For climbers, skiers, and other backcountry enthusiasts looking to streamline their kit, the Paradox Light is a great option. In xph012 down jacketsthe two most important specifications are down fill power and fill weight.
And like many products from The North Face, one of our main sticking points with the ThermoBall is fit the Ventrix above is one exception. While this is fine for everyday wear and use as a layering piece at the resort, we prefer a performance cut and some stretch for better mobility Insulation: Synthetic Weight: 9.
What we like: Breathable; extremely lightweight and packable. Not everyone needs to be counting ounces, but for backcountry missions, weight savings is paramount. The Atom SL is a true niche piece—keep in mind that both the arms and hood of the jacket are uninsulated, making it more akin to a vest in terms of warmth but with the bonus of weather resistance if you choose to wear it without a shell.
What we like: All the benefits of wool in a high-performance jacket. Black Diamond is relatively new to the apparel scene, but their Wool Aspect Hoody caught our eye as a thoughtful and practical piece. But we think the Aspect Hoody pulls it off quite well, combining the wool with a synthetic fiber for durability and washability, and adding stretchy side panels for great freedom of movement. Tack on a helmet-compatible hood and a mesh pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, and the Aspect has all the bells and whistles that we love in a climbing or backcountry skiing-oriented midlayer.
Insulation: Down Weight: 9. What we like: Warmth where you need it most. We all know by now that down is the warmest and most packable insulator, but for midlayer use in moderate conditions, a full down jacket can be too much.
Enter the Patagonia Down Sweater Vest, which will provide ample warmth around your core without overdoing it. Like the popular full jacket version, the Vest uses premium fill down, has excellent build quality, and looks great, too. And the vest weighs only 9. We love this vest for wearing under a shell or even as an outer layer for winter hiking and snowshoeing on a clear day.
And of course, vests are great for casual wear in the fall and spring. One final piece of advice: if you go with a vest for a midlayer, make sure to choose a warm and comfortable baselayer. Obviously it matters more with your arms exposed. Insulation: Down Weight: 8. What we like: Great warmth-to-weight ratio; premium materials and great fit and finish.
At only 8. Plus, you get the longevity of down which stands the test of time better than synthetic insulation and—updated for this winter—a slightly more durable shell made of percent-recycled materials. But pitting the Ghost Whisperer up against other down midlayers on our list is not necessarily comparing apples to apples.
The Mountain Hardwear is stuffed with only 2. What we like: Lightweight pullover design; versatile as a midlayer or outer layer. And while 9. For climbers, skiers, and other backcountry enthusiasts looking to streamline their kit, the Paradox Light is a great option. Insulation: Fleece Weight: 15 oz.
What we like: Great range of motion. In general, fleece jackets are less warm and packable than comparable synthetic options, although you do save a bit in terms of cost. And at 15 ounces, the Kyanite is one of the heavier midlayers on the list, despite only providing moderate insulation. Insulation: Down Weight: 3. What we like: Unbeatable weight and packability. Starting with down fill, we consider fill power to be premium quality, is only offered from a few select companies, and 1, fill is nearly unheard of and just silly in terms of warmth to weight.
And at 3. Insulation: Synthetic wool blend Weight: What we like: Functional wool insulation and athletic fit. All in all, we really like what Smartwool has done with this design, which includes a soft merino wool liner, SmartLoft g recycled wool insulation around the core, and a nylon exterior. Throw in a DWR finish and the result is an active midlayer, outer layer, or even baselayer that is comfortable, agile, and regulates your body heat quite well.
But we still appreciate the design, which is very functional and creative compared to traditional jackets that are uniform in materials and thickness throughout. And we love the versatility: you can ski, hike, bike, and even hit the town in this jacket.
For a warmer and more performance-oriented wool option, check out the Black Diamond Wool Aspect Hoody above. What we like: Fuzzy and comfortable, yet very functional. The Monkey is an excellent performance fleece and one of our all-time favorite pieces of gear from Mountain Hardwear.
