Gear trends: Active insulation for 2014/15

Find out what's ahead for active insulation with new products and trends for 2014/15 that we spotted at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
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Outdoor consumers are working up a sweat during the winter months.

Whether it’s for skinning up the mountain on AT skis or going for a trail run on a frosty February day, customers are demanding lighter pieces that insulate and protect without leading to an overload of sweat and the chills.

It’s all part of the same done-in-day, or even done-over-a-lunch-break trend the industry is experiencing at Summer Market. Consumers are pursuing higher intensity outings for shorter durations, said Brian La Plante, director of outerwear development at Marmot.

Even for a full day on the mountain, evolving consumer habits are fueling the rise for more active insulation. “More people are heading to the backcountry,” said Phillip Tavell, wintersports category manager at Helly Hansen. “People get more sweaty in the powder than skiing the resort slopes.”

These aerobic winter activities also involve a lot more of movement and flexibility, so you’ll see plenty of stretch incorporated into active insulation pieces, too, especially as more ingredient brands offer everything from stretch insulations to stretch waterproof/breathable shells.

In addition to the previously-mentioned Megawatt Jacket, Marmot brings the new Misto line with a jacket and pant (MSRP $375, each) that pair the waterproof/breathable Polartec NeoShell on the exterior with its Power Shield and highly breathable Alpha insulation on the interior. Polartec Alpha also plays center stage in Brooks-Range’s Ultimate Brisa (MSRP $299), coupled with Power Dry under the arms for moisture wicking; and in Arc’teryx’s men’s Argus and women’s Gaea jackets (MSRPs $189/$179).

Polartec_MarmotMistoJacket
BrooksRange_UltimateBrisa

Outdoor Research’s Superlayer Jacket (MSRP $225) turns to PrimaLoft’s 65-gram continuous filament synthetic insulation inside a breathable softshell woven face and an inner mesh liner move moisture faster. Patagonia uses stretch throughout its Nano-Air Hoody, including within the 60-gram poly fill and face fabric to promote a full range of motion. And La Sportiva (#11027) unveils its Spirex insulation — a fixed layer of PrimaLoft Eco fibers without sewn baffles — in its Spire (for men) and Dalilah (for women) jackets (MSRPs N/A), which also employ Polygiene to reduce odor.

OutdoorResearch_SuperlayerJacket
Patagonia_NanoAirHoody

Merino wool proponents will tell you nothing does a better job at insulation and temperature regulation than merino wool, so no surprise to see a several new pieces here in the category, such as SmartWool’s PhD SmartLoft Divide Hoody Sport (MSRP $260). It uses a mix of three different insulations. There’s a 60-gram spun wool insulation through the core and hood, as well as in part of the back and arms; the brand’s HyFi nylon-face/merino next-to-skin layer appears on the inner arms and good portion of the back; and a DWR-treated version of the latter is on top of the shoulders.

SmartWool_PhDSmartLoftDivideHoodySport

See what's new in the rest of the insulation outerwear category in our coverage here.

--David Clucas

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