Unless it's super cold, think of a splitboarding insulation layer as the thing you throw on at rest or summit stops. Depending on what else you've got in your layering system, it could be outerwear for the descent too. Sticking a warm layer over the top of everything else when you stop doesn't just keep you warm during a low activity phase, it also helps to dry out sweat soaked base and midlayers too. There are some lightweight pieces out there these days that function well whilst active too. Garments like the Patagonia Nano Air Hoody are designed to be breathable enough to be worn all day, even in the skin track. Although they are likely to be too warm for the uphill on milder days.
You've got a couple of choices when it comes to the garment's fill - down or synthetic. The differences are well-known; down is usually lighter, has a better warmth to weight ratio and packs smaller. Synthetic insulations usually stand up better to moisture and are easier to dry out. Both categories are evolving though and the lines are becoming blurred. Down that's been treated with a water repellant treatment doesn't wilt so quick in the wet and there are some synthetic insulations out there that are as soft, light and warm as down. Some manufacturers use both down and synthetic fill in the same garment in an attempt to maximise the effectiveness of both. A new breed of super air permeable synthetic insulations enable some garments to be worn even whilst working hard in the skin track too.
A lightweight hooded synthetic piece that's compressible, warm for its weight and can work as an outerlayer, or as a midlayer in cold temps. Thermoball insulation is 100% synthetic but feels extremely soft - kinda like down. The Thermoball Hoody is perfect extra layer to carry in a pack.
- 15d super light shell
- Thermoball insulation is soft and compressible
- Resistant to moisture
- 375g - very light
- Works great as a midlayer for regular riding or for general wear
Verto Prima Hoody
The Verto Prima Hoody uses high-end goose down in the body for warmth combined with Primaloft synthetic insulation in the arms for added weather protection. It's a pretty cool concept and is especially good as an active layer in very cold conditions or as a super light and compressible summit / rest jacket.
- 800 fill power down in the body
- Primaloft Gold through the sleeves
- Stuffs down very small into its own pocket
- Pertex Quantum shell fabric are super light
- Close fitting hood adds warmth and protection
- Weight 255g!
Nano Air Hoody
The much lauded Nano Air Hoody is the most prominent jacket on the market in the new ”active synthetic insulation’ category. Patagonia claim the FullRange insulation used in the Nano Air is breathable enough to use all day, even when climbing steep sweaty skin tracks. The Nano Air is indeed ridiculously air permeable – almost as much as a fleece, although I’d say it still may be a little warm for most riders to wear all day unless temps are pretty low. The Nano Air is also stretchy and just super comfortable to wear. Beware the very soft shell and lining fabrics are designed to promote air flow and comfort rather than be durable and weatherproof though, so the Nano Air gives up a little in robustness compared to other garments here.
- Super breathable
- Air permeable fabrics though out
- Warm and compressible 80gm insulation is also stretchy
- Perfect for all day use on cold days in place of a soft shell / fleece
- Also works as an outerlayer – though not completely windproof by any means
Nano Air Vest
Don't underestimate the usefulness of a vest - especially a synthetic one like the Nano Air. Perfect for adding warmth without hindering freedom of movement when skinning, it can be worn over a midlayer on a windy ridge to add just enough extra warmth, or over a shell at summit and rest stops. A super useful garment to have in your quiver. See also the Arc'teryx Atom LT Vest.
- Mega breathable and comfortable to wear
- Great underneath or over the top of other layers
- Chest pocket is easy to get to in the skin track whilst wearing a pack
- Weight 252g
Nano Puff Hoody
Another piece of super classic insulation from Patagonia, the Nano Puff Hoody is light, tough and weatherproof. It makes a perfect layer to throw on over a shell when things get gnarly or as a backup in case of emergencies.
- 60gm Primaloft Gold insulation
- Warm even when wet
- Very compressible
- Recycled polyester ripstop shell
- Internal chest pocket doubles as a suff sack
- Very light at 357g
Atom LT Hoody
A super classic piece from Arc'teryx, the Atom LT Hoody is a great all round insulation layer for splitboarding. The 60gm Coreloft insulation provides a good balance of warmth and weight and the soft, air permeable Tyono 20 outer fabric provides good weather resistance and durability. The Atom LT's key ingredient though are the Powerstretch side and under arm panels. These give the garment enhanced breathability and really cut the overall bulk of the jacket down. The hood is ace and the usual Arc'teryx refinements like stretchy cuffs and lined pockets are all there. The Atom LT Hoody sits somewhere between the really light jackets out there and the heavier, warmer and more protective ones making it a really versatile choice for the splitboarder who wants a garment that will work across many situations.
- Powerstretch side and under arm panels increase breathability and decrease bulk
- Snug fitting adjustable hood
- Super soft and comfortable cuffs
- 60gm insulation is light and packable but still quite warm
- A versatile choice for many splitboarding situations
- Weight 360g
Nuclei AR + SL Hoody
Both the Nuclei AR and SL are new to the Arc'teryx range for winter 2015 / 2016 and they are both great options for backcountry use.
The Nuclei SL is very light and super simple having just a couple of pockets and a hood. It's filled with 80 Coreloft (60gm sleeves and side panels) and has an Arato 10 nylon shell. Unlike jackets like the Nano Air Hoody, for example, which might appear to be pretty similar, the Nuclei SL isn't designed as midlayer insualtion rather as a super light belay type jacket that will excel as an over the top type garment. It's ridiculously light at 290g and packs down incredibly small. It's windproof and water-resistant and will always find a place in a pack.