While the updated Monkey features a solid fleece rather than the previous open weave construction, we do find that the jacket is still on the thin side. Further, the air-permeable material offers little wind and no water protection. Fleece A skiing midlayer classic, the fleece jacket is a comfortable and affordable way to stay warm. In spite of what the name may indicate, fleece or polar fleece is a wholly manmade synthetic made up of petroleum products. Many new models are made of plastics such as recycled bottles, and through a rather impressive process, out spits a cozy and soft fleece.
These jackets are wonderful as a midlayer for skiing thanks to their ability to resist absorbing moisture and their fast drying time. Additionally, cost is a big reason for choosing a fleece, even if they do have a tendency to pill up over time. These are great for mild-weather skiing or backcountry skiers. Synthetic Insulation Opting for a synthetic jacket will most often involve a slight step up in cost from a fleece but comes with reduced bulk and a more stylish, quilted appearance.
And as an upgrade from down fill, synthetics continue insulating when wet. Synthetic insulation is measured in grams, which is how much insulation a 1 x 1 meter section of the fibers weigh. Lightweight synthetics will have approximately 40 to 60 grams of insulation, and midweights are closer to grams. Once you reach the midweight category, you are dealing with a very bulky jacket, which is why the gram choice is so popular. Down Insulation The synthetic options above have never been able to match the heat retention of natural goose or duck feathers.
There is simply no better way to stay warm than a down jacket, as long as you avoid heavy moisture—down will clump up and stop insulating when wet. If you really make an effort to stay dry with a bombproof shell, or for dry and cold conditions found in areas like Utah, Colorado, or parts of the East Coast, a down jacket is a perfect fit.
On positively frigid days, an option like the venerable Patagonia Down Sweater remains a go-to choice. In comparing down jackets , the two most important specifications are down fill power and fill weight. These are two independent measurements, but taken together they will give you an indication of how warm the jacket will be. To start, fill power is a measurement of the quality of the down clusters. Because down relies on loft to trap heat against your body, a jacket that requires fewer clusters to achieve the same amount of loft will be equally as warm but weigh less.
All measurements must be taken with a soft tape measure pulled snug but not tight. Stand straight, looking forward with your feet flat on the floor. It is best to have help taking the measurements, in order to remain in the optimal measuring stance. IN CM. Still not sure what size to order?
The down is then surrounded by inner liner and outer shell. Apparel that uses down for insulation is due to its warmth-to-weight ratio perfect for very cold but dry conditions. Popular manufacturers that produce down apparel are Mountain Hardwear Q.
Due to its superb warmth-to-weight ratio, we recommend wearing apparel with down insulation in very cold, but dry conditions. It can also be used in less cold conditions for rest phases in order to prevent rapid cooling. Synthetic insulation offers an inferior warmth-to-weight ratio in comparison to goose down, but superior to fleece and Merino wool.
Usually it is made of polyester fibers which are structured to mimic the structure of down clusters. The polyester fibers are of different sizes to create loft so that the body-warmed air can be efficiently trapped into small air pockets between the fibers.
As polyester fibers absorb very little moisture in its own weight, synthetic insulation retains good loft even when exposed to moisture — unlike down. However, even high-end synthetic insulation is in dry conditions only as efficient as fill-power low grade goose down. Furthermore, it is not as compressible and durable as goose down.
The quality of synthetic insulation is measured by Clo value; the value of one Clo tells us that a resting person will remain comfortable at the temperature of 21 C, humidity of less than 50 percent and a 0. The maximum Clo value is 4. Often it is very hard to get Clo values for different garments as manufacturers rarely disclose them. The synthetic insulation in garments is surrounded by an inner liner and outer shell.
Average rating 4. Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes. Hiking holiday in Bortelid, Norway. Lasting Wapol Base Layer Review.
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Well balanced! Keep going. Great post. Down is warm, but Scotland is well-known to be very wet. Fleece is good in moisture-laden environments, but is it warm enough? Maybe synthetic is the best compromise. I would definitely go for a jacket with synthetic insulation for such conditions. In comparison to fleece it also provides protection against the wind and some basic rain resistance.
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