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What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket

Insulated jackets are a staple of cold weather gear. From massive cold weather parkas to lightweight workout wear, it can be hard to determine what you need. Temperature ratings, insulation material, and even shell materials can make picking out your next cold weather jacket a confusing task. Luckily you have us. We are here to give you the scoop on what makes some jackets ideal for outdoor activities and which materials to consider. We will take it a step further and recommend some of the best-insulated men’s jackets in each category.

Before we dive into what men’s insulated jackets we liked the best, we should look into what makes up insulated jackets. Insulated jackets are lightweight outerwear. Between the inner and outer fabric layers, the jacket is filled with a material that traps air. The trapped air inside the jacket is rapidly warmed by body heat and acts to insulate the body against the cold outside air. Because of the airspace needed to insulate adequately, most insulated clothing is thicker than a simple hard-shell jacket.

Down Jackets

Down is the gold standard of insulation. It’s mother nature’s perfect insulator. Down comes from ducks and geese. The plumage isn’t technically a feather. The pillowy fluff helps waterfowl stay warm and helps to insulate their eggs when they sit on the nest.

Down is incredibly durable with a long life compared to many synthetic fibers that break down through use. One area where synthetic fibers will often break down is when packed or compressed. Down compresses effortlessly and regains its shape and volume quickly. Down is also lighter than many synthetic fibers on the market. At a glance, this doesn’t make sense but trust us; this will make sense later in the article.

For all its warmth benefits down has a few shortcomings. Down is more expensive due to the need to collect down naturally. As with many animal products, there have been some inhumane treatments of birds to get down. However, major brands realized that the slight cost increase by using humanly harvested down is worth it for both the animals and the jacket wearers. Down can have labels such as Responsible Down Standard or the Global Traceable Down Standard. Both these certifications ensure that animals are treated humanely, and manufacturers uphold the birds’ ethical treatment. Down loses its insulative value very quickly when wet. The wispy feathers that hold air also hold water with the same efficiency. A wet down jacket won’t keep you warm and will take longer to dry than a synthetic-filled jacket. For jackets lacking waterproofing, owners can add water resistance to jackets with additional waterproofing, so not all is lost for a rainy day down jacket.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Highly insulative
  • Long life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not vegan friendly
  • Not suited for wet environments

Synthetic Jackets

Synthetic fibers are science’s answer to down. The man-made fibers similarly trap air like down. The bonus of using a synthetic material to trap air is it is impervious to moisture. Wet synthetic insulation will keep its insulative value much better than down. Being impervious to water means that these jackets will also dry out much faster than natural insulation. Fiber filling breathes much better than down does. The transfer of some heat and moisture in synthetics makes it a perfect candidate for high-energy activities. Winter runs are best paired with a more breathable insulated vest or jacket; down will overheat the user and lead to exhaustion and sweating. Synthetic insulation is a cheaper alternative to down. Being a mass-produced filling synthetic insulation keeps the prices lower and easier for most budgets to acquire.

Synthetic fibers are a great option, but there are some tradeoffs. First, synthetic fiber doesn’t have the “life” of down. The polymer fibers that make synthetic insulation so effective don’t have the elasticity to be crumpled and stretched as much as down, so they tend to wear out faster. This doesn’t mean you will freeze next season, but after a few years of constant use, it may begin not to insulate as well as it did. Secondly, it tends to be a bit bulkier and thus heavier for the same insulation value as down.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Water-resistant
  • Dries quicker
  • Animal friendly

Cons

  • Heavier
  • Wears out quicker
  • Bulkier

Hybrid Insulation Jacket

In an attempt to bridge the gap between down and synthetic insulation, some men’s insulated jackets have both. They are lighter weight and more packable than 100% synthetic. They also maintain their insulative value when wet better than 100% down, drying quicker when they become waterlogged. Hybrid jackets are a great middle ground, but they are not as common as either fill material.

What are Weights?

For men’s insulated jackets, insulation is measured in one of two ways. For down, insulation is measured in fill weight. For synthetics, insulation is measured in grams per square meter. Both measurements are hard to compare to each other, so it’s important to look at a manufacturer’s temperature rating.

Fill Power

Fill power is the number of cubic inches one ounce of down will fill. The finer the down, the higher the insulation. Fill power isn’t about the insulation level but the item’s overall weight for a given volume. A 700-fill power will be heavier than a 900-fill power to give the same amount of thermal insulation. Higher fill power jackets are less bulky and often more expensive while giving excellent warmth.

