Nice review. I wish companies would move away from this whole down imitation thing though, as your photo showed the stitch through method is just BS. I bought a Mountain Hardwear synthetic down stitch-through jacket recently and in the crook of the arms there was a 2/3 square inch gap of insulation (sent it back). What we really need is to go back to continuous filaments and make proper synthetic jackets that don't have huge cold spots and actually last more than 1 season. I don't really need it to compress into a potato, I just want it to be warm, reasonable weight, not fall apart when it gets wet, and be worth the stupid amount of money we spend on gear. Most modern synthetic jackets these days care more about looking fashionable then any reasonable science backing their functionality.
I agree. The last couple of these reviews of other brands equivalents have basically Said The same thing. I think the RAB Xenon is one of the best synthetic lightweight pieces as it has very minimal stitching so wind and water/snow resistance is much improved.
Toby, for me, one of the big advantages of synthetic over down is that it is easier to wash (& especially to dry), have you washed your test jacket yet ?
That's a really good thought Doug - and actually I haven't need to wash it yet so it hadn't crossed my mind. I just went and looked at the label and you can wash it at 30 and even tumble dry on cool, so should it get grubby (we've had a pretty wintery start to winter in the hills even down here south of the border - so it has stayed pretty clean) you can wash it easily.
It's the way most down clothing is made too. I guess they could box wall for synthetic down also, but cost is clearly high for that construction.
It's an odd thing, it is not the case that stitch-through simply doesn't work - this jacket does keep you decently warm, just like the stitch-through down jackets I've used. But it's clearly not as efficient as it could be, but perhaps even despite this, it's enough for most people? And people don't want to pay super high prices for box wall jackets?
It just seems sort of perverse when the technology exists to laminate synthetic fills to face fabrics, to instead take small pinches of insulation and stitch it into little pockets with much of the jacket left uninsulated. I would say perhaps cost is holding them back, but considering this Marmot piece costs £180 I can only conclude the motivating factors are fashion and the perceived notion of innovation.
By laminating synthetic fills to face fabrics do you mean like Alpha direct? I guess it's still not as light as stuffing certain light insulations between two layers. I'd really like to try something like the Rab Alpha Direct or Flux, but they do still look rather like my Buffalos 25 years ago, and I suspect that 480 gram Rab jacket will not be nearly as warm as the Marmot that weighs the same, although obviously much better for active use.
I was thinking more of the way Mountain Hardwear use lamination in their 'Lamina' sleeping bags. I just can't see how Marmot and TNF's particular method of stitching is any better than simply quilting. Yes it might be marginally lighter, but at the expense of insulation.
The only benefit I can see of this is if the little blobs of 'featherless' loft higher than a quilted jacket then perhaps it would create more overall loft? It would be interesting to find a jacket of the same weight with normal 'sheet' style insulation and look at them through a thermal imaging camera.