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Synthetic Insulated Jacket Review & State of the Market Report


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Synthetic Insulated Jacket Review & State of the Market Report

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  • #3527119
    Max Neale
    BPL Member

    @maximumdragonfly

    Locale: Anchorage, AK

    Companion forum thread to: Synthetic Insulated Jacket Review & State of the Market Report

    This comprehensive State of the Market Report presents more than a dozen synthetic insulated jacket reviews and performance comparison to evaluate their durability, warmth, weather resistance, breathability, and features.

    #3527145
    Dan Durston
    BPL Member

    @dandydan

    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    Great stuff! Thanks!

    It’s nice to stay in the loop with what synthetic is up to. I expect I’ll keep using down for pretty much everything (due to it’s durability) except for truly sloppy conditions where I’ll pull out the fleece.

    #3527170
    Ryan Faulkner
    BPL Member

    @ryanf

    Awesome write up! This is a very valuable resource.

    I was wondering if anyone could comment on the latest montbell u.l. thermawrap parka? It has a new 40gsm “stretch exceloft ” insulation and stretch fabric that looks like could be a cheaper/ full zip alternative to the Patagonia nano air light in the active insulation category.

    Has anyone had any first hand experience or been able to compare it to the Patagonia nano air light? I would have loved to see this included in this report.

    Thanks

    #3527173
    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member

    @retiredjerry

    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Nice report, lots of detail, thanks

    You sort of touched on synthetic as a survival item.  You never know when you might get wet.  Having a synthetic jacket could help you survive.

    Vest is another option you mentioned.  2.5 oz/yd2 Apex, lightest fabric – 4.5 ounces

    The lightest weight synthetic will give you all the performance of fleece at a lighter weight.

     

    #3527192
    Woubeir (from Europe)
    BPL Member

    @woubeir

    Are you sure Exeloft is short-staple because Richard Nisley claims it’s a continuous-fibre insulation ?

    Arc’teryx Thermatek is not Climashield Apex, but Climashield Prism (see Climashield-website). There are however rumours Apex is used for Coreloft Continous.

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by matthew k.
    #3527212
    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member

    @here

    Locale: Right there
    #3527214
    Woubeir (from Europe)
    BPL Member

    @woubeir

    I know. I thought it was short-staple untill RN told he had hold it in his hands and tried to tear it and it feld and behaved like continuous insulation.

    #3527225
    Jeffs Eleven
    BPL Member

    @woodenwizard

    Locale: NePo

    Max, could you take a guess at where about the Arcteryx Solo hoody would fall?  Since its one layer of Thermatek vs the dual-layer Dually maybe the maths would not be too difficult theorize?

     

    I know they dont make it anymore… but I have one and am curious…

    #3527269
    Richard Nisley
    BPL Member

    @richard295

    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Jeffs Eleven,

    Thermatek is rebranded Climashield Prism @ .76 clo/oz. You can calculate your jacket’s insulation value and camp chores thermo-neutral temperature, when new, using this value.

    #3527440
    Walter Isenberg
    BPL Member

    @wisenber

    This is probably a tired topic, but where would Wiggy’s Lamalite fit into the equation? His lamination of Climashield seems to have addressed much of the durability concerns. Anecdotally, I’ve used several of his products for several years without insulation failure. Pairing Brynje fishnet baselayers with his Lamalite liner jackets under a paddling drysuit works much better than other options I’ve tried on winter kayaking trips. I had him make a Lamalite topquilt and underquilt for my hammock in cool humid conditions that work well too. Unlike my down, I’m willing to launder his gear more frequently. I have several pairs of his Lamalite socks that have been laundered around 50 times. The wear points are in the outer material and not the insulation.

    Wiggy’s isn’t known for his choice of lightweight materials (or willingness to use them) to go with his Lamalite, but he does appear willing to sell his Lamalite to other manufacturers. Just a thought. It could be an answer to addressing the longevity of synthetic insulation.

    I have plenty of down and really enjoy using it, but my recent migration to multi-day sea kayaking trips has really made me appreciate the relative capabilities of synthetic insulation compared to down.

    #3527444
    Ryan Jordan
    Admin

    @ryan

    Locale: Central Rockies

    Years ago when we were looking at insulation for the old Cocoon UL line, I tested some Lamilite vs. unlaminated insulation (same insulation). There seemed to be a bit of loft degradation (20-25%?) that was a direct result of the lamination process. That, combined with a little bit of additional weight resulting from the lamination process itself (not sure why it was heavier), made Lamilite a poor warmth:weight ratio insulation.

    Again, at the time – 10 years ago or so. Not sure what it’s like now, perhaps (hopefully) improved?

    I did like that the insulation was somewhat stabilized – much better than loose batting. But I don’t know how it affected durability.

    However, I think lamination benefits might be negated at the lightest weight end of the spectrum, after taking apart a Micro Puff and looking at the PlumaFill batts. Seems like that thread patterning actually works pretty darn well for stabilizing the batts. For thicker insulated jackets, you wouldn’t want sewn-through stitching so lamination might be a good way to go?

