January 26 2021
There’s no doubt that down has been a champion in providing warmth and insulation for camping adventures for many years, but there is a new player in town and everyone is asking, which is better? PrimaLoft or down?
From sleeping bags to clothes, having well-insulated gear is key to surviving the cold during your outdoor adventures.
PrimaLoft and down seem quite similar, but when you look closely there are some clear differences that can help you decide which is best for you.
We had a good look at both materials and came up with the top features to consider before you make a decision.
Comparing PrimaLoft and Down Insulation
PrimaLoft was originally developed in the 1980s for the United States Army and is a brand of synthetic microfiber thermal insulating material that was designed as an alternative to down material.
What sets it apart from down is that it has been treated to prevent water retention and manages to keep you dry, no matter how hard the downfall.
Both down and PrimaLoft are excellent for protection against the cold. This is what PrimaLoft was specifically designed to do and this is the specific purpose of down feathers in nature.
However, there is a clear winner here. Based on our experience, synthetic insulators just don’t live up to the same standards as the real deal. A man-made insulator can’t defeat the insulating powers of Mother Nature herself.
Down material is ultra-warm in a range of different environments. Its micro-fibers are able to absorb your body heat and keep you warm no matter how cold the temperature. While PrimaLoft can aim to mimic these effects, it never quite meets them.
However, that doesn’t automatically mean that everyone should ignore synthetic options and go buy up all the down gear they can find. There are some special considerations to think about before you choose.
The one insulating advantage that PrimaLoft has over down is its performance in wet environments.
There are still those who prefer down insulation, but we went through all the features that you should consider when deciding between PrimaLoft or down.
Is PrimaLoft more suitable for wet conditions than down?
PrimaLoft is highly advantageous in wet climates as it’s able to retain almost all of its insulating abilities when exposed to moisture.
On the other hand, down is not nearly as reliable when it gets wet. The trapped air pockets in the material tend to collapse almost completely under the weight of wet material. Down just isn’t a good choice for staying warm and comfortable in wet weather.
Down struggles to overcome wet conditions and takes a long time to dry, especially when there is ambient moisture in the air. This is because the microfibers in down material absorb water.
This is where PrimaLoft gets its popularity. PrimaLoft was initially developed to specifically address the poor performance of down under wet conditions.
PrimaLoft does an excellent job of keeping its warmth and shape when faced with moisture. It's well-suited for climates with frequent rainfall because of its great water-resistant features and its ability to dry quickly.
Another upside is its ability to treat moisture if you happen to perspire a lot.
Breathability and comfort of down vs PrimaLoft?
Down and PrimaLoft are neck and neck in this category.
Because both materials are equally comfortable and breathable, it comes down to what other fabrics and materials your products are made of. The fabric protecting your insulation will determine the best performance.
However, anyone who suspects they may be allergic to down or feathers should immediately opt for a synthetic alternative to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
Down allergies are generally pretty easy to spot. The typical signs include sneezing and itchy eyes right after you come into contact with a down product. PrimaLoft should be your best bet if you suspect you have a down allergy.
Is PrimaLoft more lightweight compared to down?
Down material is the most lightweight of the two and is incredibly compactable, which makes it a lot more convenient for packing.
It’s super easy to stuff down products into smaller spaces, reducing them to a fraction of their original size.
Another huge upside is that down also needs less volume to provide the same level of warmth.
To achieve the same results, a PrimaLoft coat would need more volume which also means it would be heavier. This is why many athletes in snowy and mountainous sports prefer down for their active lifestyles.
PrimaLoft also packs quite well as it also has air pockets in between its material. However, it doesn’t quite match the abilities of down.
If you’re concerned about bulk, down is definitely a good choice for you.
Is down more durable than PrimaLoft?
In terms of durability, down takes the cake once again. Man-made products generally can’t ensure longevity in quite the same way as natural materials can.
When it comes to upkeep, however, PrimaLoft is definitely easier due to down’s bad relationship with water and taking a long time to dry. PrimaLoft can be easily washed and dry cleaned at home.
On the other hand, down can’t be dry cleaned and needs special laundry detergent which makes it more of a hassle to washed at home. Once it gets wet, down will begin to clump together. The material could lose some of its insulation power if you don’t even out any clumps to prevent it from drying unevenly.
If you take good care of your clothes and gear though, your down jacket will most definitely outlive a PrimaLoft jacket. It would definitely be worth the investment if you intend to use your down products for a long time.
Is PrimaLoft more affordable compared to down?
Here comes another advantage of PrimaLoft. If you’re someone who is on a budget, then down products tend to be more on the pricey side.
While prices will vary depending on the type of product, the store you shop at, and the manufacturer, PrimaLoft is generally more affordable compared to down.
PrimaLoft is manufactured in a factory, whereas down requires the use of livestock animals. Down is more expensive because it takes multiple animals to collect enough material for a single product. If you are a cruelty-free supporter, PrimaLoft is the choice for you.
If you want to focus on the more affordable gear available for cold weather, then a synthetic insulator like PrimaLoft would be your best option for high quality, yet budget-friendly products.
So, which is better?
There is no definite answer here. Your decision should be made based on your unique lifestyle, budget, and the conditions of your outdoor environment.
In our experience, down insulation is the best insulator and is suitable for most scenarios. Down is ultra-warm, packable, and super lightweight. However, the price of down material and its poor reaction to moisture can be dealbreakers for most people.
At the end of the day, down and PrimaLoft both have their own pros and cons. Our best approach for making a decision is to think in terms of how much control you will have over being exposed to wet conditions. If you’re specifically looking for something that performs well in wet conditions then PrimaLoft is the way to go for you.
If you’re going to be traveling in cold but dry areas, then you should go with down material to get the best insulation and warmth.
If you’re looking for backpacking or skiing gear in snowy mountain terrain then we suggest opting for PrimaLoft because of its quick-drying properties in wet conditions.
Check out our OneLoft Alternative Down Blanket if you’re looking for a down alternative similar to PrimaLoft!
For some, having options in both down and PrimaLoft might be a good idea.
All in all, we rate down as the best insulator, except when it comes to wet conditions.
PrimaLoft and down each have their pros and cons. Your decision should be based on the areas you plan to travel to, the weight you’ll be carrying, and what your budget looks like.
Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below so that your fellow outdoor enthusiasts can learn from your knowledge.