For years, coats with down insulation were thought to be unbeatable. Considered to provide the best warmth for weight, they actually often perform poorly in wet conditions, take a long time to dry and are very expensive. On top of this, there is a big animal welfare issue. PETA’s expose revealed birds being plucked alive for their feathers—a harrowing tale behind the luxury. Down would never be an option for most of us, and thanks to modern developments, synthetic insulations are proving just as effective, and sometimes even better.
Take a look at my top picks for winter jackets of 2017-2018. They’ve been chosen for their features and ability to keep the user warm during different activities. Furthermore, the companies’ eco-credentials also heavily impacted my choice!
If you’ve just bought a new coat you love, then leave a comment and let me know.
1. Marmot Featherless Component 3-in-1 Jacket
Uses: Hiking, Snowsports, Casual.
Fill: 3M Thinsulate Featherless synthetic insulation.
Weight: 1255g (men’s) / 1080g (women’s).
What I like: Warm, high quality, and very versatile.
What I don’t: Heavier than competitors.
The Marmot Featherless Component 3-in-1 Jacket is a fantastic down free winter jacket which can be used all the year due to its two-piece structure. Its external shell jacket, made from Marmot’s MemBrain 2L, is extremely waterproof and breathable—promising a minimum of 10,000 mm waterproofness and 10,000 gm/24h breathability. Unfamiliar with this terminology? See my explanation here. The seams are also taped.
The internal insulation jacket utilizes a 3M™ Thinsulate™ Featherless insulation, a synthetic loose-fibre fill that has the same thermal performance as natural 700-power-fill down, yet is water-resistant to maintain warmth in damp weather. Despite its weight, it’s easy to pack.
One of the best advantages of this jacket is that you can wear it three ways, as the name suggests. Wear the insulating layer on its own, just the outer waterproof shell or zip them together to create a powerhouse of protection, warmth and comfort. It’s ideal for anyone on the trails, climbers and also snowsports. Its neat design means you can also wear it for casual.
EnviroFree is a Marmot initiative that looks to reduce chemical applications in the manufacturing process of its products. The company also uses recycled polyester in some of its gear. See more on Marmot’s enviro policy: People / Product / Planet.
2. Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody
Uses: Alpine Activities, Snowsports, Hiking, Trekking.
Fill: 60g Coreloft.
Weight: 360 g (men’s) / 330 g (women’s).
What I like: Super comfortable, good for aerobic activities and good ventilation.
What I don’t: Not suited for severe cold weather.
This is a really good hybrid jacket ideal for hiking, biking and alpine activities. People have worn this hoody hiking in the Alps and the Himalayas and have been impressed with its performance.
It’s extremely lightweight and compressible and features 60g/m2 of Coreloft insulation in the torso, arms and hood. The insulation retains its warmth in wet and humid conditions and dries quickly. It also combines a Tyono 20 denier shell with Polartec Powerstretch side panels and underarms which result in a strong but flexible outer material. It comes with a soft matte finish in an athletic cut. An added bonus is the fleece lined pockets and helmet compatible adjustable hood.
Overall the Atom LT Hoody is a great choice for aerobic winter activities. But, when the sun drops, you may need an additional layer to fight off those sub-zero temperatures. When this is the case, you can use the LT Hoody as a mid layer and add a lightweight shell layer or wind jacket over the top.
Arc’teryx is committed to reducing its environmental impact. It invests heavily in designing gear that’s built to last and offers a repair service for gear that’s been damaged. However, at present, Arc’teryx doesn’t appear to use many recycled materials in its products. A spokesperson for the company commented on a blog about the issue and said: “We have tested countless materials, and simply found that most recycled materials do not provide the performance and durability of virgin materials.” However, they have trialled some and added: “When recycled materials meet or exceed the performance of virgin materials, we’ll be right on top of it.”
3. Patagonia Hyper Puff Jacket
Uses: Casual, Camping, Belaying.
Fill: 100-g HyperDAS insulation.
Weight: 456 g (men’s) / 451 g (women’s).
What I like: Superior warmth. Patagonia’s eco credentials.
What I don’t: Bulky and doesn’t pack down as well as others.
Built for the harshest alpine conditions, the Hyper Puff Jacket uses stretchy, high-loft 100-g HyperDAS insulation wrapped in a lightweight, weather-resistant Pertex Quantum stretch ripstop shell. The shell is durable, water-resistant, windproof and treated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Shaped in a semi-athletic fit, the jacket comes with tapered sleeves that roll inside at the ends and snug around the wrist with elasticized cuffs. This is a cleverly thought out feature, which is comfortable, traps heat well and keeps sleeves out of the way while doing activities. The hood is also helmet-compatible and clinches around the head with a single elastic drawcord.
