by Don Wilson | 2005-12-05 03:00:00-07
The Nunatak SkahaPlus is a light, hooded down pullover with a minimalist approach; but including key features that create superb performance per weight. The SkahaPlus and its sister, the non-hooded Skaha, are fully baffled jackets, with 3/4-inch baffles throughout the torso and sleeves, but both still weigh less than 10 ounces. The size medium SkahaPlus includes 5 ounces of down fill (manufacturer's specification). Other features are sparse. The shell is a very light 0.85 oz/yd2 rip stop nylon. There are drawcords on the rim of the hood and at the hem. The neck zipper measures 10 inches. There are no pockets and no cuff closures.
I took the SkahaPlus to Peru this summer for several weeks of hiking and climbing in the Peruvian Highlands. It quickly became the jacket of choice on cold nights above 16,000 feet and while resting on ridges and passes during the day. Four of us shared the SkahaPlus, along with several other jackets, each using it around camp, on climbs and as part of our sleeping systems. The SkahaPlus excels as part of a sleep system; the generously stuffed, very warm hood was welcome and comfortable on cold nights with temperatures below 20 degrees F. The hooded SkahaPlus weighs only an ounce more than the non-hooded Skaha; that extra ounce is an exceptional investment in warmth based on our use of the jacket. The tight weave on the shell did not allow any down to leak through and was good protection at windy rest stops leading up to high passes.
The SkahaPlus has an exceptional 4 plus inches of double layer loft in both the sleeves and torso. The baffled construction of the SkahaPlus certainly contributes to the excellent loft to weight ratio. We carried the jacket loosely packed whenever possible and this helped to maintain loft over the course of our trip. Based on our measurements, the loft of the SkahaPlus exceeds that of the Western Mountaineering Flight Jacket or the Feathered Friends Hyperion - and even with a hood the Skaha is lighter than either of these jackets. The lower chambers of the SkahaPlus are filled with less down than those in the upper torso and sleeves. This is an intentional feature of the Skaha, to save a bit of weight. We did not notice a significant drawback to this design, although it was clear during loft measurements that the lower chambers had less loft. In extremely cold conditions this might be more noticeable.
The SkahaPlus also has a generous cut and fit. We were concerned that the lack of cuff closures would lead to drafts coming up the sleeves, but we did not find this to be a significant problem even on cold windy mornings. The sleeves are quite long for the size of the garment, which reduces heat loss and wind penetration through the cuffs. We did find that the lack of closure let the cuffs drop down over our hands, even when we didn't want the cuffs sliding down - when cooking for example.
The lightweight fabric of the SkahaPlus requires careful handling. We had no problems with wear in our few weeks of testing, but this is not a jacket for bushwhacking or other conditions that could cause significant abrasion or stress to the fabric. The performance of the SkahaPlus comes at a cost; at $325 it is more expensive than most of its lightweight down counterparts.
Upper Images: The warm hood adds only an ounce to the SkahaPlus and makes it an ideal garment to use in a sleep system. Lower Images: The cuffs on the SkahaPlus have no closure system.
* Loft is a weighted average of the maximum, double-layer torso and sleeve lofts. Torso loft is double weighted.
"Nunatak SkahaPlus SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Don Wilson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/nunatak_skahaplus_spotlite_review.html, 2005-12-05 03:00:00-07.