Primaloft Insulation vs Down Which is Better?


When it comes to cold weather jackets insulation is crucial. Without proper insulation, your jacket won’t be able to protect you from the cold. Regardless of the cold weather activity, insulated jackets are a must if you want to remain warm when temperatures drop.

Finding a warm jacket is easier said than done. Head down to your local shop and check out the jacket selection. Jackets that look similar on the outside can range from $30 to a few hundred.

Before you can choose a jacket you’ll have to pick between two very different yet similar types of insulation. Let’s let the decades-old battle of Primaloft vs Down Insulation begins.

What About Hydrophobic Down (aka Waterproof Down)?

Hydrophobic down offers much of the same warmth as regular down with added water resistance. The down is soaked in a durable water repellent coating during the manufacturing process.

In wet environments hydrophobic down repels water and keeps its loft and therefore warmth. This makes hydrophobic down much easier to clean since you don’t have to worry about it clumping up in the wash.

Check out my post explaining all the benefits of Hydrophobic Down.

Primaloft vs Down Insulation

It’s hard to beat down, but there’s a new kid on the block(fairly new). Primaloft is quickly catching up to down and it’s even better in some ways. In this post we’ll be taking a look at how Primaloft compares to down insulation in both jackets and sleeping bags.

There’s no denying that high-quality down offers extreme warmth in dry weather, but it’s fairly heavy and susceptible to water damage. This is where Primaloft comes in as the leading brand of synthetic insulation.

Primaloft was designed to mimic the properties of down while minimizing weight and providing protection for water damage. While not quite as warm as down, Primaloft is a great alternative to down in wet and dreary weather.

What’s Better, Down or Primaloft?

Let’s get real for a minute! Down has long been the king of insulation. It’s can be found in sleeping bags, jackets, robes and comforters. Down is by far the best insulator currently on the market, but it’s expensive and susceptible to moisture damage.

There’s a reason why mountain climbers exclusively choose down when climbing tall peaks. When temperatures are absolutely freezing down is the only way to go. So clearly down is superior to Primaloft: but wait there’s more to the equation.

Primaloft might not be as effective of an insulator as down, but unlike natural down it resists moisture. That’s why the United States Military designed and switched over to PrimaLoft jackets. Although it’s a worse insulator, Primaloft is way more versatile.

Differences Between Down and Primaloft: Which One Is Better?

It might be hard to choose between down and Primaloft, but one things for sure. Both down and Primaloft are great insulators that can be used in a wide variety of applications.

Warmth (Winner Down)

Down is by far the best insulator on the market. It provides way more warmth than any synthetic insulation currently available. Down works by trapping air between clusters of down plumage. These air pockets trap heat inside and work as a natural insulator.

Just remember that not all down performs the same. The quality of down is measured by its Fill Power (Aim For at Least 550+). This is the amount of loft 1oz of down has in cubic inches.

Higher Fill Power(Max of 900) products are usually lighter, easier to compact and Usually warmer. In theory, 40oz of 450 Fill Power down will be approximately the same warmth as 20oz of 900 Fill Power Down. Obviously, this is in a controlled environment so results may vary in the real world.

Check out my post explaining down Fill Power.

That being said, a Permalift jacket can be just as warm as down. It all depends on how much insulation the manufacturer puts in the jacket. With more insulation and a puffier shell, a Permaloft jacket can be just as warm.

The only problem is your jacket will be slightly heavier, puffier and harder to compress. If none of these features matter you should definitely go with the Primaloft jacket(cheaper and water-resistant).

Breathability (Winner PrimaLoft Barely)

Both PrimaLoft and down are breathable, but it always depends on the specific product. Primaloft has a slight edge, but it all depends on the fabric used in the outside shell.

This doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to sleeping bags, but there’s a huge difference from one jacket to the next. You really need to take the overall jacket into consideration because that will greatly affect performance.

Overall both down and primaloft are very breathable so the choice is yours.

Water-Resistance (Winner PrimaLoft)

In the past couple of years, there have been some major improvements in down’s ability to resist moisture. They came out with a product called hydrophobic down which is basically just down soaked in a bunch of Durable Water Repellant.

Hydrophobic down is much better than the old stuff, but Primaloft will always be more moisture resistant. Primaloft was specifically designed by the military to fight moisture so it’s definitely the clear winner when it comes to water resistance.

Primaloft is basically just fluffed up polyester so it has natural moisture wicking properties. Even when it does get wet it’s way less likely to get soaked and even if it does it shouldn’t lose its insulating ability.

Durability (Tie or Down With Proper Care)

With proper care, a down jacket will almost always outlive a synthetic product. This might be a bit deceiving since down jackets are almost always way more expensive. So the premium down jacket will almost always be paired with very high-quality fabric.

However, on it’s own down is extremely durable, but susceptible to mold and mildew if not cared for. You need to wash down with special laundry detergent(my favorite) and make sure it’s completely dry before putting it back into storage.

Down will also maintain its loft and therefore warmth over a longer time. You can easily roll and compress down without causing any damage. Unless it gets seriously wet, down will maintain its loft over a long time.

Primaloft, on the other hand, can’t be compressed too often. Over a long time, it’s going to flatten out which reduces its ability to provide warmth. Eventually, Primaloft will become unable to reach its temperature rating.

Overall, both products are comparable when properly maintained. Down might stay warmer longer, but Primaloft will fight against mold and mildew.

Maintenance (Winner Primaloft)

Primaloft is by far the better of the two when it comes to maintenance. Since it’s made out of polyester it won’t clump up when wet and shouldn’t build up residue over time.

Honestly, down is a serious pain in the butt to take care of. Down products can’t be dry cleaned, you need special laundry detergent(my favorite) and it needs to be taken care of in the washing machine. It requires quite a bit of maintenance when washing and drying.

Once the down gets wet it starts to clump together. You need to break up those clumps as it dries so it doesn’t stay like that. If you don’t break up those clumps of down your jacket will basically be useless.

Loft and Compressibility (Winner Down)

This is a no brainer, down can be compressed down easily and offers more warmth across the board. So less down will provide more warmth than the same amount of Primaloft. Remember that not all down is the same so the overall loft depends on the Fill Power.

Higher Fill Power Down (750+) will be way warmer than Primaloft jackets of similar size. Lower Fill Power down 450-550 will offer slightly better, though comparable warmth to Primaloft jackets of the same size.

This means less bulk and added weight if you’re wearing a down jacket. That’s what makes down coats so popular in technical sports. When it comes to snowboarding, skiing and mountaineering you can’t beat down.

So Which is Better? Down or Primaloft?

As always it depends on your needs and price range. If you need a jacket for extreme cold, where weight and compressibility matter go with down. It will require more money upfront and proper maintenance, but a premium down products should last for decades.

If you can get by with a bulkier jacket or have a tighter budget go with Primaloft. Primaloft is warm, extremely durable and really excels in wet conditions.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what you choose since both of these products offer excellent insulating properties.

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