    Anecdote: I did receive a *new* Wiggy’s bag from a BPL member about the same time, he had me inspect it because he thought it was too flat for the insulation weight. I remember thinking that the loft on it was pretty low for the insulation used.

    • This reply was modified 2 months ago by matthew k.
    #3527446
    Jeffs Eleven
    BPL Member

    @woodenwizard

    Locale: NePo

    Thank you, Sir Nisley.

    #3527447
    Walter Isenberg
    BPL Member

    @wisenber

    Thanks for the reply.

    If Wiggy’s is laminating Climashield, it would make sense that it would have an initial loss in loft in the process as would the weight gain. He’s probably using some form of adhesive. The adhesive would add weight, and the adhesion would make the make the laminated side some what flatter in achieving a bond.

    Out of the box, Lamilite should probably weigh more and have a bit less loft. However, after more extended use, it should compare more favorably to regular Climashield as the lamination makes it more stable. In other words, a new Climashield item would outperform Lamalite in weight and loft, but by the second year, the Lamalite would potentially win out in loft to weight ratio.

    Both Climashield and Lamalite perform well and dry comparatively quickly, but the Lamalite appears to remain more stable when wet than a comparable Climashield article. I know my Climashield quilt with Climashield appears to collapse more and the insulation shifts more than my Wiggy’s quilt with Lamalite.

    On another note, when out in much colder conditions (well below freezing) with heavy winds, I do appreciate that the Lamilite doesn’t get compressed as much by heavy wind as a high loft down garment. They also compress less under a shell.

    Great topic. My use of synthetics is generally treated as heretical by my lightweight colleagues….until the third or fourth day on a wet trip.

    #3527450
    Ian
    BPL Member

    @10-7

    Fantastic article.  There’s a wealth of information here.

    #3527623
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    EXCELLENT article and sub articles on each jacket/parka.

    Most of my winter experience has been in the northeastern US so I have a few older synthetic insulating layers. My “suit” as a mid layer is made of Thermolite Micro which Robert Nisley mentioned as not being  close to Climashield’s level of warmth-to-weight.

    Now that I live in Nevada and venture to Utah and California for winter trips I still rely on the Thermolite Micro jacket for huffing up big hills but prefer fleece lined nylon cargo pants from Duluth Trading (over heavy weight poly long johns).

    ** If I expect extremely cold weather I use unlined nylon cargo pants over the Thermolite Micro pants over “polar weight” Cabela’s long johns. I also have Thinsulate insulated GTX ski bibs but the breathability sucks as does warmth-to-weight.

    After reading this article I’m lusting after the highly customizable Nunatak parka and I love it that it uses my favorite synthetic insulation, Climashield – currently the loft retention champion.

    #3528834
    Bob Shuff
    BPL Member

    @slbear

    Locale: SoCal

    Regarding durability, would the active jackets be OK under a backpack strap over the course of the day, or would that eventually compromise the insulation in that area from compression?  I’m from the school or baselayer + fleece shirt (e.g. R1) + WPB jacket, with a lightweight down layer for camp.  If I could replace the Fleece and down with a synthetic insulated jacket, it would need to be used on some days while backpacking.

    Thanks for the great article.

    #3529400
    joseph hawkins
    BPL Member

    @hawkjody

    Locale: Central California

    Why no mention of the Enlightened Equipment Torred  Apex jacket?

     

    #3530671
    Erica R
    BPL Member

    @erica_rcharter-net

    Perhaps I am not understanding the layering system jargon, or maybe I can learn something about layering here.

    These examples make sense to me:

    Erin McKittrick and Caroline Van Hemert: baselayer > fleece shirt > windproof synthetic-insulated jacket > rain shell.

    Luc Mehl: baselayer > active insulation jacket > rain shell..

    Ryan Jordan: base layer > active insulation jacket > rain shell

    These examples are confusing:

    Kristin Gates & Andrew Skurka: baselayer > fleece shirt > rain shell > down jacket.  Duh, don’t you want to keep the down under the rain shell so it stays dry? Also, when it’s not raining, the rain shell would add needed wind resistance to the system.

    Joe Valesko: baselayer > wind shirt > windproof synthetic-insulated jacket > rain shell.  Why not have the wind shirt outside the jacket? It seems the rain shell should always be last, and stay in the pack until needed for rain or wind resistance.

    Dave Chenault: baselayer > active insulation jacket > rain shell > windproof synthetic-insulated jacket. Why have the rain shell under the jacket (assuming it is not raining)? Is this to trap moisture next to the body? Isn’t that a bad thing? However, I have heard of climbers trying to keep their down bags from getting moist by having a moisture barrier inside their bags.

    Ryan Jordan: base layer > wind shirt > rain shell > down jacket for short trips in mild conditions; Again, why have the rain shell under the down jacket?

    Thanks for your thoughts and considerations, Erica

    #3530750
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Erica,

    I think most of these clothing lists are not meant to be read as how they are worn but just lists of clothes carried.

    My take on synthetic insulation is that an innovation in the actual chemistry of the fiber(s) used needs to happen so the fibers can be far more resilient through hundreds of cycles of use and stuffing. Perhaps some innovation in fiber shapes like the old hollow Polarguard Delta fiber.

