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PrimaLoft or Fleece for the Backcountry?

I'm having trouble deciding upon an insulating layer. I can't decide to go with fleece or PrimaLoft. What are the downs and ups of the two?

Question:

I’m having trouble deciding upon an insulating layer. I can’t decide to go with fleece or PrimaLoft. What are the downs and ups of the two?

Submitted by - Shawn Ricardson, Caldwell, ID

Answer:

Hey Shawn,

That’s easy. For serious backcountry travel, I would go for Primaloft over fleece, no question. That’s because lofted insulations (such as Primaloft) are warmer, windproof (some fleeces are windproof, but they don’t breathe well so they don’t make good layering pieces), way less bulky in the pack, and lighterweight.


Patagonia Nano Puff (Courtesy Photo)

I still love fleece for daily around town use, and I sometimes pack it as my insulation on summer backpacking trips, but for everything else, “puffies” are where it’s at.

While Primaloft—in its various forms (One, Eco, Infinity, and others)– is definitely the synthetic insulation that’s most widely used in jackets these days, down is also worth checking out. It’s warmer than Primaloft (for its weight), packs down even smaller, and has more long term resilience.  (In other words, over the years it won’t flatten out.) But down is more expensive and doesn’t handle exposure to water as well as Primaloft.

We recently tested a slew of puffy jackets for our fall Apparel Guide. Check out these six puffy jackets that rose to the top of the heap.

—KRISTIN

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