With water-resistant down and warm when wet synthetic fills, insulated jackets are better than ever at protecting you from the cold. Manufacturers are using recycled materials to ensure jackets are better for the environment, too.
Synthetic insulation is 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 offers incredible warmth to weight and will be treated with a hydrophobic coating so it resists soaking and allows it to dry more quickly. This means that in wet conditions, down won’t ‘clump’ so easily and will still offer warmth.
When choosing a down jacket, note the fill power (FP). This is the volume that one ounce of down fills when full of air and is usually measured between 500 and 800. The higher the number, the greater the warmth and less fill required to achieve it.
Responsible Down Standard
Most manufacturers using down insulation adhere to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS), which prohibits the removal of down and feathers from live birds. Force-feeding of birds is also prohibited.
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.
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.
Two handwarmer pockets 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.
Down jackets use baffles to keep the fill from moving around. Some synthetic garments also use baffles to hold the insulation in place, amongst other techniques. Seamless (welded or seam sealed) construction reduces heat loss through the stitching.
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 insulation. Breathable high thread count fabrics prevent down poking through the garment.
Now you know what to look for, it’s time to choose your jacket.
Worn by Antarctica NZ, 650FP 75/25 duck down, 12 pockets including chest-height fleece-lined handwarmer pockets, synthetic fur-lined heat exchange hood, large fit to allow layering, made in New Zealand. 2020g (m/w). www.earthseasky.co.nz
Rab Infinity Alpine $899.95
Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper outer, 800FP RDS hydrophobic European down, two-way YKK front zip with insulated storm flap, zippered pockets, internal chest pocket, adjustable cuffs, articulated sleeves and hem, stuff sack. 551g (m), 494g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Rab Valiance $699.95
Waterproof seam-sealed jacket with 800FP RDS European hydrophobic down, Pertex Shield ripstop fabric, bonded box-wall construction, insulated helmet-compatible hood, YKK AquaGuard Zips, adjustable cuffs and hem, stuff sack. 660g (m), 615g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Eco Triclimate $600
Waterproof 2.5-layer outer paired with an inner jacket with recycled synthetic Thermoball Eco insulation, adjustable hood, centre front zip with storm flap, pit-zip venting, secure-zip hand pockets. 780g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Macpac Sundowner Down Jacket $429.99
Water-resistant 600FP RDS HyperDRY duck down, recycled Pertex Quantum fabric, zip-off hood, adjustable hem, zipped hand pockets, internal draft tube, fleece cuffs, internal media pocket. 680g (m), 580g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Rab Xenair Alpine Light $399.95
Designed for mixed conditions, Pertex Quantum Air fabric, two weights of recycled PrimaLoft Gold Active+ insulation, articulated sleeves, YKK front zip with chin guard, elasticated cuffs, adjustable hem, helmet-compatible hood, zippered pockets, stuffs into pocket. 449g (m), 263g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Outdoor Research SuperStrand LT Hoodie $399.99
Water-resistant SuperStrand synthetic insulation is equal to 700-800FP down, bluesign approved ripstop nylon fabric, adjustable hood, zippered hand pockets, elastic binding cuff and hem, packs into pocket. 309g (m), 272 g (w). www.bivouac.co.nz
Rab Microlight Alpine $399.95
Zoned micro and nano baffle stitch-through construction, 700FP recycled down, recycled 30D Pertex Quantum ripstop nylon, elasticated cuffs, stuff sack, three harness-friendly zipped pockets, adjustable down-filled hood. 467g (m), 414g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Merrell Ridgevent Hybrid $399
Downplus+ insulation is 65% 750FP waterproof goose down and 35% Primaloft Eco Gold synthetic fill, gender-specific ‘Backvent’ heat mapping provides more ventilation for men and more insulation for women, two handpockets, packs into pocket. 302g (m), 278g (w). www.merrell.co.nz
Marmot Women’s Featherless Jacket $349.95
3M Thinsulate featherless insulation is equal to 700FP down, 75% recycled fibres, 100% recycled nylon fabric, zippered hand pockets, elastic-bound cuffs, drawcord hem, stuffs into pocket, Angel-Wing Movement, Zippin compatible with other Marmot garments. 415g (w). www.marmotnz.co.nz
Rab Xenon 2.0 $349.95
Technical jacket with recycled Pertex Quantum fabric, Primaloft Silver insulation, torso chevron quilting for breathability, quilt-less insulation on the shoulders for weather protection, YKK two-way front zip with insulated internal baffle, zippered hand pockets, elasticated cuffs, stuffs into pocket. 387g (m), 387g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
The North Face ThermoBall Eco Jacket 2.0 $340
Made with 100% post-consumer recycled content, slim fit, ThermoBall Eco insulation, reverse-coil centre front zip, stuffs into pocket, concealed secure-zip hand pockets. 270g (m), 518g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Macpac Halo Down Jacket $279.99
100% recycled fabrics throughout, 600FP RDS duck down, internal draft tube, soft lining on collar and chin flap, adjustable cuffs and hem, packs into pocket, regular fit. 530g (m), 430g (w). www.macpac.co.nz
Montane Women’s Prismatic $249
Recycled Primaloft Silver insulation, adjustable under-helmet hood with stretch bound face aperture, full-length YKK front zip with internal storm flap, zoned baffle stitching for breathability, concealed zipped hand pockets, elasticated cuffs, drawcord hem. 314g. www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Marmot Men’s Solus Featherless Jacket $279.95
3M Thinsulate featherless insulation is equal to 700FP down, 75% recycled fibres, 100% recycled nylon fabric, zippered hand pockets, elastic-bound cuffs, drawcord hem, stuffs into pocket, Zippin compatible with other Marmot garments. 581g. www.marmotnz.co.nz
Montane Prism $249
Windproof Pertex Quantum fabric, 100% recycled PrimaLoft Silver insulation, 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 right hand pocket. 390g. www.furtherfaster.co.nz
Macpac Uber Light $219.99
650FP RDS duck down, lightweight nylon shell with DWR, elastic-bound hem and cuffs, zipped hand pockets, stuff sack included, regular fit. 240g (m), 200g (w). www.macpac.co.nz