    So far Climashield has been the leader in resilience but it too has loft loss we would not tolerate in down.

     

    #3530752
    Ian
    BPL Member

    @10-7

    Erica,

    Regarding wearing a hardshell under a down jacket, I can’t speak for the folks listed in the article but for me, I do this sometimes when there is no precipitation.  My reasoning is that the hardshell works reasonably well (albeit imperfectly) as a vapor barrier for warmth and to protect my down garment from absorbing any sweat and steam.

    I can manage and dry a damp fleece better than a damp down jacket.   If it’s cold enough, I can hang the fleece and then shake off any ice crystals.

    #3530753
    Ian
    BPL Member

    @10-7

    I’ll have to reread the article and I don’t remember if it’s covered, but anecdotally synthetic insulation seems to perform differently than down and it doesn’t seem that you can measure them the same (ie a 1/2” of synthetic feels warmer to me than a 1/2” of down, as an example).

    This is likely for a variety of reasons including unevenly distributed down, construction variances (sewn through vs non), but it’s never seemed to me that from a warmth perspective that loft is simply loft and it seems there’s another variable in play.

    #3530765
    Paul S.
    BPL Member

    @pschontz

    Locale: PNW

    I think for the down layer over rain jacket group it’s most a sizing thing.  The rain shell is for active use and they want a closer fit and the puffy would get too compressed under the rain shell.  It could also be to protect the down from internal moisture.  That was my approach for a while but I didn’t like not being able to wear my puffy in camp if it was raining.

    Joe Valesko: baselayer > wind shirt > windproof synthetic-insulated jacket > rain shell.  Why not have the wind shirt outside the jacket? It seems the rain shell should always be last, and stay in the pack until needed for rain or wind resistance.

    In Joe’s case he’s using the wind shirt as his active/mid layer instead of a fleece.  As you increase activity you shed layers.  Also when you stop you don’t want to lose heat by first removing your wind jacket and then adding your puffy.

    Dave Chenault: baselayer > active insulation jacket > rain shell > windproof synthetic-insulated jacket. Why have the rain shell under the jacket (assuming it is not raining)? Is this to trap moisture next to the body? Isn’t that a bad thing? However, I have heard of climbers trying to keep their down bags from getting moist by having a moisture barrier inside their bags.

    Just a guess here but Dave’s system looks like it’s designed after climbers with a synthetic belay jacket. There’s a lot more start/stop so you need a synthetic jacket to handle moisture on your stops and be able to add/remove quickly as your last layer.

    #3530775
    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member

    @danepacker

    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Ian,

    The “other variable” besides loft is usually “boundary air”, the few molecules of air on the insulating fibers or plumules. That boundary air tends to cling to the outside of fibers or down plumules and not get disturbed as easily as the rest of the air in the insulation.

    This means the more boundary air (i.e. the more surface area of the insulation) the better the heat retention. Down has a lot of surface area on the fine plumules and thus better warmth per weight as well as loft. This is also why fine synthetic fibers trap more warmth than coarser fibers.

    #3530782
    Bob Shuff
    BPL Member

    @slbear

    Locale: SoCal

    Asking again about active insulation under a backpack, as it dovetails with Erica’s questions.  I wouldn’t wear down under my backpack unless I’m really freezing, and it’s reported that synthetics are more likely to be damaged by compression, such as the backpack straps during a cool weather hike.

    My layering system for Philmont this summer was going to be baselayer > R1-like fleece > rain shell > Montbell Ex Lite Anorak down hoody.  I was planning to have my son use a synthetic jacket to suppliment his R1 hoody and rain shell.  After reading the report, listening to the podcast, and reading some of responses here, I’ll clarify our plan – and my question as follows:

    While hiking: baselayer > R1-like fleece > rain shell.

    While in camp: baselayer > R1-like fleece (if not wet) > Anorak or synthetic jacket > rain shell

    We will be above 9K’ for 5 days, and above 10K’ for two of those days/nights as we camp just before and after summiting Mt. Phillips. No way to predict yet, but there will likely be rain this time of year (mid/late-July).  The scenario that concerns me is that we are finishing a long days hike or service project in the rain, soaked with either precipitation or sweat, and have a few hours of standing around at over 10K’ as the scouts setup camp, cook, and socialize.  The next morning we are up early for our backpack over Mt. Phillips.  I’m not sure if these scenarios

    I picked up a 50% off Nano-Air jacket last week that will fit either me or my son.  I also have a Patagonia Level 3 Alpha jacket and a very old but in good shape REI synthetic jacket.  Could these replace both the R1 fleeces and the down puffies my son and I were going to use?  Could we wear those while hiking under my backpack straps and maybe rain shell and also expect them to keep us warm while in camp?  The weight savings is enticing, but I hate being damp and cold.

    Thanks in advance.

    #3530787
    Ian
    BPL Member

    @10-7

    You’re touching on it some Eric but I’m looking at this in terms of loft not weight.   Inch for inch I feel warmer with synthetic over down.

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