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Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity

A comparison of two full-featured down jackets with Quantum GL fabric and 850 fill power down.

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by Danny Milks & Kristin Tennessen | 2012-09-11 00:00:00-06

Introduction

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 1
Kristin and I duke it out to see which jacket is better. Trollveggen, Norway.

In the winter of 2011, Rab came out with the Infinity down jacket, one of the first commercial garments to use Pertex's new Quantum GL 10D fabric (25 g/m2). The Infinity also marked the first time Rab used 850 fill power down in a product. This winter, GoLite entered the ring with the similarly designed, but lighter, Bitterroot down jacket, which also features Quantum GL and 850 fill power down. Both jackets have a bevy of features, like a full front zip, zippered hand pockets, internal pocket(s), and a hood.

Kristin wore the Infinity and I, the Bitterroot, through three months of backcountry skiing and camping in the European Alps and mountains of Norway. How do the two fare, on paper and under real world conditions?

Specifications

  Golite Bitterroot   Rab Infinity
All size medium Womens Mens     Womens Mens
Fill Weight 4.9oz (140g) 5.3oz (150g)     6oz (180g) 7oz (210g)
Total Weight 12oz (340g) 13 oz (370g)     14.5 oz (410g) 16oz (460g)
Measured Weight Not Tested 13.8 oz (390g)     12.1 oz (401g) 15.2 oz (430g)
Down/Total Weight Ratio 32.7 40.8     40.8 43.8
MSRP (US) $375* $375*     $300 $300
*See final note at end of article. New retail price is $199 as of March 2012.

Common Features on all jackets:

850 fill power down, Pertex Quantum GL shell and lining, stitch-through baffle construction, insulated hood with nonadjustable elastic closing, elastic cuffs, full front zip with YKK5 zipper, zippered hand pockets with YKK3 zipper, double cordlock hem, and stuff sack included.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 2

Additional Features:

  GoLite Bitterroot       Rab Infinity 
  Womens Mens       Womens Mens
Two-way front zip Yes Yes       No No
Chin guard lining Yes No       Yes Yes
Hand pocket lining Yes Yes       1/2* No
Front zipper baffle No No       Yes Yes
Weatherproof zippers No No       Yes Yes
Internal pockets 2 2       1 1
*Microfleece lining only on outer side of pocket, not on palm side. See photo in Performance.

Performance - Apples to Oranges

Kristin and I wore the jackets throughout a winter and spring of backcountry skiing. We wore the jackets at our snow camps, during lunch breaks, on summits, and even at night to boost the temperature rating of our 3-season quilt. We stuffed and unstuffed the jackets every day for months on end.

First, the fabric. At no time did the feathers poke through the Quantum GL. There are no tears, signs of abrasion, or unraveling seams. Moderate snowfall did not penetrate the Quantum GL, even though the fabric is not DWR treated. Call me impressed!

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 3
Front and rear views of the GoLite Mens Bitterroot and Rab Womens Infinity. The difference in stitching pattern is quite noticeable, particularly on the backside of the jackets.

The jackets are both very warm for their weight thanks to the light fabric and large amount of high-quality down. The Rab has quite a bit more down and feels like it is overstuffed. After months of use, the Infinity still lofts fully. Originally, the GoLite jacket had nearly as much loft as the Rab. However, by the end of our testing period, there were certain areas that had compacted slightly, like the inside of the elbow and the armpit. This isn’t necessarily indicative of a difference between the jackets. I do sweat more and am a warmer sleeper than Kristin, so it’s possible that this moisture wilted the GoLite down feathers slightly. Rab has a simpler stitching pattern on the back, which could save a bit of weight and cost compared with Golite’s more complicated pattern. GoLite’s stitching creates more cold spots but should also better hold the down in place. I’m unaware if there is any consensus on which method is better.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 4
The womens Infinity has micro-fleece lining on the outer side of the pocket but none on the palm side (left). Long sleeves but short torso on the Infinity in womens medium (center). A tug on the jacket shows the excess of interior volume as the lower torso area is too loose fitting (right).

Kristin generally wears a size small, but had to move up to a medium Infinity for her arms to fit. With the medium, the sleeves are nice and long, but the torso is still on the short side and the torso has way too much extra space. Rab keeps the torso short so as to not interfere with a climbing harness. However, Kristin (like most females I know) really prefers a longer torso to cover most of the hips for better warmth retention.