Grams per square meter

Often listed as just grams, the higher the rating, the heavier and warmer the item is. A 70-gram jacket would be a performance jacket for spring or fall; a 200-gram jacket would be an arctic parka.

Now that the reader has a basic understanding of insulation, the fun part is next. Giving our top picks for men’s insulated jackets. We offered several examples of each insulation type to highlight the differences and allow the reader to see some of the unique features of our favorites.

Our Down Favorites

Patagonia Tres Down Jacket

700 fill power recycled down insulation paired with H2No® Performance Standard waterproof and windproof 2-layer polyester with a durable water repellent finish makes this jacket a great choice for wetter weather. We love this jacket with an easy-to-access front pocket and a face-fitting hood.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricWindproofWaterproofInsulationWarmthHood
PolyesterYesYesDownWarmYes

Boulder Gear Northland Down Jacket

The 550-fill power down of this jacket keeps the compressibility high and the cost low. The insulated hood keeps your head and neck plenty warm, even if compressed under a ski helmet. The zippered chest pocket is helpful for storing quick-access items when wearing a pack.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricWindproofWaterproofInsulationWarmthHoodLength
PolyesterYesYesDownWarmYes31.5 inches

Patagonia AlpLight Down Pullover

An 800-fill power RDS certified down jacket delivers incredible warmth in a small volume. The AlpLight pullover makes a super compressible low bulk option for dry-weather trips. With the low bulk, this AlpLight makes a great mid-layer to be paired with a hard shell for inclement weather adventures.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricInsulationWarmthHoodGender
NylonDownWarmNoMen's

Our Synthetic Favorites

Black Diamond BoundaryLine Insulated Jacket

The BoundaryLine jacket is an excellent option for those in wet weather. The BD.dry waterproof outer shell keeps the user dry and protected from even the harshest winds. Paired with the Thermolite TL Eco-Made polyester insulation, this jacket provides great warmth with reduced bulk. For hikers and climbers, the BoundaryLine comes with zippered armpits to you can vent off some of that body heat while staying dry.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricWaterproofInsulationWarmthHoodPackableLength
PolyesterYesSyntheticWarmerYesYes30.25 inches

Stoic Pains Insulated Jacket

Looking for a more casual insulated jacket? The Stoic Plains jacket is the answer. A budget-friendly outer layer that looks great for cold casual adventures. The snap button system is easy to use even with mittened hands. Not as insulated as some of the more extreme parkas, but for a day of fair-weather skiing or around the town, it’s a lighter option than a heavy parka.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricInsulationFitLengthHoodPockets
PolyesterSyntheticRegular28inNo2

Patagonia Pack In Pullover

The Pack In Pullover is another excellent mid-layer option for cold weather activity. With a drawstring waist and zippered hood, this pullover style jacket makes a great packable mid-layer. The 60gs of insulation will keep you warm outdoors for early-season outings or even winter runs.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricInsulationFitLengthPockets
PolyesterFullRangeRegular28.5in2

Our Hybrid Favorites

Mammut Convey HS Hooded 3-in-1 Jacket

The Mammut Cinvery is an all-in-one hybrid jacket. Utilizing down in the body where warmth is critical shaves costs by using synthetic fibers for the sleeves. The body is 60 g 90/10 duck down (750 fill power), with the sleeves being lightweight 80 g synthetic fiber. This jacket has a removable wind and water-resistant outer hard shell with a drawstring hood. When the weather is more pleasant, you can strip off the shell and enjoy the insulated puffy jacket without the added weight of the hard shell.

What To Know Before Purchasing An Insulated Jacket | GearPro Guide

FabricWindproofWaterproofInsulationWarmthHood
PolyesterYesYesDownWarmestYes

Summary

Insulated Jackets are a wide swath of cold weather men’s and women’s wear, from subzero parkas to lightweight pullovers. By understanding the types of insulation and their ratings, shoppers can avoid looking like a marshmallow or possibly freezing with too light a jacket. It boils down to preference and what features are best for you. Will you choose the ultra-warm down for a dry cold mountain hike or the water-shedding synthetic down for your next coastal camping adventure? Either option you choose, we hope you stay warm and have an adventure.

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