Since colder temperatures are on their way, the environmental conditions for runners who enjoy the outdoors will be vastly different. Most people have clothing specifically designed for running at different times of the year. If you don’t have your wardrobe entirely built up yet, you will need to understand how to keep yourself warm. Aside from layering, you will proper outer care too. This is where an insulated jacket will make all the difference in the world.
After choosing warm pants and boots, getting proper insulation with one of the best synthetic jackets is the way to go. We, at Globo Surf, have made our picks for the best-insulated jackets of 2019, from lightweight pieces designed for cool fall, as well as winter parkas that can handle the toughest conditions in all seasons. All of this is based on insulated jackets review. Without further ado, let’s get to them:
How To Choose An Insulated Jacket – Buying Guide
Any time you are running outside, your body will get impacted by the temperature. When the weather gets really cold, your blood flow will decrease and your body will tighten up – this often leads to injuries, muscle strain and an overall decrease in performance. This is exactly why you need to find a jacket that will keep you warm, while also making you comfortable. The best synthetic jacket of your choice will have all of the features you need and more. There are some factors you should consider before choosing the best-insulated jacket for you. Let’s get to them!
Look for features that will make the range of motion of your body easier. This will only be done with sufficient warmth & comfort. If you have ever walked outside into frigid temperatures and tried to start running, you probably know what type of problem that is. The same can be said for people who are trying to warm up their body after it being cooled by the weather.
Trying to walk and get your muscles to relax in colder temperatures can be extremely difficult and can lead to all sorts of issues. This is exactly why you need a properly insulated jacket to warm you up. Beware, however, if you have sweat resting on your skin – it can make you colder and lead to potential hypothermia. This is actually why you need a jacket with a balance of breathability and insulation.
The purpose of purchasing an insulated jacket is to make sure that you have protection from nature’s elements. Proper insulation can be made out of several different fabrics and materials. The best insulated jackets will include several layers, and each one will be compromised of complementary material.
When it comes to staying warm outdoors, insulation in jackets simplifies in two broad categories: synthetic or down insulation. Each type has its pros and cons.
Down Insulation: This is the fluffy undercoating that provides warmth for geese, ducks, and other waterfowl. The structure of down provides warmth by creating thousands of tiny air pockets. It is also breathable, which allows unwanted moisture to escape. Ounce for ounce, down is warmer than nearly all synthetic insulation. Very few manmade fibers can match down’s warmth-to-weight ratio. Down retains its shape and loft well, and with proper care, it can last for decades.
Keep in mind that down insulation does have significant cons. When it becomes wet, it takes down a significant time to dry out, especially in humid climates. Cleaning down gear requires special care, and only very mild detergents should be used with down insulation. Down is not hypoallergenic and it can harbor dust particles, debris or other non-down materials, causing a reaction in sensitive people.
Types of down insulation:
- High-loft goose down is made from the finest down and provides the highest warmth-to-weight ratio of any natural or synthetic insulation. It is also the most expensive insulation material
- Standard goose down has slightly less loft, but it is more moderately priced
- Duck down is less fine than standard goose down, and it is considerably less expensive
Synthetic Insulation: In recent years, synthetic insulation has boomed and has become much more sophisticated. Several synthetic high-performance insulations actually come close to down in terms of warmth-to-weight ratio. Synthetic insulation is essentially polyester threading that is molded into long, single threads or short staples to mimic down clusters. Thinner and lighter threads fill voids and trap warm air more effectively. Meanwhile, thicker strands sustain loft and durability. Unlike down, synthetic insulation is better at resisting water and provides warmth if it gets wet. At the very least, synthetic insulation will be resistant to moister. If you’re on a budget, synthetic insulation will usually keep you warmer for less money. It is also easier to care for.
However, one should remember that synthetic insulation is almost always heavier and bulkier than down. This means that it requires more weight and volume to keep you in the comfort zone. A 30-degree down sleeping bag will always pack down a smaller and weigh less than a 30-degree synthetic bag. Synthetic fibers gradually break down no matter how well you care for them. You may find yourself replacing synthetic products more often compared to down products
Types of synthetic insulation:
- Polarguard is an insulating material made of continuous synthetic fibers. It retains its loft and insulating properties when wet. It is also non-allergenic, mildew-resistant, machine washable, and drier-friendly. Polarguard is made of a softer fiber that more closely resembles down. It is also lighter and compressible.