While this jacket promises to be one of the warmest on the list, it is one of the ‘puffiest’ despite its light weight. This means you can’t pack it down as much as its competitors. Despite this, its HyperDas insulation fabric is designed to perform well under compression. It springs back to shape, even when wet. It’s a good option for more casual attire or very cold conditions, especially if you like bold colours!
Another benefit to buying Patagonia gear is its Worn Wear program. If your gear gets damaged, Patagonia is committed to repairing it. You can also trade it in for credit towards a new item—all part of their mission to keep things out the landfill. It also uses recycled materials in a lot of its garments.
4. Cotopaxi Pacaya Insulated Jacket (Hooded)
Uses: Hiking, Trekking, Casual.
Fill: 100g Polartec Alpha insulation.
Weight: 444g (men’s)/ 340g (women’s).
What I like: Lightweight, ideal for mid-low temperature, and % of every purchase goes towards a humanitarian cause.
What I don’t: Doesn’t pack down as well as others.
The Pacaya is a great hybrid jacket. It’s lightweight and made with Polartec Alpha synthetic insulation with a DWR coated shell. This does a good job of keeping you warm and dry in mid-low temperatures, with a good level of breathability. The coat comes with Polartec Power Stretch underarm panels which help to regulate your temperature when moving and gives you a full range of motion. The sleeves are elasticated which also keeps in heat and there is two fleece lined side pockets and a breast pocket for essentials. The fit is slim-cut, with a longer hem at the back.
A downside is that the hood can’t be adjusted, meaning it’s not suitable for rock climbing or biking. Despite this, it protects your head fairly well when zipped up all the way.
The jacket performs relatively well and is a great choice for the more casual hiker/ photographer/sightseer. Its 80’s style design will definitely split the camp, but I think it looks pretty cool. One of the best aspects of this jacket is that a percentage of every item purchased from Cotopaxi goes towards a humanitarian cause.
In the case of the Pacaya Insulated Jacket, purchases contribute to CHOICE Humanitarian— a scheme which provides two weeks of midwife training in Q’eqchi’ communities in Guatemala. The program reduces average child mortality by 66% and maternal mortality by 69% in trained communities! On top of this, Cotopaxi promises a 61-year guarantee on its gear—the average lifespan of a person living in the developing world according to the brand.
5. The North Face Thermoball Triclimate Jacket
Uses: Hiking, Trekking, Snowsports, Casual.
Fill: 10 g/m² Primaloft Thermoball insulation in body, 60g Primaloft Silver Eco insulation in sleeves.
Weight: 780 g (men’s) / 730 g (women’s).
What I like: Lightweight, packs down well and can be used all year.
What I don’t: No internal pockets when using Thermoball on its own.
The Thermoball Triclimate Jacket is a great all year round coat. It’s incredibly versatile, as the layers can be worn separately or together, and can be used for most activities, including snow sports. The jacket features a waterproof HyVent 2.5L outer shell with a PrimaLoft ThermoBall insulated inner jacket for maximum warmth, versatility and weather protection. (ThermoBall has a warmth equivalent to 600 fill goose down.) The 2.5L half layer increases the coat’s durability while also ensuring a good standard of breathability—ideal for high aerobic activities.
While the jacket does feature an array of secure-zip chest and hand pockets, one downside is that when the Thermoball liner is used independently, these pockets are lost. Despite this, the coat is a fantastic all rounder and also comes with a fully adjustable hood and pit zips for extra ventilation.
North Face has very good eco credentials. It continually seeks to use more eco-friendly and recycled materials in its products, it campaigns for action against climate change and in conjunction with Patagonia, REI and Kelty, runs The Conservation Alliance— an alliance dedicated to funding and partnering with organisations to permanently protect land and waterways.
In terms of functionality and usability, the Marmot Featherless Component 3-in-1 Jacket and The North Face Thermoball Triclimate Jacket get my vote! Both are incredibly versatile, with their three layers, and can be used for an array of sports. They are very breathable and provide an excellent level of waterproofing. Ideal if you get stuck out in the rain while trekking down a mountain.
Personally, I don’t think there is much in them, even the price is similar! So perhaps I’d go for The North Face jacket, knowing a little bit more about its eco-friendly stance. What do you think?