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Reviews > Clothing > Jackets > Nunatak Kobuk Down Parka > Owner Review by Richard Lyon
NUNATAK KOBUK DOWN PARKA
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
March 14, 2017
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Male, 70 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Chest: 46 in (117 cm)
Waist: 38 in (97 cm)
Torso: 22.5 in (57 cm)
Sleeve length: 36.5 in (93 cm)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
I've been backpacking for nearly half a century, most often in the Rockies. I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp. Though always looking for ways to reduce my pack weight, I still tend to include my favorite camp conveniences. I always sleep in a floored tent and like hot meals. Summer adventures are often on centered on fly fishing opportunities; winter on downhill skiing or ski touring.
THE PRODUCT AND ITS MAKER
The Kobuk is a puffy down jacket with a removable hood. At one time, prior to the change of company ownership noted in the following paragraph, it was Nunatak's intermediate weight jacket, sitting between the lightweight Skaha, still offered and the subject of two of my Owner Reviews on this site, and the Torre, marketed for expedition use. The Torre apparently has been replaced on the roster by an expedition upgrade to the Kobuk.
Nunatak makes and sells high quality down products - garments for use from head to toe, sleeping quilts, sleeping bags. The company changed ownership a few years ago and moved from Washington to Utah. While its product range has both changed and expanded, the company remains very amenable to customization of listed items; in its own words, "Nearly every product sold by Nunatak is made to order. This offers the potential to tweak and alter the design to any particular need." On the website's Kobuk page is a tab that allows a buyer to choose among the features listed below. Further individualized customization is available and encouraged.
I point this out as a mild warning on the accuracy of the "listed" data from Nunatak's website. That's not to say that Nunatak's information is in error; rather that with bespoke work there really is no standard weight or price. Anyone who is weight-conscious and considering a purchase from Nunatak should inquire of the company just what will her size and special features will cost in grams and price. This wasn't an issue for me, at least for my Kobuk. I'm not an ounce-counter, and I bought my Kobuk through an online forum from the man who ordered it from Nunatak.
The following information is for the Kobuk Parka. Nunatak now offers a Kobuk Hoodie, with an integrated hood, more down, and a roomier fit to accommodate features designed for expedition use.
Manufacturer: Nunatak. The company is now based in Moab, Utah.
Size: XL. Available in five sizes from Small to XX-Large.
Sleeve length, size XL, listed 36 in [91 cm]; measured 38.5 in [98 cm]
Weight, size XL, listed 22 oz [624 g] with 0.8 oz fabric [not sure if this includes the hood]; measured 35 oz [992 g] with 1.7 oz fabric and two ounces (57 g) overfill
MSRP: Base price for XL, $530 US (Base price varies by size. The larger the size, the more the down and the higher the price.). Surcharges for certain features are noted below.
Standard features: #5YKK zipper, backed by a down-filled draft tube and anti-snag zipper guard. Two exterior zippered handwarmer pockets.
Optional features: Expedition upgrade (MSRP $145 US); detachable hood ($79); interior zippered chest pockets ($15 for one, $25 for two); internal cargo pockets ($25 for two, recommended for the expedition version); sleeve end finish (Velcro or elastic, no charge); one or two ounces (28 or 57 g) overfill ($20/ounce). Mine has the hood, elastic cuffs, two interior zippered pockets, and two ounces (57 g) of overfill, so I figure its MSRP would be $674 US.
Down: 900 fill power goose down, RDS certified; Hyper-Dry option ($15)
Shell fabric: EPIC by Nextec. Many lighter-weight choices are available (no charge for any of them)
Liner fabric: Nylon taffeta. One lighter-weight option is available (no charge)
Color: Blue (No longer available in EPIC. The customer chooses fabric and color at the time of order from a large selection on Nunatak's website. At this writing about a dozen fabrics were available.)
Country of manufacture: USA
Year Purchased: 2015 (bought used)
Like all Nunatak jackets the Kobuk has box baffles. This design provides greater insulation and reduces cold spots. The Kobuk has an elastic waistband that is easily adjusted with plastic toggles at the waist immediately below the outside pockets.
I should also mention that the webpage says there's a 4-6 week lead time, reinforcing the notion that each piece is custom work. Take that into account if ordering one for an upcoming expedition.
The Kobuk is a cold-weather coat. I rarely wear it in any season but winter. Here in Montana winter can descend as early as October and extend into April or May. My backcountry use is almost always for backpacking, though every now and then if it's particularly cold (near 0 F/-17 C or lower) I'll take it on a day hike. I have never worn the Kobuk when actually hiking, snowshoeing, or skiing along a trail; it's so warm that it makes me sweat during any aerobic activity other than downhill runs on skis. But it's wonderful on those ski runs, at rest stops, in and around camp, and in intense cold as part of my sleep system. The Kobuk accompanies me when the expected temperature is 15 F (-10 C) or lower and has been worn amid strong winds and whiteout-level snowfall. Also on crystal-clear bluebird days in frigid Yellowstone National Park, where I've worn it at -30 F (-36 C). I'll throw the Kobuk on in the front country in particularly nasty weather, especially for dog walks.