The GoLite zippers are more finicky. The hidden zippers on the hand pockets are more likely to catch. I often had trouble starting the front zipper on the Bitterroot - I generally have this problem with two-way zippers. Furthermore, I find it unnecessary to have a two-way zipper on a jacket unless the torso is seriously long. For those who prefer a two-way front zipper, the Bitterroot is the way to go. Otherwise, the Infinity gets the nod here.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 5
A peek inside of the Bitterroot (left) reveals two interior pockets: a small electronics pocket by my right hand, and large zippered mesh pocket on my left. High on the left side of the Infinity jacket is a small zippered pocket (right).

The two interior pockets on the GoLite were more useful than the single Rab pocket. The Bitterroot’s small pocket held my camera batteries and iPhone, and the large one held gloves or socks for drying, a hot water bottle, or even the jacket itself! Meanwhile the Infinity’s interior pocket was just large enough to hold a phone, point-and-shoot camera, and/or a few snack bars.

Direct Comparison - Apples to Apples

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 6
Left to right: 1-Liter Nalgene bottle, Infinity and Bitterroot, both in mens medium, in the manufacturer’s supplied stuff sacks. The Bitterroot can pack down more than the Infinity, but it is supplied with a larger stuff sack.

Upon returning to the States, I got hold of a regular production Bitterroot (the orange one that I had tested out in the field was a prototype) and an Infinity, both in mens medium. Now I could compare apples to apples. The direct comparison highlighted a few differences between the jackets that Kristin and I noticed earlier, but couldn’t be sure if the variance was from comparing mens and womens models. The Rab hood is thicker, more snug and has a higher collar. Rab’s hood is meant to go under the helmet, whereas GoLite says that their hood is helmet-compatible.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 7
New jackets! Left to right: Infinity, Bitterroot, and hand pockets of Infinity vs. Bitterroot, both in mens medium.

The GoLite hand pockets are in a lower, more natural position whereas the Rab pockets are higher to avoid overlap with a climbing harness. The womens Infinity has micro-fleece lining on the outer portion of the pocket but not on the inner side. This is an excellent compromise,as it saves weight over a fully-lined pocket but still provides a soft touch to the more sensitive side of your hand, which happens to be the side that rests against the pocket (seriously, this is harder to describe than it is for you to go put your hands in your jacket pocket and see what I mean). I don’t understand why the women get this feature and the men do not. Similarly, the Bitterroot has a micro-fleece chin liner on the womens model, but not the mens. My chin stubble tears up the chins on most of my jackets over extended use, so I would appreciate the extra comfort and protection for the jacket, from me!

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 8
The Bitterroot (left) has a longer torso than the Infinity (right), which has a slight drop tail but is still shorter.

The mens jackets were cut like most down jackets - boxy and too much space around the torso for my preference. There was too much extra space even when wearing a thick baselayer and MontBell Thermawrap Parka. I also found that there was too much volume around the upper half of my arms, particularly with the Bitterroot. I exclusively wear mens medium-sized clothing, and particularly like the trim fit of MontBell and many European brands, so you may prefer the “standard” sizing of these jackets.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 9
The Infinity has a weather-resistant zipper and full-length down-filled draft tube (left). The Bitterroot has a thin Quantum GL draft tube and only at the top of the zipper near the neck area. The rest of the zipper is unprotected.

Conclusion

Both jackets are excellent. They are well made, very warm and pretty darn light considering all of the features. They are also designed for different users. The Infinity has more down, consistently smooth weather-proof zippers, a down-filled draft tube, snugger hood, higher collar and harness-friendly hand pockets. If you want maximum warmth and weather protection, this is clearly the better choice. On our scale, the Infinity jackets weigh less than Rab’s specifications, whereas the Bitterroot weighs more, relative to GoLite’s specs. Finally, the Infinity retails for $75 less than the Bitterroot, meaning you get a lot more jacket for the money.

However, the Infinity may be overkill for certain users. If you’re mostly backpacking, I’d definitely consider the Bitterroot. It may not be quite as warm (based on the amount of down and lack of draft tube), but has a hip-covering torso and is 3 ounces (85 grams) lighter. The interior pockets are very useful, the microfleece-lined hand pockets are soft on the hand and in a more comfortable location, and some might prefer the two-way front zipper.

Final note: As this article went to publication, GoLite announced their new direct-to-consumer business model which substantially lowered the retail price of their entire line of products. The Bitterroot now retails for $199 - an excellent value and a significant savings over the Infinity. With this new pricing, it’s harder to make a compelling argument that justifies spending the extra $100 on the Infinity.

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity - 10
Staying warm on summits in Reihheimen National Park, Norway (left) and the Dolomites, Italy (right).

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.

