I was down at The North Face this week to have a look at some of the new kit which I’ll talk about soon, but first here’s a wee look at something especially interesting.
Thermoball insulation is a new development from synthetic kings Primaloft along with The North Face and the brand will have exclusive use of the technology for the next three years. The short version is that that they’ve tried to create a synthetic down of sorts, and as you can see from the clump of synthetic fibre clusters I’m holding above it’s certainly looking more like down clusters than the blanket of fine fibres we’re used to seeing, or feeling I should say, in our jackets.
The aim is to try and bridge the gap between the compressibility and warmth of down and the weather resistance and quick drying of synthetic, which is pretty much the holy grail of insulation. A clump of the stuff in your hand feels warm and I could compress it flat, I asked about durability from frequent compression and they word is that life expectancy is the same as regular Primaloft, which means it can be up to you how long it lasts; storage, packing and use being the deciding factors there. The insulation quality is rated as the same as 600-fill goose down.
There’s been some trials and experiments with how to best use the Thermoball, such as different fill weights and baffle designs which will continue, but for the moment micro baffling like we’ve been used to seeing on lightweight down gear in recent years is giving the best results.
The Thermoball Hoodie will be out this autumn and there’s a hoodless jacket and matching woman’s equivalents. The design is simple, a nonadjustable close fitting hood, two handwarmer pockets (one with a double zip that the whole jacket folds into), lycra cuffs and an adjustable hem with the cord ends in the pockets. The cut is neat but not tight, the arms are a good length and tail has a very slight scoop.
The fabric is The North Face’s own recycled 20D lightweight nylon which has a nice feel to it and certainly helps with reducing packed bulk.
The size medium below comes in at 364g for this preproduction sample and I’ll be testing it over the next few months to see what the story is with Powerball. I’ve used Primaloft and micro-baffled down enough over the years to know what to expect, or do I? This might be something different altogether, time will tell.
The insulation value of the hoodie is better suited for spring to autumn, which is why the hoodie isn’t part of the range-topping Summit series, but the neat cut means it’ll work well with a down vest worn over it on colder camps, something that’s always been a favourite for me.
Nice to have something properly new to talk about. More later.
In saying that, I’ve had Polartec’s new Alpha technology on test for the past few months as well, more on that soon too.