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Feathers or Fiber? The Magic Jacket

When it's time to go shopping in a mountain store, my wife usually tells me in a humorous tone:

You'll be happy, you're going to the toy store today! And are right.

Two days before, Marcelo had called me to accompany him, since he wanted to buy "one of those jackets that give warmth and do not occupy almost na".

Melo, as he likes to be called, is a great guy, funny, lively, has a few years and a lot of mountain in his legs, is not a man of great mountain adventures, but he likes to make his incursions by Piris or Picos without complicating his life. One day this summer he commented that he would like to ascend the Aneto and a week later we were there.

Feathers or Fiber

We crowned, but we could not stay long on top because the weather forecast was not very good, predicting some rain and lower temperatures. The forecast came true and when we arrived at the bus stop to return to Benasque we had to wait a long time in the Besurta. The atmosphere was cool, humid, and seeing that my colleague was getting cold I took out a jacket that I always carry as a backpack, he put it under the gore and little by little was getting warm.


Already at dinner, celebrating his ascension, he told me that the activity had been very good, but what he would remember most was the cold he had spent waiting for the bus. Thank goodness you had that "moñigo" because if not with the tembleque I lose all the fillings! What I liked best was that you put your hand in the backpack, took out a small lump, and abracadabra! I burst out laughing and after sharing a good time of laughter he told me: as soon as I get home I'm going to buy one. With more tranquility he asked me what material those jackets were made of and which one he should buy. Everything is related to the use you are going to give him, I answered. I'm going to try to explain it to you in a simple, general way, without going into very technical things so as not to drive you crazy, I'm going to tell you only the basics, then if you want to know more you'll have to investigate, and if you do you'll realize that not everything is black or white, that gray also exists, so here I go.

Besurta Zone

The materials used to make this type of jacket can be feather or fiber. Their function, to be exact, is not to give heat, but to retain the heat that we generate.

Feather Jacket

The feather, what is used is down (does not have the cannons of the feather). Generally, feathered garments are more expensive, they cannot get wet, if they do they lose their effectiveness. Once wet, they must be left to dry very well since they rot with prolonged humidity. They compress and expand better than the fiber. They are warmer and lighter garments. The life of the feather is longer than the fiber. Recommended to reinforce the sleeping bag to be warmer. It is very useful for dry and very cold days. The feather is measured in cubic inches, unit used to measure the Fill Power, capacity of inflation of the down, the more cuins more insulating capacity, can go from 400 to 850 cuins. The amount of down vs. cannons is determined by indications on the garment, for example 90/10 (90 of down and 10 of cannons or feathers). The best down is made of goose. It is taken from the neck and chest because of its greater volume at equal weight.

Fiber Jacket

The fiber, there are several types, Primaloft, Thinsulate, Thermolite, Polartec Alpha, Corelof ... The ability to dry and breathability is very good, can dry in half an hour, compared to the feathers that take one or two days. Wet continues to work, this means that if we sweat a lot, rain or snow, continues to give us performance. It can be used as a second layer.It can be compressed under gore-tex and feathered garments cannot. Recommended for aerobic activity or close to humidity. The amount of fiber is measured in grams per square meter to more grams plus heat, the measures go from 40 to 130 gr.

These are the black and white. Now let's talk about the gray


There are other alternatives such as hybrids, combination of feathers and fibers, in the most exposed sites fibers, in the other feathers. They are somewhat more expensive and do not retain heat equally everywhere. Also the hydrofuged of the feather is another of the techniques that are used and it avoids that this one absorbs the humidity, against it we can say that it is compressed worse. Other manufacturers choose to cover the garment with a waterproof membrane, but it weighs more, compresses less and perspires less. We could continue to develop the subject but I think that this is enough, as I have said I do not want to drive you crazy and I would like you to be left with few things but clear, there will be time to go into technicalities. Almost na! exclaimed Melo.

Compression bag

Final stretch of the ascent to Aneto

The next day while we were packing, with his wool sweater in one hand and his cotton t-shirt in the other, Melo told me with an air of nostalgia in his eyes "the old must be giving way to the new and this is and will be so, but maybe it would be important not to forget where we come from, don't you think? Passing my arm over his shoulder, I patted him on the back and exclaimed, "you are a wise man! And he said, "no, I'm just getting old.


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