The year’s best down and synthetic jackets promise to keep you warmer, dryer and more comfortable than ever before.
Once bulky and non-compressible, synthetic insulation has come a long way and now offers similar performance to down insulation.
At the same time, down is being treated with hydrophobic coatings which prevents it from clumping so it can still perform when wet.
When choosing a down insulated jacket, take note of the loft, or fill power (the volume that one ounce of down fills when full of air) – it is usually measured between 500 and 800: the higher the number, the greater the warmth with less fill required to achieve it.
Down jackets use baffles to keep the fill from moving around. Synthetic garments may be quilted to hold the insulation in place.
Two handwarmer pockets and a chest pocket are the norm, with some large enough to stuff the jacket into.
The temptation, when down pokes through the jacket’s fabric, is to pull it straight out. Resist the urge and grip the offending plumage from inside and pull it back in.
Collars and cuffs
Cuffs keep out wind and snow and can be self-closed or elastic. Elastic hidden cuffs retain more warmth. Collars should zip up under or just over the chin and should be filled with insulation. Some are lined with a fleece-like fabric for comfort.
Insulation-filled hoods trap warm air around your head without blocking visibility.
The shell fabric should have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating to increase water-resistance. Breathable high thread count fabrics prevent down poking through the garment. Some are windproof to retain the warm air trapped inside.
All insulated jackets – whether down, synthetic or wool – should be stored out of their stuff sacks to encourage maximum loft and long-term performance.
Down vs synthetic insulation
It used to be that down was lighter, more compressible and warmer than synthetic for its weight, but new technologies have seen some synthetics comparing well to down in these areas. Synthetic jackets tend to be cheaper and the insulation still works when wet – a traditional stumbling block of down and a great benefit in often-wet New Zealand. Water-resistant down is common but it is still not as effective as synthetic insulation in truly wet conditions.
Where down insulation comes from
Most of the world’s down comes from China, where feathers are collected as a by-product of the meat industry. Once birds are slaughtered for food, their feathers are removed and cleaned for use in products such as clothing and bedding.
Some companies claim to only use down which can be followed from farm to feather. Patagonia uses what they call the ‘Traceable Down’ method, and The North Face, Arc’teryx, Outdoor Research, Macpac and Montane partner with Allied Feather and Down, which follows the Responsible Down Standard, auditing each step of their supply chain to ensure animal welfare.
Rab uses traceable down under the European Down & Feather Association Codex, which verifies down comes from a slaughterhouse or from moulting periods.
Cactus Outdoor’s down is ethically harvested from Germany, while Earth Sea Sky sources its down from China.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose a jacket…
|Rab Zero G $999.95
Alpine jacket, 130g of 1000-fill power goose down, 7D Pertex Quantum shell, stitch-through construction, down-filled hood with flexible polymer peak, YKK front zip with insulated baffle, zippered handwarmer pockets, semi-elasticated hem, elasticated cuffs, stuff sack, slim fit. 310g (m). www.outfitters.net.nz
|Rab Resolution $849.95
Waterproof jacket with 330g of 800-fill power hydrophobic goose down, Pertex Shield shell, down-filled helmet-compatible hood, internal stash pocket, waterproof YKK zips, hand warmer pockets, chest pocket, Velcro cuffs, hem drawcord, relaxed fit. 935g (m). www.outfitters.net.nz
|The North Face Immaculator Parka $750
800-fill goose down, alpine fit, DWR coated shell, fixed adjustable helmet-compatible hood with hidden cord locks, zippered harness-compatible hand pockets, internal chest pocket, internal mesh stow pocket, hem drawcord. 720g (m), 656g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
|Earth Sea Sky Nano Primaloft $599
Seam-sealed, Petex Entrant fabric, front zip with storm flap, articulated elbows, drawcord hem, internal chest pocket, hand warmer pockets, internal security pocket, visor wire on adjustable hood, Primaloft Gold insulation. 730g (m/w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
|Cactus Outdoor Down Jacket V2 $569
750-loft white European goose down, two-layer waterproof and breathable polyester shell, adjustable removable hood, nylon taffeta lining, two internal chest pockets, fleece-lined hand pockets and cuffs. NZ made. 1100g (m); 780g (w).
