[Feature image by Victor Xok]
Trees and rooftops dressed in glistening, feathery crystals are a beautiful scene, but the winter cold can sure be a b*tch.
That’s why we did some research on the best warmth technology fabrics to wear so that you can enjoy the moment without feeling plain miserable.
What did we find? A lot of needlessly complicated wording in the marketing, a lot of ®™, and a generous use of the word “innovative.” However that isn’t to say these fabrics aren’t innovative, or “innovatively engineered.” And they probably will keep you pretty damn warm.
So here are 12 Warmth Technology Fabrics to wear this winter:
Material: Merino wool that’s undergone a “proprietary treatment”
Technology: Merino wool has a natural loft, or airiness, that traps heat between its fibers, making it warmer than synthetic fabrics of the same weight. Smartwool’s treatment then makes the wool resistant to shrinking, odor, and bacteria.
The company also uses thermal body mapping to efficiently construct its clothing for warmth and comfort. Their “smart” distribution uses more wool in areas where the body tends to get cold and less wool where the body tends to get hot.
Qualities: Merino sheep have the finest and softest wool. In addition, Smartwool’s treatment makes the fabric itch-free, moisture wicking, and odor-reducing.
You’ll find that many fabrics on this list have antimicrobial qualities, meaning they are resistant to bacteria and odor. Just note that this chemical finish has caused some controversy, as MIT has found that clothing chemicals, which are basically pesticides, could be harmful to human cells.
Price range: Pricey, though not alarmingly so. The warmth-tech tops are about $90, while the jackets are $200.
Material: Synthetic fiber
Technology: Hollow synthetic fibers trap warm air the way heavy wool would, but they are lightweight instead of bulky. To make this synthetic insulation fabric soft, Uniqlo treats HeatTech with milk proteins and amino acids.
Uniqlo teamed up with global textile maker Toray to develop this new material, and they apparently created more than 10,000 prototypes. The company claims “HEATTECH cannot be made with ordinary equipment.”
Qualities: This fabric traps warmth while being lightweight. It is moisture wicking, odor-reducing, and antimicrobial.
Price range: Definitely the most affordable line on this list, with shirts at $15-$25, and long underpants at $15
NanoStitch® Heating Fabrics
Material: Polyamide yarn infused with coffee-bean shells
Technology: Natural polyamides are proteins in wool and silk. NanoStitch creates a synthetic polyamide, or “heat yarn,” made from coffee-bean shells, which hold coffee charcoal. The charcoal and oxide particles embedded in this yarn absorb body heat while trapping it in the fabric.
Human bodies radiate heat in cold weather to keep warm. NanoStich’s fabric provides insulation and prevents the heat from escaping us. According to their site, several tests have shown that this heat-retaining yarn increases warmth by 10°C when compared to other standard fabrics.
Qualities: This heat-trapping fabric is antimicrobial, anti-odor, and moisture wicking
Price range: It was impossible to find pricing online, so we reached out to the NanoStitch’s parent company, Liebaert. It turns out the fabrics aren’t in any products that are commercially available at the moment, but you can contact them for bespoke orders.
Material: Synthetic fibers
Technology: Thinsulate fibers are thinner than polyester, at 15 micrometers in diameter. These extremely thin fibers are woven with high density to form a heat-trapping fabric that still allows for moisture to escape. Thinsulate has different lines such as “flame resistant,” “featherless,” “stretch,” etc. Odor-resistant Thinsulate uses something called “precious metal technology” for warmth and anti-odor properties.
Qualities: Lightweight heat insulation, moisture wicking
Price range: Like NanoStich, Thinsulate is a fabric instead of a clothing brand. You can find Thinsulate in Carhartt products, with jackets ranging from $130-190, and hats at $20.
North Face Thermoball™
Material: Synthetic microfiber as an alternative to down
Technology: PrimaLoft® is a patented synthetic microfiber. It was actually developed as a thermal insulation material for the U.S. military in the 80s. North Face teamed up with PrimaLoft to create Thermoball, a synthetic alternative to down.
Most synthetic insulation comes in a flat roll, like roofing or wall insulation. But PrimaLoft fibers are small and round, and they bunch closely to mimic down clusters. This traps heat in small air pockets to retain warmth. Unlike natural down, synthetic down keeps its loft, or airiness, even when wet, so you’ll be warm regardless of damp snow and rain.
Qualities: This synthetic down provides lightweight and waterproof insulation.
