Belay parkas are a great invention. Lots of fluffy insulation and climbing-specific features, but you can still grab it for cold days around town or just for hanging out by the firepit. We've had a lot of opportunities to do both here in Anchorage, Alaska, where the last week has seen mostly lows below zero, down to -8F plus a bit of wind. Luckily we found the perfect solution to staying warm.
The Sheflogger does believe in going outside regardless of temps, but she does not believe in being cold, so these days she reaches for the Arc'Teryx Nuclei SV parka every day. It's a belay parka, and the most important thing to remember is belay parkas are oversized to fit over your normal cold weather climbing clothing and gear. The Sheflogger tops out at five feet even – short, but dangerous once she closes the distance – and she normally wears size small in everything. The Nuclei SV was way big in a small, but the extra small fit perfectly – still oversized, but in a normal belay parka kind of way.
Sizing aside, the Nuclei SV brings the heat. The Coreloft synthetic insulation has wicked good loft, and the long cut covers the padded parts for that little bit extra. The lack of through-stitching means no cold spots, and with features like a full-length draft flap behind the zipper the shell cuts the wind out very effectively. Other features that are perfectly dialed in: oversized (for mittens) pockets with a lip to prevent items from falling out; two large open stash pockets inside for snacks or water or whatever; and a chest pocket for phone, wallet, etc.
Climbing specific features include a two-way zipper to give your harness and belay gear some room; a snap closure to keep your parka in place even with the bottom zipper raised for said belay gear; and a roomy helmet-compatible hood that has the added benefit of being large enough not to squish the Sheflogger's waxy, bounteous and flaxen mane as she walks to school and work. The fit can be adjust at the hem and hood, while elastic cuffs keep the sleeves from riding over your handwear. Finally, the true test of any cold-weather parka: the Nuclei SV zips up to fully cover the chin, so your beak isn't hanging out to freeze into a chinsickle. Overall the Nuclei SV is perfect enough we can't think of anything we would change.