Down or Synthetic?
One of the most frequent questions that we receive here at BAP is regarding Big Agnes jackets and sleeping bags.
We are often asked what the difference is between down and synthetic insulation, and which material is better?
We decided to make a compressed compilation of information regarding insulation (TRY SAYING THAT THREE TIMES FAST), in hopes of helping our friends, customers, and whoever wants to read this!
Always feel free to ask us questions at BAP, we are here to help!
Traditionally Down was sourced from geese, however, now it is more commonly derived from ducks. Duck down is incredibly common, as it is (usually) a by-product of the meat industry (they sure do eat a lot of ducks in China). Down comes from beneath the tough exterior feathers of a bird, and lacks a quill entirely. Down feathers are loosely structured, and effectively stack upon one another in order to trap heat against the body. The ability to loosely stack, or to be fluffy is described as loft. The loftier the feather the higher fill-power, which translates to lighter and warmer. When you see a chick looking all fuzzy, warm, and adorable you are looking at down, all baby chickens are covered in down until the adult feathers grow in. Down has a high heat to weight ratio, while maintaining the ability to compress down incredibly small. Down, unless treated, is not as effective when wet, and does take a substantial amount of time to dry.
All Big Agnes down products contain DownTek. DownTek is PFC-free water repellent down, you can go and explore more about DownTek at:
To summarize... DownTek is awesome.
DownTek absorbs less water than traditional down, while decreasing dry time by 60%.
It is washable, and will not lose its ability to repel water!
(we recommend using Nikwax Down Wash Direct, available here at BAP)
DownTek fulfills the Responsible Down Standards and is considered sustainably sourced.
Although it is treated down, no weight is added to the insulation, and it maintains the ability to compact substantially (Thank you nanoparticles).
Here are some of our awesome products that contain DownTek:
Hole in the Wall/Shovelhead jackets
Fire Tower Belay jacket
Ways Gulch vest
All down sleeping bags:
…. THE LIST GOES ON
Here’s a quick tip: when identifying what insulation is in what product you can look to the tag system, or if its a jacket it is also on the sleeve.
Now… on to synthetic
Synthetic insulation can be made from a plethora of materials. Typically, synthetic insulation contains silicone in order to increase the softness of the product. Structure of synthetic insulation fluctuates between brands and products, which makes categorizing it slightly complicated. On a broad spectrum, synthetic insulation is effective when wet, extremely water resistant, and at a friendlier price point than down.
Do keep in mind that synthetic materials are not as durable as down; every time you stuff down your puffy jacket or bag, you decrease the insulations effectiveness (decreasing the product life). Synthetic insulation is often heavier (not by much, but hey, ounces count when your UL [Ultra Light]) than down as well.
Big Agnes synthetic jackets and bags utilize three synthetic insulators.
Pinneco, Hotstream by Insotect, and Primaloft Gold Active…
For more information on Pinneco you can visit: http://pinneco.com/
To summarize, Pinneco is an innovator among synthetic insulators!
Pinneco is silicone free.
Completely water resistant, in fact, Pinnecore technology incorporates a breathable moisture wicking membrane (from both sides I.E. rain or sweat).
The Corescreen in conjunction with the Fiberfil works to maintain the durability of you jacket or bag no matter how many times it compresses.
Also, do note that this material is washable (we recommend Tech Wash by Nikwax)
Big Agnes primarily uses Pinneco in synthetic jackets.
Here are some items that contain Pinneco insulation:
Hot Sulphur/Marvin jackets
Lucky Penny vest
Dunkley Belay jackets
Some of our older sleeping bags:
… and more!
Hotstream by Insotect is commonly used throughout all Big Agnes synthetic sleeping bags
If you would like to do your own research feel free to visit: http://insotect.com
Hotstream is made from 100% recycled fiber.
Their thermal poly padding is noted for having consistent loft while maintaining durability.
Hotstream is in fact water resistant, and washable!
Hotstream utilizes innovative design to help keep insulation in place.
Hotstream is found in almost all of Big Agnes synthetic sleeping bags…
… and more!
For the last of the synthetic insulators we have Primaloft!
Feel free to check them out at: http://primaloft.com
Primaloft is noted for using up to 60% recycled materials made in the USA.
Primaloft Gold Active is as warm as down, packable, water resistant and noticeably soft! Their synthetic blend contains a high loft while maintaining a 4-way stretch, it is geared to move with you in the midst of your adventure.
Primaloft is ideal for the active person as it is incredibly breathable!
Some items that contain Primaloft Gold Active are:
Porcupine/Dome Peak pull-over
Porcupine/Dome Peak pull-over
Gem Lake/Willow pull-over
Lone Pine vest
Now, Big Agnes also utilizes innovative technology from Insotect in order to maintain the loft and durability of materials within products, but that will be a different blog, so stay tuned!
As to which material is “better” that is really a personal choice; both materials are tried and true.
We hope this blog was an abundance of information!
Make sure to swing by and check out our down and synthetic goodies!
Also! We still have a GIVEAWAY going on!
We re-posted the detail in our previous blog, so make sure you check it out!
Until next time!