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Rab Nebula Synthetic Insulated Jacket | Review

Rab's Nebula may look like a classic micro-baffled down jacket, but inside it's full of down-like synthetic fill making it a good call for UK winter use.

‘The Nebula combines down-like looks with synthetic, weather-resistant  ruggedness making it a no-nonsense UK mountain all-rounder’

Outdoors Magic: Down-like looks, weather-resistant outer fabric and fill, belay jacket potential, adjustable helmet hood, harness-friendly pockets, reasonable weight and pack size. Knock-about ruggedness.

Outdoors Tragic: Heavier, bulkier and not as warm as down alternatives.

Outdoors Grabbit? It’s not as light or as airily warm and lofty as down, despite the Cirrus insulation mimicking it visually, but the pay-off is a reassuring, damp conditions-friendly, knock-about feel. That makes it a handy UK all-rounder that’ll do double duty as a mountaineering belay jacket or simply for winter mountain walking use. The hood’s good too. The stitch-through construction isn’t as efficient as more conventional synthetic fill constructions though, which means you’re paying a bit of a penalty for the micro-baffled down-like looks.

 

Nebula Jacket Ratings

Outright Warmth 

Packability 

Damp-proofing 


Overall:

Full Specification

Synthetic-filled jacket with down-like looks / Cirrus™ synthetic insulation by 3M / stitch-through micro-baffle construction / Pertex Endurance outer fabric / YKK Vislon main zip with storm flap / adjustable helmet-compatible hood with wired peak / twin pockets one of which doubles as a stuff-sac / zipped internal pocket / elasticated Lycra cuffs / adjustable hem with cord /

Full Review Below

The hood's a good all-rounder that'll take a helmet, but cinches down enough to work without one as well - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha
Fabric is tough and highly water resistant Pertex Endurance which combined with the fill makes for a reassuring damp conditions combination - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

Rab Nebula Jacket – The Stuffing

At first glance the Nebula looks suspiciously like a classic micro-baffled down jacket, but inside those narrow baffles lurks a down-like synthetic fill produced by 3M and called Cirrus. It’s claimed to combine ‘almost all the key benefits of natural down and synthetic fillings, whilst avoiding their limitations’.

Realistically, one of those limitations for most synthetics is simply that they don’t have that beguiling, puffy down look, but the more obvious plus is that they work better in damp conditions, though the development of water resistant down and down/synthetic blended fills has blurred the lines a little.

Rab Nebula Jacket – Performance

The Nebula may look like a down jacket, but it doesn’t quite have the light, airy, high-lofting feel and it’s simply not as warm for its weight. For comparison, the Rab Electron down jacket that we also have in, is around 60g lighter, but considerably warmer – it’s also £70 more expensive.

That’s missing the point a little though as the Nebula’s real attraction is reasonable warmth, reasonable weight and packability combined with better all-round weather resistance and general knock-about bouncebackability – sorry – than down.

Hand-warmer pockets have the insulation in the right place and the lefthand one doubles as a stuff-sac – Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

The Endurance outer fabric is pretty water resistant, but in heavier rain, the jacket eventually leaks through the seams leaving you wet. It dries really fast though, we deliberately soaked the test jacket then hung it up to dry and it was back to normal impressively quickly. It also retains reasonable effectiveness when it is damp.

The fit is a sort of medium with a drop-tail. It does have the potential to do double-duty as a belay jacket helped by the competent helmet hood and bum-protecting drop-tail, or you can can layer it under a shell if necessary.

As you’d expect from Rab, adjusters, pulls and the main YKK Vislon zip all worked well  and the jacket packs away neatly into the lefthand pocket. Overall build quality is good.

Micro-baffled, stitch-through construction looks down like, but is arguable not the most efficient option for insulation efficiency - Photo by Lukasz Warzecha

Rab Nebula Jacket – Verdict

The main difference between the Nebula and more conventional water-resistant synthetic jackets is the down-like appearance and design and, to be honest, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Yes, you do get down-like looks, but the micro-baffled stitch-lines also lose heat and, in heavier rain, let water in.

Something like a Mountain Equipment Fitzroy arguably does a similar functional job more effectively using a more conventional synthetic design. Ditto Rab’s own Photon X.

Compare the Nebula to down equivalents though and it’s not as warm or as packable and lacks that distinctive ‘warmth without weight’ airiness that you get from high fill power down.

All of which means that while the Nebula does a decent, weather-resistant all-round gig in cold, damp conditions in particular, you are compromising the performance a little for the aesthetics. If you want that damp-friendly, knock-about utility but with down looks though, it’s a good choice at a decent price.

More Information

See rab.equipment

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