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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Quilts and Blankets > Nunatak Arc Specialist sleeping quilt > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Nunatak Arc Specialist Quilt
By Raymond Estrella

July 14, 2010


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, plus many western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as near to it as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with brother-in-law Dave.

The Product

Arc Specialist
Image courtesy Nunatak
Manufacturer: Nunatak Gear
Web site:
Product: Arc Specialist backcountry quilt
Size: Large
Year manufactured/received: 2010
MSRP: US$ 433.00 (Base price before extras)
Temperature rating: 32 F (0 C)
Weight listed (in Quantum fabric): 17 oz (482 g)
Actual weight w/ extra down over-fill: 18.5 oz (524 g)
Color: Sage Green
Fill weight as ordered: 10 oz (283 g)
Baffle height/loft listed: 1.75 in (4.45 cm)
Loft observed: to 2 in (5.1 cm) between baffles

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

The Arc Specialist has quickly become my favorite backcountry sleeping device. Using it from freezing temps up, it has proven the most comfortable and smallest packing bag or quilt I have owned. While the cost is a bit steep the end justifies the means as far as I am concerned.

Product Description

The Nunatak Arc Specialist backcountry quilt (hereafter referred to as the Specialist or quilt) is claimed by the manufacturer to be a quilt for all seasons. As can be seen in the photo (courtesy of Nunatak Gear) above the quilt is made in an arcing taper. At the bottom is a footbox much like is found on all my traditional sleeping bags. But instead of a zipper running from the footbox up to the top the Specialist just has the sewn edges of, well, a quilt.

The quilt is made with baffled construction to eliminate cold spots. The chambers which are filled with 800+ fill goose down run horizontally.


In warmer temperatures the Specialist is used as a traditional quilt, just spread over the user. But when temps drop it has a couple tricks up its shell. On the back are three black nylon straps that attach on one side with lightweight center-release buckles. Using these straps the Specialist may be secured around me and my sleeping pad. The tighter I pull them the more sealed up I shall be keeping cold drafts out and my body heat in.

To really make it warm the straps can be pulled almost closed around just me, not the pad. Then the top may be closed by way of a metal snap. Once this is done an elastic draw string can be tightened pulling the opening of the now almost-a-sleeping-bag Specialist closed as much as needed.

Nunatak Gear is a custom shop. All their gear is made to order and there is a multitude of choices available as far as size, fabrics and amount of fill. While their web site shows standard configurations and weights everything can be ordered to fit one's specific needs or desires.
I had them make my quilt with the main outer shell from 1 oz Pertex Quantum fabric. This is a super breathable 20 denier fabric. The inside is black nylon taffeta that will assist in sun drying should it get damp on my adventures. Both fabrics are very soft tand silky to the touch. As I tend to sleep cold around my chest and arms I had Nunatak add an extra ounce (29 g) of down to the top 1/3 of the quilt.

Mine is 72 in (183 cm) long. The footbox is 11 in (28 cm) in diameter and is 21 in (46 cm) deep. The quilt is 52 in (132 cm) wide at the top.

The quilt is very soft to the touch and the down is some of the puffiest I have ever seen. It lofts up very fast. Nunatak does not provide either a stuff sack or protective storage sack so I had to purchase them after I got the quilt. (Note: they do sell stuff sacks as an extra. I just picked some up locally on sale and picked the one that fits the best.) The sack I have it in is 5 x 12 in (13 x 30 cm) although it can easily compress another 33% smaller.

Field Conditions

In Espri 2

I have been using the Specialist on almost every backpacking and camping trip since January of this year. I used it as far south as Lake Morena in San Diego County, California where it was snowing/raining and 34 F (1 C). The picture above is from the second night in rainy Lake Moreno in a Nemo Espri 2 tent. The Specialist has been to as far north as Itasca State Park on the North Country Trail in Minnesota. I have carried it in a pack over at least 226 miles (364 km) of trails for at least 17 nights use. It has been used at only a high of 5000 ft (1524 m) elevation so far as I have been doing much of the southern part of the Pacific Crest Trail this year, and a low of 1400 ft (427 m).

The Specialist has been used in rainy conditions more than any bag I have as this has been a record winter and spring for moisture in both states. As much of the time I was in tiny single wall shelters with high humidity it has seen its share of condensation on it. It has been used in a lot of different tents both single and double wall, and almost every site has been next to a lake, creek, river or spring. To have fun with the review I will see how many pictures I have of it in different shelters. Like this Nemo Morpho in the Angeles National Forest.

