Tag Archives: rab

Rab Alpine Trek Pants review

Material: Polyamide softshell fabric w/ cordura reinforcements (knees, seat, instep)

Features: Built in belt, multiple pockets (thigh, two side, one back, all zippered), articulated knees, reinforced inseam, UPF 50+

Cost: $80

The guys across the big blue pond know a thing or two about quality gear.  Rab is a UK company that I am coming to appreciate more and more for their well-designed, versatile, and quality items.  I personally dig the ‘techy’ appearance of their gear, allowing function to dictate form (but their stuff looks good too doesn’t it?).  And while I don’t own any super-expensive clothing items (except for stuff that I’ve managed to get for less then retail), I think Rab is appropriately priced for what you get.  After owning the Baltoro Alpine softshell jacket from Rab, I expected that anything else they made would be of similar quality.  I was right.

Getting on to the topic of this review, the Alpine Trek Pants – so far I’m happy with my purchase.  I decided to buy these as a multi-use pair of pants for any outdoor activity.  Based on their design I think they will be most useful for hiking and seem versatile enough to do other things as well.  From the description of Rab’s website I assumed these would be a little stretchier, one of the key defining characteristics of think of when I think ‘softshell’.  I was slightly surprised when I received these pants in the mail (ordered them online) because they have a distinctly nylon feel with very little stretch.  I was a little disappointed that they weren’t what I was picturing although I had never bothered to find a pair at a local retailer prior to ordering them.  Oh well, I decided to try and keep an open mind.

One of the other things about these pants that surprised me on initially receiving them was how light-weight they are.  The polyamide ‘softshell’ material feels exactly light some light-weight nylon hiking pants from Mountain Hardwear that I own.  In addition, when I read the description of these pants noting the ‘Cordura reinforcements’ on the seat, knees, and instep, I imagined a super burly, rough nylon material (similar to ski pants maybe?).  While these reinforcements are more ‘durable’ feeling then the rest of the pants, they are also light-weight.

So my initial assumption of what these pants were going to be was incorrect.  Even though these aren’t exactly what I had in mind, I’m still happy with them.  My initial test was taking my dog for a hike at Settler’s Park down in Boulder.  Temps were in the 60’s with a 10-20mph breeze (would have gotten a more comprehensive and accurate weather report but I haven’t received my Kestrel yet!).  Settler’s Park is pretty much all up-hill from the parking lot (Red Rocks trail).  I busted up the trail without taking a break, until I reached the high point.  Usually I work up a descent sweat on the ascent but I was pleasantly surprised by the breathability of the Trek pants.  No sweatiness, very comfortable.  I was also happy with the wind-blocking ability of the pants and was surprised that I didn’t get overheated wearing pants, hiking in 60 degree temps.

The Alpine Trek pants have some other notable qualities worth mentioning.  First – the waist and fit.  When I initially pulled these out of the box they looked huge (size small).  Upon putting them on I realized that the fit was just right – not too lose and baggy but with enough room to move and not feel restricted.  The waist has elastic built into the sides to help the pants fit snug without having bunched-up material around the fly area.  As I mentioned before, the pants have a built-in belt which works well and is not bulky like a leather belt.  Finally, they are rated at UPF 50+, offering great protection from UV.  This is a worthy design feature if you are planning on spending significant time at high altitude where the suns rays are stronger and more likely to give you a sunburn.

Finally I will mention the main limitation I see with these pants.  Because of the light-weight nature I wouldn’t recommend using them for rock climbing or any activity where they might see significant abrasion.  I may be wrong but the materials seem like they wouldn’t hold up very well on rock, and at $80, I am in no hurry to trash these pants by ripping holes in them.  If you want a light-weight, quick drying, comfortable pair of pants for hiking, trekking, or camping, the Alpine Trek pants will fit the bill.  I’m happy with them and looking forward to putting them through their paces in the backcountry this summer.

