Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Synthetic Insulation - Any scientific standards for rating?

  1. #1

    Synthetic Insulation - Any scientific standards for rating?

    Hi all,

    Does anyone here know either of an existing insulation test (like the EN 13537 for sleeping bags) for synthetic insulation (say for jackets), or if no such tests/standards exist, why?

    The EN 13537 isn't perfect, but it is a consistent method for benchmarking. I would have thought that a pure insulation benchmark would be easier, i.e. how much warm air is trapped in 100 g/sm of X insulation over Y time under Z standardised conditions.

    Anyone know of any controlled test to, for example, determine whether Primaloft One is superior to Softie fill or Thermal.Q Elite?

    Thanks for any help.

    SK

  2. #2
    Ultra King Martin Carpenter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    5,835
    There are strict tests used to measure how effective a given insulation is for a given weight (g/m^2) of fill. That's easy. You can find them for primaloft search for Clo iirc. They'll also exist for the 'own brand' stuff but whether they publish it....

    As for how warm a jacket actually is when you wear it, well that'll depend on the fit to quite a strong degree and that's dependent on you so.....

  3. #3
    Übermensch
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    1,371
    Plus the outer fabric which does make quite a difference in the windier parts of the world.
    That's why I like the lightweight Gore windstopper outers that some manufacturers use on their synthetic insulated jackets which seem to add a few degrees of warmth with very little weight. Plus they are usually textured rather than shiny.

    And the design, so things like longer jackets and hoods will all make a difference.

  4. #4
    Initiate Toot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Cornwall UK
    Posts
    557
    Good point. I used a Mammut (Ajungilak) Jura recently and was impressed how warm it was - MTI 13 insulation - good stuff it seems. Couldn't find any info about it though.

  5. #5
    Thanks MC for directions!

    So we've got R-Value, CLO and Tog. All of which give not particularly user-friendly numerical values (energy required to keep a unit square surface at thermal equilibrium over a given time) - so it's a bit messy. The thing for me is this, and I agree completely with Fatwalker, that there are many other factors that will affect warmth. But manufacturers tell you what the outer fabric is, they tell the brand name of the insulation and they (though not all, hint Snugpak) tell you how many g/sm of insulation is used. It would be nice if there was an objective, standardised lab measure that gave a meaningful user-friendly value:

    650 fill Down = 1.0 CLO
    Primaloft Gold = 0.92 CLO

    This means Primaloft One = ~600 fill Down. That's meaningful!
    Surely this would be the way to express insulation to the lay person. Why not just use a "down equivalent" measure. Then we know that Primaloft Gold is like 600 Down whether dry or wet (see article linked below).

    Just in case anyone else is looking into this, the best article on this I found was this one:
    http://www.adventurepoet.com/adventu...ngs-explained/

    The various synthetic insulation brands are compared in a table which is handy.

    The way I see it is that if they were selling trekking food, it's like telling you the weight of their proprietary food mix, without telling you the calorific value. All we're left with is anecdote and claim, versus a usable figure, in this case kcal.

    I shall add this to my list of niggles, like why sleeping bag manufacturers don't state the weight of their bags with and without stuff sacks.

    Thanks again all for the info.

    Cheers,
    SK

  6. #6
    Mini Goon
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    196
    Quote Originally Posted by ScrambleKit View Post
    Why not just use a "down equivalent" measure. Then we know that Primaloft Gold is like 600 Down whether dry or wet (see article linked below).
    I would suggest that a better way would be to refer to a standardised "theoretical" synthetic insulation because it is more reproducible than down. Down garments are going to vary a lot depending on how the down is distributed through the garment, (both as manufactured and how it performs in use) and the construction method. Whereas if something has 200gsm Climashield, throughout, you know what the nominal insulation is going to be and the construction methods are probably more uniform. The construction methods for both insulations could have an adjustment factor to allow for stitch through, offset quilting, edge stabilised etc.

  7. #7
    When we talk about insulation, aren't we really just talking about trapped air? Air is a poor conductor of heat, so how much poor conduction can we trap? Forgetting for the moment all the outer fabrics, baffles, distribution etc. So with that in mind, my question is why can't "fill power" be used for synthetic insulation? Afterall, synthetic and down are doing the same thing - containing air. So why not state volume of air contained in 100g of X insulation in non-compressed state?

    Once that universal measure is established the different insulation brands and types can argue all those aspects (and more) stated by Graham O: "stitch through, offset quilting, edge stabilised etc.."

    SK

  8. #8
    Ultra King Martin Carpenter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    5,835
    It isn't that straightforward - the correspondence between the amount of warmth and the thickness of an insulating garment is far from precise.

    Especially so for synthetic garments, where some manage to retain a lot of warmth while being quite thin vs down.

  9. #9
    Thanks MC:

    I'm talking about just the insulation - not "garments as a whole" (since that introduces too many variables). My understanding is that Primaloft's 1986 patent was for a "synthetic down". i.e. pretty much all insulation manufacturers are trying to mimic down, since it creates loft (volume of trapped air) and forms a filamentary matrix which has the effect of creating micro pockets of air, which then reduces heat loss at the boundary via convection. I may be wrong. But with regard to insulation (not garment design) what other factors are involved aside from trapping air?