- Super light and packable
- Minimal features and streamlined fit
- A perfect lightweight outer layer when extra warmth is needed
- Works under or over a shell
- Weight 290g
The Nuclei AR is something of a half way house between the Nuclei SL and the Stikine and Fission SL below. It has 100gm Coreloft insulation which makes it a pretty warm proposition along with a seam taped Windstopper shell. This makes the Nuclei AR near as damn it waterproof. It also enables the jacket to trap even more air boosting its warmth to weight ratio. At 450g for such a warm and protective piece of insulation the Nuclei AR represents pretty much the perfect warmth / protection / weight / pack size balance for most splitboarding adventures.
- Gucci, high-end materials and construction
- Virtually waterproof
- Very warm for its weight
- The perfect all round, all-weather over layer
- Weight 450g
Stikine Jacket + Fission SL Jacket
The Stikine and Fission SL are two very similar Jackets. Both use Thermatek insulation and both are very much designed to function as outer layers in nasty conditions. The best way to look at both these jackets is as your trad shell and insulation rolled into one. Thermatek insulation doesn't absorb any water (it functions way better in the wet than Primaloft or Coreloft) and the fully taped Gore-Tex shell on both garments make them completely storm proof and a great choice for cold wet climates like the BC Coast Range or Alaska. They are both perfect to stick on at the summit to keep warm and keep on for the descent. Both the Stikine and Fission SL are expensive but impeccably made using the very best materials available. More about the Stikine Jacket here.
The Fission SL is super simple having just two hand pockets, two internal drop pockets and a mega Storm Hood.
- Gore-Tex shell ensures complete protection
- Pit zips dump heat
- Laminated 100gm Thermatek insulation is very hydrophobic
- Great for camp use or as a full on insulation / shell combo for wet places
- Weight 655g
The Stikine is a ski specific version of the Fission SL with a lightweight powder skirt and pockets that double up as vents for dumping heat on the skin track.
- Low Profile powder skirt keeps snow out
- Mesh backed pockets double as vents
- Gore-Tex shell
- Laminated 100gm Thermatek insulation
- Fully insulated Storm Hood
- Weight 665g
Cerium SV Hoody
You can't beat down for warmth vs weight and the Cerium SV Jacket is designed to maximise just that. It's light enough to carry yet provides enough insulation for the coldest days.
- High end 850 fill power down
- Down Composite Construction places synthetic Coreloft is areas exposed to moisture and compression - under arms, front of collar, cuffs, shoulders.
- Super light Airetica nylon shell fabric
- Insulated adjustable hood
- Weight 440g
Cold Forge Hoody
The Cold Forge Hoody uses the innovative Primaloft Gold Down Mix insulation. The filling is made up of 70% down and 30% Primaloft mixed together to get the best of both fibres. The down provides a high warmth to weight ratio and good packability and the Primaloft gives the jacket structure and stands up to moisture and weather. Full Black Diamond Cold Forge Hoody review here.
- Down synthetic hybrid insulation
- Great fit
- Perfect over layer in cold conditions
- Soft stretchy cuffs
- Big insulated hood
- Weight 575g
Deployment Hybrid Hoody
Another example of the new breed of active insulation pieces out there - the Deployment Hybrid Hoody uses 60gm Primaloft insulation with a stretchy shell over the hood, chest and arms and nylon faced Merino Wool on the front, back and under arms. The Primaloft areas provide warmth where it's needed and the Merino enhances breathability and mobility. Like the Patagonia Nano Air, the Deployment Hybrid Hoody would make a great 2nd layer instead of a fleece or soft shell to wear all day on really cold days.
- Hybrid construction of warm Primaloft and breathable Merino
- Adjustable hood
- Super accessible chest pockets
- Active fit
- Weight 530g
"Sticking a warm layer over the top of everything else when you stop doesn't just keep you warm during a low activity phase, it also helps to dry out sweat soaked base and midlayers too."
Lofoten Alpha 100 Jacket
The Lofoten Alpha Jacket is a pretty special garment. It uses mega breathable Polartec Alpha filling so can be used as an active layer but also has the features usually found on an outer layer insulation piece like a chest pocket and big adjustable hood. It's a jacket that covers multiple bases. Wear it all day over a baselayer without overheating too much or carry it as an extra layer to throw on over a snowy shell in gnarly conditions.
- Polartec Alpha insulation is super breathable
- Hand and chest pockets
- Big adjustable hood
- Suitable for both active use and rest phase use.
- Weight 480g
Lyngen Alpha 100 Vest
The Lyngen Alpha 100 vest is kinda weird, but kinda cool too. Vests are brilliant for splitboarding as they keep the core warm and protected but the arms free to move. Often sticking a synthetic vest over a fleece or softshell whilst skinning adds just the right amount of warmth without causing overheating. Adding a hood to the vest makes total sense as they are an easy way to regulate temperature on the go in the skin track.
- Super breathable Polartec Alpha insulation
- Close fitting hood
- Perfect for an extra layer on the go
- Packs into its own pocket
- Weight 263g
Super Down Jacket
As usual Trew manage to combine stylish looks into a really well thought out and technical product. The Super Down Jacket uses high quality 850 fill power water-resistant Quix Down that's baffles within a stretch nylon shell. Internal drop pockets are just what's needed on this kind of piece, as is the cosy collar and hood. The Super Down Jacket might be a touch heavy and warm for milder days but for extended trips or for splitboarding on really cold days it's gonna be awesome.
- 850 Fill power water-resistant down fill
- Stretch ripstop nylon outer
- Stitch through construction
- Big front drop pockets with hand pockets behind
- Internal drop pockets for keeping gloves warm
- Packs down into own pocket
- Weight approx 560g