Looking back on my adventures I can think of a few days which were memorable only by their sheer misery.  Often, these times were characterized by the twin demons of water and low temperatures.  Oh, if only I would have had the Dunkley Belay Jacket on these miserable outings.

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Big Agnes Dunkley Jacket Features:

  • Synthetic hooded belay parka with a full, straight cut that provides maximum insulation
  • 120g Pinneco Core™ synthetic insulation in body, 80g in the sleeves
  • Insotect Tubic™ construction provides supreme loft and thermal efficiency
  • 100% recycled polyester shell is wind-proof and water resistant
  • Helmet compatible hood with adjustable drawcord closure keeps the weather out
  • Main zipper includes interior no-draft flap and a zipper garage at chin
  • Adjustable drawcord at hem seals out wind
  • Adjustable cuffs for securing over gloves
  • Two zippered hand-warmer pockets with zipper garages
  • Textured zipper pulls are easy to use with gloves
  • Large interior mesh pockets for extra stash space
  • Interior chest pocket
  • Jacket weight, size Large – 27oz/ 765g
  • Price: $299.95

Come in from the cold

It’s been an unusually mild winter up here in Spokane.  Dry, warm – definitely not the sort of weather that’s conducive to good winter adventuring.  So, I headed off to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with the Dunkley in tow for three weeks of stellar testing.  I climbed, camped and frolicked with the jacket in tow and it’s seen a generous smattering of abusive climes.  For reference, I am 5’11” and weigh 185lbs.  The medium that I tested fits like a glove… or perhaps a mitt.  This thing is bulky.

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The last piece of Big Agnes apparel that I’ve tested was their Shovelhead DownTek jacket.  When it came out I was stoked since Big Agnes was making their first foray into the world of outdoor clothing.  Since then their line has expanded tremendously and the Dunkley points to the new diversity in the lineup.   The Dunkley is a heavy synthetic belay jacket, complete with hand warmer pockets and a two way zipper.  It’s an excellent piece to have with you on a cold, wet day.

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One of Big Agnes’ biggest innovations is the advent of vertical baffling on their clothing and sleeping bags.  I hadn’t thought that this would apply to synthetic insulation, but sure enough the Dunkley features Big Agnes’ proprietary ‘Insotect tubic’ insulation system.  The idea here is pretty simple – undisturbed warm air moves vertically, so it doesn’t make all that much sense to have horizontal baffles.  Big Agnes recognized this and incorporated vertical baffles into last year’s down products; the effect works well in the Dunkley, too.  On the whole, the effects that I noticed in the Shovelhead aren’t as pronounced, but the jacket still warms up quickly and keeps heat distributed a little more evenly.

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I used the Dunkley on some very cold days and, when paired with an appropriate system, the jacket is good down to the mid twenties with light activity.  The jacket is cut straight and fairly generously to allow for ample layering options.  For someone who runs hot like me, it’s virtually useless for any moderate to highly active pursuit – it’s a fantastically warm jacket.  The synthetic insulation does a good job of staying warm and I spent one afternoon sopping wet in this jacket when I was caught in a sleet storm with no shell.  The jacket’s fabric allows water to penetrate fairly easily and, if there’s any DWR, it’s virtually worthless. It seems to me that Big Agnes was relying on the inherent water resistivity of the recycled polyester face fabric, but on the whole I’d call it insufficient for really wet weather.  Solution?  Don’t be a dork, wear a shell.

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The Dunkey is a nice, fully-featured jacket with two zippered handwarmer pockets, two huge interior mesh stuff pockets and a chest pocket and a fully adjustable hood that worked nicely with my climbing helmet. All of the zipper pulls are large and easy to grab with heavy gloves on, but the two-way zipper has taken some breaking in for it to begin pulling easily.  That’s pretty common, though.  I was appreciative of the opportunity to dump excess heat afforded by the two way zip.  I do wish that the handwarmer pockets were fleece lined.  Extra kudos to BA for including a stuff sack, though.

The Good

  • It’s a very, very warm coat
  • Vertical baffles contribute to overall performance
  • Large, grabbable zipper pulls on both the main zips and the pockets
  • Included stuff sack is a plus

The Bad

  • Face fabric fares poorly in wet conditions
  • Two-way zipper was initially difficult to start

The Bottom Line: BA Dunkley Jacket

Big Agnes continues to impress with their innovative line of outerwear.  Much of the same virtues that make their sleeping systems so successful are found in the Dunkley: carefully selected features and a certain field-tested air combine to help all of their products stand out.  As far as heavy, warm synthetic jackets go, this one is a strong competitor.

Buy Now: Available from Campsaver.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

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