|Rab’s new Alpine 600 down bag|
“Give it a good shake, and in a few minutes you’ll look round and think the invisible man has snook into your bed for the night! After that initial shock you’ll learn this sleeping bag is very weather resistant, packs smaller than you’d expect and despite all it’s features is pretty damn light, too.”
It’s been quite a winter we’ve had over the past couple of months or so and consequently ideal for testing out Rab’s Alpine 600 down sleeping bag.
So, how has it performed?
In a nutshell – extremely well. Rab have had somewhat of a renaissance with their sleeping bag range of late. The design and thinking behind it all has been given a big kick up the rear – even so, looking through their whole range can be somewhat confusing.
There’s bags suited for adventure racers, alpine activities and expeditions – and depending on which range you go for, some having the same comfort rating as another. So, which selection should you look to if there is a bag of with a comfort rating of -10c in one range and again in another?
Well, it’s worth noting how the design for the products vary between themselves. For example, the Expedition Series – the chambers that hold the down have longitude chest baffles to prevent the feathers from potentially migrating to your sides. Hence, maintaining warmth where you really need it. Essential in real cold climes but perhaps not so when temps maybe only -7c.
Saying that – you cannot help but think why don’t they do that for all the sleeping bags anyway?
To guide you on which product to use, Rab use a colour coding ‘traffic light’ system – red being the warmest, amber slightly less so and on and on.
In this case – we have the red Rab Alpine 600 from the Alpine Series – the warmest in the range at -7c comfort with the ability to help you survive to -14c.
|Laid out in the tent lofting nicely|
The bag is marketed as being ‘all mountain, lightweight and weather resistant’. So, a bit of an all rounder for UK use then – the implication being it’ll keep you toasty, shed condensation and isn’t too heavy to lug about in your pack.
Once you’ve chucked the sleeping bag out into your tent – what have you got?
|Pertex Endurance fabric – very weather resistant stuff|
Well, first thing you’ll notice is it feels tough – the outer Pertex Endurance fabric sheds light rain easily (I know, I was daft enough to try it out one night after a couple of cans!). Giving it a good tug, you can tell this is a durable fabric but still light enough to let the fluffy white feathers inside float to their maximum.
But, with the outer being so water resistant – it’s not as breathable as some other Pertex fabrics out there.
When you come round to stuffing the bag back in it’s sack – or in my usual case my own dry bag – you will struggle a little to squeeze all the air out. It’s a bit like deflating and rolling away a self-inflating mattress. A little annoying – but it’s what to expect really with such things – of which you may well be thankful for one day perhaps.
|Stuffing it back in can be a bit of pain|
The inner material is Pertex Quantum – beautifully soft on the skin and extremely light. It certainly feels luxurious when you clamber in for the night – in fact, it’s a joy. Adding to the feeling of instant comfort and warmth is the differential cut between the outer and inner fabrics – the idea being to maximise the loft of the down and fill in any dead air space that may surround you inside.
The latter is something Rab have been heavily researching – how much down and why? Which baffle design?
The ‘golden ratio’ as they call it.
It certainly feels like their efforts have paid off. Because despite there being a full length zip (practically, though they say it’s 3/4 – well, funny that. It almost reaches your feet and that’s not 3/4 length in my book) the bag is really quite light for a -7c comfort rated down bag. By my measurements little over a kilo ( I recorded an average of 1150g’s) and a couple of hundred grammes more including the stuff sack.
It packs down reasonably small in it’s stuff sack by the way – and more so if you store and compress it loose in a larger dry bag with spare clothing et al as I do (fills the space better in your pack and makes for more room). A bonus here is the stuff sack is actually a dry bag – there’s even a ‘storm flap’ just inside the opening which you can seal shut pulling on some cord – excellent!
|The zip runs nice and smooth|
Alongside the zip is anti-snagging tape – though in all honesty, the zip glides a dream up and down the bag. It tops out in just the right place above your face, too. So, there’s no messing about fumbling looking for the damn thing when your all cooped up tight inside.
Speaking of which – the draw cord to shut the sleeping bag tight around your face is long and useful. You can create an opening small enough that just your nose is poking out.
And inside again – is another lengthy and easy to locate draw cord for the collar – a big lofting collar, too!
Feels like you’ve got a thick cashmere scarf on! Brilliant!
Again, just in the right position is a small internal pocket – large enough to accommodate your mobile phone and batteries to keep warm in cold climes. However, the zip on this can snag occasionally – but it’s no big deal, really.
|Stuff sack or dry bag? It’s both! Brilliant!|
The lightweight mesh within the baffles seems to work a treat, too. I’ve not experienced any drastic movement of down inside the sleeping bag – a considerable problem on some sleeping bags after regular, heavy use.
And given the conditions we often face in UK climes (damp air one minute, cold and dry the next) the down has not clumped together in any places.
The latter is something I’ve been mindful of on the odd trip. Namely where I’ve experienced a damp, muggy night up on some tops and have had to pack the sleeping bag in a hurry – that’s lazy wild camping for you!
After 3 or 5 nights use, the down despite these conditions still lofts and dries as good as the first – though it may take a while longer to hit it’s maximum depth. Incidentally, the down is 90/10 European goose down – hand stuffed in Rab’s Derbyshire factory and with a US Fill Power of 800.
Given the outer fabric is not as breathable it could as other variants of Pertex I was a little concerned with temperature variants inside and out the bag – ie, will condensation form within the baffles and down – thus potentially wrecking the insulation. After more than 30 nights of action (some trips 6 days duration) I’ve yet to encounter such a problem.
|Lofts good, eh?|
As for warmth in the real world – well, I have to admit I warm up quicker in this down bag than many other winter variations I own. For example, the Alpkit Skyhigh 1000 (-17c comfort rating) is a popular sleeping bag due to being fantastic value for money. But it can take me a good couple of hours to warm up in that compared to a Marmot (-7c) one I own and a North Face (-7c) one, too. And of course, this latest edition the Rab Alpine 600.
I don’t have anything comparable from Cumulus, though. A good benchmark for down sleeping bags in my opinion – but at least with this Rab bag you get some home comforts for that bit extra weight. And in the winter – we all like a few features to make the cold more bearable.
And I reckon the comfort rating is about -10c – noting the above remarks – granted this can change from user to user, but I tend to give off a lot of heat and so feel the cold sooner than most. Then again, in theory I should warm a sleeping bag up quicker than others, too.
There was one night where temps were as low as -19c (well, quite a few nights actually) and I did begin to feel a little chill around my hips and feet. I was wearing just base layer thermals, mind. Even so, anticipating the circumstances I brought along with my a down top bag to use as a liner. The Rab Alpine 600 swallowed it beautifully – no drama. And in next to not time I was toasty and warm again.
That’s what I like about the sleeping bag so far – it performs very well – you don’t need to pack any other gear for warmth and bump the rating. There’s generally no need. Besides, I feel uncomfortable with extra layers of clothing on. I was initially sceptical to how I’d get on with this bit of kit from Rab, but those concerns were soon put to bed with me inside it after just one trip.
Give it a good shake, and in a few minutes you’ll look round and think the invisible man has snook into your bed for the night! After that initial shock you’ll learn this sleeping bag is very weather resistant, packs smaller than you’d expect and despite all it’s features is pretty damn light, too.
Overall, an impressive performing down bag from Rab!