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Insulation - Synthetic and Natural

by October 06, 2020 4 min read

Insulation- Synthetic vs Natural

It's what's on the inside that counts... right? 

When it comes to insulation, that couldn't be more true. Making sure you properly insulate your gear for the weather you will be adventuring in is crucial, if not life-saving.

Let's talk about insulation ratings.

Although there are a number of ways to define temperature rating when it comes to outdoor gear (e.g. survival vs comfort), we base our suggested insulation temp ratings mostly on feedback from customers, including both DIYers and small business vendors. 

That said, the temp ratings we list below are meant to represent the "average" temperature at which you could expect to be comfortable when using gear made out of each weight/type of insulation.

Synthetic Insulation

Climashield APEX

Climashield APEX reaches new heights with its combination of weight and thermal efficiency. Developed through a culmination of over 25 years of manufacturing experience, this innovative insulation is the lightest and most thermally efficient continuous filament insulation on the market today. Like other high-end synthetics, it also maintains warmth in wet and humid conditions.

Due to its unique continuous filament construction, Climashield APEX requires little to no quilting. This makes it easier to work with compared to other synthetic insulation that requires quilting panels to avoid shifting/migration. Great for sleeping bags, outerwear, and quilts.

2.5 oz 50°F/10°C
3.6 oz 40°F/4.4°C
5.0 oz 30°F/-1°C
7.5 oz 10°F/-12.2°C  
10 oz -5°F/-20.5°C

Primaloft Gold

For instances requiring warmth, especially in cold and wet conditions, Primaloft Gold insulation is a go-to for technical performance. Engineered for a full spectrum of benefits to provide warmth without bulk resulting in freedom of movement for your activity.

One of the main differences between natural down insulation and Primaloft is the ability to maintain warmth when wet. Primaloft employs a proprietary water-repellent treatment that ensures you stay warm even when conditions go awry. 

Primaloft does not provide temperature ratings, but they do use ‘clo’ to describe the thermal performance of their insulation. Clo is determined through laboratory testing and is a measure of thermal resistance. You’ll see this listed as clo/oz/yd². The higher the number, the better the insulation is at keeping things warm (or cold for that matter... think drinks and koozies).  

In an ounce of Primaloft Gold, as measured on a square yard, the dry clo is 0.92. You’ll note the dry clo for all weights is the same. The way you calculate the total clo for a specific weight of insulation is to multiply the weight in ounces by the clo per ounce. Using 100 GSM as an example. 100 GSM is the same as 3.0 ounces/sq yard. So total dry clo is 3.0 times 0.92. In equation form that’s 3.0 x .92 = 2.76.

3 oz/sq yard 6 oz/sq yard
Width - 60"
Width - 60"
DRY clo value - 0.92 oz/yd²
DRY clo value - 0.92 oz/yd²
WET clo value - 0.90 oz/yd²
WET clo value - 0.90 oz/yd²
Quilting requirements - 6" (15 cm)
Quilting requirements - 6" (15 cm)
Loft - 0.6" (1.5 cm)
Loft - 1.1" (2.8 cm)
Scrim - 1 layer scrim 
Scrim - 1 layer scrim 

Natural Insulation

The first obvious statement is the animal source. Duck down is a by-product of the meat and egg industry, making it more readily available and therefore more cost-effective than goose down. 

In terms of the down itself, geese are typically larger than ducks, therefore making their down clusters larger. This leads to more loft and a higher fill power yield with all else being equal. 

Fill power is a universal measurement for duck or goose down, which measures the volume in cubic centimeters of a single gram of down, when fully lofted. This basically means that higher fill power down can trap air more easily, which in turn makes it a better insulator per unit weight than lower fill power down.

With all that being said, it's important to note that in terms of performance, there is little to no difference between duck and goose down at the same fill power. For example, you can expect 850 FP duck down to function very similar if not exactly the same as 850 FP goose down. Fill power is fill power, after all. 


This is the brand of down we carry at RBTR. It also happens to be the brand used by some of the best-known names in the outdoor industry. 

Developed in conjunction with The North Face®, HyperDRY™ water-resistant down is built upon years of research and development to outperform all other down on the market across the entire range of fill power.

HyperDRY™ employs a proprietary nanotechnology water-resistant coating that is invisible and does not compromise the texture or color of the finished down. The end result is a superior down fill for your gear/project. This is a great choice for high-end down gear such as quilts, jackets, and sleeping bags. 


All in all...

Making sure you have chosen the correct insulation for your project application is key. Important factors to consider when choosing insulation are use, climate, activity level, compression, and price.

Synthetic Insulation Natural Insulation
+ More Cost Effective - Less Cost Effective
- Less Packable + More Packable
+ Maintains Warmth When Wet - Little to No Insulating Abilities When Wet
(*untreated down... does not apply to HyperDRY)
- Easy to Maintain - Requires More Care Over Time
+ Hypoallergenic - Not Hypoallergenic

If you are curious about how to DIY your own quilt, we recommend watching some tutorials like Backcountry Banter or Dubber Designs on YouTube. 

For calculating how much down you need, here is a good resource and down calculator. 

Pro Tip: If you want to build a practice quilt and have a furry friend, make a smaller version for them! 

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