There are times when a fleece or hoodie is not enough to keep the cold out. When the temperature drops, an insulated jacket will protect you from the cold. We have put together a guide on what to look for when choosing an insulated jacket and how to decide which one will best suit your needs.
Insulation comes in several forms, each with their own pros and cons depending on the situation and need. We look at the four types of insulation commonly used in jackets to examine the benefits and potential weaknesses of each.
Down is the best insulation that nature can provide. It generally comes from duck and geese feathers, giving you the most warmth with the least amount of weight and bulk. The warmth of a down jacket is determined by fill power. Fill power can range from 500 to 900; the higher the number the warmer the jacket. A 900 fill power jacket gives the best possible warmth and is suited for winter alpine conditions, however, it will have a high price tag to match. A lower fill jacket will still offer substantial warmth in winter, perfect for the city, and will have a fair price. Be aware if you wear a down jacket in the rain it will lose all its warmth and will also damage the down fibres, shorting the lifespan of the jacket.
Synthetic insulation is the most common form of insulation you will find on the market. Synthetic insulation can offer similar warmth to down, the hydrophobic fabric will only hold 1% of its weight in water letting the jacket dry fast and retains its warmth. However, you make sacrifices in bulkiness and weight compared to natural down.
Weight and insulation type are the best and simplest indicators of how warm a synthetic jacket is going to be. As you can imagine, the more the jacket weighs the warmer you are going to be, so look to tailor the choice of your jacket depending on how cold you expect conditions to get. If it is just for city use then a lightweight jacket will be fine. For being out on the hills or in the mountains when it is cold look for higher weight jackets that you be confident will trap warmth.
When comparing weights of jackets make sure to take materials into consideration. Synthetic insulation comes in different types, hollow fibre being the most common. Polartec fabric is often considered the best synthetic insulation offering lightweight and heavyweight options.
A hybrid design is when a jacket uses both down and synthetic insulation with the intention of giving you the best of both worlds. You will commonly find down insulation in the core, keeping the main part of the jacket's weight low whilst still providing excellent insulation. Synthetic insulation is then placed in the arms and shoulders because these areas experience abrasion and are the place most rain falls. Synthetic materials are generally more durable and water-resistant so they cope well with this.
Jacket have additional details that help performance. Fit, coverage, design: each of these can affect the overall warmth retention and comfort of an insulated jacket. A few key things to consider are:
The hood on the insulated jacket isn’t there just to shield you from the rain; it’s intended for trapping warmth in an area where heat escapes fastest. Whilst this is useful, a Jacket without a hood can be worn as a midlayer easily.
Adjustable cuffs and waist
With adjustable cuffs and hem you will be able to easily trap warmth by cinching the jacket closer to your body preventing warm air from escaping. This is particularly important on especially colder days when you need every little advantage you can get.
Internal pockets are essential for cold days. With these pockets being close to your body they will naturally be warmer. If you keep your phone in this pocket it will hold its charge for longer than it would in a trouser pocket or bag.
Body mapped design
Jackets with a body mapped design will have the insulation strategically placed to ensure the best possible warmth without adding weight. 'Strategic' means focusing warmth in areas that require more such as your core and less insulation in areas like your forearms and armpits because little escapes and they also emit a lot as well.