There’s nothing better than sinking your chin into a cosy insulated jacket while a frigid southerly blows. Here’s what you need to know before parting with your money.
Collars and cuffs
Cuffs keep out wind and snow and can be self-closed or elastic. Insulated collars should zip up under or just over the chin. They should have
a soft comfort lining at the chin.
The lines between the benefits of synthetic insulation and down insulation have become blurred. Synthetic, once bulky and heavy, now offers similar warmth, weight and compressibility to down. At the same time, hydrophobic down resists water, doesn’t clump together and dries more quickly when it is wet.
It is able to perform in the kind of conditions that synthetic insulation was once exclusively used for.
Overall, though, down still offers superior warmth to weight.
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 and less fill required to achieve it.
Down jackets use baffles to keep the fill from moving around. Some synthetic garments also use baffles amongst other techniques to hold the insulation
in place. Seamless baffles and modern fabrics reduce heat loss through the stitching.
All insulated jackets should be stored out of their stuff sacks to encourage maximum loft, air circulation and long-term performance.
Once you’ve used an insulated jacket with a hood, you’re unlikely to go back to a hoodless model. They improve warmth considerably by trapping warm air around your head without blocking visibility. Hoods on alpine or climbing jackets will be helmet-compatible.
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 better trap warm air inside.
Two handwarmer pockets and a chest pocket are the norm. Some jackets have internal organiser pockets. Lighter and more compressible jackets will stuff into one of the pockets or a separate stuff sack for transport.
Responsible Down Standard
Most manufacturers using down insulation adhere to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) administered by the nonprofit Textile Exchange.
The standard ensures:
- Any removal of down and feathers from live birds is prohibited
- Force-feeding of birds is prohibited
- Holistic respect for animal welfare of the birds from hatching to slaughter
- Each stage in the supply chain is audited
- Only products with 100 per cent certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo
About Wilderness Gear Guides
Our Gear Guides are designed to provide readers with an easily-comparable snapshot of products available in NZ right now. They are not reviews. Brands are invited to submit their most appropriate products.
1- Earth Sea Sky ECW $1299
Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) jacket as supplied to Antarctica NZ. Certified 720-loft water-repellent white duck down, RDS-certified, synthetic fur-lined hood with drawcords, waist and hem drawcords, 10 pockets including fleece-lined chest hand warmers, large mesh interior storage pockets. Made in New Zealand. 2020g (m/w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
2- Macpac Ember Down $599.99
Water-resistant 700-loft HyperDRY goose down fill, RDS-certified, Pertex Quantum Pro outer fabric with DWR, waterproof fabric on shoulders, upper sleeves and hood, removable hood with stiffened peak, hem adjustment, Velcro cuffs, zippered hand pockets, media-compatible internal chest pocket, storm flap. 970g (m), 800g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
3- Rab Electron $549.95
800-fill power European goose down, RDS-certified, water-resistant Pertex fabric, stitch-through construction, various baffle sizes reduce bulk, 190g fill weight, small-volume helmet-compatible hood, YKK zips, elasticated cuffs, internal security pocket. 500g (m), 470g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
4- Rab Microlight Summit $499.95
Alpine jacket with 750-fill power hydrophobic down, RDS-certified, water-resistant Pertex Quantum Infinity Weave fabric, harness-compatible hand pockets, two-way front zip with insulated zip baffle, Stretch cuffs fit over gloves, helmet-compatible hood with an internal stretch gaiter to seal out wind. 455g (m), 420g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
5- The North Face Stretch Down $430
700-fill RDS-certified goose down, stretch-woven fabric for mobility, Vislon centre front zip, secure-zip hand pockets, internal elastic-bound cuffs, hem cinch-cord, stows in hand pocket, slim fit. 540g (m), 476g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
6- Macpac Pulsar Plus $399.99
Alpine jacket with 170g (body) of PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation with Cross-Core Technology, Pertex Quantum outer with DWR, high chin, adjustable helmet-compatible hood, underarm lift patterning, internal mesh pockets, internal storm flap, elastic-bound cuffs, packs into chest pocket. 680g (m), 470g (w) www.macpac.co.nz
7- Rab Microlight Alpine $399.95
750-fill power hydrophobic treated European goose down, RDS-certified, micro baffles, 140g fill weight, Pertex Microlight fabric, down-filled hood with flexible polymer peak, YKK zips. 430g (m), 360g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
8- Rab Xenon X Hoodie $399.95
Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation, 60g fill weight, 20D Pertex Quantum fabric, 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
9- The North Face Thermoball $380
Thermoball synthetic insulation, slim fit, bottleneck quilt pattern, Vislon centre front zip, internal secure-zip chest pocket, secure-zip hand pockets, stows in hand pocket, internal elastic-bound cuffs, hem cinch-cord. 440g (m), 362g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
10- Marmot Featherless Jacket $349.95
Water-resistant loose-fill 3M Thinsulate Featherless insulation is equivalent in warmth to 700-fill power down, 75% recycled fabric, zippered hand pockets, elastic cuffs, inside zippered stuff sack pocket, drawcord hem, Angel-Wing movement. 349g (m); 312g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
11- The North Face Ventrix LT Fleece Hybrid $330
Slim fit, air-permeable fabrics for breathability, 60g of perforated Ventrix stretch synthetic insulation for dynamic venting, smooth-face fleece fabric, thumb loops, Vislon centre front zip with internal draft flap, secure-zip hand pockets. 318g (m), 272g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
12- Macpac Southerly $329.99
PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation, 55% recycled content, 160g of fill, nylon outer with DWR, underarm lift patterning, zippered chest pocket (men’s only), zippered hand pockets, single point hood adjustment, drawcord hem, elastic-bound cuffs, packs into chest pocket. 500g (m), 400g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
13- Macpac Ethos $269.99
Water-resistant PrimaLoft Silver Eco insulation, 70% recycled content, 60g of fill, nylon outer with DWR, Polartec Power Grid stretch underarm panels, single point hood adjustment, articulated arms, zippered hand pockets, packs into pocket. 380g (m), 330g (w) www.macpac.co.nz
Featured jacket: Macpac Southerly ($329.99) comes with 55% recycled content. www.macpac.co.nz