Learning about specifics of the clothes we wear is never a bad thing. With the ever rising concerns of ethical and environmental issues regarding the sourcing of raw materials that are made into the clothing we wear, it’s all the more important to be better educated about our choices.
We are trying to do our part by putting together comparisons, reviews and selections that make it easier for you to access the necessary information without having to spend much time.
One of the comparisons we feature frequently is that between different materials, which focus mainly on the insulation and fabrics that are most commonly used in jackets.
You can find a number of such comparisons, including the two featured in today’s piece. We have previously looked at both ThermoBall™ and PrimaLoft®, where we compared them to natural Down.
We would suggest you give both of those comparisons a look, if you are interested in learning more about how they measure up to nature’s best insulation.
Today it’s time to compare ThermoBall™ and PrimaLoft®. We will learn more about each of them and then move on to look at their differences.
Without any further ado, let’s get started.
- 1. Synthetic Insulation and Why It Is So Useful
- 2. PrimaLoft®
- 3. ThermoBall™
- 4. PrimaLoft vs. ThermoBall: Differences and Comparison
- 5. Which One is Better?
1. Synthetic Insulation and Why It Is So Useful
Let us preface today’s comparison by going through some of the key qualities that characterize synthetic insulation and that make it so useful and widely used.
Synthetic insulation’s biggest advantage is its performance in wet conditions, because it manages to maintain its loft even when wet.
This is a key difference when compared to down insulation, which is notoriously bad at insulation when moisture is present.
Synthetic insulation comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, meaning that the options are abundant and there is plenty of room to work with, making it a more versatile choice for insulating jackets.
It can be compressible, shaped into clusters or balls, be long, short, big or tiny, have much better stretch and is also more breathable than down alternatives.
Whereas down, on the other hand, comes in typically two types, goose down or duck down, shaped into clusters.
Down also presents an ethical concern because it is sourced from waterfowl and regardless of certifications that guarantee the humane treatment of the birds and ban live-plucking, it can still present a problem for many people.
Down jackets are also more difficult to care for than one with synthetic insulation, which is another advantage of the latter.
As you can see, synthetic insulation provides numerous benefits regarding performance and, albeit not being as great as down naturally is at insulating, there are some types that come really close.
We will begin with PrimaLoft, the reason being that ThermoBall is actually a PrimaLoft insulation derivative, which we will discuss in a minute.
PrimaLoft is one of the most renowned synthetic insulations when it comes to jackets.
It was created to closely mimic down in its performance, which is the reason behind its popularity even today, nearly 40 years after it was developed.
Types of PrimaLoft®
PrimaLoft comes in three types, which share some similarities, but differ in their respective weights and purpose of use. These types include:
- PrimaLoft Black – A lightweight and warm insulation, meant for regular use and made out of recycled materials;
- PrimaLoft Silver – Lightweight, highly compressible and breathable, it is made for outdoor activities that require breathability and insulation;
- PrimaLoft Gold – This is the highest performing insulation currently available on the market. We also mentioned it in our previous PrimaLoft vs. Thinsulate comparison. PrimaLoft Gold was designed for those who are active and do not mind bad weather. For this reason, it is the best insulation for wet conditions as it retains more than 98% of its loft even when wet.
ThermoBall is also a polyester insulation, which was developed by The North Face in partnership with PrimaLoft.
It is used exclusively by The North Face and it can be found in one of the brand’s most popular products, the Thermoball jacket.
ThermoBall is a very lightweight insulation, which makes it very compressible and comfortable.
It’s for this reason that the ThermoBall clothing range by The North Face is extremely packable and can usually be stuffed into their own pockets.
Although it is so light, it provides excellent insulation, which is made possible by its particular shape.
ThermoBall is shaped into clusters that resemble those of down insulation. This makes it capable of trapping a considerable amount of heat inside its numerous, tiny air pockets.
Its insulation has been said to be the equivalent of 600 fill goose down. That says a lot about its ability to insulate as not only is 600 fill rating quite impressive, goose down is also the highest quality of down.
Lastly, being a polyester insulation, it is quite durable and also highly resistant to moisture, which makes the ThermoBall product range a great choice for those spending time out in unpredictable weather.
4. PrimaLoft vs. ThermoBall: Differences and Comparison
Both of these insulations are nearly similar in their ability to insulate, but overall ThermoBall is the warmest of the two. It is said to be nearly 10% warmer than the original PrimaLoft insulation.
However, PrimaLoft Gold follows suit and the difference in this case is barely noticeable.
This is also evident in the two staple products that use these insulations, the Nano Puff jacket by Patagonia and the Thermoball jacket by The North Face. You can find more about how these two jackets compare here.
Weather Resistance and Durability
Being made from the same materials as the original PrimaLoft insulation, ThermoBall shares similar qualities of water resistance and durability.
These are both long-lasting insulations, which are not susceptible to mildew and do not get too affected by wet conditions, because their loft is maintained regardless. As we mentioned previously, the ability to insulate when wet is the best quality of synthetic insulations.
Care and Maintenance
If the ability to withstand wet conditions and not be affected is the best quality of synthetic insulation, we would have to say that their other best quality is the ease of maintenance and care.
Jackets that are insulated with either PrimaLoft or ThermoBall are very easy to care for because the insulation clusters are not prone to stick together, especially ThermoBall, and thus they will not clump like down.
They wash easily and also dry considerably quickly.
Therefore we have to say that both PrimaLoft and ThermoBall are similar in this regard, with ThermoBall having a slight advantage due to its lesser tendency to form clumps.
5. Which One is Better?
PrimaLoft and ThermoBall are both great insulations, which can be categorized as one being better only when it comes to particular cases.
What we mean by that is that all in all, they will perform and insulate exceptionally, but for those who want a warmer choice, ThermoBall is slightly warmer.
However, the PrimaLoft Gold insulation is nearly identical in its ability to insulate and it does perform quite well in wet conditions, much better than all other insulations out there.
They are both lightweight, durable and highly compressible.
In short, you cannot really go wrong with either, which is why it will all come down to the design of the jacket you are looking to purchase.
I’m confused about synthetic insulation… I’m reading that both Thermoball and PrimaLoft insulation clusters are not prone to clumping, but isn’t PrimaLoft not a cluster, but rather a sheet? So do sheets of insulation still form clumps? To complicate things further, Thermoball IS PrimaLoft, but in ball form? I have found after owning a ThermoBall jacket for several years that the insulation does form clumps and also flattens, and I have yet to find a way to restore the loft even close to what it was when new. In my opinion, once you wash the jacket for the first time, it is pretty much done for. And this was following proper washing instructions.
Thanks for sharing your experience Matt 😉