The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Nunatak Arc Alpinist Review

Nunatak Arc Alpinist
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $426 List
Pros:  Lightweight, top quality fabric and down, versatile.
Cons:  Expensive, pad attachment system can let in cold air by your neck and create dead air space if you sleep on your side.
Manufacturer:   Nunatak
By Chris McNamara and Max Neale  ⋅  Mar 31, 2013
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Weight - 40% 6
  • Comfort - 5% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 9
  • Features - 5% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Arc Alpinist is No Longer Available
The Arc Alpinist is one of the highest performance and most versatile sleeping bags we've tested. It's hard to get your hands on, however, as it is not available at major retailers. The bag is handcrafted in the heart of the North Cascades, Washington State (USA) and uses the 900-fill down and one of three different shell fabrics. Nunatak will build any bag to suit your specifications. The Arc Alpinist weighs 20 ounces on our scale and kept our testers comfortable from hot summer nights to around freezing. The bag's adjustable girth adds a massive advantage over traditional bags because it can adjust to the amount of clothing you're wearing. The Arc Alpinist is one of our highest rated sleeping bags.

Our Analysis and Test Results


The Arc Alpinist is a top-of-the-line down quilt made by Nunatak in the North Cascades, Washington State. This is arguably the most versatile quilt in the company's seven Arc Series bags. It uses top-tier 900-fill down and one of three shell fabrics. Nunatak is a custom shop; choose from 0.8 oz Pertex Quantum, 1.0 oz Pertex Quantum, or 1.7 oz Epic fabrics. We tested the bag in 0.8 oz Quantum, which is similar to or the same material used by many other companies. The bag weighs 20.7 ounces on our scale, which establishes it firmly among the lightest bags we've tested.

The Alpinist is an exceptionally versatile quilt. The bag can be cinched around your body with two adjustable straps. Either fasten the straps around your body and lie on top of a pad or loop the straps around the pad. A snap closure and drawcord seal in warm air around your neck. The adjustable girth allows you to be comfortable from 60 degree nights down to below freezing and, critically, the bag can adapt to changes in clothing. You can wear a midweight down jacket inside the bag for lightweight winter use. This is a tremendous advantage over a traditional bag with a fixed girth.


The Arc Alpinist's greatest drawback is its sleeping bag attachment method. Like all quilts tested, it can be used in one of two ways: on top of a sleeping bag or strapped around a pad. The problem with the former method is you have to sleep on your back and can't toss and turn. Strapping the bag around the pad lets you sleep on your side but can create drafty dead air space along your sides or it can let in cold air between the upper strap and the neck cinch on top of the bag. Nunatak give the Alpinist a 20-degree rating, which might be possible if you're very good at sleeping still on your back, which our testers are not. A 30-degree rating is more in line with the other bags tested.

We've found that Katabatic Gear quilts, which attach the bag to the top of a sleeping pad, offer increased warmth and comfort for similar or less weight.

Nunatak is a custom shop capable of building any sleeping bag to your specifications. The drawbacks we've listed are significant but it's important to frame them within the broader context of our review. We tested the best sleeping bags on the market and although the Alpinist isn't the best, it still scores very highly in our rankings. It represents a tremendous performance advantage over traditional style sleeping bags.

Left to right: Nunatak Arc Alpinist  Katabatic Gear Palisade  and Katabatic Gear Sawatch (front up). Katabatic quilts have the warmest and most comfortable sleeping pad attachment system of any quilt tested.
Left to right: Nunatak Arc Alpinist, Katabatic Gear Palisade, and Katabatic Gear Sawatch (front up). Katabatic quilts have the warmest and most comfortable sleeping pad attachment system of any quilt tested.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale