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May 2021 Issue
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2021’s guide to insulated jackets

Photo: Elizabeth Ravn

This year’s jackets are greener than ever, with recycled fabrics and insulation sourced from post-consumer waste. When choosing an insulated jacket, also consider which conditions you’ll most likely use it – damp or dry.

Jackets are cut to ensure warm air remains close to the body, which means the fabric will offer some stretch to ensure hems and cuffs don’t rise when arms are outstretched. Articulated shoulders allow greater freedom of movement.

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 (welded or seam sealed) construction reduces heat loss through the stitching.

There are two types of insulation: synthetic or down. Synthetic insulation is more durable and will keep the user warm even when it’s wet. It is cheaper, bulkier and heavier than down, but modern synthetic fills are coming close to equaling down in weight and compressibility. Down still offers superior warmth to weight and will be treated with a hydrophobic coating that makes it resist soaking and allows it to dry more quickly. This means that when wet, down won’t ‘clump’ so easily and will still offer warmth. When choosing a down jacket, take note of the fill power (the volume that one ounce of down fills when full of air) – usually measured between 500 and 800. The higher the number, the greater the warmth and less fill required to achieve it.

Collars and cuffs
Cuffs keep out wind and prevent trapped warmth from escaping. They can be self-closed or elastic, with the latter being most effective at trapping warmth. Insulated collars should zip up under or just over the chin. They should have a soft comfort lining at the chin.

Two handwarmer pockets and a chest pocket are the norm, though some ultralight models may do away with hand pockets. Internal pockets can be used to store items close to your body. Lighter and more compressible jackets will stuff into one of the pockets or a separate stuff sack for transport.

Hoods improve warmth considerably by trapping warm air around your head without blocking visibility. Hoods on alpine or climbing jackets will be helmet-compatible and fit over or under the helmet. Drawcords are often used to tighten the hood but, as with cuffs, elastic-bound hoods ensure a more snug and warmth-trapping fit.

The shell fabric should have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating to increase water resistance – some models even use a waterproof fabric to protect the down. Breathable high thread count fabrics prevent down poking through the garment.

Responsible Down Standard
Most manufacturers using down insulation adhere to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) administered by the nonprofit Textile Exchange. The standard ensures:

  1. The removal of down and feathers from live birds is prohibited
  2. Force-feeding of birds is prohibited
  3. Holistic respect for animal welfare from hatching to slaughter
  4. Each stage in the supply chain is audited by a third-party certification body
  5. Only products with 100 per cent certified down and feathers carry the RDS logo

Earth Sea Sky Nano Primaloft $799
Primaloft Gold synthetic insulation, seam-sealed waterproof Entrant shell fabric, articulated elbows, gusseted underarms, full front zip with storm flap, adjustable hem drawcord, two internal chest pockets, two zippered hand pockets, made in New Zealand. 694g (m/w).


Rab Valiance $699.95
Waterproof down jacket with Pertex Shield ripstop fabric, bonded box-wall construction, high-quality 800-fill power RDS hydrophobic down, insulated helmet-compatible hood, YKK AquaGuard Zips, adjustable cuffs and hem, stuff sack. 750g (m), 615g (w).


The North Face Stretch Down $450
Stretchy and slim-fitting with 700-fill RSD goose down, non-PFC DWR, exposed VISLON centre front zip, reverse-coil zip hand pockets, internal elastic-bound cuffs, hem drawcord, stuffs into pocket. 560g (m), 430g (w).


Outdoor Research Helium Down Hoody $449.99
Pertex Quantum fabric with Diamond Fuse technology for water-resistance and durability, waterproof hood, shoulder and upper sleeve, 800+ fill power RDS goose down, adjustable hood, external chest pocket, internal stash pockets, pack-friendly hand pockets, elastic drawcord hem. 436g (m/w),


Marmot Featherless Hoody $449
With 3M Thinsulate featherless insulation made from 75% recycled loose-fill fibres (said to be as warm as 700-fill power down). Angel-Wing movement, hood with elastic binding, zippered handwarmer pockets, elastic cuffs, stuffs into pocket, drawcord hem. 476 (m), 440 (w).


Outdoor Research Refuge Hooded $419.99
A water-resistant jacket using breathable VerticalX synthetic insulation, thermo-regulating ActiveTemp treatment, movement-mirroring stretch, helmet-compatible adjustable hood, elastic drawcord, hand pockets. Stows in its own hand pocket. 569g (m), 478g (w).


Rab Microlight Alpine $399.95
Multipurpose down jacket with zoned micro and nano baffle stitch-through construction, recycled 30D Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon, recycled 700-fill power down, elastic cuffs, stuff sack, three harness-friendly zipped pockets, adjustable down filled hood with stiffened peak. 467 (m), 414g (w).


Patagonia Nano Puff $349.99
Lightweight 100% recycled polyester shell with DWR, 60g of compressible PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco (with 55% post-consumer recycled content), brick quilting pattern, sculpted fit, Fair Trade Certified sewn. 337g (m), 284g (w).


Rab Kaon $399.95
Durable hybrid jacket with 70g of 800-fill power RDS hydrophobic European goose down in hood and body, Stratos synthetic insulation in shoulders, cuffs and hips. Ripstop nylon fabric, stitch-through construction, YKK zips throughout, half hem drawcord, stuff sack. 250g (m), 235g (w).


The North Face Thermoball Eco Hoodie $370
ThermoBall Eco insulation made from post-consumer recycled content. Slim fit, pre-tensioned hood with partial elastic binding, exposed VISLON centre front zip, internal secure-zip chest pocket, covered zippered hand pockets, internal elastic-bound cuffs, hem drawcord, DWR. 450g (m), 390g (w).


Marmot Featherless Hybrid $349.95
With 3M Thinsulate featherless insulation made from 75% recycled loose-fill fibres (said to be as warm as 700-fill power down). Moisture-wicking DriClime lining, pack pockets, drawcord hem, elastic cuffs. 280g (m), 198g (w).


Rab Xenon $349.95
Technical jacket with recycled Stratus insulation, quiltless construction eliminates cold spots. Under helmet hood with stretch binding, elasticated cuffs, zipped handwarmer pockets, two-way opening front zip with insulated internal baffle. Stuffs into pocket. 326g (m), 285g (w).


Rab Cirrus Alpine $349.95
Mountain jacket with soft 30D recycled Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon shell, DWR coating, high-loft Cirrus HL recycled synthetic insulation. Zoned micro-baffle stitch-through construction. Under-helmet elasticated hood, harness-compatible pockets, easy-stretch glove-friendly cuffs, adjustable hem. 516g (m), 455g (w).


Macpac Pulsar PrimaLoft Hooded $329.99
Helmet, pack and harness-compatible design, PrimaLoft Gold insulation made from 55% post-consumer waste, 100% recycled Pertex Quantum fabric (bluesign approved), underarm lift pattern for freedom of movement, internal mesh pockets. Designed with the NZ Alpine Team. 460g (m), 390g (w).


Macpac Mercury Hooded $319.99
A 650-loft jacket with RDS duck down, elastic-bound hood, cuffs and hem to seal in warmth. bluesign approved fabric, zipped hand pockets, stuff sack included. 390g (m).


Montane Icarus $299
Quick-drying PrimaLoft ThermoPlume synthetic insulation (said to be equivalent to 550+ fill power down). 100% recycled fabric, micro baffle construction, articulated arms, insulated hood, zippered pack-friendly hand pockets, concealed chest pocket, stretch bound cuffs, elasticated hem. 581g.


Macpac Sou’west PrimaLoft Hooded $299.99
Designed for mid-winter hikes with PrimaLoft Silver insulation made from 70% post-consumer waste. 100% recycled nylon fabrics (bluesign approved), articulated shoulders, pack-friendly pockets, internal chest pocket, adjustable hem. 460g (m), 380g (w).


Montane Prism $249
With weather-resistant Pertex Quantum fabric, 100% recycled PrimaLoft Silver insulation, adjustable roll-away helmet-compatible hood, articulated arms, YKK front zip with storm flap, external chest pocket, insulated map-sized hand pockets, elasticated cuffs, drawcord hem. Stuffs into pocket. 390g (m), 314g (w).


Merrell Ridgevent Hybrid Vest $299
With Backvent construction for ventilation, Merrell’s Downplus+ hybrid insulation consists of 65% RDS waterproof down and 35% Primaloft Eco Gold, DWR finish, secure hand pockets, binding at armholes, stuffs into pocket. Men’s and women’s available.