|Neutrino 400 at rest with the invisible man|
“Rab certainly are churning out some fantastic products in recent months and the Neutrino 400 down sleeping bag is no exception. It’s feature packed, with some of the best performing down I’ve come across in years and light, too. For 3 season use – which is most of the year, really – I think you’d struggle to find as good equivalent. It’s fantastic value for money for such a versatile, high quality product and worth every penny.”
So, spring has sprung and the summer season is all but upon us and in next to no time we’ll be marching into autumn – scary, eh? Funny how when you’re a kid days feel like weeks, and months like years – yet as we get older in life time flies at ever greater speeds. Depressing really…
|Silky smooth and very comfortable with lots of features|
Anyway, this talk of time and seasons is a point for consideration – especially when it comes to purchasing a sleeping bag. Temperatures in the UK can vary wildly from April to October when you’re out hiking and camping. You could encounter cold nights with an early morning frost one minute and the next a warm and balmy evening where every inch of your body is pouring with sweat – gross but true.
As most readers will be well aware, down still gives the best warmth to weight ratio for insulation. Though you have to ensure the feathers do not get too damp or wet through (as this negates any insulating properties down has) it also has the added benefit of having a wider range of comfort temperatures than synthetics.
Furthermore, down drapes or settles over the user much better than any man made fill – thus eliminating any potential cold spots.
However, the effectiveness of any insulating materials is effected by how humid the conditions are (you can feel cold in a sleeping bag if you’re damp with sweat, for example) and even the body of air which surrounds the user can effect heat retention.
These are all factors worth noting due to the nature of the UK’s climate running from April to October – that period many manufacturers call “2-3 season”.
Sounds quite a minefield, eh? And it is really.
|The giant orange slug leaps out it’s fully taped and double-lipped dry sac|
Some of the lightest sleeping bags available omit features such as zips and even draw cord hoods – things you may wish to use given all of the above just for versatility. Of course, some folk (including myself) may not find this too much of a distraction as we may put on extra layers of clothing if it’s a tad too cold or strip off more layers and so on.
Needless to say, this isn’t everyones cup of tea – which leads me to Rab’s Neutrino 400 down sleeping bag.
A fully featured sleeping bag which includes a hood, insulating collar, internal zip pocket, 3/4 length 2 way YKK zip with anti-snagging tape, 800 US fill power european down, a comfort limit rating to -4c and the wonderfully silky and light Pertex Quantum outer/inner fabric – all for around 800 grammes!
First of all, lets look at the weight – well, by my now defunct scales (waiting for a new one in post) I gauged an average weight of 832g’s for the sleeping bag on it’s own. The weight varied namely due to moisture, ie my sweaty body and so on. I was trying to work out it’s ‘real world’ weight you see. Even so, it’s not a figure to scoff at either.
|Large cotton storage sack comes as standard|
The sleeping bag does come with a fantastic double-lipped waterproof dry sac which ups the weight by another 72 grammes or so – but as some of you will know, I dispense with such things and store my bedding in a large dry sac along with clothing into my rucksack. I just find stuffing such kit in loose like this fills out every nook and cranny of my pack more and thus freeing up more space for other bits and bobs – such as my video camera equipment.
Rab use some of the best grade down available – the loft is exceptional – and as a consequence of this 90/10 down to feather ratio it packs down extremely small and makes for a bloody light sleeping bag.
I’ve encountered many a humid night in recent weeks, along with some cold nights in late winter and consequently had to deal with a potentially damp down bag in the mornings. It’s not always practical for me to lay the sleeping bag out flat displaying it’s grey inner to help dry it out – and so I’ve had to ‘make do’ and pack. Come the following evening (more so after a few nights) you do notice the loft isn’t as good as it once was – but left be, it soon dries out and returns to normal.
Once home, the sleep bag is laid out in a dry room and left to air for at least 24 hours – and it’s this regular cycle of use that has lead me to be amazed at the quality of the down Rab are using in their products at the moment.