|The North Face Morph Jacket $550
800-fill goose down, alpine fit, 20D nylon shell, woven-baffle construction to minimise stitching, secure-zip chest and hand pockets, harness- and pack-friendly pocket placement, internal elastic-bound cuffs, hem drawcord. 312g (m), 282g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
|Rab Electron $549.95
Water-resistant Pertex shell, stitch-through construction, 190g of 800-fill power hydrophobic goose down, helmet-compatible hood, YKK zips, stretch cuffs, internal security pocket, zippered hand pockets, hem drawcord, stuff sack, regular fit. 500g (m), 470g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
|Arc’teryx Men’s Proton LT Hoody $499.99
Coreloft Continuous insulation, trim fit, alpine jacket, wind- and water-resistant, DWR finish, articulated elbows, gusseted underarms, adjustable insulated helmet-compatible hood, storm flaps behind front zip, stretch knit cuffs, drop back adjustable hem, zippered chest and hand pockets. 420g. www.bivouac.co.nz
|Outdoor Research Men’s Perch Belay Parka $499.99
Ice climbing jacket with PrimaLoft Gold insulation, Pertex Endurance waterproof shell, staggered insulation prevents cold spots, helmet compatible hood, draft tube around face, zipped chest and harness-compatible hand pockets, tricot-lined collar, Dynamic Reach underarm panels, elastic drawcord hem. 860g. www.bivouac.co.nz
|Cactus Outdoor Down Vest V2 $435
750-loft white European goose down, two-layer waterproof and breathable polyester shell, adjustable removable hood, nylon taffeta lining, two internal chest pockets, fleece-lined hand pockets. NZ made. Weight 670g (m); 610g (w). www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz
|The North Face ThermoBall Hoodie $400
PrimaLoft thermoBall insulation, insulated hood, 15D nylon ripstop shell, exposed moulded-tooth front zip, secure-zip covered hand pockets, internal elastic cuff, hem drawcord. 375g (m), 355g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
|Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody $399.99
60g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco, 55% recycled, recycled polyester shell and liner, DWR finish, centre zip with storm flap, under-helmet-hood, zippered handwarmer pockets, internal chest pocket doubles as stuffsack, drawcord drop-tail hem. 362g (m), 306g (w). www.patagonia.com.au
|Patagonia Nano Air $399.99
60g of FullRange synthetic insulation, stretches, nylon ripstop shell, DWR finish, Nano Puff brick quilting in the side panels, articulated patterning for shape and durability, centre zip with storm flap, harness-friendly zippered handwarmer and chest pocket, drawcord hem, elastic cuff. 354g (m), 292g (w).
|Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody $399
Coreloft insulation, Polartec Power Stretch side panels, helmet compatible StormHood, DWR finish, articulated elbows and gusseted underarms, internal chest pocket, hand pockets, full front zip with wind flap, stretch-knit cuffs, stuffs into pocket. 360g (m); 330g (w). www.bivouac.co.nz
|Rab Microlight Alpine $399.95
750-fill power hydrophobic treated goose down, micro baffles, 140g fill weight, Pertex Microlight shell, down-filled hood with flexible polymer peak, YKK zips. 430g (m); 360g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Macpac Arrowsmith Down Pullover $379.99
170g of 700-fill power 90/10 HyperDRY water resistant goose down, regular fit, DWR treated, elasticated kangaroo hand pockets, YKK front zip with storm flap, elastic bound cuffs, hood, and hem, down-filled hood, packs into internal mesh pocket, ripstop shell. 400g (m); 370g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Patagonia Down Sweater $379.99
800-fill-power goose down, recycled polyester ripstop shell, DWR finish, contoured fit, centre zip with storm flap, zippered handwarmer pockets, chest pocket converts to stuffsack, elastic cuffs, drawcord hem. 371g (m), 292g (w). www.patagonia.com.au
Rab Xenon X $379.95
Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation, 60g fill weight, 20D Pertex Quantum outer and lining, over- or under-helmet hood, YKK zips, internal insulated zip baffle, chin guard, packs into chest pocket. 385g (m); 330g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Montane Hi-Q-Luxe $349
Windproof Pertex Quantum ripstop outer, 180g PrimaLoft Gold Luxe insulation, DWR coating, articulated arms, insulated pre-elasticated stretch bound roll-down hood, hand-warmer pockets with YKK reverse coil zips, chest pocket, baffled YKK front zip, adjustable hem. 574g (m), 440g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Macpac Pulsar $299.99
PrimaLoft Gold insulation, slim fit, DWR treated, insulated helmet-compatible hood, elastic bound cuffs, adjustable hem, packs into internal chest pocket, ripstop shell. 460g (m); 370g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Montane Prism $229
Pertex Microlight shell, 40g Primaloft Silver Eco insulation in body, 80g of insulation in front, articulated arms, adjustable helmet compatible hood with wired peak, soft fleece chin guard, pack-friendly insulated hand-warmer pockets, full-length reversed and baffled YKK front zip, adjustable hem, reflective details, stuffs into pocket. 418g (m); 388g (w). www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Outdoor Research Men’s Neoplume $199
Primaloft Silver Eco insulation, ripstop nylon shell, DWR finish, zipped chest and hand pockets, stuffs into pocket, carabiner loop, internal front storm flap, tricot-lined collar, hook and loop cuff closure, drawcord hem. 416g. www.bivouac.co.nz