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Nunatak Akula & Torre
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Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Nunatak Akula & Torre on 07/10/2007 16:42:33 MDT Print View

Hi all,

This is the first post I will be creating and thank you in advance for your help.

I have been backpacking all my life and even at the age of 51 I'm still learning every day. Since I have only recently gone into lightning up my backpack, I need some advice to avoid making the wrong decisions with my sleeping system.

At present I use a Therm-a-Rest Z-Rest (in winter on snow combined with a 3/4 Therm-a-Rest inflatable) as a pad. My down sleeping bags (2) are custom-made by Tatteljee in Amsterdam. I am quite happy with their overall performance, but under extreme winterconditions (-25ºC=-13ºF) I have to use both and that makes them far too heavy (1524 + 1244 gr = 53.76 + 43.88 oz).

I know there are many options far lighter than this combination, but one in particular caught my attention: The Akula & Torre from Nunatak. Since my old TNF Down Jacket is good for retirement, the Torre Jacket could be a perfect subsitute for it and the Torre combined with the Akula Elephant Foot could be a substitute for my sleepingbag(s). Weight for Akula Long, Pertex (16oz=453gr) + Torre XL, Epic) (35oz=992gr). Total 1445 gr (51 oz) instead of my actual 2768 gr ( 97.64 oz) and I can leave my TNF Jacket (710gr=25oz) at home!!!! So I am saving nearly 2 kg. (over 71 oz).

The bivy I use is a Grifone Goretex (759gr=26.77oz), which I would like to replace with a Bozeman Mountain Works Zide Zip Vapr Bivy, when it comes back in stock (since I normally use it under a Golite Lair 1 tarp, I do not need a fully waterproof bivy). I also have a Hilleberg Akto solo tent, but in the last few years I have not been using this a lot.

My questions: Anybody knows about or owns the Akula + Torre combination? What is the performance out in the mountains? Any mistakes made in my way of thinking? Any alternatives you could think of?

Edited by theflyingdutchman on 07/11/2007 11:42:45 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Inner and outer fabric on 07/12/2007 09:14:01 MDT Print View

I can’t believe that nobody has an idea about these Nunatak products. Maybe it has not been read yet.

Anyhow I have another question. These products can be made in different fabrics: Microlight, Epic, Endurance and 0.85 nylon fabric (which I believe is Pertex Quantum).

What is the difference (apart from the weight) and which fabric would you recommend, taking into consideration that, where the Akula foot bag will only be used to sleep (and always inside a bivy-bag), the Torre Jacket will also be used when at rest during the walk, climb or around camp.


Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Inner and outer fabric on 07/12/2007 11:23:14 MDT Print View

Have you directed any of your questions to Tom himself? He may be able to help you with some of the decision making. I purchased an Arc AT from him and he has been great to deal with. If I remember correctly, there was a link on his page explaining the differences between the material.

I'm sure the people on this site can explain in greater detail and give personal experince, but it's a start.

FWIW, when I was researching about the Arc AT, not many people (I think only 1 actualy) responded saying that they owned one. There is however, a larger number of ghost/specialist users-so it seems. You can search for reviews or info on those products and see what carries over to your interests. Then again, perhaps no one on this site uses the Akula combo.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Akula/Torre on 07/12/2007 12:46:09 MDT Print View

I second your talking directly with Tom---the owner of Nunatak, who could really help fine-tune your product selection. There's a lot of info you aren't giving us for a considered answer to your questions----such as where and when you would be using this combo. Expected Temp. ranges you might be encountering. Stuff like that.

What you are considering is really more appropriate for fast and light alpine mtneering in colder climes, I think. (and looking at what Tom says on his site, that's exactly what he designed this for, hah) The parka in and of itself is far too heavy and warm for Summer backpacking in say, the Sierra, Cascades, Rockies and the Alps too, for that matter. There are far lighter and versatile possibilities from Nunatak. especially if used in conjunction with well chosen clothing that can supplement the warmth of your bag (like lw insulated jackets and pants such as the Cocoon series sold through BPL). I speak as a tarp/bivy camper who uses one of the Nunatak Arc bags and as an alpine climber who has dabbled with elephant's foot/ half bags in the past.

