If you’re new to winter sports you might be wondering why you need special outerwear, not to mention why it varies so much in price and technicality, especially when you’re used to just throwing on your usual waterproof jacket and heading out the door.
- Synthetic insulation weights are measured in grams per square metre of fabric, so the heavier the weight the warmer and thicker the insulation will be. Insulation weight is also often split to express body mapping such as “60 grams body / 40 grams arms”.
- Synthetic insulation offers a very high warmth-to-weight and volume ratio and tends to provide a good level water resistance and dries quickly, especially in direct sunlight. Garments made with synthetic insulation is also more affordable, good value for money and easy to care for without the need for dry cleaning or special products.
- Synthetic insulation is polyester threading that is moulded into long single threads or short staples to mimic lofty down clusters. Thinner and lighter threads fill voids and trap warm air more effectively, while thicker strands sustain the loft and durability.
- Down insulation is rated on a ‘fill power’ scale, measured by the number of cubic inches one ounce of down will occupy. For example, if one ounce of down takes up a volume of 650 cubic inches, it is given a 650 fill power rating. The quality of the down is directly related to its fill power rating with high quality down having a high fill power and requiring fewer ounces of down to create insulating warmth. The higher the fill power, the better the down will insulate because there is less of a chance of ‘cold spots’, or areas in the garment where there is no down.
- Down has its advantages over synthetic fabrics such as an extremely high warmth-to-weight ratio, being highly compressible and lightweight, however the higher the number, the higher price tag.
- A shell is exactly as it sounds, a waterproof, windproof shell that keeps you protected from the elements but often without any extra features or functions, including insulation.
- Using more mid layers and shell outerwear is a more versatile approach, allowing you to customise your insulation levels to suit you. It can be more expensive once you factor in the levels but the ability to easily adjust your layers with the change of weather is attractive.
- Shells can come with removable insulation or with attachment systems such as zippers. If you tend to, or will be, skiing or snowboarding in more variable climates then this could be a good system for you.