A light weight packable down or Primaloft jack...

Day Break at 10,000ft

A light weight packable down or Primaloft jacket is a mainstay in my backpack hunting system.   This layer is for those cold mornings and evenings and nights when the temperature really drops. I have designed an ultralight packable insulation layer for the KUIU system and would like know your preference of synthetic or down.

I am a huge fan of down because of the high warmth to weight ratio.  I have prototyped out a 12 oz, 850+ fill jacket that islLight, packable and really warm.

I was talking with Lance Kronberger today about this layer.  He loves down but he gets too much rain where he hunts.  Since talking with Lance I have been going back and forth on what would be the best addition for KUIU this first year.  Down or Synthetic?

Below are the basic advantages of Primaloft the best synthetic insulation available and 850+ Down Fill.



  • Highest warmth to weight available in a synthetic insulation
  • Warm when wet
  • packable
  • hydrophobic
  • durable
  • no down leakage


  • Heavy compared to down
  • Not as warm

Down Insulation: 850+ Fill


  • Highest warmth to weight ratio available
  • Very packable
  • Very light weight
  • Comfortable
  • Very warm


  • Ineffective when wet
  • More care is needed in taking care of down

What do you prefer?  Down or Synthetic?

Thanks for your help,


This article has 28 comment(s)

  1. Janis Putelis

    Each has its place in the backpack. I like to have both hanging in the closet and make a game time decision. I use the Montbell Eldo Jkt for my syn layer and the Patagonia Down Sweater for my down piece.

  2. Ron Spomer

    I too love the highest fill down, but just don’t care to risk the dangers that come when it gets soaked. That might not happen for ten seasons, but the time it does could be a disaster (falling in creek, capsized boat, etc.) What you need to determine is how much heavier PrimaLoft is per equal insulation value of 850 or 900 fill down. Then consider stuffability. I pare every possible ounce from backpack gear, but not at the risk of losing my insulation layer for days on end. Down isn’t going to dry in a day, perhaps not a week under hunting conditions in late fall. Just not worth the risk.

  3. J_Bird

    Without a doubt PrimaLoft in my opinion. If you get wet you need the ability to stay warm. That has to be a top priority. I would be willing to give up a little warmth when dry for a better R value when wet.

    When the weather is nasty, even with a high quality shell, it seems like the insulation layer always gets wet at some point.

    Plus Primaloft is much more durable and doesn’t migrate in a jacket/vest like down does. Every down jacket I have feels like all the down has “migrated” to the bottom after laundry.

  4. Tony


    I agree with you and Lance I love Down as well, up until you throw moisture into the mix. This year while guiding archery brown bear hunters in Alaska we had basically non-stop rain for 10 days. Everything was damp or wet, even our sleeping bags inside a Bomb Shelter tent were damp. The Primaloft sleeping bags did an excellent job keeping us warm. From past cold wet lessons I knew my down bag would have been wet instead of damp and a recipe for cold wet sleepless nights, and in the right situation a recipe for disaster. In wet rainy day after day weather the down jacket is eventually going to get wet and basically loose its insulating value. As much as I love down, and hate to say this, Primaloft may is a better choice for all around use. Maybe we could have both!! 😉


  5. Lee

    This is a simple… Make both, I like choices so depending on where I go, I might use down or synthetic so to make things easier I say it would be better to produce both. I also say make the leggings as well, also in both materials.


  6. Tom Ryle

    I love the packability of down but rarely use it due to the amount of moisture where I primarily hunt in Oregon and Washington.

    I leave Friday for my Oregon Roosevelt hunt and it’s been socked in with fog, mist, and rain daily. I’ll be in there a full week so it’s synthetics all the way around save one woolrich wool button up shirt and a merino wool sweater vest. I like to have a wool option for cold nights and mornings.


  7. Matt


    Situations determine needs. In Alaska Primaloft sounds like it would be the way to go. Here in Colorado I prefer down. This year for elk we had one day that was that nasty in the clouds type rain that seemed to never stop. Everything was cold and wet. But, after 24hrs the sun came out and everything was dry.

    I’ll second Tony’s notion, can we have both? Many different applications out there that will benefit from both down and synthetic.

    My 2 cents.


  8. Matt

    Primaloft… To many chances for wet days here in Alaska.

    I like the Mont-Bell U.L. Thermawrap lines. Light and super warm.

  9. Kurt Steindorf

    Jason, After reading the responses from everyone else, I would have to say it is a tough decision. Although I do prefer the Primaloft once again if it does get wet you will still stay warm and it will dry faster than the down. I think that it is very important that you need to stay warm even when wet and scrafice the weight difference.
    Good Luck,

  10. Dave Beronio

    Great comments from everyone.

    I think it would be a great selling point to have both available, but in startup, I would probably have to go with the Primaloft. Although I like down and there are great advantages to it, A little less comfort/warmth for the safety of dryness. A freak storm or damp morning has potential to make the hunt very uncomfortable.


  11. Mike P

    I agree with most of the other guys…they both have there place but i think Primaloft is more versitile…IMO


  12. Salty Whiskers

    Down is my preferred insulator. I primarily hunt Utah, Idaho, Colorado. If I were hunting Alaska or Canada I would go with a synthetic.

