When Ueli Steck goes big, he doesn't leave behind the one thing that will save his skinny Swiss ass from freezing off: a seriously warm down jacket, the Nilas from Mountain Hardwear. We award it our Denali Approved designation with the recognition that this is designed for a fast and light climbing style where you are almost always on the move.
Part of the line of lightweight and bomber gear that bears his name, the Nilas weighs just 21 ounces in a medium and is stuffed with 850 fill down in a sweet ripstop nylon shell. Construction is box-baffled in the torso and sewn-through in the arms and hood. The hood is helmet compatible, although it's a bit snug with a high-volume brain bucket like the Petzl Meteor.
Features are just right for fast and light. Two exterior zipped hand pockets, and two large mesh inside pockets that can swallow a full quart bottle each, although you'll look like a pregnant yak. The arms have elastic cuffs with thumbholes, and whether you're a thumbhole kind of guy or not you'll love that they make a soft seal around your wrists. Hood and hem drawcords are effective but require you take your gloves off to manipulate, but that's not usually something we adjust a lot on the fly anyway.
The fit and finish are superb, with an overall snug but not tight or restrictive fit. A full length draft tube keeps the zipper axis covered, and a soft fleece chin guard pampers your nose. The hood is – and we don't say this often – absolutely perfect, with a nice wide angle of view so you don't feel like you're looking around a corner all the time.
The Nilas is a toasty piece, no doubt. It's part of Steck's Himalayan kit, but you need to keep in mind that he relies on speed to minimize his exposure. If you're going fast and light, this jacket will serve you in sub-zero temperatures, but if you're a normal kind of climber you'll want to add layers or go with something heavier. Overall the Nilas is a beautifully designed jacket that with careful consideration can take you almost anywhere in the high country.