A good winter jacket is a warm jacket, but how exactly do they provide such warmth? It’s all due to the insulation they use.
Insulation helps a jacket maintain warmth for a long time, making you less susceptible to the cold. Insulated jackets come in a variety of designs and types.
They can be puffy, thin, compressible, short or long, weather-resistant or just plain insulated jackets. The options available are numerous and each has its very own qualities that set it apart from other insulated jackets.
We have compiled several selections, written many reviews and compared insulated jackets for quite some time now.
We have also reviewed different fabrics and insulations, as well as compared them to each other to determine which one performs better.
Today it’s time to look at two synthetic insulations, PrimaLoft® and Thinsulate™, so let’s get started.
- 1. Insulation and Its Qualities
- 2. Synthetic Insulation vs. Natural Insulation
- 3. PrimaLoft®
- 4. Thinsulate™
- 5. PrimaLoft vs. Thinsulate: Which One is Better?
- 6. Conclusion
1. Insulation and Its Qualities
Insulation is used in many different products and it also refers to the insulation we use at home in order to reduce energy loss, which helps keep the houses warmer during winter.
The way insulation works is not by providing warmth on its own, it actually traps the heat from the body and thus holds on to it for as long as it is worn, which is what “generates” constant warmth.
Insulation comes in a variety of shapes and types, but the one most commonly used in jackets, sleeping bags and other outdoor garments is typically in the form of filaments or tiny clusters.
Insulation as a filling or padding, that is, because there are also fabrics that work really well as insulators.
The ability to trap heat depends mainly on the shape of the insulation and its quality.
Certain types, such as ThermoBall, a synthetic insulation by The North Face and which is said to be one of the best down-mimicking insulations currently available, is shaped into round clusters. This shape helps it trap a considerable amount of heat, so much so that it is comparable to 600 fill power down.
Let’s now move on to a quick rundown on the differences between natural down and synthetic insulations.
2. Synthetic Insulation vs. Natural Insulation
We will keep it short, the point here is just to give you a quick look at the differences between these two types of insulation and in which instances you should choose one over the other.
Synthetic’s insulation greatest feature is its ability to insulate even when wet. Because it is not too susceptible to losing its loft when wet, it manages to trap warmth.
It is also more sustainable and there are no ethical concerns, such as with down. There is no risk of mold or mildew, either, due to it being synthetic and caring for a jacket that is insulated with synthetic padding is a breeze, whereas down requires some effort.
Down, on the other hand, is the best of the best when it comes to insulating, but it is very susceptible to moisture and completely loses its loft when wet.
This, in turn, makes it unable to trap heat and thus puts the wearer at risk of hypothermia.
It has been counteracted, however, because water-resistant fabrics are used in down jackets. There are also products developed specifically for down, that help it stay water-resistant for quite some time.
These are the core differences, because the rest, such as weight or compressibility depend on the jacket design.
For a more in-depth comparison, you can read this: Down vs Synthetic Jacket: What’s the Difference? Which Insulation is Better?
PrimaLoft® is arguably the most popular synthetic insulator and the reason for that is simple. It’s one of the best at insulating, due to its innovative composition and shape, which are made to mimic down in performance.
Does it really perform that well? If you are interested in learning more about PrimaLoft and how it compares to Down, you can check it out here.
PrimaLoft is made of polyester microfiber, which, as the name suggests, comes in the shape of very fine, micro fibers that imitate the soft and thin down filaments. This shape creates thousands of very small air pockets, where the heat is then trapped.
Another great quality is its high compressibility, which makes it very useful in the case of jackets and sleeping bags as they pack into a small size that is perfect for travel.
Because of its shape, PrimaLoft is also quite good at allowing moisture wicking and air permeability, which is the way a garment “breathes”. This is really important for jackets, because the risk of overheating due to the insulation can be an issue.
Being synthetic, PrimaLoft does not really mind moisture too much, because its loftiness is not affected too badly when wet.
PrimaLoft is also available in different versions, but the one which bears mentioning is the PrimaLoft Gold Insulation, which is considered as the most thermally-efficient insulation available.
All of these qualities are what have made PrimaLoft so beloved and commonly used in a number of garments.
Thinsulate™, as the name suggests, is a very thin insulation, which works great for garments that are meant for being extremely packable.
It is made by the 3M Company in 1979 and since then has found use not solely in the clothing industry.
Its fibers are about 15 micrometers in diameter, which is extremely thin, making it the thinnest synthetic insulation available. For this reason, it works really well with smaller winter wear, such as gloves, because it is not bulky and it is very lightweight.
Thinsulate is said to be up to two times as warm as other insulations available, including down, when the amounts are equivalent. It is also made of 50% recycled material, which is great for the environment.
Due to its thinness, it is very flexible and breathable, as well as extremely soft.
Its fibers absorb less than 1% of its weight in water, meaning that the loftiness of the garment is barely affected and won’t suffer from problems with insulation due to moisture.
Thinsulate can be found in numerous jackets and its size is what has made it so useful and popular.
5. PrimaLoft vs. Thinsulate: Which One is Better?
Now, let’s take a look at the requirements for a good insulator and see how the two compare.
Both of these insulations perform commendably, but the PrimaLoft Gold series (Standard and Eco) is revered as being the best synthetic insulation there is and is comparable to 550 fill power down, which is considerable.
Thinsulate does not fall far behind, therefore it will depend on the design of the jacket as to which one is best.
However, we see testimonies of PrimaLoft’s performance time and time again so make of that what you will.
Comfort and Bulk
Thinsulate is the best in this regard because it is extremely lightweight and its thin fibers make it the least bulky insulation available.
PrimaLoft is said to be much softer than most synthetic insulators, but either way Thinsulate has the upper hand in this category due to its high compressibility.
Water Resistance and Breathability
Both of them are quite resistant to water, with Thinsulate absorbing very little water, as little as 1% of its weight.
PrimaLoft has permanent water-resistance and it manages to maintain 98% of warmth even when wet, which is why we will have to give it to PrimaLoft in this case.
In regards to breathability, they are both quite similar as they breathe very well and due to their size and shape, moisture wicking is very efficient and easy.
Out of the two, Thinsulate is deemed to be quite durable and long-lasting, but PrimaLoft has also managed to set quite a reputation for its longevity, with some jackets lasting for nearly a decade with proper care and maintenance.
With that being said, it will largely depend on the quality of the actual product that features either type of insulation, because that’s what will determine the overall longevity of your jacket.
Both PrimaLoft and Thinsulate are impressive synthetic insulators, but at the end of the day, no matter how great the insulation, you should make sure that the actual product you are looking to purchase is of high quality.
Quality insulation can only go so far and a high quality jacket, with well-made seams and durable fabrics will be the determinant of how many seasons you will be able to wear it.
Last updated: July 2019