Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

12. April 2017

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High-quality down is the very best when it comes to providing reliable protection in cold and dry conditions. But, what if it’s bucketing down and your clothes are getting all wet? Or what about when your insulating layer gets all sweaty from a really tough uphill climb? Well, this is where down reaches its limits. If it gets damp or even wet, it will lose a large part of its loft and insulating properties.

The solution? Synthetic insulation! A very popular and well-known name in the synthetic insulation industry is PrimaLoft. But what is Primaloft exactly? Well, keep reading and we’ll tell you!

The need for a solution

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

Primaloft – an alternative for down? Photo: Black Diamond

The problem with deteriorating insulating properties as a result of exposure to moisture is not only something amateur outdoor enthusiasts have to deal with. For a long time now, even professional outdoor athletes have been struggling to compensate for the downsides of down, but to no avail. Until now! Enter Primaloft, the real alternative to down! It is a synthetic material that is just as light and insulates just as well as down with bonus of being water resistant! Wow!

How did it all begin? Well, at the beginning of the 1980s, the United States Army was in search of precisely this kind of synthetic fibre. Over the course of this search, down and it excellent thermal and physical properties were thoroughly examined in order to develop a material that could perfectly mimic these properties. The result was Primaloft: a synthetic fibre consisting of polyester that perfectly mimics the properties of down. The material not only has a high loft and excellent thermal efficiency, but it’s also strong and resistant to moisture. Plus, it is very compressible as well!

What makes PrimaLoft better than other synthetic fibres?

The developers managed to make a synthetic material that has millions of air pockets that trap your body heat, thereby insulating in a way that only down had been able to. What’s more, the PrimaLoft fibres are also treated so that they don’t absorb or retain water. And so, PrimaLoft march its way to victory, first in the U.S. Army, then in the outdoor and bedding industry.

There are three different kinds of PrimaLoft insulation, which are then divided up into additional subgroups. For this post, we’re going to stick with the most common or most important:

Primaloft Gold

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

An alternative to down?

This is the flagship of the PrimaLoft fibres, the best of the best and most likely the standard all other synthetic materials have to live up to. More than 25 years of experience have gone into perfecting this material. It is not only extremely packable, but also incredibly lightweight and breathable, making it an excellent choice for more difficult outdoor pursuits.

The Down Blend version is definitely worth mentioning in this context. This hybrid has the best of both worlds, combining the best properties of each material. There is 30% Primaloft and 70% high-quality goose down with a fill power of 750 cuin. The down is also treated with a fluorocarbon-free treatment, making it water repellent.

The combination of down and the ultra-fine PrimaLoft Gold fibres results in an excellent product that is capable of retaining its insulating properties even in damp or wet conditions. Plus, the down used here dries four times as quickly as untreated down. The result is an astoundingly efficient insulating material that is both light and unsusceptible to moisture. It will even insulate when it’s full of sweat or you get caught in the rain.

Primaloft Silver

This fibre is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities. Not only is it robust, but the fibre is also breathable and packable. Plus, it is incredibly soft and comfortable to wear.

For improved thermal properties, there is also a Down Blend version. This blend consists of 40% PrimaLoft Silver fibres and 60% goose down with a fill power of 650 cuin. Thanks to the fluorocarbon-free water-repellent treatment, the down is resistant to water as well. It dries four times as quickly as conventional down and retains 94% of its thermal efficiency when wet. Plus, for this blend, they use less duck and goose down, since 40% of the blend consists of PrimaLoft Silver fibres.

The Gold and Silver insulation is available in an Eco version as well, which is engineered from 70% recycled material and is thus environmentally friendly!

PrimaLoft Black

This is the more basic, no-frills option among the different types of Primaloft insulation. The Eco version consists of 60% recycled material. It is extremely soft, very breathable and durable.

Warmth

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

Insulating, tough and fluffy

When trying to figure out how warm a jacket, a pair of trousers or gloves are, you can look at the weight per square metre. This is usually indicated on the product tag. The typical values you’ll see are, for example:

  • 40 to 60 g/m² for very lightweight jackets that you’d typically wear in cooler temperatures when taking a break or as an additional layer when you’re back at camp.
  • 100 g/m² for normal insulated jackets that are designed to be warmer and not so much to be light.
  • 200 g/m² for very warm winter jackets and parkas

It’s not at all rare to find one garment with slightly different thicknesses. For example, a jacket could have 100 g/m² around the torso for added warmth and then only 60 g/m² around the arms to allow for more mobility in this area.

A true classic among the lightweight insulated jackets is the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. This has 60 g/m² and a very small pack size.

Great! But how do I clean PrimaLoft?

One of the advantages of PrimaLoft products is the fact that they are incredibly robust and easy to clean. You can even machine wash them on a gentle cycle and use liquid detergent! Spin drying Primaloft products is not a good idea, but drying them in the dryer on a gentler cycle shouldn’t be a problem.

The environment

A concern that we always have when it comes to all these different fibres is their environmental impact. Well, when it comes to Primaloft you can rest easy: It is incredibly environmentally friendly! All fibres by PRIMALOFT are manufactured according to the bluesign and the OEKO-TEX 100 standards and certified. So, you can be sure that these excellent products will cause no harm to you or the environment!

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