Synthetic Highloft Fatigue

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    John Brown


    Locale: Portland, OR

    Caveat, this is a bit of a rant…

    As I’ve been sorting through my gear the past through weeks, I’ve realized that my 5-year old Patagonia jacket (can’t remember model, parka filled w/ polarguard), and my marmot sleeping bag (filled w/ Polarguard Delta), and my micropuff vest, aren’t anywhere close to what they used to be in terms of warmth, despite having lots of life left from a wear and tear perspective. It’s kind of frustrating. Adding to that is that I feel like I have to baby the cra* out of my new Micropuff pullover to keep it from quickly meeting the same fate.

    A fleece Bodyrug pullover, at 13 oz, is probably as warm as the micropuff at 10. And I could beat the cra$ out of it and never worry that it wasn’t gonna last.

    Anyone out there sharing my frustration? Or do I need to get over it and find some extra storage space for all the dying synthetic stuff that I’m trying to keep lofted.

    Frank Ramos


    My micropuff has been severely abused, by which I mean kept in a stuff sack for months on end without ever being taken out, stored in the bottom of my pack under all sorts of other stuff for months on end, used as a pillow each night, occasionally taken out and worn under my backpack. And it still has about .5″ loft, versus about .65″ when it was brand new. That is typical for polarguard. Expect to lose up to 30% of the initial loft and then you lose no more after that, assuming the polarguard has been securely quilted so it can’t be torn apart. (The Patagonia garments are very securely quilted. Jardine style quilts are not securely quilted and thus must be handled gently.) My micropuff men’s L weighs 12 oz, incidentally.

    Compare with a 200wt fleece jacket (weighing about 14 oz for men’s L) which has about .3″ of loft, both before and after abuse. Also, fleece isn’t windproof like the micropuff. Even after losing loft, the micropuff is still vastly warmer. Also, fleece WILL lose loft if abused severely enough. Check the elbows of an old fleece jacket if you don’t believe me.

    Down too will also lose loft if it is severely abused. For example, if a down jacket is worn under a backpack, the down that is under the straps will be ground into pieces of string eventually.

    So no, you don’t need to throw away your high loft insulation, but you do need to accept the quoted loft figures with a grain of salt. 3oz/sqyd Polarguard is alleged to have 1″ of loft. (Ray Jardine more honestly says .9″). In practice, this Polarguard will have only about .75″ of loft if abused somewhat and perhaps only .65″ of loft if severely abused.

    Instead of just alleging that your high-loft garments are failing to keep you warm, why don’t you measure the loft on the Polarguard garments versus the loft on fleece or down, so you can make a scientific comparison.

    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    I think Frank made very good points. I’ll share that I have a special edition men’s R2 Jacket from Patagonia, which I got from the outlet, which has much more loft than the regular R2, just no stretch panels – same loft as the Body Rug, and weighs in only at 12 ounces. It’s very warm with a shell over it and a thin merino base under it, moves moisture very well. However, there’s no way it’s going to keep you as warm as a Micropuff Pullover. I have the Patagonia Micropuff Hooded Jacket – last year’s – super warm at only 16 ounces, with a thinner shell than this year’s model – so you do have to take care of it. But it is one heck of a warm jacket, especially with the hood, and my main safety jacket when doing alpine hiking/backpacking. Remember that Patagonia will also repair any tears.

    I could have exchanged it for this year’s model, which has a more durable and water resistant shell, but this year’s model is heavier by about 3-5 ounces because of the heavier shell material, and in really bad weather, I’d put mine on under my shell, so the water resistance doesn’t matter much to me.

    larry savage


    Locale: pacific northwest

    Awhile back I was surfing around and stumbled onto Wiggy’s, he makes synthetic bags, jackets, and stuff.
    He had quite a bit to say about various synthetic insulations, how all but one will pass the test foe survival gear storage vacuumed packed. You might have to search his archives some, seems he has a lot to say about a lot of things…

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