    It seems that you're saying that some synthetic insulation is doing a better job at preventing air from moving, and thus can be thinner / less lofty than down?

    SK

  10. #10
    Übermensch
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    1,371
    These CLO figures are measured in static air I believe.
    From my experience the thinner insulation like Primaloft One don't performance as well as the loftier insulations in strong winds.
    I would rather have a loftier insulation like the Paramo insulation, Polarguard or Snugpak insulation in more extreme conditions.
    And it is interesting that some manufacturers have gone back to Hi-loft insulation for their belay jackets (Patagonia DAS Parka for example).

  11. #11
    Mini Goon
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    196
    Most measurements are made in environments which although very controlled, are often far removed from the conditions found in the outdoors. In strong winds, synthetics may compress less than down garments, and hence will maintain their warmth. And what will happen when the air is damp is a whole new situation.

    CLO values are measured using an electrically heated plate with a cold plate above it separated by the test material. As heat is lost from the heated plate, the electrical power needed to keep it as constant temperature is measured and it is this which forms the CLO value.

    My experience of different insulations is limited, but I find that a single layer of Climashield Apex 200 (Clo 4.8) is much warmer and "toastier" than 2 layers of Thinsulate P150 (Clo 2.5 each layer). I don't understand why that should be, but the Climashield is very good.

    I had some tests done by Thinsulate years ago which may be interesting.

    Single layer of Liteloft (no longer available) 2.3Clo
    Sandwich of Pertex/Liteloft/Pertex (typical garment construction) 2.9Clo
    Sandwich of Pertex/2 layers of Liteloft/Pertex 5.2Clo
    Sandwich of Pertex/Liteloft/Pertex/Pertex/Liteloft/Pertex (equivalent to wearing 2 insulated garments) 5.7Clo

    So a layer of pertex each side of the insulation contributes 0.6Clo

  12. #12
    Seem to be having some difficulty replying - post #9 got delayed.
    Graham O - that's interesting. It also makes my point in a way; that if you're a non-geeky person trying to estimate the warmth of a particular brand of insulation ... well good luck. As I said before it's like selling 100g of trail mix, but we ain't gonna tell you how many calories that is.

    SK

  13. #13
    Initiate Mr Fuller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    667
    Hi all,

    Interesting thread, and a good question indeed.

    In short, scientific standards for rating insulation? Yes. Consistent? Maybe not.

    As you know, EN 13537 measures the warmth of a sleeping bag, rather than the warmth of a material. The equivalent test for garments is absolutely possible, but it’s even more fraught with errors due to things like sizing and how the garment is put on the manikin. The Standard is EN ISO 15831 and it’s used a lot for things like contracts going to tender but is used little in the outdoor industry. Occasionally it’s used to compare big down jackets, but not often.

    When it comes to measuring insulation there are fewer variables than with finished products but still quite a lot, and a lot of different testing methods too: you have tog tests (of various types), SGHP tests (of various types), and numerous others. As a result, comparing synthetic waddings of the same weight from different manufacturers should be simple, but it’s just not. Add to this the variability in weights: 100 g m-2 insulation is not consistent and is often the result of some rounding. Also, some weights are quoted with a scrim, while some are without. Add to that the different units and you’re getting the picture: it’s a nightmare.

    The outer fabric conundrum, as mentioned above, is really interesting and can make an enormous difference to overall warmth. A little bit of air permeability can vastly reduce insulation, but greatly increases breathability. There’s a sweet-spot between the two and this differs depending on whether it’s say a belay jacket or a jacket for cold weather running. Stitch lines enhance this too: what’s the point in knowing the insulation of an unstitched wadding if you push millions of tiny stitch holes through it?

    As mentioned above, down has even more variables than synthetic and just like trying to compare trad climbing grades with sport climbing grades, it makes for interesting debate but is such a nightmare it’s not really worth getting worried about. In short, down is far warmer for its weight than any synthetic fibrous insulation, but synthetics are usually warmer for their thickness. Any company who claims to have a fabric ‘as warm as xxx fill power down’ are only telling you 1/10th of the story: for a start they’ve not told you the relevant weights. I would take that sort of thing with significant salt.

    In general, with synthetic insulations I wouldn’t worry too much about the numbers. Instead, get a warm jacket that fits well and has the features you want. If you want a jacket suitable for more active pursuits (e.g. hiking in, climbing in, running in) then look for one advertising greater air permeability or active insulation, and if you want one for more stationary work (e.g. lunch stops, belaying, emergency layer, around camp) go for one intended for that purpose and which doesn’t push the ‘active insulation’ thing; coated fabrics with a measurable HH or fabric with a membrane are good for this. With the insulation itself, things like lifespan, recyclability, handle, compressibility, water resistance, ethics of production, breathability, and recovery from compression may be just as important as warmth.

