The women's-specific member of Rab's super-lightweight down sleeping bag family went to the Alps with us last month and here's how it stood up to the test ...
Features: Pertex Quantum® fabric on inner and outer, (weather protective Pertex Quantum® Endurance outer available), 96% pure white goose down, 750+EU/850+US fill power, narrow cut, full length side zip with protective baffle on both the zip and round the shoulder, available in left and right hand zips, stuff sac and cotton storage bag included, extra long and short options available, comfort: -12°C, dimensions: 195 x 75cm, pack size: 18 x 30cm, colour: black.
What's It For?
Rab's Quantum range of sleeping bags are super-lightweight and suitable for four-season use, pitched well at the upper end of the market. If you're looking for a general-use sleeping bag then this isn't the place to look, unless you've got a lot of spare cash floating around. On the other hand, if you're a hardy adventurer off on a trek at high (cold) altitudes or you're a gram-counter, then the Quantums will be down your street (no pun intended). They're good for Alpinists, backpackers carrying all their gear from camp to camp, and anyone who likes things light and warm. At £290 they aren't cheap, but as a top-end bag, you get what you pay for.
There are two women's specific bags in the Quantum range - the 400 and the 600. The idea is that women's bodies are a different shape from men's (in particular, they're shorter) so why carry extra material that you don't need to keep you warm at night? The women's specific versions are 20cm shorter than the men's equivalents - that's 195 cm rather than 215 cm - which has two advantages. One is that there's less spare air in the bag for your body to heat; the other is the weight saving when you're carrying it around during the day. OK, so this is only 30g, in both the 400 and 600 versions, which doesn't sound like a lot. Having said that, you're only likely to fork out for a Quantum bag if seriously lightweight gear is important for your trip, in which case you'll be wanting to save every gram.
The Techy Bits
The Quantum range has had a bit of a loft-enhancing, gram-saving makeover this season, with several small changes from last year's model. To start with the basics, the Quantum bags are all filled with 96% pure 750+ fill power goose down. If those figures don't mean anything to you, that's high. The greater the fill power, the larger the volume that a given weight of down will fill, and hence the greater its capacity to trap heat. So, with 750+ fill power, you're looking at a pretty warm night's sleep.
The baffles - which give the sleeping bag its 'ribbed' look, and hold the down in place - fall closer together on the Quantum than on some bags we've seen, so the down has less chance to migrate and leave cold spots. In other words, you stay warmer. That's all standard Quantum stuff though; so what's changed this season?
Well, Rab have cut down the weight of the Quantum bags by 70 grams across the board by means of a couple of small, clever tweaks. For one thing, the inner is now cut to a slightly smaller size than the outer, which makes sense as it has to cover a slightly smaller area. This means the bag lofts better, and it also saves a few grams of weight. You also get the same result from the slight change in the cut of the baffle walls, which used to be rectangular, but now curve to fit the shape of the bag.
The fabric is Pertex Quantum® which, since we're on a weight-counting mission today, we should tell you weighs in at 30 grammes per square metre (that's light). You need to make sure you keep it well protected from the weather though, as it's designed for warmth at a light weight, not for water-resistance. Some of the Quantum bags are available with a weather protective Pertex Quantum® Endurance outer if you're looking for something a bit hardier, but that's only an option for the standard Quantum 400, 600 and 800 bags, so it isn't relevant to women's-specific bags.
How It Performs
We'll be honest; we meant to camp out in the Quantum 600 at 3,400 m before climbing Dent au Geant in the Mont Blanc Massif but, erm, the hut had spare places in it and, well, we opted for a roof over our heads instead. You know how it goes ... As we only tried the bag at lower altitudes, and hence lower temperatures, we can't absolutely vouch for the temperature rating, but it felt pretty warm and toasty to us. In fact, Rab's Neil McAdie even suggested that the 600 might be a bit warm for summer Alpine use and recommended the 400 instead. (We might try it again in the winter and update you then:-)
The cut of the bag is deliberately narrow, so there's less air inside for your body to heat, and hence less chance of getting cold. It also has a mummy-shaped cut, rather than a more rectangular shape, so it fits body-contours nicely, again saving heat and weight. It's not so tight that you feel cramped, or struggle to get in or out, by any manner of means - it just feels cosy, and the bag moves with you as you shift around, so you're always in the same warm spot. It's comfort-rated down to -12 degrees, so unless you're planning something super-hardcore, you should get a warm night's sleep. Also, bear in mind that Rab have a reputation for being pessimistic with temperature ratings, so when they say '-12 degrees' you can be pretty sure you'll be warm in those temperatures at least.
The bag has a box-wall construction, which means the down runs through it in channels, helping to eliminate cold spots, rather than being sewn-through. As for functionality, you can buy it in a right hand or left hand zip version, depending on your preference, and the zip has a tag for ease of use. It's full length but there's a material flap covering it, and also a flap of down-filled Pertex Quantum® (ie. more sleeping bag) to minimise the chance of heat loss.
We've already talked about proportions in general, so that just leaves the hood and neck proportions. Our head's pretty small but we found we could cinch in the drawcord tight enough for the hood to fit us nicely. Equally, it would fit someone with a more standard head if they loosened the cord a bit.
Finally, storage: it comes with two sacks - a stuff sac for carrying it in (dimensions 18 x 30cm) - and a larger bag for in-between times, so you don't damage the down by compressing it for too long. Oh yes, and there's one last feature that amused us, in the form of a name tag sewn onto the internal fabric, so you can record your name, address, email and phone number. Above are the words:
"If you find this sleeping bag please:
1) Check I'm not in it
2) Return to or contact me at: ..."
A seriously lightweight, and warm, down sleeping bag for Alpine mountaineering, or any lightweight expedition in fairly cold conditions, with a comfort rating down to -12 degrees. The low weight's been achieved without any compromises in terms of functionality and we got such a good night's sleep that we weren't awake for long enough to notice any real flaws:-)
The build quality of the Women's Quantum 600 is high and it's hand-filled by Rab in the UK, so there's no danger of the down gathering moisture as it's shipped across the world. It's also worth bearing in mind that Rab has been has been making bags for years and as a result the basics are right - you get well-designed baffles, a refined construction and top quality down. The cumulative result is that, when the chips are down, their bags generally perform better than most.
The only thing this bag isn't gentle on is your wallet, but as with most things, you get what you pay for. It's not a general-purpose sleeping bag but rather a pretty specialist one, and if you're off on an expedition that requires -12 degree comfort without much of a weight toll, then it's probably worth forking out the price.
Warmth and weight.
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