Gear Review: Snowbee Nivalis Hooded Down Jacket
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Overview: I was introduced to the Snowbee brand by my friend, Brian "Koz"Kozminski. Snowbee is a UK Company that was founded in 1978 and offers a full range of fly fishing gear that can now be found state-side.
I immediately became interested in their Nivalis Jacket. The Nivalis was the winner of the EFTTEX “Best New Product 2018 Award”. It features an entirely unique construction technique consisting of an internal and external three-layer laminated fabric and uses hidden internal stitching to form waterproof pockets of down and feather. The value of this technique is that no external stitch-line is created to allow water to penetrate into the down pockets.
The down pockets are formed using two layers of double-knitted tricot material and then protected, inside and out, with a thermoplastic polyurethane waterproof membrane, so the down remains 100% dry. The natural down filling contains 90% duck down, 10% feathers, with a fill power of 700 for total warmth. The waterproof membrane has a hydrostatic pressure resistance (waterproofness) of 5000mm, to keep the wearer dry and provide total wind resistance. The outer shell is a woven micro-fiber polyester fabric with durable water resistance treatment, so raindrops bead-up and run off the surface.
Inside the jacket, there is a super light woven polyester lining with a peach-skin finish for wearer comfort and two deep pouch pockets at the bottom for cell phones, small accessories, etc. The main front zipper and the two hand warmer pocket zippers are waterproof and the fully adjustable 3-panel hood is made of the same insulating material as the body. For complete weather protection, there are Velcro adjustable cuffs and two internal bottom hem adjusters with drawcords for cinching. It retails for $300
What I like: In short, this jacket is completely weatherproof. I don't mean in the traditional sense that a lot of other companies like to throw around when marketing their products - I mean COMPLETELY. Like nothing I've ever seen. Between the mountains of Montana, and the rivers and woods of Michigan I threw the kitchen sink at it -- single digit temps, pouring rain, snow, sleet and howling winds -- and it kept me dry and comfortable through all of it.
And it's warm. Very warm. The Nivalis is like wearing a sleeping bag, if that sleeping bag was water and wind proof. It is also extremely durable. Unlike some other "puffy" jackets I have owned, this one didn't mind being run through the brush. The finish didn't snag or tear despite some fairly rough treatment in rugged country.
Last, I really like the adjustable three-panel hood. It actually adjusts and fits well, unlike the hoods on other jackets I have owned. And I also appreciated some of the smart features such as velcro cuffs, drawstring hem and intuitive pockets.
What I don’t like: This jacket is an absolute winner, but there are a few things to consider.
First, as I mentioned earlier, the Nivalis is really warm, which is great for winter fishing or long glassing sits while hunting, but when you are more active, rowing the boat for example or hiking, it can become a little too warm. The addition of pit zips would go a long ways to dumping some of that excess heat during more active situations and I believe Snowbee is adding this feature to the next generation of the Nivalis.
Second, given the construction (bombproofness) of this jacket, it is a little hefty. It doesn't pack down as small as I would have expected and it is a little on the bulky side when wearing. I never found it a hindrance, but something to keep in mind when considering it.
Last, I wouldn't mind if this jacket was cut just a little bit longer. I have a longer torso and arms, so having a little more length in both would have been nice, at least for me.
Perfect for: The Nivalis is perfect for those long frigid days on the river, cold glassing sits in the mountains and wet, nasty conditions in the woods. One of my buddies described it as a survival jacket, and that's pretty accurate. It is totally weatherproof, warm and extremely durable.
Stars: 4.5 out of 5