What would happen if goose down and synthetic-fiber polyester insulation got their freak on? A new kind of insulation announced today, called PrimaLoft Performance Down Blends, would be the offspring of this kind of union.
The mix of down and synthetic fibers takes advantage of the best of both insulation types, PrimaLoft Inc. touts.
The goal is insulation that is water resistant, compressible and longer-lasting than pure-down options. It will also offer “more favorable pricing for the end consumer” looking for a high-end insulated jacket, a PrimaLoft representative told us.
PrimaLoft Down Blend comes to market in mid-2014. GearJunkie was on site in Canada for the official launch last night, and we got to test PrimaLoft Down in the flesh. (See our initial review below, including a soak test in a hotel room sink.)
PrimaLoft, a company known for synthetic insulation in jackets, has never dabbled in down before. Why now? “It’s taken a number of years to perfect [but] we’ve gotten to the point that it’s possible to blend [down and synthetic] in a way that they are indistinguishable from one another,” said PrimaLoft spokesman Dave Newey.
While the concept of mixing down and synthetic insulations is not entirely new, PrimaLoft says it has figured out how to do it in a way that enhances the best properties of both insulating materials.
The company claims compressibility similar to pure goose down of the same quality and loft. We put on a Down Blend jacket and went skiing for a day. We can concur that it feels and acts like a goose down puffy, including baffles filled with airy, body-heat-trapping fluff.
PrimaLoft Down Blend has the equivalent airiness to 750-fill goose down, the brand cites. It will be available in three levels of quality: Gold (70 percent down, 30 percent synthetic); Silver (60 percent down, 40 percent synthetic); and Black (50-50 blend).
The technology to make the down hydrophobic is proprietary to PrimaLoft; all the brand would say is that it uses “fluorocarbon-free chemistry” to help its treated down repel water. Synthetic (polyester) fibers are added in with this treated down and the two are “intertwined” to make the mix.
For a quick test, I soaked the entire jacket in a sink for 10 minutes to judge its water repellency. I made sure to submerge it and squeeze water into the insulation.
Once saturated, I pulled it out of the sink — the insulation had been defeated and lost its loft. But the loft began to rebound almost immediately after wringing water out of the jacket and giving it a shake.
(Granted, PrimaLoft doesn’t cite waterproofness, and this was an unrealistic test. But we were curious!)
The brand does note the new insulation will dry four times faster than normal down. Impressively, the jacket was almost fully lofted after hanging for 10 minutes in my hotel room.
Before my soak test, I had a chance to try out a garment made with the Gold blend during a day of skiing at Revelstoke in British Columbia.
The test jacket did not seem as compressible as other pure down jackets I have used, however that may be attributed to other materials used in the making of the garment.
With temperatures in the high 20s, thick fog, and light snow, the insulation worked as advertised, keeping me comfortable and warm (if not a little clammy, probably due to a densely woven shell fabric) while charging the incredible terrain.
Under the Down Blend jacket I wore a thin polyester t-shirt and a light long sleeve base layer. I did not wear a shell over the Down Blend jacket and it maintained its loft throughout the day.
While there was some moisture in the air, the conditions for this test were pretty easy and the jacket passed with flying colors. Expect a much harsher test soon.
Consumers will see the new insulation in finished products from manufacturers including Black Diamond, Adidas Outdoors and Under Armour beginning in fall 2014.
We look forward to putting this insulation through a stout beating to see if it lives up to the promise of “down done better” than ever before.
—Sean McCoy is managing editor at GearJunkie.