I am a fan of synthetic insulation. Its all-weather versatility is unbeatable for backcountry skiing. Sure, I live in the land of heavy precip and moderate temps, but even when skiing in colder climates, I still find my gear gets damp. Maybe it is my affinity for storm cycle skiing, or maybe it is my not-so-careful gear management skills. Synthetic insulation handles the rigors of storm cycle use with ease, insulates when damp and drys quickly when the opportunity presents itself. Recent advances in synthetic insulation have created insulation that rivals down for weight, compressibility and warmth. One such synthetic insulation is Primaloft® One.
I have been using a couple of great, super-lightweight insulation pieces this winter that use Primaloft® One insulation.
The first is the Rab Xenon Jacket. Rab is a UK based company that makes high quality clothing for expeditions and climbing use, many of which fit backcountry skiing needs very well. The Xenon is a no-frills hooded jacket that weighs in at an airy 12 ounces. One chest pocket and two hand pockets add utility. I’d like to have zip closures on the hand pockets, but it is a minor complaint. Rab uses a super-light Pertex fabric for the outer shell material and 60g Primaloft® One insulation. The Xenon is incredibly warm for its weight and bulk. It has become a go-to piece for day tours and go-light adventures.
The second is the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover. The Nano has no hood, but the pullover-style jacket has quickly become a favorite layering piece on bitter cold days and as a quick lunch break layer. Like the Rab Xenon, the Nano Puff packs down into its own pocket for easy storage and weighs in at a stealthy 10 ounces. A couple of handwarmer pockets would be a nice addition, but it is the sweater’s no bells and whistles style that make it such a simple luxury.
If you have not checked out synthetic insulation in few years, it is time to consider it. Down is great and has its place in extreme cold, but a quality synthetic insulation layer will stand the test of time and abuse of day to day ski touring use while keeping you warm to boot.