two people hiking in winter jackets

How To Choose An Insulated Jacket

Insulation is essential to keeping warm in the outdoors, and is usually worn as a mid-layer, or as the outer layer in dry, cold climates. It works by trapping the warmth that our bodies create to maintain our body temperature, but this can be achieved in a variety of ways. Choosing the right kind of insulation for your adventures will make sure you stay warm and safe in any conditions you might face.

Types of insulation

Down

Down insulation is obtained from geese and ducks: the smallest feathers found next to the skin. Generally speaking, goose down has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down smaller than duck. The warmth of a down jacket, or the 'loft', is measured by its fill power. The higher the fill power rating and the ‘loft’, the more warm air the down can trap, and the warmer and more packable the jacket. 

 

The maindrawback of down insulation is that it loses its ability to retain heat if it gets wet, because this causes the down to stick together. Therefore, down jackets only perform well in dry conditions. Down jackets which have a hydrophobic (water resistant) coating are available, however, they still don't perform as well as synthetic insulation in wet conditions.

 

Remember, many jackets come with a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating, so will be able to handle quick showers, but not much more.

Synthetic

In synthetic fill jackets, man-made polyester strands are used to imitate the air-trapping down filaments to create pockets of warm air. These fibres are moisture-resistant, and retain their insulating properties when wet. If you plan to use your jacket in wet conditions or when you're highly active, synthetic insulation is the best choice.

Synthetic & down mixes 

Less common and highly technical, these jackets draw on the strengths of down and synthetic fills to maximise functionality and weight savings. They commonly use synthetic fill in the shoulders and arms of the jacket, and down in the core body area. This is because synthetic fill retains its insulating characteristics better than down when compressed, for example by a rucksack on the shoulders, and if wetted out, which normally occurs first on the arms and shoulders. The use of down in the main body enables the jacket to remain highly packable and gives excellent warmth in the core.

Insulated jacket features

Baffles

Baffles are the containing sections of insulation. Their purpose is to prevent the material from gathering in the bottom of your jacket and evenly distribute the insulation across the jacket. The way the baffle is constructed can affect how well your jacket performs.

Stitch-through

Stitch-through baffles keep the insulation evenly distributed. However, the stitched areas can cause heat to be lost.

Box wall

Box wall baffles allow the insulation to expand to its maximum loft, and the stitching is designed to reduce heat loss.

Baffle size

Wide baffles

Wide baffles are the warmest option as they contain more grams of down and can be constructed such that there are fewer seams where your body heat can escape. They can, however, feel bulky and do not layer well or compress down as small in your pack.

 

Narrow baffles

Narrow baffle or micro baffle jackets, as well as looking fantastic, work well underneath a waterproof in cold and wet environments and compress down small enough to stuff easily in your pack ready for you to pull out when you stop moving.

Hood or no hood?

If you’re going to be using your jacket in very cold, low-activity environments then a jacket with an insulated hood may benefit you. Conversely, if you’re looking for a packable, lightweight garment to keep your core warm, then a hood may just add bulk and weight.

Still not sure which insulated jacket is right for you? Visit us in-store for advice from our experts.

Found your perfect insulated jacket? Check out our insulation care guide to keep it performing for many adventures to come.