Rab Neutrino 200 (ultralight sleeping bag) – a review

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Recently I was seeking to reduce the weight of my backpacking / wild-camping gear by a kilogram. I knew it was possible to get a tent 1000 g lighter than my current two man Niak, but the compromises on robustness were too much for my liking. Then the idea came to me that perhaps I could lose 500 g from the tent and 500 g from another / other items. This seemed an excellent solution as it meant I could choose a tent made from fabrics I knew I could trust and yet still lose the weight. To cut a long story short, I sought a new sleeping bag and this review covers that bag.

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Pitched behind The Crown in Shap on the Coast to Coast

The Rab Neutrino 200 not only comes in at only 579g but has proved to me that their reputation of excellence in down bags is well deserved. I have been very pleased with the Mountain Hardware synthetic bag I have been using for the past ca. 10 years, but the Rab bag is just a whole level above, thanks to subtle but superb features of its design. I have now spent six nights out in this three season bag in temperatures between 6-12 C, typical temperatures for it’s expected use. Thus far I am absolutely delighted.

Temperature Rating

It is rated to -1 C “limit of comfort” exactly as the bag it replaced and a “comfort” limit of 4 C. Everyone’s personal rating varies, especially between genders, but my experience at 6 C is that the 4 C limit seems about right for me wearing just boxers and a T-Shirt. That’s perfect for UK three season use.

Packed volume

This bag is so easy to pack and comes supplied with it’s own roll top dry bag, a nice touch. A quick squeeze gets the bag to the same volume as my compressed synthetic bag. I have no need to compress further, so there is (if you seek it) another weight saving, no need for compression ends. It’s worth noting that the weight is the same as similarly rated ‘down quilts’ which seem the trendy ultra-lightweight option at the moment – that with more comfort and less hassle.

Comfort

Here comes the unexpected plus point. The bag feels like sleeping in a cushion of weightless warm air. Another simple but wonderful thing is how the zip is integrated into the bag. Not once has it snagged the lining when I’ve zipped it closed. Also, unusual for a bag of this rating, it has a shoulder baffle. Rab’s design is such that this works without having to velcro tabs together to complete the baffle integrity. I don’t know how they’ve done this, but it’s great and means none of the typical fight-to-get-out-of-the-bag in the morning, or more importantly in the middle of the night when you are dozy but need to get up for a pee.

Practicality

The Pertex Quantum outer appears to be 100% down-proof and the down itself has been treated to be hydrophobic – this for me was the clincher to take the risk with a down bag that might see some rain or condensation fall on it within a wild-camping setting in a very small tent. To reduce weight, the zip on the side only covers the top half of the bag. This has not been a problem, wrt access and egress, and since it is two-way, I could still effectively vent the bag on warmer nights. In fact venting the middle of the bag seems both more effective than at the foot and also more convenient. Finally there is the price, mine cost me £200 from Open Air in Cambridge significantly less than the £300 for the Mountain Hardware or Mountain Equipment equivalents.

Overview

This bag is fabulous in every possible aspect and seems correctly rated at 4 C / 3 season. If I was giving a star rating out of five, I’d say this is a six star sleeping bag.

Lightweight stove review – Alpkit Koro & MyTiMug

Ahead of a recent six day backpacking trip (my first > 2 day backpacking exped. in, ahem, 12 years) I sought to find ways to reduce the weight of my kit. I’d already got a lightweight tent, so I looked next at my stove. I was amazed to discover that my MSR Dragonfly, cookset and a half full petrol fuel bottle totalled up to 1800 g. After seeking advice from a friend, a former outdoor education instructor, I looked through the offerings from Alpkit. I then compared these to gas stoves from MSR, Optimus, Primus and Jetboil. For my money Alpkit’s Koro came out on top in terms of stability and weight and also came in at the most reasonable price.

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The stove packs down to fit inside a 650ml mug and the 100 g gas canister fits into my breakfast bowl. When I’ve carried the MSR until now I’ve never bothered taking out bits I don’t need, I just carry it all. Making the change from MSR and S/S cookset to the Koro and a titanium cooking mug saved me an amazing 1.4 kg in pack weight, that’s almost a tent.  Right now the Jetboil is a very trendy option. It is true that it boils more water more quickly and I’d estimate you’d save ca. 20-30% in fuel burnt but it’s bigger, more complex, has plastic parts and is 340 g vs. 200 g for my set up.  Also because the Koro stands separate to the gas canister is it far more stable.  For a three season stove I am delighted and will probably invest in a larger pan for proper cooking for my next totally unsupported trip.

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After many years with a petrol stove (which are very quick to boil water due to the high calorific value of liquid hydrocarbons) I was really impressed with the simplicity of going back to a gas stove. Also with the safety, meaning I was happy to cook in the porch of the tent (not that I could or should commend doing this to others). Unlike a petrol stove, errors cannot lead to a six foot flamethrower!

I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with a single skin titanium mug either, but the moderate thermal conductivity of Ti (25 W/m.K) vs. Al (237 W/m.K ) or Cu (400 W/m.K) works well if you want to drink your tea straight from the  mug you have boiled the water in. Ahead of going I wondered if I might have been better with a double skinned mug, but my experience says no – single skin works well enough and is obviously lighter in weight.

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Cheers!