When I was asked to road test the RAB Neutrino Endurance Womens jacket I was obviously pleased (Hurrah! More gear!) but although I own a bit of a monster one just in case I do get up Cho Oyu, I'm not traditionally a huge fan of down jackets due to their bulk, price and apparent ability to deflate rapidly if it starts raining unexpectedly. I live in Scotland and that happens a lot.
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“I realised this was actually a bit more than a good jacket. ”
So what did I, Mrs Average Punter make of it?
The on-paper specs are reassuring:
Pertex outer and liner for added durability and water resistance and 220g of 96/4 Goose Down (EU Fill Power 750+ / US Fill Power 850+) and for lightweight fans – the stitch through design means the overall weight is just 590g.
But in real life?
Well first off, the fit: If you are a size 10 then do buy a size 10. It's slightly fitted but the waist isn't so cinched that you lose any freedom of movement. The sleeves are long enough to cover wrists when hands are aloft gripping axes and even though I have a long back, the extra body length and drop tail keeps your backside warm. The drawstring fixed hood is capacious enough to envelop my Black Diamond Half Dome helmet with room to spare at full hood extension (Velcro tab on back of hood and drawstring all round face opening for adjustment).
Little things like the hood drawstring neatly kept from flapping about and hitting you in the face by a little sleeve into which it is sewn aren't immediately obvious but are welcome features.
“ It went through everything from spindrift avalanches, blizzards, howling gales, sleet and more.”
With spec nearing the top end of 'off the shelf' down gear and being a RAB, I was admittedly expecting a lot from this as a winter climbing/walking/belay jacket and I haven't been let down. It's great for walking, it's great for belaying and though I can only comment on use during easy winter gully climbs as have been restricted to those due to long-term elbow injury, it's great for climbing them too. It's even great for skiing in.
With a thermal baselayer, medium pile fleece, and windproof smock (my usual climbing garb) and then wearing the Neutrino on top fully zipped with the chin band up (which comes right up to your nostrils), the added warmth kept me happy belaying on winter routes. It went through everything from spindrift avalanches, blizzards, howling gales, sleet and more.
Exchanging windproof layer for Neutrino worked well for subsequent climbing/mountaineering. It was also great whilst camping out at -12 deg C so a resounding 'yes' for winter bouldering season campfire soirées, high UK bivvys or huddling in the car at the Linn of Dee while you wait for the windscreen to defrost.
“a woman sat motionless in a howling blizzard being pummelled by small spindrift avalanches”
The Neutrino has a Pertex Endurance outer shell (and Pertex Quantum inner) and it also performed well as a belay jacket down at the sea cliffs one fine autumn day at about -1C and with a semi permanent spray off the North Sea. At the end of the day I was still dry (on top) and still warm. The jacket hadn't turned into a soggy mess either.
It's not however a jacket for wandering round town in (if you are that way inclined) or wearing in the house when the heating breaks down unless you live in Iqaluit as it is so very, very warm.
Points I'd like to see remedied:
First off the main body zip can be a pig to do up with or without gloves and if you do get the bottom linkage to work then despite being backed (for added water-resistancy), it's quite bad for catching on the liner. However, I think this is possibly a one off manufacture problem as I eventually contacted RAB after the zip failed in Dec 09. They replaced the zip and I have since had no problems with it. So if yours has the same problem, then it's worth speaking to them.
Secondly, I would have liked the cuffs a little wider but that's a personal preference as to how I wear my gloves.
All in all, I was really pleased with this jacket. I've had it now for over a year and it's been everywhere with me so I am happy to vouch for its durability. It's been washed twice in that time and is still as warm. I'm also pleased to see it's available in normal colours like black, blue and red and makes a welcome change from cliché female colours like baby pink that manufacturers think we women all want to wear, though it does come in some sort of plum colour if you definitely want to advertise your oestrogen.
Specs from RAB: