The North Face's Thermoball: An alternative to down?

The North Face’s Thermoball: An alternative to down?

26. April 2018

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The North Face's Thermoball: An alternative to down?

Thermoball as an alternative to down. Insulates even when wet.

Thermoball? Warmth + ball? What the deuce is that supposed to be? What do these two words have to do with each other?

Well, hidden behind this interesting combination of words is a new and innovative insulation technology developed by The North Face in collaboration with Primaloft. The North Face is surely a term you’re familiar with. You know, the American brand that combines innovation and adventure with loads of style? Yep, that’s The North Face. PrimaLoft, on the other hand, is a brand of thermal insulation material developed for apparel.

The aim of this development was to imitate the positive characteristics of down insulation with the help of synthetic fibres whilst simultaneously eliminating down’s negative properties and the usual synthetic fibres available on the market today. In the following, we’d like to introduce you to this new technology and tell what it can and can’t do.

A jacket for every adventure

The North Face's Thermoball: An alternative to down?

This efficient synthetic jacket is not only incredibly warm but lightweight and packable as well.

When you’re in the great outdoors, you’re constantly exposed to different weather conditions. Sun, wind, rain, cold, fog, ice, snow and that’s just a few of the mighty weapons Mother Nature can throw at you. There are so many other beautiful and not-so-beautiful combinations as well.

If you ever asked outdoor enthusiasts about their dream jacket, they would probably say, “One that is packable, quick-drying, warm, breathable, waterproof or water repellent at the very least. It should breathe when you sweat and insulate when you’re more relaxed. Oh, and it should look good, too.” A jacket that keeps you warm when you’re relaxed and stops insulating when you move? Sounds a lot like that milk-giving wool-pig the Germans are always talking about.

Anyway, The North Face has developed a new insulation material that doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but still manages to combine the positive properties of down and synthetic fibres. They’ve created an insulation technology that broadens the areas of use for insulated jackets significantly.

Thermoball is very versatile, so it can be used in a variety of ways: either as an insulated jacket (meaning a layer underneath your hardshell jacket) or as your outer layer in dry conditions. Thermoball can also be used as padding and fixed directly under your hardshell, thereby eliminating the need for an additional layer.

The North Face sees Thermoball as a single-jacket solution for any adventure. By this they mean that, because Thermoball has such excellent properties, it is extremely versatile. Whenever you need breathability, insulation and flexibility, as you would while hill walking, trekking or trail running, Thermoball is a great choice.

Warmth with none of the disadvantages of down

The advantage Thermoball products have over down lies in their ability to insulate when wet and dry much more quickly. And the disadvantages? There are supposedly none to speak of.

Now for some specs: The insulation provided by Thermoball is supposed to be comparable to that of 600 cuin goose down insulation. But, what does 600 cuin even mean? This unit refers to the so-called fill power of down. It measures how much of one cubic inch is occupied by 27.3 grams or one ounce of down. The higher this value is, the higher the thermal insulation relative to its pack size. Obviously, you want high thermal insulation, but I’m sure none of you want to lug around an extremely thick jacket or huge sleeping bag, unless you were on an expedition in Antarctica. In other words, the magic recipe is good thermal insulation and a small pack size.

For the animal lovers among you, synthetic fibres have the additional plus that they’re not made from animal products and can thus be used without a guilty conscience. Well, let me take that back. Our eco-friendly friends out there will be disappointed to hear that Thermoball is not a natural fibre and thus not biodegradable.

Thermoball technology

The North Face's Thermoball: An alternative to down?

Thermoball insulation consists of small, round synthetic fibre clusters or balls.

Where Thermo comes from is obvious, but what about ball? Well, Thermoball insulation consists of small, round synthetic fibre clusters or balls that have the positive characteristics of goose down. Thermoball is fluffy and very packable. Regardless of the insulation material – be it down or Thermoball, the thing that keeps you warm is the air. The air between the Thermoballs is heated up by the body and trapped by the balls. The result is a warm air cushion around your body.

Unlike standard synthetic fibres, Thermoballs don’t stick together, so you’ll get more joy out of the product for a longer period. You can even wash Thermoball every now and again and nothing will happen!

We hope that the Thermoball technology is as good as TNF claims it to be! We’re looking forward to hearing about your own experiences.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 03/03/2016.

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