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The differences between fleece, softshell and down-insulated jackets

April 3rd, 2017

Thermal jackets are your outer layer protection. Protecting you from the elements, thermal jackets are key to fully enjoying your favourite outdoor activity.

Whether you are a hiker, climber, snowboarder, skier or biker, your thermal jacket is an important piece of your kit.

There is a huge variety of jackets to choose from. The main three are fleeces, softshell and down-insulated jackets.

So, what are the differences between these jackets and which one is perfect for you?

 

Fleece

Fleeces are made from a soft, lightweight and warm polyester material that mimics wool.

Available in a variety of weights, fleeces are great at keeping you warm. The jackets can maintain their warmth when wet, and dry very quickly.

The fabric is highly-breathable, is comfortable, doesn’t itch and can be produced in a variety of colours and styles.

Some fleeces are even windproof and water-repellent, protecting you from the elements. However, being water-resistant makes them more prone to odours.

Soft, lightweight and warm, fleeces are most commonly worn as layering pieces.

 

Softshell

Softshell jackets are perhaps the most versatile of all jackets.

Although a fleece is great for warmth, a softshell jacket has the best of both worlds. Not only will it provide warmth, it also offers more protection from the elements. Highly comfortable, these jackets are a popular choice for everyday wear.

Softshell jackets were initially created for activities like climbing and mountaineering. The fabric is incredibly breathable and has a great deal of stretch, made to keep you moving, dry and warm.

Soft and flexible, softshell jackets are best for keeping active. They also work great as a mid-layer in severe weather or as an outer layer in moderate conditions, and are great to protect you from windy conditions.

 

Down-insulated jackets

Down insulated jackets are filled with the best insulator in the world.

Made from feather by-products of geese, ducks, or other waterfowl, the down insulation will keep you warm without weighing you down.

Insulated down jackets and body warmers are ideal pieces of technical clothing for adding an extra layer of insulation without adding much weight. The lightweight jackets have a small pack size so they can fit easily into walking trouser pockets or the smallest of free spaces in your backpack.

However, down-insulated jackets are weak to moisture and provide less protection against the elements. Although some jackets use water-resistant treated down, the jacket is best suited to drier conditions.

 

Conclusion

Choosing the right jacket for you will depend on your activities and weather conditions.

If you are going to be active, the flexible softshell jackets are the best. The lightweight down-insulated jacket is great to carry to keep you warm in cold and dry conditions. In wet conditions, the fleece will keep you warm and dry quickly.

All the jackets work best when worn in layers.

Ready to choose your perfect jacket? Browse our range today.

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Down Insulation Science In Outdoor Jackets

January 4th, 2017

Science Behind Down Insulation In Outdoor Jackets

What is down?

Goose down cluster - Image kindly supplied by EDFA European Down and Feather Association

Down is the fluffy plumage that waterfowl grow next to their skin to help insulate and aide buoyancy. It is not a true feather as we understand them, but a much simpler form that has soft and fluffy filament shafts growing in all directions. These down ‘clusters’ are extremely lightweight and provide a large surface area to trap air and warmth from the body. True feathers grow over the top of the down and help shield the birds from wind and water penetration, as well as aiding flight due to increased aerodynamics.

 

 

Why use goose down?

All waterfowl produce down, but geese and duck down are the most popular as it is a by-product of commercial farming practices. The most sought after down comes from adult geese as they have a very fine cluster construction, providing more loft than juvenile goose down or duck down.

Advantages of down insulationDown insulated jacket by Sub Zero

One of the major advantages of down is its warmth-to-weight ratio. No synthetic insulation even comes close to matching it. So producing a like-for-like jacket, the down insulated one is going to be much lighter than the synthetic insulated one. Combined with this is the compression advantage of down. You can scrunch up down jackets in to very small shapes without damaging the clusters. If you want to wear one that has been jammed in to an awkward shape in yor backpack, just like a duvet, all you need to do is waft it a little bit to increase the loft.

Negatives of down insulation

Downs Achilles heal is moisture. If it gets too damp or is waterlogged, then the clusters stick together, drastically reducing the surface area and thus the insulation properties. Drying down takes a very long time unless you have a  tumble dryer, so if it gets wet when you are outside, then it is going to stay wet and offer little protection from the cold. Fortunately, new hydrophobic treatments have started to be applied to down clusters to help repel water for longer. Using this treated down produces an insulated jacket that is not waterproof, but it will function a lot better in damp and wet weather, will dry quicker, and will retain the loft of the down even when wet.

 

For more information on down and its properties then please visit the EDFA European Down and Feather Association

 

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