First Look: Columbia 2014 Jacket Made With Special 'TurboDown' Insulation

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Set to launch in mid-2014, Columbia Sportswear has developed a new insulation mix marketed as “down on steroids.”

The company was in Minneapolis last week at the GearJunkie headquarters, but until now we’ve had to stay hush-hush on the news.

In short, Columbia has a new way of doing insulation in jackets that’s both less-expensive and, the company claims, warmer and more breathable than competing brands’ options.

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Baffled “puffy” look on the outside, reflective Omni-Heat material when opened up

A worldwide shortage of goose feathers as well as a desire to “try something new” in the insulated category has resulted in the announcement from Columbia Sportswear today.

It’s called TurboDown, and that name stems from an insulating combo that banks on a mix of goose feathers and Columbia’s synthetic Omni-Heat insulation fill.

The two hot-air-trapping insulation types are sandwiched between Columbia’s silver-dotted Omni-Heat Reflective material, resulting in what Columbia is marketing as something of a triple-whammy of warmth.

The down and the synthetic fill exist in the same baffle. There is no material in between the two — they are stacked on top of each other to form a billowy mass inside.

Breathability is enhanced, Columbia says, because of the fabric (which is windproof but can transfer sweat) combined with the synthetic insulation underneath.

The polyester-based insulation wicks sweat better than down, Columbia cites, ostensibly moving moisture away from the body when you’re working hard and going aerobic outside. On top of the synthetic insulation is the layer of down, which traps body heat.

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A chilly bike ride was our first TurboDown test

We got two TurboDown jackets to test for a few days this week as the Minnesota fall sloped toward snot-freezing winter. The jackets are indeed warm, and the look, fit, and feel so far is great. (Our real test of the jackets will take place over the coming weeks as winter takes over in full.)

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Close look inside the jacket

As noted, the TurboDown tech does not debut until mid-2014. Fourteen items will be in the line, with prices starting at just $130 for a down/synthetic puffy. The top-end jackets will go for $325.

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Women’s TurboDown jacket

Columbia uses different face fabrics and varying down quality levels depending on the jacket type. For example, the $130 “Gold”-level jackets use 550-fill down, whereas the “Diamond”-level jackets ($325) go with a far more airy and warmer 850-fill down.

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Packs up relatively small then “puffs” back to insulating shape ready for winter wear

Diamond jackets will also include a treated hydrophobic down. This treatment keeps the down plumes puffier even if they get wet, allowing a wearer to be warmer in a range of conditions.

We have the top-of-the-line models in the house. As the winter closes in we’ll be testing TurboDown and offering opinions on the purported “down on steroids” insulation mix.

—Stephen Regenold

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Closer look at TurboDown diagram

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