 
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Rab Neutrino 600 sleeping bag review

Material: Pertex Quantum shell, 800 fill power down

Weight: 37oz (+3.5oz if using included dry-bag stuff sack)

Features: Draft collar and hood draw cords, trapezoidal baffles, small pocket near head, YKK zippers

Temperature rating: Comfort = -5c, Limit = -12c, Extreme = -31c

Cost: $420


 

I’m not sure why this piece of gear escaped review for so long seeing as I use sleeping bags frequently.  If you have followed this blog at all, you may have noticed that I have reviewed multiple pieces of gear from UK manufacturer Rab.  As I’ve mentioned before, they make great products at reasonable prices.

Before discussing the design features of the Neutrino 600, lets discuss the temperature rating system Rab uses for their sleeping bags.  Without getting into too much detail, this system is called EN 13537 (Wiki article), and it breaks each bag down by providing 4 different temperature ratings – Upper Limit, Comfort, Lower Limit, and Extreme.  The Comfort rating is going to be the most useful number for anyone planning on using their sleeping bag for a normal night of sleep.  When you get into the Lower Limit and Extreme ratings, there are certain assumptions about sleep position, duration of sleep, and possibility of cold-weather injury (all things most of us do need want to concern ourselves with).  I’ll get back to temp ratings and my personal experience after discussing some of the design features.

Right out of the box, this sleeping bag seemed well designed.  The Neutrino 600 lofted up very nicely within a short amount of time, looking almost exactly like the picture on Rab’s website.  The baffles function well so far, keeping the down evenly distributed and where it belongs.  There is a nice little pocket near the hood for your lip balm or car keys or whatever small item you care to store there.  The draft collar is large enough to actually be functional, especially when you cinch it down with the elastic drawcord.  The hood also has an elastic drawcord to keep it close to your head.  There is a small velcro tab to keep the bag from unzipping during sleep.  Small nylon tabs on the foot of this bag make hanging it up in your closet easier (storing you sleeping bag UNCOMPRESSED is vital for proper loft and product function).

My field test of the Neutrino 600 was a 5 day 4 night fall (or was it winter) backpacking trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness in Northern Colorado.  Temperature ranged from 60F during the day to low teens at night.  Elevations ranged from approximately 9500ft to 12000ft+.  In addition to the Neutrino 600, I used a Silk, mummy-style sleeping bag liner and wore at a minimum, socks,  pants, base layer top, and fleece top during sleep.

Staying warm during some nasty weather at Lost Tribe Lakes

Considering the fact that temperatures were slightly below the comfort rating every night, I was pleased with the warmth of the Neutrino.  It should be noted that I was using a 4-season tent which completely cut all wind and insulated a small amount.  I was able to sleep comfortably (although I did wake regularly – more a personal condition regardless of warmth).  Since I was using this bag closer to the lower limit rating, I opted to put a synthetic jacket over the foot of the bag (which came up to my knees) as well as drape my down jacket over my chest on 2 of the 4 nights.  The Neutrino didn’t feel too confined but did feel snug, especially around the feet.  The draft collar and hood functioned well without covering my mouth and nose or restricting my breathing and also sealing in a good amount of heat.  Condensation formed every night near my mouth where my breath contacted the outside of the sleeping bag – something I have experienced with ALL sleeping bags in colder temperatures.  Even with the below freezing temperatures at night, the Neutrino did absorb a bit of moisture.  This was remedied with a warming fire and sun exposure when the opportunity existed.

Overall I was happy with the Neutrino 600’s performance.  Rab’s temperature ratings seem to be fairly accurate for me.  The design features of this sleeping bag are functional and useful.  Some more water resistance in the shell material would be nice considering this is a down bag.  I feel this sleeping bag is above average in my overall experience and I would definitely recommend it.  If there are any design features I have not addressed or questions you have, please leave a comment and I will be happy to respond!

