View Full Version : Primaloft vs. Down Jackets

02-19-2015, 19:31
Hello, I am curious about what thru hikers have found to be the best option between primaloft and down for a jacket? I have read some say that primaloft is better because it retains some warmth value when wet where the down does not and it can take a little more abuse. I have also read the argument about the weight, comfort, and space savings for down. I am leaning towards primaloft due to the durability but I am curious what your experience has been. Thank you!


02-19-2015, 20:29
I will be taking both. I was originally going to take a down jacket and a light fleece, but after trying a North Face DNP jacket, I am taking it instead of the fleece. The DNP is a lightweight Primaloft jacket and I have a Montbell Alpine Light Down Parka. This gives me the best of both worlds and the DNP is warmer than the fleece I had for almost the same weight.

02-19-2015, 22:00
For me it would depeng on when i am hiking and what other gear i am bringing. Typically though i am using a down quilt so i bring a synthetic jacket. If it is winter (or cold weather) i will add a fleece but change the jacket to a down one. I like to have the down quilt and synthtic jacket in case of wet weather... For the just in case occasion where stuff does get wet. It would really depend on what you're comfortable with. Do some end of winter weekend camping/backpacking and test your gear.

02-20-2015, 08:28
For a thru I'd stick with synthetics just because they hold up better through repeated washings. Otherwise I'm a fan of the newer blends of down that has been treated to make it repel water rather than absorb it. Mixed with synthetic insulation it holds its loft and keeps you warm even when fully wet, yet still packs down well.

02-20-2015, 08:47
I never actually hike while wearing a puffy, insulated garment. It's too easy to get it soaked with sweat and if you do that to anything, down or synthetic, you compromise the insulation. Sure, synthetic has some value when damp and is easier to dry, but if anything gets really soaked, it's pretty much worthless until you get a chance to dry it with sunshine, fire, or a mechanical heat source.

My strategy is to wear thin layers of synthetic garments when hiking. I carry a good down vest in the pack in winter or when I expect sustained sub-freezing temps, like the first month of a typical NOBO AT thru hike. The vest is reserved for rest breaks, camping and emergencies.

Many here wisely recommend synthetic garments for hiking, and down for camping. Of course, that strategy depends on your experience and ability to keep your down dry--protection in the pack, setting up a dry camp, ventilation while you sleep, airing out when you can, etc.

02-20-2015, 11:41
Thanks for the thoughts everyone! I hammock camp and have quite a bit of experience with down quilts and how to care for down in the pouring rain/snow/ice storms but I am more interested in the long term as far as wear and tear on a jacket, especially while wearing a pack compressing the down and wearing on the fabric all day. i know that down should not be compressed for too long and it seems that if I were to have a cold stretch and had to wear a light down jacket all day for quite a few days that the compression of the down might be an issue with a pack on? I make most of all of my gear but plan on buying a jacket. I have no experience with primaloft but a fair bit of experience with down and climashield as far as sleeping insulation. Does the primaloft not compress as much as down? What is your experience of using primaloft while wet? How long does it take to dry out? Thanks again!

02-20-2015, 12:07
I section hiked the AT last Spring starting at Springer on April 8 and hiked till May 20. While hiking I mostly wore a silk T-shirt, a long sleeve synthetic fishing shirt from Gander Mountain and a System 3 rain jacket from EMS. I found while hiking the trail I was constantly hot and had to take layers off. Some of the hiking was in temps of 20 to 40 degree range. When I reached place to camp I would pullout my JC Penny puffer jacket to wear while setting up. I would use the jacket as a pillow and put it on in the morning when I got up. If it was raining I would put on my rain jacket over it. The only problem I had with cold was trying to keep my finger tips warm while setting up.

I did stress about keeping the down articles dry such as my top and bottom quilts and the puffer jacket but they never did get wet. If you are careful you will not get wet except for your feet.

Tarheel Hanger
02-20-2015, 13:35
I got a North Face Thermoball (primaloft), at a REI garage sale last year and wear it all the time now. My down coat has been hanging up unused. The down didn't breath near as well. and I did not like to hike in it so it stayed in the pack till I got to camp. After 8 hours compressed it didn't keep me as warm (cold spots). Plus it didn't keep me as warm in my hammock, again compression. The primaloft is awesome, fixes all these problems, weighs a lot less, thinner & easier to pack. I can wear it all day & night if needed. Even in 20 degree weather all I need is a thin base layer and a t-shirt to keep warm and I'm a small guy.