I've not seen a single feather coming out of the Neutrino.
The outer pockets are well insulated and great for hand warming although a friend who borrowed the jacket recently said she felt they were quite low if you were wearing the Neutrino with a harness or rucksack waist belt. That's certainly true but I don't think it's really an issue as the jacket would be too warm to climb or walk in and it's more a warm layer to wear when you're stationary.
I've tested the water resistance of the Endurance fabric in a variety of situations and I'm really impressed. An initial test on a drizzly day in Scotland was no problem with the water beading on the fabric and no sign of moisture penetration. Next I took it out as a belay jacket during the recent icy spell and although it got damp it again performed brilliantly. Its biggest moisture test so far has actually been a snowball fight and sledging session. On this occasion the down did get quite damp although it's very likely the snow got inside the jacket from well aimed snowballs and high speed wipe-outs. I was very impressed with how quickly it dried. I've always used synthetic insulation for UK and European winter activities but the Endurance shell certainly opens up new possibilities for down jackets and I'm contemplating taking it to Rjukan in place of a Patagonia DAS Parka next month.
The Neutrino comes with a stuff sack made from Pertex and has an unusual mesh band around the middle. I appreciate that this mesh will help air the down but I would much prefer a waterproof stuff sack for storing the jacket in a damp rucksack or clipping it to the back of my harness while on Euro ice. I've ended up using a small drybag but it would be great if Rab supplied something like this as standard.
The only other minor niggles are to do with the zips. The inner pocket zip has very small teeth and an equally tiny puller that makes it difficult to operate with gloves on. The weatherproof outer zips have pullers but they are those little skinny tape strips that again are really hard to use with gloves on. Of course they can be easily swapped for decent cord pullers but it would be nice for this to have been done at the factory.
Lastly, I'm not happy with the finishing at the top of the main closure zip. The hard top edge of the zip has been left uncovered and when the zip is pulled up this constantly scrapes my chin. With it being so common nowadays for the top of zips to have some sort of chin guard it would be really good if Rab could add one to this – I know it's a small thing but it is incredibly annoying!
A few minor niggles but this is still a fantastic jacket. Alpine ascents, UK winter or mountaineering in the greater ranges – this lightweight bundle of warmth will happily do it all. It has kept me warm while inactive in temperatures down to –11 celsius (with a thermal top and Patagonia R2 fleece) and I am confident it could keep you comfortable a bit lower than that. It would be far too hot to wear while active unless you were in very cold conditions but that isn't what it's designed for anyway.
It is an expensive garment but while there are cheaper options out there, it's worth bearing in mind the high quality down and fabrics when making your choice. The Neutrino is top quality and should provide many years of service that will offset the high initial outlay. Even better, you'll be supporting our homegrown manufacturers at the same time.
Weight: 625 grams
For more information visit the Rab website
Paul Lewis is a mountaineering instructor and owner of mountain adventure and training specialists Peak Mountaineering. Paul offers a 15% discount on all courses for UKC users. Find out more at peakmountaineering.com or contact Paul on 0161 440 7065.