Over the years here at The Adventure Blog, I’ve been fortunate enough to test out much different gear, including some great insulated jackets. Since I started writing this website a dozen years ago, we’ve seen some interesting jacket design developments, including the rise of waterproof down, unique new patterns on baffles, and improved construction techniques.
This has led to better performing gear in general, which has made it easier than ever to go outside in cold, windy, and generally poor weather conditions. But over those years, I’ve never seen anything quite as impressive as the line-up of gear produced by a company called Black Yak, which has created some of the finest pieces of mountaineering gear that I’ve ever seen.
That includes the company’s Niata insulated jacket, which hits all the right notes regarding comfort, versatility, durability, and performance.
As Black Yak prepares to expand its offering in the U.S., its Niata jacket is sure to be one of its flagship products. It uses RDS certified 750-fill goose down as an insulator and a DWR-coated Cordura ripstop outer shell to create a windproof and highly water-resistant layer.
The fabrics manage to offer an excellent stretch level, which makes moving in the jacket surprisingly easy, something that will be much appreciated by climbers and backcountry skiers alike. And to fill in some of the gaps, Black Yak has even employed synthetic down in high compression areas –– such as under the arms –– to help maintain loft without sacrificing warmth.
Fit & Finish
When I pulled the jacket on, the first thing I noticed was just how incredibly well made it is. Every detail seems to have been taken into account, and as you would expect from a product designed for use in alpine environments, the level of durability is exceptional.
You get the sense that this isn’t a jacket built to be replaced in a season or two but is instead meant to last for many years to come. Priced at $390, the jacket is on the pricier side, but it is good to know that you can expect to get a return on your investment when spending that money.
Some of the key features of the Niata include two hand-warming pockets on the outside of that jacket that are neatly placed for easy access yet are still out of the way of backpack straps. An interior zipped pocket is great for securing important items like a smartphone or passport, while two interior mesh pockets offer more onboard storage with easy access.
A self-adjusting elastic hood is a nice touch, too, providing helmet compatibility without having to mess with drawcords or straps of any kind. The Niata even offers surprisingly good compressibility, making it easy to store in a backpack or luggage while traveling too.
One of the numerous nice touches that I appreciated from this jacket is the elastic cuffs and hem. This allows the jacket to seal up nicely, keeping cold air out and warmer air in.
It also prevents the sleeves and the jacket’s waistline from moving around too much as well, keeping it firmly in place where you want it. In other words, once you put the jacket on and zip it shut, it hugs the body nicely, without shifting around in unusual ways. That allows the jacket to perform at a very high level, to the point that you almost forget that you’re wearing it.
The Niata doesn’t break much new ground in terms of styling, although it certainly is a good looking piece. This jacket is meant to perform well in the hardest conditions around, and its design reflects that.
Black Yak took a function over form approach here, which I think is something we can all appreciate. That said, you can wear the Niata just about anywhere without feeling out of place. Its looks are classic and refined, holding up well both on the mountain and off.
In the field, the Niata performs above and beyond expectations. On its own, it can be paired with a light base layer to keep you warm even when the mercury takes a serious plunge. Add a heavier base layer and/or an outer shell, and you have the core pieces for a closet full of exceptional mountaineering kit.
Black Yak’s jacket is on par with any other puffy that I’ve ever worn, and in all honesty, blows most of them right out of the water. This is a fantastic jacket that you’ll be happy to have at your disposal, particularly when you’re heading out for a cold-weather adventure.
As mentioned, the jacket is a bit pricer than some other models on the market from bigger brands. But Black Yak has put so much attention and detail into creating this garment that it is worth every penny.
Now more than ever in the outdoor space, you truly do get what you pay for. If you go with a less expensive item, it may serve you well for the short term, but chances are you’ll be replacing it in a few years.
Not so with the Niata, as this is a designed and built jacket to last a lifetime. That alone makes it well worth spending a little extra now to get a product that will serve you well for a very long time to come.
In case you couldn’t already tell, I am extremely impressed with the Niata. In fact, having seen nearly the entire Black Yak line at Outdoor Retailer a few months back, I can say that their gear is some of the finest I’ve had a chance to lay my eyes on.
The creators and designers are extremely passionate about the outdoors and mountaineering, and it’s products. Whether you’re looking for clothes to keep you moving in the outdoors during the winter, or you’re outfitting yourself for Everest, Black Yak more than has you covered.
Once you’ve tried their gear, chances are you’ll want to add more of it to your wardrobe. Check out the entire line-up at the official Black Yak website.
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