How to choose a synthetic insulated jacket

07 July 2008 17:03

A jacket stuffed with man-made insulation will keep you warm walking, frosty summit gazing, winter camping and snowball fighting...

Not all insulated jackets set out to insulate you to the same degree, each shifting the balance of warmth and weight depending on the jacket’s intended use, and each potentially uses a different quality of insulation. Higher quality insulation makes for a higher Tog value (and potential a greater warmth-for-weight ratio), and these are quoted in our reviews when we’ve tested them. If you’re out for maximum performance, look for a high Tog rating combined with low weight – but be prepared to pay.

A hood helps you conserve body heat. So make sure it fits well and is easy to adjust.

Weather resistance
These jackets are intended as insulation, not to be waterproof. The majority of them are constructed of highly windproof fabrics and treated to resist water soaking in, but they are not waterproof.

Freedom of movement
Try the jacket on and ensure the fit does not restrict your movement in any way. Your ability to move freely is important when you’re out on the hill.

Synthetic insulation has two advantages over down: it’s lower in price and it won’t lose all of its insulating properties when wet. All the jackets featured here use man-made fibres - synthetic types of insulation.

A women’s-specific jacket is likely to have a better fit for women than a unisex or men’s version. Make sure the fit suits your body shape. Test this by lifting your arms and bending over to check that it won’t ride up at the waist or cuffs.

If it’s lightweight, the odds of it being durable are slim. If you put your gear through its paces regularly, look for sturdier fabrics even though they may be heavier.

Front zip
Look for a draught excluder behind or in front of the main zip to keep cold air out.

Pockets on these types of jackets serve two purposes: keeping your hands warm and keeping things safe. Insulated pockets are extra-cosy, while zips prevent pocketed items from falling out.

Draught exclusion
Draughts will cool you quickly, yet sometimes you will want extra ventilation. Drawcords on hems and collars allow for adjustment, while elastication is better than nothing. Velcro is good for cuff adjustment but, again, elastication also works.