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Next season's winter jackets: to each its own insulation

Down and synthetic fills continued to dominate the outerwear insulation scene at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012. But not everyone is on the puffy jacket bandwagon. And for those who are, not all puffies are alike. SNEWS recaps the latest winter jackets for next season.


Down and synthetic fills continued to dominate the outerwear insulation scene at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012. But not everyone is on the puffy jacket bandwagon.

The push is on for increased breathability while still retaining warmth in dry and cold conditions for the active winter athelete. That includes new high-loft fleece, along with attempts to make merino wool a more effective outerwear insulation.

“Merino isn’t just for base layers any more,” said Rob Achten, vice president of product and creative director for Icebreaker. After experimenting with merino wool midlayers, Icebreaker will employ the fabric as an insulated soft shell in its women’s Kenai Series, including the Kenai Zip (MSRP $300) and men’s Teton Series, including the Teton Hood (MSRP $320). The products have an outer shell that’s ployester ripstop woven with two-way stretch and a durable water-repellent finish.

Also on the merino wool front, Ibex debuted six pieces in its new Peak collection, all using the company’s proprietary Wool Loft insulation, which is 90 percent wool and 10 percent inego, a synthetic fabric derived from corn starch that acts as a binding agent with the wool. The new men’s and women’s products include the Aire Hoody (MSRP $325) and the Aire Vest (MSRP $280).

Outdoor Research, best known for its rainwear in the cold and wet Pacific Northwest, saw a gap in its line for the skier and winter climber who ventures into cold and dry conditions. It found a partner in Polartec for its new Lodestar Jacket (MSRP $450) and Pant (MSRP $399) with a new version of Polartec Power Shield, a high-loft grid fleece back with a tighlty woven front. The combination claims to boost breathability and maintain protection with a 25 percent increase in warmth at less weight than previous Power Shield versions.

Trying for the best of both worlds in insulation, Patagonia introduced its Nano Puff Hybrid (MSRP $249), which uses a lightweight, recycled polyester shell with PrimaLoft synthetic insulation in the chest, shoulder and upper arm areas for warmth, and its R2 fleece in the jacket’s midsection, including panels under the arm and across the back for increased breathability during sweaty sessions outdoors.

While abundant at Winter Market, not all puffies were alike. Outdoor brands were looking to stay a step ahead of mass market puffies with innovations like water-resistant down, argon gas, confetti-colored down and two-toned 1980s throwbacks.

As previosuly reported by SNEWS, both Sierra Designs and Brooks Range unveiled new water-resistant down technology in jackets like the Sierra Designs Tov (MSRP $259) and Brooks Range Mojave (MSRP $299). The water-resistant down has the potential to make puffies more popular with consumers in humid enviroments.

Adding some pizazz to down insulatuon on the design and fashion side, Hi-Tec brought its new Timaru down hoodie (MSRP $190), which features a translucent nylon outer to show off a fill of rainbow-hued down inside. The feathers of the 550 fill-power pieces are dyed to upgrade the white-and-brown look. While the confetti-colored piece was the one prominently displayed in front of the booth, the Timaru also comes in three solid colors.

Over at Lole, the women’s-products-only company experimented with two colors with its shiny Chilly jacket (MSRP $220), which has 600 fill-power goose down. The two-toned Chilly, made with recycled nylon on the outside, has a throwback vibe that Vanessa Ladovan, Lole’s merchandising director, calls “an ’80s feel with a modern twist.” She told O.R.D.: “The designers were definitely inspired by Olivia Newton John.”

Columbia debuted a new 880 fill-power goose down in solid and two-tone colors in its Powerfly Jacket (MSRP $220), which features the company’s Omni-Heat Reflective dot technology on the inside.

Marmot took the fill-power a step further than other companies with its 900-fill-power down Quasar Jacket, which is gasket compatible so it can zip into some of the company’s snow pants.

MontBell will be on both ends of the insulation weight spectrum, from its new 12-ounce Mirage Parka (MSRP $375), including a 7-denier nylon with 900 fill-power down, to its Highland Jacket (MSRP$120) made with 40-denier nylon and 650 fill-power down. The latter is to try and lure business from those looking for a more affordable and durable jacket.

At Outdoor Research, Jordan Wand, vice president of product and marketing, said the company is most excited about its men’s and women’s Incandescent Jacket (MSRP $325), an ultralight 800 fill-power goose down with a 10-denier Pertex shell.

Looking to add a burlier and tougher shell to surround down, Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent partnered with Cordura on Emperor Parka (MSRP $399), which features the latter’s 500-denier Classic fabric on the outside and 700 fill-power down on the inside.

Also on the down jacket durability front, Carhartt debuted its Down Kalkaska Snorkel Parka (MSRP $300), featuring a 6-ounce nylon canvas with a DWR finish, fully taped waterproof seams and 550 fill-power down.

Bridging insulations, Mammut and Adidas Outdoor both mixed down and synthetic fills, placing the latter in high-moisture areas to keep the down from flattening when wet. Mammut’s men’s Eiger Joch and women’s Biwok (MSRPs $500) mixes down with Ajungilak synthetic material in areas under the arms and on the back. The Frostzeit jacket (MSRP $495) from Adidas Outdoor’s Terrex collection includes 700 fill-power down and PrimaLoft Sport insulation, the latter used in a bottom backside flap, which can be pulled out to block drafts and help keep butts warm during a chairlift ride. A removable powderskirt and outer shell of Gore-Tex Windstopper round it out.

Salomon’s men’s Abma Cadabra (MSRP $495) is a Bluesign-manufactured jacket with insulated Primaloft and Clima Pro Storm for waterproofing. Both the Cadabra and women’s Inside (MSRP $495) have removable powderskirts and media pockets. Both have outer pockets that are easily accessible even when wearing a pack. The cut of the jackets allows the hoods to lay flat, making it easier to keep out powder.

The North Face introduced its new ThermoBall synthetic insulation, although plans are to hold off on a previously planned fall 2012 debut. Designers were able to maximize the insulating value of the synthetic fill, described as “fluffy little balls that mimic down clusters,” with a new three-dimensional triangle-shaped baffle construction on the ThermoBall Jacket (MSRP $249) and ThermoBall Hooded Jacket (MSRP $280).

A twist on a lightweight, packable insulated piece is Klymit’s Ullar (MSRP $300), a shell featuring four-way stretch polyester with a layer inside that can be insulated with argon gas (via separate small canisters that look like road bike CO2 cartridges). Representatives from Klymit said the argon gas insulation is three to four times warmer than down.

Ana Trujillo and David Clucas