Go with the Faux: Synthetic Insulation
Many of us can probably remember a hiking trip we took with our family as a child. We all wanted to be wrapped in the heavenly warmth of down, but it was out of Dad's price range. Instead we layered. We layered until we could not bend our arms or legs. And then we whined.
Luckily, synthetic technology has gotten a lot more sophisticated and now there are numerous manmade materials that mimic down without the hefty price tag.
Synthetic insulation is essentially polyester threading that is molded into long single threads or short staples to mimic lofty down clusters. Thinner and lighter threads fill voids and trap warm air more effectively, while thicker strands sustain the loft and durability.
Quick Guide to Synthetics
Is water resistant and provides insulation when wet. Synthetic fills are, at the very least, resistant to moisture while many will actually shed water rather than absorb it. These water-resisting properties allow the synthetic fill to retain the majority of its insulating properties when wet.
Dries quickly. When a synthetic fill does get wet, the moisture is trapped in the air pockets between the fibers rather than in the fibers themselves. For this reason, synthetic fills will dry much faster than down fills-usually in a matter of minutes in direct sunlight.
Is generally less expensive than down. Unless geese start lowering prices on down, synthetic insulation will always be cheaper than its natural counterpart.
Is easy to care for. Most synthetic fill sleeping bags or garments are machine washable and dryable.
Is completely hypoallergenic. Because synthetics are manmade, they are, for the most part, hypoallergenic.
Offers a greater range of options for those on a budget. Synthetic fills vary greatly in durability, bulk, weight, and price so there are more options available for beginning hikers or children who quickly outgrow their clothes.
Can be bulky and less compact than down. Synthetics tend to be much bulkier and less compact than down, taking up valuable space when you're trekking around.
Heavier than down. Synthetic fill requires more weight to get the same warmth that the lighter down provides.
Breaks down over time. Synthetic fibers gradually break down no matter how well you care them. You may find yourself replacing synthetic products quicker than you would down products.
May cause fit problems. Some less-expensive synthetic fills can be stiffer than down and may not drape as well. Higher-end synthetic fills, though, can be hard to distinguish from down and fit just as well.
Common Synthetic Fill Fibers
With rapidly advancing technology, new synthetic fill materials are being created all the time. Here is a list of some of the most popular synthetic insulations.
Polarguard® is an insulating material made of continuous synthetic fibers. It retains its loft and insulating properties when wet. It is also non-allergenic, mildew-resistant, and machine washable/dryable.
Polarguard® 3D maintains the same properties as its predecessor, but is made of a softer fiber that more closely resembles down.
Polarguard® HV, like the original and 3D versions, is made of continuous synthetic fibers, but is 25% lighter and more compressible making it an ideal material for use in backpacking and expedition gear.
Polarguard® Delta is the latest development in synthetic insulation. Constructed of hollow core continuous filaments, this insulation is lighter, more durable, and more thermally efficient than any other Polarguard® product. These advances are achieved by a larger diameter fiber with more hollow space inside to create a stronger, higher lofting insulation. Polarguard® Delta is a good fill for items like sleeping bags which are subject to repeat stuffing.
NOTE: There are several more synthetics to compare at the source below. They will not fit here.
· 7 years ago