Citation

"Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity," by Danny Milks & Kristin Tennessen. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/down_jacket_shootout_rab_golite.html, 2012-09-11 00:00:00-06.

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Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity
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Maia
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/11/2012 12:08:33 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
Re: Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/12/2012 10:47:44 MDT Print View

Great review. I have never been especially taken with Rab's quality and fit and finish of their products.

"The Bitterroot now retails for $199 - an excellent value and a significant savings over the Infinity. With this new pricing, it’s harder to make a compelling argument that justifies spending the extra $100 on the Infinity."

Indeed.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - M

Locale: 40°N,-105°W-ish
Re: Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/12/2012 10:56:56 MDT Print View

GoLite's pricing has been all over the board. I see that the Bitterroot is listed at $199 but is out of stock. I'm curious whether they will jack up the price just as it becomes available again this autumn, just as they did with a lot of skus over the summer.

I compared the two models last winter. I couldn't get past the sloppy casual fit of the Bitterroot - I felt it was more suited to the outdoor shopping mall on Pearl Street here in Boulder than up on the trail. I picked up an Infinity which fit me much better and has more thoughtful design features as mentioned in the article.

Casey Bowden
(clbowden) - MLife

Locale: Berkeley Hills
Re: Re: Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/12/2012 16:40:16 MDT Print View

Nice article. You might want to check the math in the down weight / total weight ratios.

For the woman's Bitterroot it should be in the low 40's, either 4.9/12.0 = 40.8% or 140/340 = 41.2%.

Danny Milks
(dannymilks) - MLife

Locale: Sierras
Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/12/2012 16:58:13 MDT Print View

Casey - Good eye! I sent in a request to make the correction on the ratio. Not sure how I came up with that low number, probably just a typo.

Also, I should thank our friend Eirik (pictured below) for photographing us. He took us to some excellent testing grounds in Norway.

Our Norwegian Testing Grounds

Edited by dannymilks on 09/12/2012 16:58:59 MDT.

J C
(Joomy) - M
Rab weights vs. reality on 09/12/2012 22:52:09 MDT Print View

A slight tangent but all of my Rab clothing comes in substantially lighter on my scales than the listed weights on Rab's website. Weird, but always a pleasant surprise.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
add a comp table on 09/13/2012 03:30:34 MDT Print View

nice to see these reviewed. i lokked at them a while ago (and others) and opted for a custom one from Ben@goosefeet

Although this is NOT a state of the market -IMO could be useful to add a comp table with comparable other pieces (eg Montane Northstar, WM meltdown, etc

Mike

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Re: Down Jacket Shoot-out: GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 09/13/2012 05:55:41 MDT Print View

Thanks guys for the quality side by side comparison in this review.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
Another Jacket to compare………. on 09/13/2012 06:31:53 MDT Print View

If you are interested in a similar jacket for comparison, check out the Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Jacket.

Hooded Flash Jacket

RETAIL Price $280

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: Another Jacket to compare………. on 09/13/2012 06:52:42 MDT Print View

I wouldn't call the Hooded Flash a comparable jacket. It only has 3oz fill weight, which is less than half that of the Rab and just about half of the Bitterroot. So they most certainly would not share the same warmth. The Rab Infinity and GoLite Bitterroot fit the category of down jackets above the down sweater category but below a full parka caliber jacket.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Mountain Hardwear Hooded Phantom jacket, Montbell Mirage, Shaka plus on 09/13/2012 11:30:35 MDT Print View

One that does come in similar would be the new MHW Phantom Hooded jacket.

17oz/481g total weight, 6.3 oz/180g fill weight. Features are similar too.

Unfortunately, they are using a 20d fabric on this, rather than their new 7d that they use on the Ghost Whisperer, thus pushing the total weight up a fair bit above the two reviewed.

Another contender would be the Mont Bell Mirage at almost the same weight and fill weight as the Golite, but with 900fp down and full baffles. (Thanks nicktruax)

Similar to that would be the Shaka Plus, at even less weight, but no full zip and far fewer other features.

I would love one with the interior pockets of the Golite/MHW, trimmer fit than either, high collar and regular zipper of the RAB, and a lightweight fabric. For the price of the Golite.

One can dream right?

