When it comes to jackets, synthetic materials are especially useful. They’re warm, durable, and provide reliable protection when precipitation starts rolling in. The Dunkley Belay Jacket from Big Agnes is a serious cold weather jacket with just such benefits, but it also adds packability and compressibility to the mix.
The Dunkley Belay is a hooded synthetic jacket with two hand warmer pockets, two large interior mesh pockets and 200g of Penneco Core insulation making up the bulk of the build. Insotect Tubic construction is utilized, meaning the insulation is sewn into vertically oriented tubes instead of flat fiber pockets. This produces more warmth and loft by trapping that precious warm air inside channels within the jacket. The Dunley is more of a parka than a jacket, with an extended length that extends past the belt line to trap more heat while minimizing loss of heat at layering gaps that normally appear around the waist. The shell of the jacket is constructed of 100% recycled polyester, creating a wind proof, water resistant barrier. The medium jacket weighs in at about 25 oz, and retails for $239.
What I liked
The Dunkley is designed to be exceptionally protective and warm and it manages this very well. Almost the entire weight of the jacket is insulation and wind blocking polyester. Using the internal open gaps of the Insotec Tubic insulation, the Dunley is able to trap more heated air inside and forcing it to rise through the length of the jacket before escaping, resulting in an exceptionally warm construction. It doesn’t hurt that it has the elongated parka like design, which only traps more heat from the lower core of the body and prevents any breezes that might have otherwise slipped through while bending over or stepping on over obstacles. With only a simple t-shirt on underneath, I was able to stand completely sedentary on an expose peak for 40 minutes, being hammered by snow and wind, without the sensation of the icy cold working it’s way through while others around me where shivering and curling away from old man winter. I’ve found the jacket alone to be enough to provide real protection into the 20’s without any secondary layers backing it up. Throw on the generously filled hood, and the Dunkley Belay is a genuine body powered furnace. It’s so warm that I’ve been unable to hike in this jacket at all, as I instantly teeter the line of internal combustion and homeostasis. A great plus for staying warm at camp after the action has died down. It does regulate quite well around town, where exertion is certainly lower.
The Dunkley is also quite comfortable. I’ve always been a fan of synthetic insulations for their soothing feel; Like a fluffy comforter against the skin. The Dunkley utilizes that sensation to great effect. It sits softly against the body, without feeling weighty or cumbersome. It’s like wearing bedtime. It has been shaped with ample room inside to allow for great freedom of movement and also for layering up without tightening down into something of a scarecrow shape. The smooth polyester slides gracefully in the joints, preventing chafing and increasing the mobility range. The hood wraps softly around the head and can be cinched down in a storm, or it can be tucked back, utilizing only the fluffy collar of the jacket for neck protection. The front zipper has a nice chin protector, and the wrist cuffs employ a gentle yet stretchy spandex cord for an adjustment free fit.
The fit is true to sizing, with the medium happily fitting a waist size of about 32″ or 34″. Most of the free space inside becomes available the chest, shoulders and arms. The jacket snugs up around the waist to prevent breezes from moving in, sitting close around the rear. The wrists are generously wide to allow for large gloves and mittens to be used.
It also looks very nice. It has a distinct parka vibe, and certainly looks the part of a solid winter worthy suit of armor. The durable yet slick polyester and subtle stitching creates a very much appreciated minimalistic look, which prevents a larger jacket like this from appearing gaudy, bulky and outlandish. As an added bonus, you have the choice of a muted coal black, or the vibrant emerald green.
It packs down surprisingly small, into a ball of about 7 or 8 inches in diameter without being too aggressive with it.
What I didn’t like
Of course one of the trade offs of having a synthetic jacket which resists rain and functions when wet, is also bringing along a little extra mass. Having the generous amount of insulation that it does, the Dunkley weighs around 25 oz. This is quite a bit more than similarly warm down jackets. However, when comparing it other synthetics, I’ve found it to be warmer and lighter than most. It’s certainly not a deal breaking weight, especially if you’re looking for a real winter jacket, but it’s worth considering when adding up that winter pack weight.
The wrists cuffs are large to facilitate thick gloves and mittens, but can be a bit gaping when not using them. I’d like to see a way of closing down the wrists a bit more, aside from the elastic inside. I’ve not had a problem with breezes, but I’ve found that with my semi-short and stocky build, the sleeves hang down past my wrists a bit and onto part of my thumb, which I suppose does keep my hands warmer.
When you’re serious about staying warm, the Dunkley Belay Jacket steps up to the challenge. Positively the warmest synthetic jacket I’ve ever tested, I’ve found it practically impossible to get cold inside. The generous space inside provides complete freedom of movement and a non-claustrophobic fit while still managing to stay close to the body. Thankfully ditching the bulkier look of many parkas, I’ve really grown to appreciate the streamline minimalistic aesthetic. It’s built well and packs away easily despite a little extra weight.
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For more information on Big Agnes and their excellent line of gear, check out https://www.bigagnes.com/
I wanted to send a special thanks out to Big Agnes for their support and for providing this excellent piece of equipment to review. We couldn’t do this without their help. Thank you so much! Our full disclosure can be found on the about me/contact page.