Price range: Also pricey but not exceedingly pricey. The heat-insulating vests are $150, and the jackets are $220.
Arc’teryx Coreloft™ Insulation
Material: Polyester fibers
Technology: Coreloft is a non-woven insulation fabric. It’s formed by crimping polyester fibers of mixed sizes so that they trap air pockets of heat. The larger, stronger fibers help resist compaction so that the material retains its loft or airiness.
Qualities: Lightweight heat insulation and poofy-ness in damp conditions
Price range: Coreloft fabric is found in many Arc’teryx products. These have a higher price tag, with sweaters and light jackets ranging from $100-200, pants at $300-400, and heavier jackets at $550-950.
Under Armour ColdGear® Infrared
Material: Micro-fleece and ceramic
Technology: UA’s ColdGear has a soft, “thermo-conductive coating” that absorbs your body heat and retains it. A brushed micro-fleece lining offers warmth and comfort, and a strip of ceramic embedded between layers helps heat the body.
Under Armour also used infrared imaging to detect and pinpoint heat loss when designing and testing this clothing.
Qualities: This heating fabric is soft, lightweight, moisture wicking, and antimicrobial
Price range: A shirt is around $50, and a jacket is $200
Duofold® by Champion
Material: Stretch polyester blend
Technology: Two layers of fabric plate together, trapping a layer of heat in between. This gives you the warmth of three layers (two layers forming a “heat sandwich”) while feeling like a single layer.
There’s also this thing called “Champion Vapor Technology,” which makes the fabric ultra moisture wicking. So it traps warm vapor, but it keeps you dry.
Qualities: This insulation fabric is lightweight and moisture wicking
Price range: These fall on the affordable end, with a shirt at $15-30, and long underpants at $25-40
Material: Trademarked synthetic fibers, polyester, merino wool
Technology: Similar to Champion’s Duofold, ColdPruf also uses “two-layer engineering.” The heat trapped between layers provides a barrier of warmth.
Coldpruf’s technical fiber polyester has SILVADUR™ for “intelligent freshness,” which basically means that it also uses anti-bacteria and anti-odor chemicals.
Qualities: This heat insulation fabric is anti-odor and anti-bacterial
Price range: ColdPruf’s Thermachoice is quite affordable, with a shirt at $25-35, and long underpants at $18
Eastern Mountain Sports Techwick®
Material: Hydrophobic and hydrophilic synthetic fibers, cotton, polyester
Technology: Techwick uses drirelease® yarns, a patented blend of 90% hydrophobic (water-resistant) fibers and 10% hydrophilic (water-absorbing) fibers. This fiber blend wicks moisture away from the body and dries 4x faster than cotton. Eastern Mountain Sports then adds a cotton polyester blend to the drirelease® material for comfort.
Although this fabric is antimicrobial, it claims to use no harmful chemicals.
Qualities: This heat insulation fabric is moisture wicking, antimicrobial, and has UV protection
Price range: Affordable, with shirts and sweaters at $15-30, and light zip-ups at $60
Icebreaker BodyFit Zone™
Material: Merino wool, Lycra® (like Spandex)
Technology: Icebreaker uses Merino wool for warmth and stretchy Lycra to hug the body. Lycra is an elastic polyurethane fiber that expands with movement.
Icebreaker uses body mapping, so this “engineered” clothing will give you optimal warmth by focusing on the spots that get the coldest.
Qualities: This fabric offers thermal regulation, mobility, and comfort. It’s also moisture wicking and antimicrobial
Price range: This thermal athletic clothing is on the pricier end, with a shirt around $90-110 and compression pants at $90-110
Polartec® Thermal Pro®
Material: Synthetic fleece
Technology: This synthetic polyester knit uses “innovative techniques” that ensure moisture wicking and insulation. Polartec’s special weave traps warmth in air pockets while also safeguarding breathability. And a soft inner lining provides a comfortable, smooth fit against the skin at all times.
Patagonia and Moreno are brands that use Polartec’s power grid fabric.
Qualities: This lightweight insulation fabric is moisture wicking.
If you’re looking for safer, chemical-free insulation clothing that is also anti-bacterial, try Patagonia. Their products come with a higher price tag, but they’ve apparently worked with an institution called bluesign® technologies since 2000 to create products that are safe for the environment, safe for factory workers, and safe for end customers.
Price range: Patagonia fleeces are $95-120, while Moreno jackets are $90-120, and vests are $70.
So do you believe in the hype? Let us know in the comments below.
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