Incidentally, the .85 fabric is not Quantum, which is a 1.0 oz. fabric.

Whatever bag or bag/jacket combo you choose, since you would be using it inside a bivy and under a tarp, I would probably choose Quantum as the lightest, most versatile shell material.

Anyway, hope this begins to help.

Edited by kdesign on 07/12/2007 12:47:49 MDT.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Re: Akula/Torre on 07/12/2007 15:43:40 MDT Print View

Hi Steven and Kevin.

First of all, thanks Steven for the link to the explanations about the fabrics used by Nunatak. It has been most helpful. And yes, I do agree with both of you that the best thing to do is getting in contact directly with the manufacturer if there are some questions about their products; especially when talking about a small company where personal input is still appreciated. Well that is exactly what I did. A few weeks ago I sent an E-mail where I explained what I wanted and I was very pleased when I got a very quick answer from Tom telling me that he was happy to help me to build up a set that would suit my needs, so that is not the problem at all.

Where my doubts arose, was when I read that they were “using the Akula Torre setup for MILD winter conditions at altitude”. Since I need the combo for sleeping in winter (on snow) in the Sierra Nevada (Spain), the Pyrenees and the Alps, I was not sure whether this combo would be able to cope with the temperatures I would find there. As I am convinced that it is a good idea to get as much information as possible from different people, especially when one is talking about making a pretty large investment, I decided to launch this thread before making any decision. After having made up my mind about what I really need, I will contact Tom again and I am sure he will be very helpful when it comes to decisions like which fabric to use, size, whether extra down would be needed, etc. (He already told me that he would build the Torre in the Epic shell and the half bag could be Quantum).

Kevin, as said before, I will use the combo in mountains all over Europe and the period of the year would be mainly late autumn, winter and early spring. This means that the average temperatures that I would encounter, would be in between, let’s say, 10 ºC and -15 ºC (50 to 5 ºF), dropping, in the middle of the winter, to about -25 ºC (-13 ºF). I have sometimes been away for a long weekend in the middle of August and seen the thermometer going down to nearly freezing-point, so even then a good sleeping-bag is a must. With these temps., in winter I would still be in need of extra clothing (Nunatak-site specifies a temp. of -7 ºC = 20 ºF) and that is another reason why I seek for advice.

As said in the first post, I use -in the winter- 2 down bags (custom made years ago, when I wasn’t concerned yet about the weight) + a TNF Down Jacket (I forgot the name but it’s about 12 to 15 years old). Total weight: 1524 + 1244 + 710 = 3478 gr (53.76 + 43.88 + 25.04 = 122.68 oz. This system has always kept me comfortable since I’ve been able to use whatever combination has been necessary at any given moment, but the penalty is big; it is far too heavy. As the down jacket wants a well deserved retirement and I have recently read an article (written in 2001 by John Harlin) about the elephant foot (half bag) combined with a parka, I thought this could be the answer to my dilemma.

This is my idea (and I’d like you to correct me if my thinking is wrong): Even though I agree with Kevin that the Torre Parka is not ultra-light, the fact that I do need some sort of extra clothing when not on the move (resting, assuring a partner when climbing or around camp before going to bed), the Torre could double up in function and be used for both applications. For the “price” of 1445 gr (51 oz) I have a full sleeping system AND a very warm down jacket when at rest. From John Harlin’s article: " ...... Of course, if I don't need a warm jacket in camp, the weight savings is debatable. The Akula comes in at a pound and the puffy jacket at around 2 pounds, adding up to roughly 3 pounds for the system. You can find lighter 20° to 30°F bags. But then you don't get the luxury of a fat jacket around camp, unless you carry it extra and add that weight to your load"..... I DO need this warm jacket. Now my remarks: If it really was such a good combination, wouldn’t everybody use it? What’s wrong with this idea? Where do I make a mistake?

