I looking for a lightweight insulated jacket, preferably using synthetic insulation for greater resilience to wet conditions. What are the relative merits of the different types of insulation available? PrimaLoft and Thinsulate (plus Thinsulate Lite) seem to be the most commonly used for this type of application, but how do they differ in terms of warmth and durability? Chris Perth, Western Australia
That said, I don't think you'll see a tremendous variation between jackets made of the different materials. Both Thinsulate and PrimaLoft yield a piece that's reasonably soft, offers good insulation, and works well in damp weather. PrimaLoft supposedly is a bit less durable than its competitors, but I've never seen evidence of that in the real world. I've found Thinsulate in a few pieces made by Helly Hansen, Cabela's, and L.L. Bean. I think a lot of makers use Thinsulate under proprietary brand names, so you wouldn't actually "know" it's Thinsulate. PrimaLoft is found in Go-Lite's Buzz Jacket ($150; www.golite.com) and Integral Designs' Dolomitti ($210; www.integraldesigns.com). Macpacnear your part of the world, in New Zealandmakes a PrimaLoft piece called the Mercury (www.macpac.co.nz), a very light hoodless insulated shell. It's about $250 in U.S. dollars, so I suppose that makes it about $330 in Oz.
Interestingly, Patagoniawhich long used a proprietary synthetic fill for its insulated pieceshas gone heavily into Polarguard, using the newest versions of that material (Delta and 3D) in jackets such as the DAS Parka ($265; www.patagonia.com), a hooded, insulated piece for use in truly crappy weather, when it's cold and wet. So that's an option for you as well.
For more expert reviews of weather-beating shells and jackets, check out Outside Online's all-new Jackets Buying Guide.