Getting organized: the gear…

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

Current gear selection for my 2014 pct thru-hike attempt

Ok, here it is, the blog article going over the gear I plan on using for my 2014 thru-hike.  While I occasionally indulge in gear-geekery, I try not to get caught up in all the little gadgets and gizmos designed for those of us that like to recreate outdoors.  Why?  Let me ask you this question, if no new gear was developed ever, would it prevent us from enjoying our outdoor pursuits?  The answer is most definitely no.  All those companies out there who come out with newer, lighter, more advanced gear are mostly doing so to have a new product to sell you.  Now I don’t want to give the impression that this gear isn’t great or that I don’t find some of this stuff fascinating and awesome. I have bought a few new pieces of gear specifically for my thru-hike.  I will however be using MOSTLY gear that I already owned.  The point I am getting at is that you should not feel the need to buy gear just because there is a newer, lighter, brighter-colored version.

I did think it would be fun to mention all the different gear and geek out for a bit in hopes that some of you who read this might have some suggestions for me to cut a bit of weight.  My base-weight at the moment is right about 20lbs.  I was hoping for something in between 10 and 15.  And while the 20lb weight includes some things that I will actually be wearing and not carrying on my back, there were a few items that I realize I did not add that I will in fact be bringing (stakes, socks, maybe some other small stuff…).

So lets get to the gear.

Starting on the top left of the photo above – the pack, one of my new gear acquisitions for the trail.  This is a Gregory Z55.  This is a size small and weighs in at just over 3 lbs.  It has a frame (yeah I’m not sure if frameless appeals to me for 2600+ miles) and 55 liters of capacity.  Gregory packs graciously provided this pack to me for use as an ambassador while on the trail, communicating with others about my experience using their gear.  Thanks guys, I look forward to putting the Z55 to the test!

On the far right of the picture are two sleeping bags.  A Rab neutrino 600 down bag and a Mountain Hardware ultra lamina synthetic bag.  Both are rated for 20 degrees.  I plan on using the down bag in the desert section and switching over to the synthetic bag once I hit the mountains.

As for upper body layers: Patagonia lightweight wool tshirt, Ibex hooded long-sleeved wool shirt, Patagonia R1 fleece, Montbell windbreaker vest, Montbell Fleece, Patagonia Houdini windbreaker, Wildthingz alpine shell, Patagonia Nanopuff hooded jacket.  I’m already planning on ditching the Ibex base layer and one fleece (probably the R1, even though I love it).  I may add arm warmers.  I may also ditch the Houdini even though it weighs next to nothing.  Count the ounces and the pounds mind themselves right?

Lower body layers include:  Montbell expedition weight wool long underwear, Rab hiking pants, Patagonia hiking shorts.  Socks (haven’t picked them out yet).  And hopefully a pair of wool boxers.

My tent is a Black Diamond beta-lite tarp (19oz).  It is made of sip-nylon, pitches with my trekking poles and gives surprisingly good weather protection – I have used it above 9k feet in Colorado during a spring snow storm, and on the coast of Maine in high winds.  It has held up well.  I am forgoing a footprint.  I have a Big Agnes sleeping pad as well as a silk sleeping bag liner.

I am currently using an MSR 6 liter dromedary bag with a drinking hose attachment.  I might look for a lighter weight camelbak bladder which will most likely have 3-4 liter capacity and have to add a few lightweight water bottles.

As for cooking I am using an MSR micro rocket stove (new this year) with an Evernew titanium pot (.7 liters I think).  I also have a long-handled Sea To Summit spoon and an MSR titanium mug.

As far as other small items, I have a journal, signal mirror, whistle, pen, Black Diamond headlamp, mosquito head net, blister treatment kit, SteriPen, wide-brimmed hat, GoPro, extra batteries, and backup water treatment (iodine).

I know I haven’t gone into much detail on these items, their individual weights, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. etc.  I’m hoping that I’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t work while I’m on the trail (and I plan to blog/tweet about it).  I will also likely add items at certain points such as ice axe and crampons, helmet, etc.

Ok, I’m already losing my patience for this post.  Those are the items I’m brining.  I will attempt to ditch roughly 5 pounds of gear in the next month to get my base weight down into the sub-15 pound zone, I’m sure my feet and back will thank me for it.  Any suggestions or criticism is appreciated!

Later!