For the extreme wintertemps, I’m thinking of adding either a Cocoon Quilt (BPL) or Cocoon clothing. In my opinion, both have some advantages. With the clothing, I could be walking in them at sub-zero temps without bringing a much heavier fleece jacket (which is what I do now). The advantage of a quilt: It could be used on its own, when staying overnight inside a refuge, where temperature is likely to be too warm for the Akula-Torre combo.

Only one more question: Kevin, since you expressed yourself quite clearly (you “dabbled” with elephant's foot/ half bags in the past), I understand that you weren’t happy with this combo. What are, in your opinion, the disadvantages: Lack of comfort, draft coming in because of the system being sectionalized? I'm sure it won't be the quality as Nunatak is known as one of the best manufacturers and you use one of the Nunatak Arc bags. I can’t see where the weight is a disadvantage, even though you’re reasoning "used in conjunction with well chosen clothing that can supplement the warmth of your bag (like lw insulated jackets and pants)", because I can’t find any other bag + lw jacket + pant at a weight of 51 oz.

I did not really want to write such a long post and I apologize for it, but, please, let it not keep you from throwing some light into my dark (and cold) thoughts.


Edited by theflyingdutchman on 07/12/2007 16:24:52 MDT.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Akula/Torre on 07/12/2007 16:16:09 MDT Print View


I own a Nunatak Arc Alpinist. I find the elephants foot combination interesting, but have no experience.

I am a side sleeper and the Jacks'R"Better No Sniveller quilt (21.2 oz.) at 48 inches is just barely wide enough for me without any layers. With layers I need the full 55 inch width of the Arc Alpinist. I layer a Jacks'R'Better 64 inch wide quilt (24.2 oz) over the Arc Alpinist for extreme cold.

OK the extent of my experience is that the top quilt needs to be wider than the one under it.

Tom will make every effort to put you in a product that will meet your needs, and the price reflects a quality product with great customer support.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Re: Re: Re: Akula/Torre on 07/12/2007 16:52:04 MDT Print View

Hi Richard,

Even though you have no experience with the half bag, youre help is appreciated. If I would decide to go for the mentionned Akula-Torre setup and combine it in winter with a quilt, would you think the Cocoon would be wide enough for me (Top Circum. 52, Midsection Circum. 62). I'm 1.90 m, 100 kg (6.23 ft, 220 lb).

I have no doubt at all about Tom being very helpful and, since I've been navigating quite a while on Internet and only found impressive remarks, I am convinced that the quality of his products and the customer support will be excellent.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Half bags, my sleeping systems, and Economics----warmth for the buck (or Euro) on 07/12/2007 18:26:41 MDT Print View

Henk, you might sleep colder than me and need the additional insulation. But what do I know? :-)

In the mild side of Alpine Winter conditions, I use, as need dictates, a Marmot Hydrogen (24 oz.) plus a Nunatak Arc custom quilt, over the top (16 oz.) and my Cocoon pullover (9.5 oz.)---although, I sometimes just bring out my 36 oz. Winter bag---the Shelters being (solo) a BD Firstlight and a BD Megalite 'Mid, BD Lighthouse or a Stephenson Warmlite 2R or 3R when with others and depending on whether it's a Ski trip or a Climbing trip. I don't use a tarp late Fall thru early Spring. I love snow caves when practical. I use my bivy w/ the bag for the latter and often w/ the 'Mid.

The above components of the sleeping system are selectively used for 3 season trips ( all of my trips tend to be higher elevation trips in the N. American mountain West) --usually the Quilt w/ a MLD Soul Bivy and a MLD Grace Tarp supplemented w/ a Cocoon insulated jacket (and now my just purchased Cocoon Pants). This system has been comfortably used by me to the low 20's F (say about -5 C.). You could look at the gear list posted under my profile to see the weight of this system. I adore modular equipment systems.