I sometimes stow the jacket inside my pack but more often it's lashed to the outside for ready access. It's bulky, of course, and not easy to jam into a stuff sack. (On the subject of stuff sacks I note that one innovation since the company changed hands is that a new Kobuk now comes with one.)
Fit. My Kobuk has a comfortable cut, suitable for wearing over several other layers. Based upon Nunatak's current descriptions my jacket may have the expedition upgrade, whose website description indicates a roomier cut. I ordinarily wear the Kobuk over a base layer and heavy sweater or midlayer down piece, and it fits easily, with no straining to jam already heavily clad arms through the sleeves. The hem sits about four inches (10 cm) below my waist in front, longer in back, giving nice protection to my backside. Sleeves are long enough to extend to my wrist, well inside the gauntlet mittens I wear in cold weather. In sum, the Kobuk fits me just about perfectly. (The man from whom I bought the Kobuk did list his height and weight, both of which were similar to mine.) I doubt that I could have designed it any better had I started from scratch.
Insulation. 900 fill power goose down, box-baffled down chambers, and a hefty 13.5 ounces (383 g) of insulation make this a warm jacket, a very warm jacket. Add in the ability to seal up the waist, cuffs, and neck and I'm well barricaded against seriously cold conditions. The hood and front zipper deserve special mention. The zipper is backed by a generous down-filled draft tube that eliminates a potential weak spot down the front. The hood is roomy enough for my ski helmet yet can be pulled down over a wool cap so that very little of my face is exposed to the elements. (I took some selfies but the picture on Nunatak's website shows this much better.) The snaps on the neck of the hood serve the same purpose, sitting well enough below the top of the jacket to ensure against drafts. As close to inside a cocoon as I've ever been.
Even though the insulation limits my use of the Kobuk to genuine winter conditions, I've come to regard it as virtually essential when those conditions obtain. A series of downhill ski runs at -3 F (-19 C) through driving snow and wind made me a true believer. Over the past few years my winter camping has been mostly in yurts or Forest Service cabins, and the Kobuk is great for throwing on for outdoor chores and outhouse trips. On a couple of trips it has been borrowed for those purposes by hiking companions, making it something of a group coverup. The Kobuk is perfect for dog walks and dog training in miserable conditions, when my aerobic level is lower than when backcountry hiking or ski touring.
Weatherworthiness. I've mentioned wind blocking. What about water? Needless to say I've never worn the Kobuk when it was warm enough to rain. It's been tested for water resistance, though, when entering a heated cabin from a snowstorm. Melting snow did not penetrate to the down on any occasion. From past experience with tents, sleeping bags, and other garments I consider EPIC's "water-resistant" description the most conservative I've ever known. For all intents and purposes it's waterproof. Certainly more than adequate for a cold weather-only jacket.
Features. The pockets are consistent with this jacket's functional design. All are large. The outside pockets are roomy enough for heavy mittens and odds and ends like lip balm and a pocket knife, plus my hands. They are also placed nicely to avoid being rendered inaccessible by pack straps (though rarely have I worn a pack over it). The zippers on the interior pockets are parallel and about an inch (2.5 cm) to the inside of the zipper draft tube, as shown in the photo. But they are not just for keys or cell phone. Each extends all the way to the shoulder and is large enough for a folded-up climbing skin or even a scrunched-up midlayer.
The elastic cuffs have held their springiness and grip over a winter and a half of my use. They give a snug fit, snug enough to keep snow out after a fall when skiing. I have not removed the hood except to see how it's done - I want a hood when it's cold enough to wear the Kobuk. This operation is easy to do, simply unsnapping five snaps.
Durability and Care. One thing about a jacket that is worn in the snow is that it doesn't get much of a chance to get dirty. I have not needed to spot clean it. I have washed it once, by hand in cold water with down-specific soap. With the box baffles some kneading was needed to preserve its shape before air-drying. I have yet to see a feather escape and all stitching remains intact. That is typical of my experience with Nunatak - top-notch quality.
The Bottom Line. The Kobuk I consider a niche product. Thanks to the long and often brutal winters here in the Northern Rockies that niche for me is fairly large. It's seen plenty of use. I like just about everything about it. The only changes I might have made had I ordered it from Nunatak would be Velcro cuffs and perhaps the Hyper-Dry down. But I'm very happy with it as it is.
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