Edited by Tjaard on 09/13/2012 12:35:29 MDT.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
old version womens Infinity on sale on 09/14/2012 08:52:54 MDT Print View

http://www.moosejaw.com/moosejaw/shop/product_Rab-Women-s-Infinity-Jacket_10170660_10208_10000001_-1_

This is appears to be an older version with Synchro fabric, for a total weight of 14 oz.

jeff berkman
(jberkman) - MLife
M's Bitterroot 850 Fill Down Jacket back in stock on 09/14/2012 09:01:32 MDT Print View

the golite website now shows M's Bitterroot 850 Fill Down Jacket back in stock. Price is the same at $199. Specs looks the same too.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Berghaus/Mtnhause Rmache on 09/15/2012 14:48:20 MDT Print View

this
http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/gear-features/most-effective-down-jacket-ever-from-berghaus/9293.html

could be cool!

Joseph R
(Dianoda) - MLife

Locale: Chicago, IL
Re: Berghaus/Mtnhause Rmache on 09/15/2012 19:45:06 MDT Print View

Michael - that Berghaus should be an interesting product once it hits the market, for sure - mostly because of the cut, the technique chosen for main baffling, and the use of hydrophobic down. I do question how efficient the offset style of baffling is compared to the box-stitch method, but it is easy enough to see that it is more thermally efficient compared stitch-through. Given the overall weight and fill weight, it's an obvious competitor to the Rab Infinity, but the quoted price would leave it quite a bit more expensive (300GBP is about 460US$) - but assuming hydrobphobic down truly is the holy grail of insulation, then that cost might be worth it.

Back to the infinity vs. bitterroot discussion - I've already voiced my preference in earlier threads, but it's probably worth repeating here: in my experience, the hood in the bitterroot was major disappointment - just too big and unwieldy considering that it is nonadjustable (although it might be better for taller folks). Also, for my body-type, the rab was a better, more technical fit. Both jackets are very well made - great materials and construction for each.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
MEC Light Degree hoodie on 09/23/2012 07:44:00 MDT Print View

MEC Light Degree Hoodie:
6.5 oz of down, but only 800fp, for total weight of 15 oz, giving a 43% down ratio.
If you adjust for the difference in fillpower, it's still over 40%.

The hood looks better than the Golite too, and it has a fleece chinguard and large internal pockets.

Edited by Tjaard on 09/23/2012 07:48:13 MDT.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Infinity stuffed full on 10/06/2012 21:10:33 MDT Print View

I jsut checked out an Infinity at my local shop today and that thing is stuffed to the gills! For 7 oz of down or so the baffles are quite small. When you feel the down in there, it's almost like a down pillow, it is really firm.

The arms are nice and long, the collar is nice and tall the shoulders and arms are trim, but the bottom of the torso is still to baggy and it's quite short.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Bitterroot hood on 10/07/2012 22:39:05 MDT Print View

I would echo the earlier comment "in my experience, the hood in the bitterroot was major disappointment - just too big and unwieldy considering that it is nonadjustable"

I was in the GoLite store today and tried it on and the fit of hood and around the neck is just way too loose. I have never understood having helmet compatable hoods without the ability to adjust. Basically this jacket will work with a helmet but not without which for me is worthless.

Daniel Serrano
(dserrano77) - F
Experience with Rab Infinity on 10/10/2012 11:11:22 MDT Print View

I've had an Infinity endurance (the Pertex DWR version) for a year now, and have to say that the biggest downside is what I consider the excessive internal volume of the jacket (as noted in this review).

What I was looking for at the time was something in the 1# total weight with 7+oz fill weight category that was baffled and had an adjustable hood and didn't break the bank. I couldn't find anything that fit the bill and the Infinity came closest.

Setting aside the issue of water resistant down, I believe this is now the closest thing to my desired specs:

https://brooks-range.com/Mojave-Down-Jacket.html

With 9 oz of 800+ fill, total weight of 1#, baffled front (stitch-through elsewhere), and adjustable hood -- I'm thinking of ditching the infinity and moving to this.

Would love to see a comparison of the Bitterrot,Infinity and Mojave.

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
GoLite Bitterroot vs. Rab Infinity on 10/12/2012 05:16:37 MDT Print View

I have both the 2011 Bitterroot and 2011 Infinity ENDURANCE in size XL still new with tags on. I really want to keep the RAB (superior fabric/texture/color, higher fill/weight ratio, baffled zipper, high neck coverage), BUT the overall fit and convenience features of the double zipper and usefull inside mesh pocket/stuff sack has me leaning towards the Golite. Guess my final decision will come when it gets cold. I suspect both jackets are more than warm enough for Japan's -20c alpine winters though and garment fit is ALWAYS the most important consideration.

BTW, I see the 2012 Infinity Endurance is a new "updated design."

http://rab.uk.com/products/mens-clothing/down_1/infinity-endurance-jacket.html

Edited by rmjapan on 10/12/2012 05:34:51 MDT.