    I think that a line that offers both insulations is the way to go. As there is no perfect insulation for every environment.

  13. Tony



    I text this topic to Drake. As you know he’s elk hunting and does not have access to email or the internet. He said he feels the same as I do.


  14. Kit Baughman

    Hi Jason,

    I’ll also say do both. Have you looked into a waterproof breathable shell for the down jacket? Many of the technical and snow boarding/skiing down jackets have them now. Finding one that isn’t shiny or noisy might be difficult, but would be worth it.



  15. Tye Abell

    For me, the only time I need that type of insulation is when glassing or at camp. If I’m moving around, I’ll get overheated wearing down. With that, when I’m in camp or glassing, I can keep my rain shell on without worrying about my down jacket getting wet from rain or from perspiration.

    For my style, I really don’t think down can be beat.

  16. Mike R.

    Have to say that Primaloft is more versatile for a line just starting out. I do love down though.

  17. Brian Morris

    I would say I personally like the weight and warth of the 850 + Down. I remember getting cold wearing a Primaloft Sitka jacket last duck season. I bought a Patagonia and Marmont Down jacket and fell in love with them both.
    Also when in my pack the Primaloft took up more room then the Down. It may of just been the types of jackets I have purchashed.
    My votes for the Down.

    Good Luck!

  18. Chris Jasmine

    My vote is for down. I always carry a patagonia down sweater, and the warmth to weight ratio is impossible to beat. I usually always carry a light weight rain shell to put over the down if wet weather is expected.

  19. Michael Sendrowicz


    Great communication of information, as usual. Thanks, and keep it up.

    My vote is for Primaloft.

    Granted down has a better warmth to weight ratio, but that is only in ideal conditions. My guess is that many hunters who will be buying Kuiu garments are better their lives on their gear. I, personally, would not be willing to accept slightly less weight for substantially increased risk.

    Other than Primaloft, I really like Climashield. Not quite the warmth to weight of Primaloft, but it is a continuous filament sheet, which offers it’s own advantages.



  20. Josh

    Down for me, the rain shell is in the pack anyway and the tipi has a stove to knock back the dampness. That said, if I were in AK or a similar situation where lots of moisture were a big concern I would go synthetic. I would guess the majority of folks are western hunters who are in dry climates by comparison to the coastal rain forests and the like. Currently I use the Patagonia down sweater for colder days and the Nano Puff for warmer days. I love the compressibility and weight of these coats and have since left all of my fleece with their weight and bulk behind.

  21. Tony Dawson

    Yep…I’m ‘in’ with the dual purpose guys. Love down when it’s fresh and full of loft, but it begins to ‘depreciate’ from day one…losing a little loft each year, depending on how hard it’s used.

    Additionally, no one has mentioned ‘frost line’ problems. Even without overt atmospheric moisture, down can get damp/wet just by accumulating ice crystals at the point in the garment or sleeping bag where vapor produced by living bodies hits freezing temps forming a ‘frost line.’ Big problem in super cold here in AK. Loft decreases daily in that situation, and can only be corrected by somehow drying the garment. That’s best done in a super-cold environment by hanging it out in a dry, cold wind and letting the ice sublimate…no wet stage—just crystals evaporating to vapor with no water state in the middle.

    If I had to choose one for Alaska or Canada, it would be synthetic. In the lower 48, there’s a bit more wiggle room.


  22. Jeff Ramirez

    I agree that down is the way to go. In keeping with the company vision of lightweight, down is perfect. As mentioned previously used in conjunction with the rain shell there should be no reason the down gets wet under normal hunting circumstances.

    If you really want to separate yourself from the competition then offer both. May not be feasible though.

    • Tony Dawson

      I disagree….every human body gives off moisture in the form of vapor. Condensation deposits that moisture in the down plumules at some level. Even ‘breatheable’ rain shells exacerbate the problem.

      If you are hunting where cold is only an issue at night, and it’s warm in the day, you may be able to dry your down gear but, in high humidity, the daily loss of loft in down gear is actually measurable.

      I’ve been on rainy trips where no direct moisture reached my high-quality down bag, but I slept colder each and every night due to loft lost to condensation of body vapor and high ambient humidity. Love down in dry climates, but I rarely hunt there….so new-tech synthetics—light, warm and unaffected by water—are first choice.

      Tony D.

      • Jason Hairston

        Thanks Tony for the input. This is the reason we are using Primaloft this first season.


    • Jason Hairston

      Hi Jeff,

      I am a huge fan of down for the hunting I do. Up north down is not used due to the bad weather and wet conditions. Primaloft was the overwhelming preference by the KUIU followers due to the versatility. However, a ultralight down style will be coming soon. Thanks for the comment.


      • Jeff Ramirez

        Tony & Jason,

        Thanks for the clarification. Based on that information it does make more sense to go with the synthetic versus down. Versatility in multiple climates trumps weight. Thanks.


        • Jason Hairston

          Hi Jeff,

          I am a huge fan of down and I had to start somewhere this first season. I wanted the versatility of Primaloft for sheep hunts. No worries, your ultralight down is coming.


  23. Brad