The half bag approach has been used by me for a light kit for the highest pushes on some climbs in the St. Elias ( sometimes just as emergency bivy gear) and I found that using such a system was efficient for a relatively narrow comfort range. The jacket used (not so dissimilar from the Torre) was appropriate for gnarly cold conditions but far too warm to be used by me in warmer conditions. There was not really a bad cold spot from using a "sectionalized" insulation system----there was just too much overlap of the jacket w/ the half bag. But one could find any number of sleeping bags that would offer a lot more warmth for the weight of the Akula/Torre.

There is also the matter of economics. The cost is rather frightening...

One could compare a 20 degree Nunatak Alpinist Bag (23 oz., $411) vs. 44 oz. and $877 for the similarly warm Akula/Torre system and still have $466 and 21 oz. left over to snag a Nunatak Kobuk jacket which could be used to make your sleeping system even warmer or have a very warm jacket to putter around camp in. Personally, I find using a lighter insulated jacket or parka more practical for anything other than heart of Winter conditions and I like the security of that jacket with synthetic insulation to supplement the down bag and provide a measure of moisture resistant warmth. Which is why I favor something like a Cocoon pullover or parka.

Edited by kdesign on 07/12/2007 18:44:43 MDT.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Akula/Torre on 07/13/2007 06:43:51 MDT Print View


I believe 62 inches will work for you.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Akula on 07/13/2007 09:23:42 MDT Print View

Re: “I use, as need dictates, a Marmot Hydrogen (24 oz.) plus a Nunatak Arc custom quilt ..... supplemented w/ a Cocoon insulated jacket (and now my just purchased Cocoon Pants).” I’m not even close to being an expert, but does this in any way contradict the principles expressed in the following quote: “Down is a great material for use as a liner bag. In cold weather, condensation will tend to collect on the inside of the outer most layer of fabric where vaporized moisture hits colder temperatures. When using a synthetic outer bag with the down as a liner, moisture will tend to condense on the outside of the synthetic bag with little reduction in loft of the down liner.”
In other words, would it be better to use Nunatak down clothing inside a synthetic quilt, as opposed to using synthetic clothing inside a down quilt? I’m just asking, being a non-expert and all.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Sleeping systems and condensation, etc. on 07/13/2007 10:47:32 MDT Print View

Only if condensation were the only source of moisture in or around one's sleeping set up. I don't find appreciable amounts of condensation forming between the 2 bags as I use them. One also has a lot of control over condensation formation by proper site selection and venting their shelter.

Body generated moisture is the other big bugaboo of Down in a sleeping environment--- in (particularly) cold and moisture laden weather, it will degrade the loft of a down bag over time. A synthetic insulative garment worn inside the bag will buy you time, IMHO. Even better (in temps. below the the mid-20's or so---depending on the individual) would be the use of a vapor barrier liner (VBL) inside the bag ( my bad for not including this option in my earlier post*). In the drier Winter conditions of the Sierra or the Rockies, a down bag used in a good winter worthy shelter and with a VBL will maintain it's loft for quite a few days. In the Cascades, in Winter, I will use a bivy over the bag, to protect from condensation in the shelter, particularly when using a 'Mid and either a synthetic insulated jacket or the VBL depending on length of trip and expected min. temps.

In the usual Summer alpine conditions, the use of a synthetic insulated jacket (and pants) besides extending the min. temps. one can use the lightest of Summer-weight bags and quilts does act as insurance for loss of the down bags loft in an accident and on longer trips where both condensation and body generated moisture eventually conspire to degenerate the loft of the down.

In general, one tries to dry out their down bag whenever possible between usage ( on a rock or bush while breaking down or setting up camp, whatever).

All this is based on my humble experience, experiment away.

* I use a homemade VBL in silnylon that weighs in at 5 oz. The Hotsac by Western Mtneering is worth checking out.

Edited by kdesign on 07/13/2007 11:01:48 MDT.