let's talk active insulation!

mtwarden

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Definitely a bit of a buzz word(s) these days, but definitely not a new concept. Something to keep you warm, but not overly warm, while moving. Ideally something that keeps you relatively dry (breathes) and if it does get wet, dries quickly.

It certainly isn't meant to replace a puffy jacket or anything you would use static, but could certainly augment that layer when still.

I'm going to mention something first that doesn't come to mind as active insulation, but is typically my first line of defense- a lightweight windshirt. Layered over a thin baselayer, a windshirt does a great job of increasing warmth- while at the same time deterring wind and light precipitation. Depending on the windhsirt, you can get one that breathes pretty well and most dry quickly.

With that out of the way, let's discuss active insulation in the more commonly thought of light. A garment that is lightly insulated, breathes well and dries relatively quickly.

One that has been around for awhile now that I've used a ton is Patagoina's R1 hoody. The gridded fleece adds good warmth on the move and really breathes well. It's almost twin brother in camo- the Sitka Core Heavyweight is just as effective in my experience. Both of these pieces do little to nothing in the way of deflecting wind/precip, but again the addition of a windshirt fixes that.

There are now a whole host of interesting active insulation garments that use a wide array of insulation and fabric. One insulation I have experience with is Polartec Alpha. It has a mesh core with lofted polyester fabrics around it. Like other insulations it comes in different weights. Obviously the weight of the insulation has a great bearing on well it does as an active layer- too light and you're chilled, too heavy and you're sweating. The weather is going to have a direct bearing on the effectiveness. I have one garment (OR Uberlayer-discontinued) that utilizes relatively heavy Apha insulation and have found it effective on the move when it's cold, too warm in just cool weather.

One thing I've found out is the outer and inner fabric(s) are really crucial in how effective the garment is. Simply having a jacket with Alpha doesn't guarantee effectiveness. I had a Marmot jacket (Isotherm) with Alpha insulation, but the outer fabric simply didn't breathe well enough me. If it was bitter cold, it did pretty well, but for the most part it didn't work the way I wanted it.

The inner/outer fabrics have to breathe pretty well or you're not getting the full advantage of active insulation.

One thing to keep in mind is folks differ in the physiology and what works well for someone, might not for someone else.

There are a myriad of garments out now that are often termed hybrids. They often utilize an active insulation in some areas (typically chest/shoulders) and then typically a fleece fabric on the back/arms. I have an Outdoor Research piece (Deviator) that does just that. I haven't worn it enough to proclaim it's greatness, but thus far works pretty well.

I had a Patagonia Nano Light hoody that used a proprietary insulation that was by many accounts was a Jim dandy, but unfortunately it was a little too small for me and never got to try it, of course now it's discontinued :(

Sitka has a active insulation jacket, but with no hood- so I've ruled that out. Also a "vest" w/ a hood that looks pretty interesting.

What have you used? What works? What hasn't?
 

wind gypsy

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I'm in the same boat as you Warden.

Typically use a lightweight merino blend short sleeve T against the skin.

Second layer, based on temps and activity is a Sitka Core LW hoody, Core HW hoody or 1/4 zip, or patagonia R1 hoody.

If really cold, another insulation layer before wind shell is nice. I started using Kuiu insulated snap shirt. The kuiu 3DFX is another good active insulation and this shirt only weighs 8 oz and 40 grams/M^2 insulation weight hits a nice spot. It serves a similar purpose to a sitka kelvin active type jacket but even lighter.

Patagonia houdini wind shirt (3.6 ounces) gets used in windy and open environments if i'm not bow hunting or still hunting/tracking game. If noise is crucial, a heavier and quieter soft shell with pit zips gets used. I typically use a kuiu chinook but would like to add a sitka jetstream to the stable.

*Side note - I wont buy any more patagucci as long as they are supporting entities trying to ban predator hunting, but I already have the stuff..
 
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mtwarden

mtwarden

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that snap shirt is definitely an interesting piece, 40 grams would be really nice for moving fast

I have an Arcteryx Atom SL that uses 40 grams (they call there's Coreloft) in the core- I've used it even for running (cold weather)
 

wind gypsy

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that snap shirt is definitely an interesting piece, 40 grams would be really nice for moving fast

I have an Arcteryx Atom SL that uses 40 grams (they call there's Coreloft) in the core- I've used it even for running (cold weather)
I have a few pieces with Coreloft. Unfortunately the loft seems to degrade very quickly. Either that or I just wear the dead bird stuff too much casually so it seems that way.

The Kuiu Versa jacket is another that would probably work well, 60 grams insulation and a hood @ 11 ounces and $169 retail.

For all the hate the kelvin active hoody received for the short sleeves, it's probably great functionally.
 

Fins_N_Tines

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I have a few pieces with Coreloft. Unfortunately the loft seems to degrade very quickly. Either that or I just wear the dead bird stuff too much casually so it seems that way.

The Kuiu Versa jacket is another that would probably work well, 60 grams insulation and a hood @ 11 ounces and $169 retail.

