So you’ve read our Down Versus Synthetic Guide and know which camp you want to get comfortable with. Now the question is: which jacket is best for your intended use? This guide will help you.
What Kind of Down Jacket is Suitable for What Activity?
Lightweight down jackets can be used effectively in a variety of disciplines. Here are some examples:
Ski-touring: a down jacket is an essential part of the layering system when ski-touring, particularly if you are somewhere that is consistently cold and dry. Having a lightweight down jacket as a mid-layer is a is a key piece of gear when it’s particularly cold, and can easily be paired with a waterproof hard-shell.
Alpine climbing: similar to ski touring, having a lightweight down jacket like our Thorsen as a part of your layering system offers optimum warmth on those cold, dry days up in the mountains. They can be packed down into a compression sack which will take up minimal space in your pack, and can be reached easily when conditions get colder.
Willis Morris in the Alps, taking in the view in his Fenrir down jacket.
Rock & winter climbing: lightweight down jackets often come in handy when climbing, but even more so when you find yourself belaying. Maintaining warmth when remaining stationary at the bottom/top of a crag can cause your body temperature to plummet, so having a belay-specific down jacket like the Fjorm can prove an essential piece for those long days at the crag, on a multi-pitch adventure in the Alps or in the depths of a spindrift-filled gully in Scotland.
Everyday life: beyond the mountains, down jackets are also just great tools for staying warm when out and about closer to home. With the ‘puffer jacket style’ being popular, you wouldn’t look amiss around town in your Asta gilet, and you would definitely be significantly warmer than if wearing a fashion puffer.
Heavyweight down jackets are normally seen at the more extreme end of the outdoor activity scale. Here are some examples of where they tend to prove very useful.
Mountaineering: when moving through mountainous terrain, especially in winter, it is essential to maintain warmth. Having a heavyweight down jacket like our Fjorm is something that most mountaineers will have in their pack. If conditions are going to be cold and dry, a down jacket will far outperform its synthetic competitors in terms of packability and warmth. Whether it be used as an outer layer, or paired with a hard-shell on top to keep out moisture, a heavyweight down jacket will always prove useful in the mountains.
Jason Fox in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, keeping warm in his Fjorm down jacket.
High altitude/extreme cold: heavyweight down jackets are aimed at those adventures that take you either to higher altitudes, or to extremely low temperatures. Down jackets are in a class of their own in these scenarios as there is rarely much moisture in the air. Our Fjorm down jacket has kept multiple mountaineers warm atop the likes of Denali in Alaska, as well as Arctic and Antarctic adventurers. If you do happen to run into heavy rain, then something like our Ragnarok waterproof down jacket will keep you warm as well as dry. With good quality down jackets capable of keeping you comfortable at temperatures of below minus 30 degrees Celsius, it’s common sense to have one on hand in these kinds of environments.
Synthetic jackets are a great substitute for down when conditions are wetter. The insulation can maintain its heat-keeping properties well, and the outers are usually more durable to put up with the harsher impact from the elements. As far as activities go, synthetic jackets are an ultra-versatile category, able to hold their own in ski-touring, alpine climbing, rock climbing, mountaineering and everyday life.
Alison Thacker in the Hebrides, keeping warm and dry in her Alfar synthetic jacket.
With synthetic jackets normally comprising more bulk than their down counterparts, climbers can find this bulkiness constrictive around their arms and shoulders, where freedom of movement is important. Hybrid jackets such as our Alfar offer a combination of synthetic fill on the torso, with a thinner and lighter fabric on the arm/shoulder, thus enabling this crucial freedom of movement.
Synthetic jackets can take a beating, so if you know you’re going to be away in an unforgiving environment for quite some time, our Elvar jacket could be well worth considering. Synthetic jackets tend to be kinder on the wallet as well, which is a consideration for those operating on a budget.
Tom Grant and Tom Coney in their Elvar synthetic jackets in the Alps.
If you aren't sure what the differences between down and synthetic are, read our guide highlighting the pros and cons of each here:
For more information on our down products, please follow the link below:
For more information on our synthetic products, please follow the link below: