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Insulated Jackets

Black Yak Niata

High performance + high insulation = a sweet, sweet jacket.

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MSRP: $400

BEST FOR: Ice climbing and winter sports

In the mountains of Colorado, winter ain’t coming—it’s here. The most important piece for the frigid winter days—particularly on those pre-dawn alpine starts—is a toasty puffy. The Black Yak Niata is the one I’ve been putting through the paces lately.

With 750-fill down, it was a no-brainer that it was going to be reasonably warm, but it’s everything else on top of it’s insulating abilities that has set it apart. It is not expedition-jacket bulky, so you can definitely still climb technical terrain in the Niata. More than anything else, what I like about this jacket is the fit: Everything seems to stretch just right way: the jacket is snug and almost contours like a stretchier base layer, but still doesn’t restrict movement at all. 

The smaller features are where it’s at with the Niata. Poorly designed drawstrings to cinch up hems, hoods and sleeves are one of my pet peeves with technical outerwear; they frequently either break or are difficult to manipulate with gloves. Black Yak opted to forgo those pesky drawstrings altogether on the Niata. The cuffs and hem (which falls a few inches below the waist, and this thing fits me perfectly) both have inch-wide elastic bands. The elastic bands stretch enough that they keep snow from going up your sleeves or torso. The hood, meanwhile, has a wide strip of mesh and elastic near the brim that functions like a bungee, holding the hood snugly in place over your bare head or a helmet. Sure, after several seasons of heavy use all this elastic will likely wear out, but thus far it is holding up well. 

That same stretchy mesh incorporated into the hood is also used for two healthy-sized interior pockets. These are great for easy storage of extra gloves or snacks or a headlamp on an ice route. There is also a smaller inside zip pocket at chest height that is ideal to hold a wallet and your phone.

Moving to the outside, there are two standard pockets for your hands. These are positioned high enough so that, even with a harness on, you can access them.

And circling back to the beginning: this thing has kept me warm well below freezing. Most of the insulation in the jacket is goose down, but 10% of it is what Black Yak calls “high mechanical recover G-LOFT synthetic down.” They use this under your arms, where the baffles get compressed more, the idea being that the G-LOFT can spring back to its full volume and full insulating potential more quickly than goose down after it has been squished down.

The exterior is ripstop nylon. I wouldn’t want to drape my tools over my shoulder without a shell over this, but it is pretty good against snags. At about 220 grams, the Niata is light for the class of jacket it is in. 

The biggest drawback is the price. At around $400 at most retailers, the Niata is an expensive piece.

Women’s Niata

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Men’s Niata

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Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.