New North Face's Thermo Ball insulation technology is claimed to combine the best properties of down and synthetic insulation.
We're just back from a couple of days brand-browsing in the Lakes, which included a visit to the guys at The North Face for a look not just at what's out imminently for this spring, but also a quick preview of the autumn winter kit out in September, 2013.
And the star of the show was definitely Thermo Ball insulation. It's a new synthetic filling developed by TNF in partnership with PrimaLoft and exclusive to the brand for three years. It's interesting stuff that's reckoned to essentially be a synthetic insulation that mimics down in the way it behaves, but without the down - ahem - sides of the natural filling, principally its aversion to water and damp conditions and need for special washing and drying care.
Littel Balls Of Warmth
The insulation is composed of synthetic clusters, effectively little knots of the synthetic fibres, which says TNF, gives a warmth to weight ratio around the same as 600+ fill power down and is both compressible and water resistant.
Look at it up close and you can see exactly where the Thermo Ball name came from, it looks like a pile of fluffy little balls. It was actually due to launch last year, but had to be delayed to optimise baffle construction, mostly we reckon, because any fill shaped like little balls is likely to migrate inside the baffle, like, well, balls really.
But now it's sorted and the resulting Thermo Ball Hoody jackets in both men's and women's versions use a cross-quilted, micro-baffled pattern - square on the men's and diamond shaped on the women's - to hold the fill securely in place.
A quick, utterly, unscientific, showroom try-on suggested that they are light, comfortable, with a down-like softness to the fill and warmer than we'd expect from the weight for a synthetic jacket thanks to the use of lightweight fabrics and that Thermo Ball fill.
Price of the jacket in men's and women's versions is £150 come September. And if, like us, you were thinking maybe it's an alternative to the new, all-pervasive, water-repellent down technologies, The North Face has that too with exclusive, Teflon-treated Pro Down also due out later this year.
More on the spring 2013 highlights and other autumn products shortly. Current TNF range at www.thenorthface.com.