- Primaloft is an ultra-fine microfiber blend that is incredibly soft, lightweight, and water-repellent. It also has a down-like softness that adds comfort. In addition to sleeping bags and outerwear, Primaloft is also used to make winter footwear. It has one of the highest warmth-to-weight ratios of any synthetic insulation currently on the market. It’s soft, durable, high-loft, and made from 100% polyester microfiber
- Thinsulate was introduced as the original “warmth without bulk” option. Even when it is wet, it is still quite warm. Its breathable & ultra-fine microfibers trap air more efficiently than larger generic synthetic fibers. The higher the gram weight of the thinsulation, the warmer the jacket is.
- Thermolite provides an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio even when wet. It is also machine washable and dryable. Thermolite Extreme is engineered to provide the most warmth per weight and durability of any Thermolite variant. In fact, this type of insulation most closely resembles the warmth, softness, and fullness of down. Thermolite Extra is less bulky and more compatible.
There are other types of synthetic insulation that we have not mentioned. These are the ones that you will most frequently find on the market.
There is a huge difference in weight between the jacket for everyday wear and the one that’s intended to be used while running or during physical snow activity. A heavier jacket may be great for protecting you from the cold, but it can also weigh down when you are on the slopes. Runners don’t like additional weight because it impedes their performance and distracts them from what they’re doing. The insulated jackets on our list are built to be lightweight and to promote mobility. You need to be able to move as much as possible with them. This can make your time on the slopes safer and allow you to have a better response in colder conditions. A lot of these options have a snug fit that can accommodate several layers.
When you’re on the slopes, chances are that you will end up caught in some sort of precipitation when running in colder temperatures. This is why good weather resistance is important. There are plenty of ways that insulated jackets can protect you from the weather. Moisture can be snow, rain, or the mixture of the two. It’s important to keep yourself as dry as possible to avoid having that water lower your body temperature. This is where features like water-resistant technology and adjustable or removable hoods can come into play. Look at the customizable features on each one of our insulated jackets and choose the options that are the best for you.
Another important factor to consider when choosing a jacket is style. Is the jacket something that many users would want to wear? Although it’s key that the jacket should be warm, that doesn’t mean that it has to be unattractive. What determines a nice looking jacket varies among consumers, but it should fit nicely and be available in various color options. It should be something that you can see yourself wearing.
It’s important to think about when or how often the insulated jacket will be worn. If a consumer lives in a climate that gets cold, performance is key when it comes to warmth and breathability. However, even the warmest options may mean layering up. Consider the fact that many of these options are versatile to be worn enough past the winter.
When considering a jacket, the consumer should know the difference in materials you can encounter on the market. The jacket’s coating can be with down or synthetic insulation. Down insulation is a soft and breathable material made out of puffy feathers of birds, for example, geese. It is lighter and more compressible. Synthetic materials though are cheaper but are heavier and less compressible. They’re made from polyester filaments that have air between the fibers to resemble down.
Fill power measures the quality and amount of loft (fluff) of the down. This is measured by the number of cubic inches one ounce takes up. Therefore, higher quality down has a higher fill power rating. Once you purchase an insulated jacket, you will get information in the package about its fill power. For example, down insulation that covers 800 cubic inches has a fill power of 800. Most activewear or outdoor apparel has a fill power of around 500-500.
The insulated jacket you purchase may or may not come with a hood. Depending on the climate and activity, this could be a deal-breaker. Hoods provide more face and neck protection. However, this may mean that there isn’t room for a helmet. A hat can be good enough to wear in cooler temperatures. But rainy days means having a hood is a safe bet.
You will decide what’s best to use. For stop-and-go cold weather activities, such as fall hiking, ski touring, or snowshoeing, a hoody is nice to have for keeping you warm while taking a break. Expect to pay extra $20 to $50 for the hooded version of the same piece.
When choosing a jacket, beware that synthetic insulation usually does not compress as tightly as down. This means that folks like thru-hikers and ultra-light ounce counters will favor down jackets for their packability. They can be stuffed down small in the bottom of a back and bounce back quickly when opened.
However, most synthetic jackets on the market either pack down into a pocket or have a separate stuff sack that makes them reasonably small. They won’t be as small as down in nearly all cases, but for casual use and adventured when space isn’t a necessity, synthetic jackets will surprise you with their packability.
When looking at any clothing options, especially skiing or snowboarding gear, you need to make sure it is going to fit. This is usually straightforward but things can get a little more complicated when it comes to jackets. Most of the time, if not always, you are wearing your jacket over at least one other layer of clothing. Depending on what you wear underneath and how many layers you are wearing, your jacket will fit differently. This is a big deal because the fit of a jacket can have a big impact on your performance as you run and work out.
