Autumn is upon us, the leaves are starting to change colour and the mountain lakes are beginning to get too cold to swim in once again! We can’t wait for fall to get out and hike. Shoulder seasons are the best part of the year, everyone’s passion for the outdoors is fresh and inspiring, the wildlife is getting ready for hibernation, and the main trails that are usually bustling in the summer, are a lot quieter this time of year!
But, it’s still cold, especially in the mountains! You need insulation to keep you warm but there’s so many options out there and way too much information.
We’re here to help.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know before you buy your next insulation piece!
There are four major types of insulations being used by the outdoor industry today. There is synthetic insulation, down, wool, and fleece.
There is also a new type of insulation that’s just starting to take to the market called “air permeable” insulation. Air permeable insulation is synthetic, the difference between regular synthetic and this synthetic is in the way the insulation is baffled and shaped on the inside. The technology is placed in the jacket in such a way that air can basically pass through it, replacing the warm air and heat vapours that might be collecting underneath your jacket.
The advantage air permeable insulation is that you can be warm without overheating and having heat vapours wet you out from the inside, thus regulating your core temperature. The disadvantage is the price tag, it’s a little more expensive, but in our opinion it’s worth every cent.
We’ve made an easy to follow diagram to compare the different attributes and benefits of each insulation type. This way you can see what each jacket has to offer and use it as a guide for what you might think is important for you. Textiles and fabrics are unique, just like adventures are unique, what’s right for you in the mountains might not be right for you on a camping trip or portaging, keep in mind what your intended use is primarily for.
As you can see, there’s really no “one insulation to rule them all”. We’ve been collecting all kinds of jackets as the years go by and using them in all kinds of environments for different purposes.
Ultimately you have to focus on one primary thing you’d like to have a specific jacket for. For example, if you’re ultralight backpacking, choose down. Skiing in the middle of winter, pick synthetic. Trail running above tree line in spring, go with air permeable synthetic insulation. If you have a bunch of different outdoor activities, you’ll eventually just end up having a small collection of different insulation pieces.
It’s a lot of information, and not always cheap. Being comfortable, having your body temperature regulated, and not overheating can make all the difference when you’re in the backcountry. It can be the difference between enjoying your adventure, and just tolerating your adventure.