So, what’s best down or synthetic insulation?
The simple answer is it depends. One is not better than the other in all situations. The decision to choose a down insulated jacket or a synthetic insulated jacket revolves around the conditions you’ll be facing most of the time.
When to use down insulation
Down is weight-for-weight the better insulator, so it’s most suitable than synthetic down for extremely cold conditions. Very cold conditions are usually very dry conditions. Down is the ideal insulation for dry-cold climates and on expeditions and adventures where weight is a defining factor, such as alpine climbing.
In normal circumstances, down does not perform well in wet and humid conditions. However, at The North Face for our higher-priced and more technical products we use ProDown™. This is a special type of RDS down that has been treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) to help it perform better in damp conditions. Though unless weight and compressibility are important, synthetic insulation is still a better option for damp environments.
When to use synthetic insulation
Synthetic insulation is a very versatile insulator. It’s easy to take care of, it keeps you warm in a variety of conditions, including cold and wet environments, and it’s cost-effective. It’s particularly useful in humid conditions, such as those you find in many parts of the UK, the Benelux region and away from the mountains in France, Spain and Italy.
At The North Face, our preferred choice for synthetic insulation in our thermal clothing is ThermoBall™ Eco. This synthetic is made from recycled polyester and insulates extremely well for its weight. Weight for weight ThermoBall Eco is not as warm as down, but still maintains a high level of insulation.
On top of all this, aside from the insulation filling, we treat many of our jackets and trousers with a durable water repellent (DWR) to help water bead off the surface, thus helping to keep the insulation drier for longer.