Down jackets are the de facto standard of winter clothing. They're light, flexible, warm and so far, no one's been able to make something better. Well, until now. North Face might've just made a jacket that's better than down. It's called ThermoBall.
The new ThermoBall jacket looks like your run of the mill down coat, which is to say it has horizontal pockets lined with fluffy, pillowy material. But unlike down, which craps the bed when it gets wet, ThermoBall manages to maintain its usefulness even when it's wet. The trick is that Thermoball uses synthetic material, which is resistant to moisture, as its base material. But then, wait, we all know synthetic jackets are worse than down because they're heavier, less able to trap the coziness of your body's warmth and more of a pain to pack. So what kind of devilry magic is ThermoBall using? Balls.
Quite literally, ThermoBall is made from tiny, furry little balls that re-create the down feel even though the base material is polyester. So instead of feathers, you have what looks like balls of feather that are just as good at compressing and clustering together to envelope your body's shape and trap body heat even though it's a synthetic material. Which lets ThermoBall mimic the best of down—the lightness, the softness, the warmth, and flexibility—with the best of regular old synthetic jackets—the ability to stay insulated and warm even when wet. When I put on the North Face ThermoBall jacket, it felt exactly like a down jacket, in fact, I didn't even notice a difference. So if it can withstand the wetness of winter like North Face says it can, well, I think we've all found our next winter coat.
The ThermoBall jacket won't be out until mid-summer 2012 and is expected to cost somewhere in the $200-$300 range but for die hard winter lovers, ThermoBall jackets might very well be the jacket innovation we've been waiting for. [The North Face]