Insulation Jacket Comparison

December 29, 2015 — Leave a comment

 

Insulation jackets are an often overlooked (sometimes completely ignored) category of hunting gear. However, the insulation jacket is an essential part of anyone’s gear bag because when temps drop, regulating your body temp is critical. In this comparison, we will be taking a look at someone of the top insulation jackets available in the industry. We will not be looking at every available option, just the jackets that are most similar in technology, purpose, and price ($200-$250).

All of the jackets incorporate similar (or identical) tech: all use YKK zippers and all have their own synthetic, treated, water-repellant insulation. As such, we will not go into too much detail on these items except for when it makes a noticeable difference in the performance of the jackets. All of the jackets are also available in a vest option and the KUIU and Eddie Bauer jackets have a hoodless option as well.

The biggest factors in evaluating an insulation layer are wind-resistance, warmth, noise, packability, weight, and fit (when under an outer layer). All of the jackets in this test have treated water-repellant face fabrics; however, none of them are intended to be used as rain gear.

Wet Performance

When it comes to the claim of having water-repellant insulation, the claim is a bit subjective. I took each jacket and soaked it with water and the rung the excess water out. After ringing them out, I compared the retained weight for each one.

So what does this say about each jacket? While each one does shed water well, retaining its ability to insulate while being wet, some jackets are better at this than others. Also, the more water retained, the longer it will take to dry out.

So let’s take a look at each jacket and see how each one performed.

First Lite Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket – 19 oz – $225

The Uncompahgre Puffy Jacket from First Lite is a good, quiet all-around jacket. It is the only one in the test with odor control technology (37.5 Cocona which uses carbon). The hood is adjustable from inside the jacket and seals well around your face. One innovative feature with this jacket are the self-adjusting cuffs which stretch and tighten to fit snug on your wrists at all times. This jacket is very warm, but decently heavy (19 oz). It is more noticeable under an outer layer as compared to other jackets, but it is not obnoxiously so. For convenience and neatness this jacket packs into its own integrated pocket pouch. During the wet test, the Puffy was definitely the heaviest; it started out heaviest to begin with and then retained the most weight once wet, sitting pretty at 1 lb 6 oz – A net gain of 3 oz. It was noticeably the heaviest of the group at this point.

Pros

  • Quietest of the test
  • Warmest of the test
  • Adjustable hood and high neck zipper cover well
  • Most durable of the test

Cons

  • Heaviest of the test (19 oz)
  • Most noticeable under outer layer when worn as layering piece
  • Retained the most water weight

It Factor: If this jacket won’t keep you warm, nothing will keep you warm. It is crazy how warm it is for its weight!

Who Should Want This: If you care most about warmth, durability, and silence, this jacket is for you. It offers all of these to a level that nothing else in this category can.

KUIU Super Down Hooded Jacket – 10 oz – $250

The KUIU Super Down Hooded Jacket is the most recent advancement in their insulation line; they offer other insulation options but the Super Down is the top tier of their offerings. The Super Down has the same athletic fit as the rest of their products and once it is on you can hardly tell you’re wearing it. Hood adjustments are easy to reach and the jacket packs very well, compressing to a seemingly impossible level. The jacket is pretty noisy and the hood does not cover as well as the other jackets in the test. During the wet test, the Super Down weighed 12.8 oz once wet – a net gain of 2.8 oz, nearly as much as the puffy.

Pros
  • Lightest of the test (10 oz dry weight; 12.8 oz wet)
  • Warmth-weight ratio
  • Surprisingly wind-resistant for its weight
Cons
  • Noisiest of the test
  • Hood does not cover as much as some might like
  • Most expensive of the test

It Factor: Lightweight and surprisingly warm for its weight.

Who Should Want This: When your motto is “Shaving ounces at all costs” then you will be very happy with this jacket. While it is noisy and expensive, it is very, very light and relatively warm.

Eddie Bauer Microtherm Hooded Jacket – 12.6 oz – $229*

When most people think of hunting apparel, Eddie Bauer is not likely to come to mind right away. I have used a few products from Eddie Bauer recently and have been impressed with them. Since they offer a hooded insulation jacket in the same price range as the Super Down and the Puffy, I thought it would be interesting to throw this jacket into the mix. The Eddie Bauer Microtherm Jacket packs down tightly and is hardly noticeable under an outer layer. It is the quietest of the test and is a great balance between warmth, weight, and silence. The elastic hood covers very well, but is not adjustable which may or may not be important to you. It allowed the most wind to pass through in the test (though still not much) and the face fabric was the most delicate of the test. During the wet test, the Microtherm started out at 12.6 oz and once wet went up to 13.4 oz – a net gain of only 0.8 oz.

Pros
  • Good combo of weight, warmth, and quiet
  • Least noticeable under outer layer when worn as layering piece
  • Hood seals well around face
  • Price (when on sale – see note below)
  • Retained least amount of water during wet test
Cons
  • Least wind-resistant
  • Delicate face fabric
  • Hood is not adjustable

It Factor: This jacket can be worn on a hunt, around town, or on a run. There is almost nowhere that this jacket would not fit right in.

Who Should Want This: If you care most about having a one-size fits all insulation jacket that you can wear as a stand-alone (in town or in the backcountry) or as a layering piece, you should give this jacket a serious look.

*At the time of this writing, this jacket was on sale for $149.

Bottom Line

I will never pretend like one jacket will meet the needs of every person on the planet. For me, if I want to wear one jacket and need it to be warm, I will go with the Puffy. But when I need to layer under an outer layer or need a lightweight shell for a mild day, I will go with the Eddie Bauer.

I am well aware of the fact that each person has different needs and they need to pick the jacket that will best suit his or her needs. Hopefully this comparison has helped you make this decision, or at least give you an idea of what to look for when making your decision. When you are spending over $200 for a jacket, you need to be sure that you are getting what you want in a jacket so that it can make you happy for years to come.

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