In this post we are going deeper into the synthetic insulated jackets and what you need to know about them. The key element of such jackets is the warmth they provide and they do that in a good price too. You can read our articles for rain jackets here.
Such jackets are heavier than down ones but warmer, depending on the case (down provides best warmth level per ounce). They also resist moisture and breath better. Did we mention the price factor? Yes, they come in better prices.
When you need less weight, these jackets are not the ideal ones but it also depends on how much weight you want to carry. So, it depends.
Synthetic jackets are easier to clean and they are not damaged when they are cleaned in a washing machine. Just don’t try to wash them in extremely hot water, and don’t dry them near very hot surfaces. The latter stands for all clothes of course.
What are the types of Synthetic Insulated Jackets?
There is a great variation among synthetic jackets, both in shapes and different textures. Some have so many layers that you feel like being covered under a blanket (which works on extremely cold situations).
Technology evolves though and lately there is a rising outcome to have synthetic materials that come very close to down properties, plus very good resistance in water.
Here is a range of synthetic insulated jackets:
The Coreloft fill: Provided by Arc’teryx, has very good results in insulation for wet weather along with warmth, but not with a goof breathability level.
Thermoball Insulation: It is called the new synthetic alternative to down, by North Face. The surprise here is that Thermoball uses Primaloft synthetic in cluster design. So, they too imitate insulation levels of down. Their products compress quite well and are lightweight too, while providing a very good heating result.
FullRange and Polartec Alpha brand: These products give high breathability in jackets. Their technologies don’t seem to differ so much, yet both lack in warmth levels when you stand still.
The PrimaLoft Brand: These guys produce products that can compete with down insulation jackets, when it comes to packability (compression and size reduce) and warmth, against weight. When you hear PrimaLost you have lightweight products in mind and they keep on evolving.
Levels of Warmth
Despite the synthetic factor, when it comes to compare the weight of a synthetic insulation jacket and its warmth level, with a down, the latter wins. It gives more warmth per ounce.
It is very important to know for which cases you are going to use which jacket. Both for very gold environments, as well as hot ones. You really can’t pinpoint one for a specific range of temperatures since the overall situations of a trip vary.
If we would dare to provide some temperature ranges for synthetic jackets these could be: lightweights are for 40 to 65 F. Midweight ones can be good for around 20 F, when situations call for action. Heavyweight ones are for the toughest situations.
This is where synthetic insulated jackets lack. Down ones compress really tight due to the nature of feathers. So down ones are preferred by those who want to hike light. Synthetic ones come along (or bought separately) with special sacks that increase compression, yet not like down ones.
Resistance to Water
Synthetic insulation jackets keep their insulation ability when they get wet. That alone is a big advantage.
Down jackets don’t give that. Down jackets will soak due their insulation material. When they do, they lose their ability to create and sustain warmth. Not to mention their weight increase when they get wet.
Synthetic jackets resist moisture, which eventually sits between the synthetic fibers, and they keep their shape. They also dry faster than down ones.
In both types (down, synthetic), manufacturers add a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating and treatment, for increased insulation from water. Apart from the label, you can see that on jackets when bead drops are formed when they get wet, which eventually slide away.
In high exertion activities, down produces great heat. When there is heat, there is sweat. When there is sweat, you damage your jacket since moisture gets through and affects down feathers.
In synthetic insulation, there is variation in breathability levels, yet as technology evolves this gets better. Along with better endurance synthetic ones are less fragile. This is an asset too.
Levels of Comfort
For better body temperature regulation synthetic ones are a good choice. When in movement you will wear them longer than down ones. Good synthetic ones are good to wear in city conditions too and you will find them comfortable in indoor situations.
So, check your budget and variety of trips and usage (daily or hiking or both) and choose accordingly.
To choose one with a hood or not?
Synthetic or not, a hood has many reasons to have it. Out in the cold, a hood is needed when you take a break. Bottom line, a hood provides extra insulation and protection from wet weather and cold. Hoods come with a variety of adjustment stripes, so you can fit them really well.
Choosing a jacket with a hood also increases the price a bit.
When it comes to price
Bottom line: Synthetic insulated jackets are cheaper than down ones. With their technology evolving trying to mimic down qualities they are a very good choice for many situations.
Don’t forget to read more interesting articles about hiking gear and outdoor tips.