For all the hate the kelvin active hoody received for the short sleeves, it's probably great functionally.
I have actually thought about ditching my mid layer fleece (15oz) and trying out the KUIU versa jacket in its place. Yes, you would lose some durability, but gain weight saving and warmth.
 

willfrye027

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For me the ideal combination has been Kuiu peloton 97 and the kenai jacket depending on the temps and how strenuous the hike is. That combination seems to move moisture incredibly well and I don’t have to worry if I accidentally work up too much of a sweat while hiking because it will dry out very quickly. Plus with pit zips you can fine tune the airflow pretty well.
 

5MilesBack

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I've been a fleece guy for a few decades now. I have every weight of fleece I've ever seen and it works great for active hunting because it's quiet, it breathes well, and it dries quickly. When I'm really on the move covering some ground even in cold weather I don't wear much up top.......normally a lightweight merino base shirt and maybe a microfleece mock T. Then if I slow down and start to chill I can throw on a fleece jacket and still keep moving without sweating it out.
 

*zap*

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For active I really like the peleton 97 hoody, not really insulation but.....pit zips help a bunch if your talking jacket.....if they are well designed and longer..
 
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mtwarden

mtwarden

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I think fleece is still very much in the game, particularly the newer grid fleeces out there- not as warm as some of the more traditional fleece fabrics, but they do a very good job of moving moisture.

Fleece lasts forever too. I have fleece garments that are very much still serviceable that are 40+ years old, can't say that about any synthetic insulated garments I own :)
 

*zap*

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For hiking if I need more than my peleton 97 I have an older sitka Celsius and a marmot synthetic that both have good pit zips...I wish the uncomphagre jacket had pit zips.
 

NoWiser

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I went through a phase last year where I really tried to make myself "need" an active insulation layer. I ended up returning all of the garments I tried. I just couldn't find anything that accomplished what my 10 year old $14.00 fleece jacket already accomplishes. The fleece is a few ounces heavier, but is quieter and much more durable.
 

mtnkid85

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Yea, all these pieces are trying to best the old standby of a heavy weight fleece. Like always we are going to be trading weight for "durability", these synthetic insulation pieces will and do break down over time and with use.

I own the Patagonia Nano air light hoody. I feel like it does what we are asking of it as well as anything. It really does breath remarkably well.
I also have a Rab Strata flex jacket. With 60g/m Alpha insulation but with a more soft-shellfish outer fabric. Its a nice piece but doesn't quite breath quite like the Nano air. It doesn't breath well enough to go under a soft shell and it doesn't offer enough weather resistance to completely replace the soft shell.

Ive owned both of these pieces for several years but they are rarely my go to piece.
They are just too warm or maybe Im just too stubborn.

My layers for hunting almost always go like this.

Light weight synthetic base
R1 weight fleece
Softshell

Ill either sub out the R1 for the Nano air or just add it it in addition when Im with slower partners or extremely cold conditions.
 

Whaledriver

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I recently found a pretty good combo. Patty nano air light hybrid ( like a nano air and r1 had a baby) Skiied all day in high 20s, wind, with Firstlite base and Mountain Hardwear Neoshell. Was warm and sweat exactly zero all day. Have a lot of time with the r1 but seems a little too heavy for exertion even in the cold. Nano and Neoshell breathe unbelievable. Will be testing more in the future.
 
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mtwarden

mtwarden

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I'd agree the R1 is a little heavy for high exertion (running/skiing/snowshoeing/etc); for still hunting in cool to cold it works pretty well (as does the Heavyweight Core)- I use a Patagonia thermal weight hoody for high exertion stuff in colder weather- grid fleece like the R1, just a lighter fabric weight

Well looks like I'll get a chance to try the Nano Air Light after all, picked up an XL on ebay last night for $65 :)
 

5MilesBack

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I went through a phase last year where I really tried to make myself "need" an active insulation layer. I ended up returning all of the garments I tried. I just couldn't find anything that accomplished what my 10 year old $14.00 fleece jacket already accomplishes.
That's because you already had a great active insulation piece. I don't think I've ever spent more than $20 on a fleece, and my camo fleece jacket that I've had probably 10 years......I got at Goodwill for a couple bucks. All the rest of my fleece is solid color.
 

feanor

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Arc’teryx proton lt is supposed to be right up there as a top performer. I have an atom lot and wear it almost daily for most weather except into teens. But it doesn’t breathe as well as the proton supposedly. Arc’teryx fits better than Patagonia for me personally. I used to wear fleece, but hated the weight, size compression and taking it on and off always grabbed my baselayer. +1 for neoshell too.
 

fng4life

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I picked up a Northface summit series 1/4 zip from another member here. It’s basically a wind shirt with some primaloft insulation. Makes a nice mid layer but I found it invaluable hiking at 9k+ in October. Very impressed by how well it breathes considering it’s wind proof fabric.

I still prefer the kuiu jackets with the 3defx for early archery season because of how quiet it is.
 

Corvus Corax

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150 weight merino next to skin, 250 weight merino hoodie. Then maybe an Arcteryx Atom LT hoodie if the terrain is mild, and the temps are pretty cold. Usually just the first two layers when moving.
 

cuttiebrownbow

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Lightweight merino next to skin and then I just like a grid fleece. I take my catalyst jacket on pretty much every trip as well so I have used that on occasion when it’s really cold as an active piece. It’s probably my favorite piece of clothing.






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