Staying warm is a challenge whenever the mercury falls, but in damp conditions it becomes even more testing. If you’re facing a grotty forecast keep a robust and resilient synthetic insulation layer in your arsenal; reliable insulation whatever the weather.
Thick, chilly mist that seems to creep into your very bones. Heavy rain on a leaky bothy or small tent. Dreary mizzle on an exposed belay. The British climate can be worst to deal with when it’s neither beautiful nor terrible, because it specialises in weather that’s good enough to be out in, but that exemplifies dampness. It can cause the biggest challenge of your trip to be staying warm and dry enough to be comfortable, even if you’re only out for a short time. On a multi-day trip, keeping yourself and your kit dry becomes a pitched battle against the weather.
So how to insulate yourself against this pernicious and pervasive enemy? Carry a layer filled with synthetic insulation as protection against heat loss: even if it gets wet synthetic insulation will continue to block convective heat loss, unlike down. That’s because it retains its loft, its ability to trap air, plus it dries significantly quicker than down and without clumping.
The type of synthetic insulation that’s best will of course depend on the application. Until recently there was little other than sheets of long-strand fibre insulation available, but in the last few years the technology has taken a leap forward. Now the most advanced options have thermal efficiency close to that of down, making the kit containing them more lightweight, more packable and more flexible to wear than synthetically insulated clothing has ever been before.
So if you’re looking for the low weight and high compressibility of down, without the downside (sorry!), have a look at ThermoBall by Primaloft and The North Face, or Cirrus by 3M and Rab, both of which are touted as being equal in thermal efficiency to 600 fill-power down, but stay lofted even when wet. Designed to mimic down’s structure but be considerably more robust and resilient, they give you the option to be minimalist without the risks.
Stepping out in a different direction is Polartec Alpha, described as the first to provide ‘active insulation’. Always sandwiched between two fabric layers, the ‘lofted knit hydrophobic fibres’ sit perpendicular to you for both wicking and breathability. So much so that you can wear it while active and still stay dry. Originally developed for the US military it’s a performance fabric that not only pushes but uproots the boundaries of synthetic insulation.
That’s not to say that the time-tested fibre sheet insulation is totally outclassed, oh no. For sheer dependability and rock-solid warmth in cold, damp conditions it’s hard to beat Primaloft Gold with its siliconised fibres for even greater water-resistance, or the host of other options like Primaloft Silver or Black and the proprietory options used by many manufacturers. In fact, you can even add one over your outer layers, giving you extra insulation without the fuss of changing layers. Ideal for when you stop for a break or at the end of the day, or for belays, it’s also a robust and cost-effective means of staying warm.
So if you need reliable insulation at all costs, synthetic is the way to go. For additional advice, give us a call; otherwise dive into our selection of synthetic insulation layers in a range of weights, shapes, styles and more. When you’re sticking out a wet belay or hunkering down in a snowhole it’s great to know it’ll take more than damp to make you cold.