In Morpho 1


As may be seen in my other reviews I fell in love with quilts for sleeping in the backcountry in 2009. As a toss-and-turn side sleeper I found that sleeping bags, made to be most efficient for back sleepers, just did not work well for me unless I wanted to carry a wide heavy bag. Quilts turned all that around for me and Nunatak quickly became the brand I went to with their high quality and willingness to configure the quilt exactly the way I want it.

The Arc Specialist is my third quilt from Nunatak and it quickly became my favorite. While it weighs very little it is still quite warm. I have been down to 34 F (1 C) with it with no discomfort. I wore a fleece beanie on my head and a light weight long sleeved base layer and long johns under it. With the exception of the beanie I do this with all my bags and quilts to keep them clean. Here is the Specialist in a Sierra Designs LT Strike in Cleveland National Forest.

In LT Strike

I decided early on that the straps were not really necessary for me at the temperature range the bag is made for. I ended up cutting them off about two months after I bought it. In retrospect I should have asked Tom (the owner of Nunatak) to make them detachable. Next time…

The temperature range that I have found the Specialist works best is from freezing to about 40 F (4 C). Above that I have to keep one or both feet out of the footbox to control getting too warm. Above 50 F (10 C) I find myself flipping it on and off, or just draping a corner across my mid-torso. (I am one of those people that like something covering them.) Or like what happened on two trips, my son decided that he liked the Specialist and took half of it while he slept next to me in this Carbon Reflex 3 in Itasca and Maplewood State Parks in Minnesota.

In Carbon Reflex 3

I think what I like the best about the Specialist is how small it packs down. It is pretty amazing how much the 800+ down fill compresses. (It was delivered to me in the mail inside an envelope!) While I got a tiny stuff sack for it I have started carrying it loose in the bottom of my pack and letting it compress as needed as I load the rest of the gear inside. It has been part of the reason I have been able to use a small day pack I am testing (see Black Diamond Octane report) for two and three day backpacking trips. Well that and the tiny Sublite Sil that I am testing too, seen here in Itasca State Park. (See report.)

In Sublite Sil

The trip shown above saw a huge thunderstorm hit in the evening. I awoke to high winds blowing water inside before I could get the tent closed up. A couple hours later a straight line wind hit me ripping the tent half down. After I fought my way out to reset the stakes I ended up with more water on the Specialist. I wiped it off with my PackTowl washcloth and went back to sleep. The next day I was happy to see that no moisture had soaked into the down.

In Vapor Light

The one time I did get at least the shell fabric wet was when using it in a Sierra Designs Vapor Light at the Pacific Crest Trail Kickoff at Lake Morena, seen above. During the night the entire site was covered by fog and the condensation was horrible, coating everything inside and outside my tent. As I had to meet Dave for a hike I got up at 4:30 AM and had to pack the wet Specialist into its stuff sack. By the time I met Dave and hiked 20 miles (32 km) to Dove Springs for the night the quilt's shell was a bit soggy-feeling. I just spread the Specialist (and my down sweater) in the grass as seen below and it quickly dried out. The Tyvek TT Sublite it was used in that night is not visible though…

Drying near Sublite Tyvek version

I have not needed to wash the Specialist yet. As I mentioned I try to keep it clean and protected from body oils and sweat. It has spent a lot of time stuffed in my packs or suitcases as I have been taking it back and forth to Minnesota every month. There is no wear showing at all, I rarely lose any down, something I attribute to good down, as it is the feathers that usually makes it way out of the fabric, not down clusters.

If there is anything negative to say about the Specialist it would have to be time lag between ordering and receiving the product, and the cost. Do not expect instant gratification when ordering a Nunatak quilt. The wait can stretch to months depending on work-load. But as it is a handmade, individually customized piece of gear I find it understandable. And should my Specialist be lost or stolen I would replace it in a minute. Or when I saved enough for another one…

Actually I have been thinking about getting another quilt for hot weather next summer. This one will be lighter yet and not something they have on the site but made to my specs. If I do it you can be sure I will review it here. I leave with a picture of the Specialist in a Terra Nova Laser in the Angeles National Forest.

In TN Laser

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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