First test: Sherpa Nangpala Down Jacket (2014)

The traditional and well-proven choice for top-quality insulation has been down, gathered from geese. However, as down loses some of its insulating performance when wet, synthetic fibres are often used instead, which perform better than down when wet, but are heavier and less compact. This is not ideal, say when carrying an insulated jacket in your rucksack. So over recent years manufacturers have been exploring ways to squeeze a little more performance out of down – even when it is wet.

The most recent development is Primaloft Gold Insulation Down Blend. This sounds like the naming process took place over a cup of Nescafé, but it is actually the world’s first hybrid insulation. The material combines water-resistant down fibres with synthetic fibres, so you get the best of both options. The Sherpa Nangpala Hooded Down Jacket is the first jacket in the UK to use this new fibre, and it could set new standards for staying warm in the winter months.

To produce Gold Insulation Down Blend, Primaloft takes 750 fill power goose down and gives it a fluorocarbon-free treatment to improve its water resistance, which results in the down drying four times faster than untreated down. This down is then bonded to synthetic fibres, which can withstand up to 10 machine wash cycles. The result is a hybrid insulation that comprises 70 per cent water-resistant down and 30 per cent Primaloft synthetic fibres. This is said to be as warm as 750 fill power goose down, yet it absorbs water ten times slower than 100 per cent down. It also dries four times faster than a pure down fill, while also being able to retain 95 per cent of its warmth even when wet – making it very hot property.

As stated, this new Primaloft insulation is used in the Sherpa Nangpala Hooded Down Jacket – but as always it is the attention to detail that is important when choosing outdoor gear. On the jacket you are getting a water-resistant ripstop outer, with a tight weave to ensure the insulation is protected from moisture and cannot escape through the material. The insulation is captured within a stitched-through box wall construction, and there is a good amount of insulation packed into each section to ensure there are no cold spots. So far so good.

The front zip has a wide baffle behind to block out draughts, but the cuffs only have elastication rather than the Velcro tab adjusters often featured on jackets around this price. The hood is well-insulated and benefits from face drawcords but there is no volume adjustment and no peak – again features that jackets of this price do sometimes include.

The overall fit of the Sherpa Nangpala Down Jacket’s body and sleeves was fine on me but the hood fit was disappointing, as it tended to be either too loose or – when the face drawcords were adjusted – it cut in too close to my eyes and did not move easily with my head either. So the design of the jacket is not quite as good as the design of the insulation inside.

Outer ripstop polyester with durable water repellency (DWR)
Insulation Primaloft Gold Insulation Down Blend (70% water-resistant down, 30% synthetic)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)

Primaloft Gold Insulation Down Blend raises the bar for cold-weather comfort, but the Sherpa Nangpala Hooded Down Jacket could do with a tweak to its hood to make it the ideal combination for such great insulation. That is, unless you find the hood fits perfectly – in which case this is a great combination and a good buy.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2014