  14. #14
    Thanks Mr Fuller. That's a very good summary. I guess it keeps reviewers in a job. Seems to me, if I can sum up the findings in this thread, we're left with the following equation:

    Code:
    "n variables of insulation" x "n variables of garment" x "n variables of user" = "anecdote X", where X = "it did/didn't keep me warm when it was really cold out"
    Just seems unsatisfactorily unscientific and open to marketing abuse. But I guess that's where we are.

    Thanks to all for such informed input.

    SK

  15. #15
    Mini Goon
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    196
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Fuller View Post
    Instead, get a warm jacket ....

    ...... coated fabrics with a measurable HH or fabric with a membrane are good for this.
    You say get a "warm jacket" which brings us back to the OP, how do we know what is a warm jacket, rather than one which is not warm enough or too warm? I think that as long as the manufacturer says which insulation is used and the weight or CLO value, then it is okay to compare them. But what we see is "insulated with XXXX" which doesn't allow us to compare anything; it's just too vague.

    And for cold conditions, <-10C or so, a coated or laminated fabric is not advisable as moisture will just freeze on the inside surface.

  16. #16
    Übermensch
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    1,371
    Most synthetic insulated jackets list the fill weight (eg. 60gsm, 100gsm etc).
    Personally, given that I currently have around twenty synthetic insulated garments hanging in my cupboards, I find the brand of insulation they contain is the least important factor in terms of warmth.
    I have Primaloft Silver garments that are warmer than equivalent weight Primaloft gold garments because they have more substantial outer material or are longer or....
    I have a really old Polarguard Delta ME jacket that is warmer than my equivalent insulation weight Primaloft One/Gold garments just because the insulation is loftier and resists compression much better.
    Regarding down, I find synthetics generally warmer than down in most typical Scottish winter conditions where the humidity is high and it is generally damp even when well below freezing.
    As an experiment once I used an old Rab Down pullover over a thin synthetic t-shirt when the temperatures were around freezing on a dry day, when walking in the Glen Shee area (up high all day but relatively gentle gradients) and found myself getting quite chilled just because the insulation wasn't working with the amount of moisture externally and internally.
    Switching to a fleece and windshirt and I was much more comfortable.
    If the air is dry obviously down would be much warmer and possibly modern hydrophobic down would have worked much better but from my perspective a relatively light down fill with the usual stitch through construction and lightweight outer materials (warmer on paper) is no substitute for something like a 130gsm synthetic insulated jacket with a bomb proof outer as an outer layer in typical Scottish/UK winter conditions
    I would qualify that by saying that using the down jacket as a mid-layer under a waterproof at rest stops or belays etc. would change that but would obviously be pretty inconvenient.
    If you're going somewhere properly cold then down is usually king.

  17. #17
    Initiate Mr Fuller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    667
    Quote Originally Posted by Graham O View Post
    You say get a "warm jacket" which brings us back to the OP, how do we know what is a warm jacket, rather than one which is not warm enough or too warm? I think that as long as the manufacturer says which insulation is used and the weight or CLO value, then it is okay to compare them. But what we see is "insulated with XXXX" which doesn't allow us to compare anything; it's just too vague.
    You're right, that is too vague. Manufacturers should - and many do - list g m-2 for their insulation, and crucially where that is in the garment.

    As for the coated/laminated fabric thing, water vapour pressure's so low below -10 °C that dew point often isn't much of an issue. You'd be hard pushed to find many very warm synthetic jackets that haven't got coated face fabrics in any case.

  18. #18
    Mini Goon
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    196
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Fuller View Post

    As for the coated/laminated fabric thing, water vapour pressure's so low below -10 °C that dew point often isn't much of an issue. You'd be hard pushed to find many very warm synthetic jackets that haven't got coated face fabrics in any case.
    I must disagree with you there. Ice build up in garments is a real problem in very cold conditions and the dew point is nearly always inside the garment. When full distance North Pole expeditions were possible, ice build up in the sleeping bag would add about 1kg every 2 - 3 weeks. Many commercial expeditions taking paying customers have kit lists which specifically rule out any form of waterproof breathable garment. If a jacket has a waterproof breathable outer fabric, I would suggest that it could be due to marketing pressures, or that it is not designed for very cold conditions or some other factors. In very cold conditions, water is not present, except of course in your cup and pee bottle.
    Last edited by Graham O; 13-06-2017 at 06:53 PM.

  19. #19
    Initiate Mr Fuller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    667
    Ah, I think we're at slightly crossed purposes; I'm not talking about waterproof fabrics, merely ones which have a WR coating. I am actively involved in equipping polar expeditions (including Spear17 and ExIceMaidens) and am well aware of the problem of waterproof breathable fabrics. The current best polar suit on the market has an electrospun membrane with some air perm and is highly breathable but it is not waterproof.

    For what it's worth on some very rare occasions a waterproof sleeping bag might be preferred, for example I helped develop Nick Bullock one for his recent Nepal expedition. That was preferred because of the sheer amount of dampness that open bivvies and Bibler tents tend to make for.

  20. #20
    I prefer primaloft , insulator efficient and very good performance.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •