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Nunatak Custom Alpinist and Sub Alpinist - "micro" review
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Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Nunatak Custom Alpinist and Sub Alpinist - "micro" review on 12/12/2012 17:40:14 MST Print View

So this isnt really a review since I have limited experience with using the is more of a design review +"out of the box"+ used for a few nights.
I put this here cause for some reason there isn't enough data out there about Nunatak (although IMO Tom has been doing this for quite longer than some of the others) and I figured that someone might appreciate the extra info.

The backdrop story:
I somehow stumbled upon Nunatak in 2005 and ended up ordering a custom Alpinist to replace a WM Verdsalite i had left for a friend in China when I hiked there. What i liked about the Alpinist it was that it was a traditional mummy bag but with what looked like a more efficient hood design + center zip.
It was custom in as much as it had taller baffles (3" instead of 2.5) and overfilled with 4oz (to make it 16oz fill total). It also had a Raku style opening in the footbox (see their website) so I could ostensibly walk with it to pee etc. Quantum outer and Teffeta inner...and full length center zip.
Long story short i was happy and used it for a few forward to a couple of years later I decided I want another lighter circa 30F bag....and ended up ordering a custom sub alpinist.
The design mandate was lightest materials available, ~30F, shave weight where I can, full mummy. I was willing to compromise on comfort insofar as width (i'm a bulky guy - 210#@ 5'10" 50",43", 33" shoulder,waist, foot) and be delicate with the bag.
I used the knowledge form friends here (namely R Nisley with the down compression issue that allowed for lower baffles and narrower trim as i was less concerned with compression in the baffles and from the inside, Dan D with help on sizing, temp rating and down weight etc).
What I that ended up with was very slim bag (59",50",36"), 6'1" long (I'm 5'10"but needed a bit more so i can sit in it), 7D fabric in and out, 12.5oz 950FP down, 21" center zip, 1.75" baffle height. Baffle material is 0.7osy netting (more on this at the end) and baffle spacing is standard 5 inch. Total weight 19.7oz!!!
As a continuation I sent in my old bag and had it redone with very normal footbox, 21"center zip but added some 875FP down to top it up at22oz. Girth is 61",50",38".

I have used the new bag just for one trip and it was great to sleep in. didnt manage to challenge the temp..but IMO should be good to 25~28ish.

so here come the details:

Below is a photo of the two bags. It looks like the black (lighter subalpinist) is much shorter..but it is the same length..just the angle of the camera. Note center zip
Nunatak two bags

Here they are one on top of the other..a bit hard to see but note the top one is significantly narrower. Still i can reasonably lay in it even with something like an MB UL down inner...The black bag is all 7D (thanks for Josh@rutalocura who helped out with sourcing this and sending to Tom) while the green is Quantum0.8 with Epic just at the bottom.
Nunatak one on top of other
Here you can seethe footbox bottom. Note the black is smaller (36" vs 38") and you can see the hang loops we added to both
Nunatak footbox X2
Here is a closeup of hood detail. I speced a spectra cord (as opposed to shockcord) for longevity, abrasion resistance and weight. The translucent material comprising the cord channel is silnyl to resist humidity. You cannot actually see the cordlock here..the string is the zip pull.
Nunatak hood closeup

Now a view with open zip. Its a YKK2.5 single pull one sided locking..again small to save weight. Length is 21" which is minimal but enough for ingress/egress and to sit in. Note skinny zip tape. the draft tube is behind it.
Nunatak zip open
Here you can see the slim draft tube behind the zip. As this was a mild weather bag and the zip is so short we kept this to a minimum. The baffles obviously have zero height at the zipper and taper from 1.75" to zero towards the zip...but for these temps should be ok. Note that face cinch cord (although you cant see it here ) is anchored at the far side and cinched from the near side.
Nunatak sub draft tube
On the warmer (green) bag I went with a different draft tube design. I could of course make a huge draft tube or interlocking etc...but wanted something smarter/ the horizontal main baffles, instead of tapering towards zero at the zip end in a "wall" so baffle height is maintained as near as possible to the zip (as can be seen below my finger in the photo). The draft tube was only slightly bigger than on the black bag. You can also see here the anchored edge of the cinch cord..
Nunatak Alp draft tube detail
Here is the opposite side of the same zipper. Note thin backing tape and baffle "wall". You can also see the anchored cordlock that cinches the hood.
Nunatak apl draft tube detail 2
Now although I didnt test these to lower limits (which i guesstimate to be 25~28F for the black and 7~10F for the green) the changes to the baffle design helped the seal. See here below the black bag - i TURNED IT INSIDE OUT and closed it nicely. One can see it seals nice...but not as nicely as...
Nunatak sub draft tube inside out
...what you see on the green bag (again inside out) see how the "wall"allowed the baffle to drape all over the zipper, and the fact that the baffle height remains high until the very end means down is present at that point to create the heat barrier you need at lower temps.
Nunatak Alp draft tube inside out
Now some "action" photos.Excuse the quality of 7.5Y/O girl took them SLOWLY as daddy was BAKING inside the bags with 85F ambient temps :)
Here I am closing the zip. I'll admit ingress with such a short zip was a learned skill....but IMO the wiggling is worth the weight saved and decrease in cold spot potential.Nunatak Alp closing zip
Here I am inside the bag.
Nunatak alp inside bag full length
Closeup of torso. Note hood is not cinched...I just couldn't bear the heat and was already sweating profusely. That thing on top that looks like a a pocket...its the remnants of the old design and I don't really use it. Would be more useful inside for chapstick, flashlight and whatnot
Nunatak Alp inside - torso
And up close on the hood - as this was taken i was shouting "take the god damn photo you little..."..Note little button next to zip used to be snap closure back in the old design where the zip was non use for it now.
Nunatak Alp inside - face
Here I am sitting up in the bag.. I looked stressed out but its actually easy to sit up.
Nunatak Alp sitting
And here with zip open and hands out. It is a short zip but just enough to do stuff like go through your bag, eat and cook (of course being REALLY careful with the fire.
Nunatak Alp sitting open zip

I dont have the finished weight of the green bag (will update later - I guess circa 33oz). I'm very happy with the bags (of course lacking enough experience to talk about temp rating etc). I think this design is effective for a mummy..I feel very confident about the ability to comfortably sleep in a tight space - at least for the type of trips I do in which I rarely sleep in the tent/tarp more than 4 nights in a row before hitting a village+hostel. its basically deigned such that in the narrow one i can use UL puffy clothes and in the larger one I can use medium stuff which sort of makes sense if you think about the gear you would bring on trips with night temps in the relevant range. RE venting - that would probably be the Achilles heel - but I can say with confidence that at least with the lighter bag that is not a real issue...worst case i sleep with zip open and arms/head out using my small puffy and hat. I have yet to try the heavier bag in mid range temps (say 20F).
Note that I opted NOT to have a draft collar. Rational was that I will always have a puffy garment and can use it (either on me or around). had these been negative F bags...well that might be different.

A word about baffles: These bags are as I mentioned baffled with 0.7osy netting.
There is a trend to baffle bags with 0.33osy cuben (eg Joe etc) - I have a jacket made for me by Ben@goosefeet with such baffles and I think one thing that is not mentioned when we talk about this is that indeed weight saving can be made - but they are probably very small savings as most of these bags DO NOT have so many baffles (as opposed say to a arctic expedition Valandre bag with 100chambers etc) BUT what I have noticed is that compressing the cuben baffled items was MUCH MUCH harder to do since air only flows through the seams while with netting it can flow freely. This sounds trivial but in reality is quite a bummer, especially with such light shell materials where you need to be careful with pressing hard.
Another issue - which I am not sure how it affects the bag - is that airflow inside the bag is reduced - this could mean that its harder for the bag to loft and warm air from around your core doesnt flow as easily to your toes etc...
Tom has great skill and it shows. He is however NOT super fast (as opposed to say Ben@goosefeet or stuff I hear about Joe and others). I did give him hell with insisting on 7D that he did not have at hand and sourcing spectra cord specially for me etc. I probably sent 60 emails back and forth and shared numerous google docs...and he took it like a champ.

Anyway - I hope this helps/interests someone. Feel free to ask me to add stuff.

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with Nunatak and Tom...I bought all this stuff with my hard earned cash :)


Edited by mike_hefetz on 12/15/2012 05:56:38 MST.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Added some more details on 12/15/2012 05:57:36 MST Print View

re baffles, construction and weight

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Nunatak Custom Alpinist and Sub Alpinist - "micro" review on 12/15/2012 07:17:10 MST Print View

My friend has one of those bags. Really nice and super light, but its extremely narrow cut to achieve the low weight.

And he finds the center zip with single sided pull (outside the bag) quite difficult to access when all zipped in. What are your thoughts on that?

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Ymmv on 12/15/2012 08:10:00 MST Print View

As I said - my usage scenario is usually no more than say 3-4 night before I hit a town or village where I will sleep in a hostel or BnB. As such weight trumped over comfort. Also I do 3 season stuff where I don't need to sleep in bag with shoes or crazy big wall/ bivi type of stuff.
I know many people will say "quilt" but I argue that with similar materials and if you include the weight of a proper down hood (which is not really dual use cause you would not take it if you were not sleeping with a quilt) and assuming you want a wide enough quilt due to draft control - you would end up pretty much in the same weight range and snuggled up like a mummy. I admit that for temps way above 30F I would enjoy a quilt more-- but this was not the target of these bags.
Re cut - you can play with that as u will as these are custom. One can go with a wider cut (eg like versalite). I can say that I feel comfy enough in this bag (even the really narrow specd one) as long as you realize what you are in for.

As far as zip - indeed it aint so easy - one could go with double sided and two way and also get a 50" zip like the standard Alpinist. I had that on previous bag and it was great... But again weight and simplicity triumphed. It's indeed a bit harder to reach out of the bag and unzip.... But so what???

Again- its a custom deal so you could spec up.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Nunatak Custom Alpinist and Sub Alpinist - "micro" review on 01/01/2013 19:45:16 MST Print View

Nice looking bags with sensible mods! Good work.

Say, Mike, I sent you a PM.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
saw it+ answered on 01/01/2013 23:59:05 MST Print View


Now all i need to do is get more vacation time and use them ;)

Jon Solomon
(areality) - F - MLife

Locale: Lyon/Taipei
drafts on 04/03/2014 15:03:33 MDT Print View

nice review!
how do you or any other alpinist users out there seal out drafts?

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Drafts on 07/11/2014 06:10:29 MDT Print View


didnt see a belated reply

by drafts - i assume you mean around the face (cause the zip has a draft tube)
all i can say is that in all my use of both bags - that has never been an issue - as i mention above:
- the hood cinches pretty tight. i never had a real issue
- if things get really drafty i usually have a hooded LW down piece (eg Montbell UL or similar ) which i can use to tighten the seal.

As an aside - since Tom from Nunatak is a custom job business - you could easily ask for a draft tube

hope this helps a bit