A jacket that is too small will limit mobility and it will make it hard for you to bend, twist, and run as easily. This can happen if the sizing is too small. Most people forget to take into account the layers of clothing that will be under the jacket. Buying a size bigger than you normally wear is a quick and easy way to make sure you have room for layering days. A jacket that is too big is usually not as much of a problem for most people, and most would agree that it is better to have a jacket that is slightly baggy than one that is tight and constricting.
Another significant part of getting a proper fit is comfort. By default, insulated jackets are comfortable thanks to their ability to regulate your body’s temperature. However, getting an ill-fitted jacket will ruin the comfort for you. A proper fit will ensure good breathability, and it will make you feel like you’re wearing your favorite hoody or fleece.
One great thing that you should remember about insulated jackets is that they are easy to care for. More precisely, synthetic jackets are far more durable than down jackets. Firstly, you don’t have to worry as much about moisture and they don’t lose their features, meaning that you don’t have to be as vigilant about keeping a close eye on your jacket. Synthetic insulation will, however, break down over time, but it’s certainly not as fragile as the outset. Secondly, most synthetic jackets are machine washable and don’t require special supplies and care for cleaning. We do not recommend drying your synthetic jacket on a high heat no matter what it says on the instructions.
Depending on the type of insulated jacket you choose, the breathability will vary. Down fill has relatively average breathability, and given its warmth-to-weight ratio, a down jacket may cause you to overheat during high exertion activities. Furthermore, when you are sweating inside a down jacket, you are hurting its insulating properties as your water vapor comes into contact with the down feathers.
In terms of synthetic insulation, breathability varies but newer breeds are excelling in this category. Synthetic jackets are also generally less fragile and less prone to leakage than down jackets, meaning that a wider variety of breathable shell fabrics can be used.
Q: Are These Jackets Waterproof?
Every single one out of the ten jackets on our list is waterproof. This means that it will have no problem whipping away moisture when you get wet, whether it’s from snow or rain. In fact, we would go as far as to say that over 90 percent of the insulated jackets you find on the market will have at the very least water-resistant properties. Further improvements in gear technology will enhance this capability. Remember that down insulation by itself is weak in water-resistance unless the jacket has a special DWR finish. No jacket is 100% waterproof, but these are waterproof enough to keep you drier than any regular jacket will in light rain.
Q: How To Properly Clean An Insulated Jacket?
An essential part of being a snow enthusiast is taking care of your care. Without sufficient care, snow gear will quickly deteriorate and it will not last more than a season or two. Most synthetic insulated jackets are machine washable. When putting it in a washing machine, the program should be set to a gentle wash cycle. If you don’t like to risk damaging your insulated jacket, you can hand wash it in cold water with a bar of fragrance-free soap. You can then tumble dry it on low heat or air dry it. Look into buying a cleaner specifically made for down jackets, if you own one.
Q: Will Insulation Ability Wear With Time?
To answer bluntly, yes, insulation will wear with time. If you make the effort and spend the money to purchase a down jacket, insulation will very lightly, if at all, wear out over time. This is because down insulation can last for years with ease. Synthetic insulation, however, will break down over time. However, this should not get you worried since most jackets have to be worn for many seasons to truly lose their ability to properly insulate.
Q: What Is The Best Temperature Range For An Insulated Jacket?
Depending on the versatility of the jacket, it can be worn in a wide variety of temperature ranges. Many are versatile enough for mild winter days as an outer shell, or a mid-layer for colder days, but they can still be worn for spring and fall. Those insulated jackets with water-resistant features can be worn in light rain and snow. This is exactly why you should purchase a highly versatile jacket, just as most of the ones in our list – it will serve you well throughout the year, whether it’s spring or winter.
Q: Can I Layer These Jackets?
Yes, you can layer these jackets. Most people wear jackets with other layers underneath and use it as a final layer to protect against rain, wind, or cold temperatures. However, it is important to remember that the more layers you are wearing the more room it will take up and the tighter your jacket will end up fitting. If you know you will be wearing your jacket with more than one layer, then it’s best to buy a size bigger as we’ve mentioned previously. This way you can make sure that it is not too tight when you put it on even with multiple layers.
Globo Surf Overview
With the vast assortment of different available models, choosing the best insulated jacket for you can be tough. We ranked the jackets with the highest essential attributes just so you can have an easier time picking the right one. Remember to ask yourself what you will be doing with your insulated jackets. Will you be running or ski touring? Then go for something more breathable. If you want the best compromise in all metrics, go for something warm and thoroughly insulated.
Make sure to read everything on our buying guide in detail. It will truly make choosing the properly insulated jacket for you a piece of cake. We, at Globo Surf, did our best to give you advice on how to determine what’s going to work best for you, so as long as you know what you need, we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.