Normally after some time I’d expect the quality of the down to have diminished somewhat – but it hasn’t. Well, not that I have noticed. With other down sleeping bags I’ve used – cheap and expensive – you notice these signs of ‘wear and tear’ at some point. Granted, I’m out and about most days of the week – even so the Rab Neutrino 400 in this respect has performed exceptionally well. In fact, I’ve only ever come across one other brand where it’s down products just take knock after knock after knock – Cumulus. Admittedly, I’ve heard good things about Western Mountaineering but I’m yet to try any of their gear.
But compared to many other brands – large and small – the quality of the down Rab are currently using is up their with the best for sure.
Of course, the silky and extremely light Pertex Quantum fabric which makes up the inner and outer shell of the sleeping bag all contributes to the performance of the Neutrino 400. Highly water-resistant, it breathes extremely well (in effect helping to expel any moisture within the sleeping bag and not lead to condensation and damp issues within the down insulation) and feels great on the skin. Furthermore, when it comes to stuffing the sleeping bag away – any air is soon squeezed out. A mark of how breathable the fabric is and how quick you can pack up and go.
I’ve only encountered a few feathers leaking – but this is to be expected and were always along the seams. So, the fabric is certainly down proof. Once out the bag and thrown into your tent the down soon lofts to it’s max and drapes over you like a dream – in a word, brilliant.
|At home out on the moors of the south western Peak District|
The YKK 2 way 3/4 length zip works as it’s supposed to – ie, it’s robust and water resistant. However, I still cannot understand why Rab persist in saying it’s a 3/4 length zip. It practically runs the full length of the sleeping bag. If it lived up to it’s description then I’d expect it to finish around my knee area and not my ankles. A potential weight saving for Rab to consider – but a feature some may find as a blessing for ventilation. You could consequently use the sleeping bag as a quilt on real warm nights, for example.
The anti snagging tape works OK – I still found the zip to catch onto the inner fabric from time to time – but it’s no worst than some other sleeping bags I’ve used in the past.
The hood is roomy and shuts up extremely well when you pull on a draw cord – of which is conveniently placed for when you’re reaching around in the dark. Also, the collar sits and nestles in just the right place, too – and again pulling on a cord seals this shut and snug around your neck.
The internal zipped pocket isn’t large but it’s not too small either – you can bang a phone, keys and other small items in there OK. Though I found the zip to be somewhat tricky to open on the odd occasion.
|Trapezoidal baffles – nothing new but worth noting|
The bag is of trapezoidal construction – the down filled chambers are wider at the bottom and narrower at the top and vice versa along the bag – to help eliminate any cold spots along with internal mesh panels to prevent the down from migrating as and where it sees fit (when otherwise you could find clumps of down in one part of a tube and none in another!).
To be fair, in the summer months a straightforward box wall construction would suffice – but I suppose it’s a mark of Rab’s attention to detail in producing high quality products that they use this technology. And given you may use this sleeping bag in late winter/autumn it’s no bad thing. We all feel the cold differently for a number of reasons and I guess it’s wise to construct such a product this way. The angled footbox to keep your feet comfy and warm being an example of this.
On the whole, I’ve been extremely impressed with the Neutrino 400. It’s had a tough outing with me over the past few months – there’s no abrasion marks, stitching come undone or loss of loft. Ideal for lightweight backpacking, but not so much for bivvying or bothying – simply because the grade of Pertex used isn’t the toughest or most water resistant for particularly rough or damp conditions.
|A wonderful sleeping bag for 3 season backpacking|
Saying that it’s proven to be durable, and stuffed with some of the best down I’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping myself in. And of course, I never tire of feeling Pertex Quantum against the skin while watching the down loft and loft in minutes. Aye, that sounds a bit kinky but it’s true!
I’m 5’11”, broad shouldered with a 44 inch chest – so, it’s worth noting that I find the sleeping bag comfortable to use. There’s not too much room, but not too little, either – which can be a problem with sleeping bags in general.
Rab certainly are churning out some fantastic products in recent months and the Neutrino 400 down sleeping bag is no exception. It’s feature packed, with some of the best performing down I’ve come across in years and light, too. For 3 season use – which is most of the year, really – I think you’d struggle to find as good equivalent. It’s fantastic value for money for such a versatile, high quality product and worth every penny.
For more information on how Rab construct their sleeping bags take a look here.