Hunters should be able to focus on hunting without needing a graduate degree in thermodynamics, but if you want quality gear that performs under icy conditions you need to know the basics of how different insulations work and what is on the market. On this episode I talk about the major types of natural and synthetic insulation used in hunting gear so you can make informed decisions when considering what gear to buy and use.
Types of Insulation & Insulating Materials:
- Cotton – The worst material for cold weather hunting gear hands down. It is only warm until it gets wet, then it drains the warmth out of you.
- Wool – Very warm, preforms well when wet, but you need a lot of it for outer layers. Merino wool is revered as the best for socks and base layers.
- Down – The gold standard by which all insulation is measured by. Warm enough to keep a goose alive flying at 3,000 feet at 50 MPH when it is 20 degrees outside. And thin and light enough to still enable a bird to fly 1,000 miles in a single day. But it is not very warm if it gets wet.
- Treated Down – Chemically treated goose down designed to keep the insulation from getting wet to improve warmth in moist conditions.
- Fleece – Specially knit polyester that is good at keeping wind out and great at trapping heat in while wicking away moister. Makes a great mid layer and liner for an outer layer.
- Polyester Fill – A no frills and no special brand generic inter-garment insulation that helps keeps you warm and dry.
- Thermolite – Slightly more frills and fancier branding than Polyester Fill. Geared at providing lightweight insulation.
- Primaloft – Essentially a synthetic goose down developed for the military, designed to be as warm as down but also retain its insulating properties when wet.
- Thinsulate – Another down alternative, this insulation is best known for its thin fibers and thus thinner overall profile making it ideal for many specialty applications ranging from pants to gloves.
- Cocona – A science heavy synthetic insulator that focuses around helping maintain an ideal core temperature. If you are cold it helps you warm up, if you are hot it helps you cool down.
Most synthetic insulations are geared to help deal with moisture and retain much of their warmth when wet. But each has its strengths. It is hard if not impossible to definitively say which synthetic insulation is warmest. It more so depends on the application, the amount used, and all the other factors that go into garment construction.
Listen to the episode to learn more about each type of insulation and what types activities they are best used for.
Here is my episode I referenced about hunting bibs that provides some of the back story and why I found a need to start learning about these things.