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Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:18 pm
by PeterHS
Hi all,

Here's another thread starter for ten .....

Has anyone had experience of the new(ish) North Face Thermoball 'down' jackets? Are they worth it? How does the cost and warmth efficiency compare to down? Or is good old down the best? I know Thermoball is said to stay warm even when wet and is equal in warmth to down insulation but ..... how often in practice does one find oneself (in the Western Cape) needing to wear down in the rain/snow? I'm curious, as always, to know your experience and opinion.

Is Thermoball the way ahead? Or is it a load of marketing 'ball'?!

Ciao,

Peter

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:30 pm
by elpatogallina
Hi Peter, I tend to get cold really easily and so I bought myself a North Face Thermoball jacket. It's more for a chilly spring night than an actual cold winters day. I was disappointed with it as I was expecting it to keep me warm in winter; it definitely doesn't keep you warm if the temperature is less than 15 degrees.

I also have a down jacket that is not even 100% down and I wore it in Canada when it was minus 10 degrees and that worked better than the North Face Thermoball. Not a fan.

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:37 pm
by PeterHS
Thanks elpatogallina. I am not surprised. The new jacket looked too thin for me and doesn't have that comfort feeling that a well puffed up down jacket has. I think that's more than psychological but I am interested in what others think too. It may be that not many have yet bought or used as the product is still pretty new. Thanks for the reply though :). P

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:09 pm
by Justin
Short answer: Down

Long answer:
Lets start at the beginning....
- What is your intended (activity) use?
- What do you want the jacket to do for you?

I see from your profile that you climb (trad and sport), hike, camp, general outdoor, cycle & row....

- Sport Climbing: Keep a full down jacket with you and check the weather report to avoid getting wet
- Trad Climbing: Lightweight waterproof jacket + fleece / soft shell (maybe take Down along for keeping warm at lunch)
- Hiking: Down + lightweight waterproof jacket + fleece / soft shell (maybe take Down along for keeping warm at lunch)
- Cycle: Different gear - perhaps you might use a wind shell
- Row: Different gear - perhaps you might use a fleece / wind shell
- Camp/Outdoor All of the above

For the most part you are always moving (sweating) and your down jacket only is used for Sport Climbing, whilst at camp, walking.

That said I have a very nice synthetic Arcteryx jacket which is awesome, but my First Ascent down keeps me warmer (particularly when you are not moving).

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:06 pm
by PeterHS
Thanks, Justin, for your thoughtful and comprehensive reply. Layering of course is always key and which layers depend very much on which activity and the prevalent conditions. I know the Arcteryx ones and I have a Marmot fleece/shell that I bought in England 6 years ago that is awesome - which I wore whilst on the Hex traverse this weekend.

But, I am interested in knowing what people make of Thermoball too ......

Have fun,

P

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:43 pm
by mokganjetsi
from what i gather thermoball is a glorified synthetic filling, which TNF claims compares to down in its warmth-weight ratio. it does seem quite overpriced and have some doubts as to whether or not it will match the toastiness high quality down, but only users will be able to say. for the price i would be inclined to buy a downie....

that said, i am a huge fan of both down and synthetic filling though. to be fair, one has to compare apples with apples - and in that spirit:
i love a fat, lofty down jacket for winter excursions in the cederberg & Berg - incomparable warmth-to-weight ratio and keeps you toasty (not sweaty) over a wide range of temps. it is pricey so to preserve it i do not use it for much else.
washing down is a pain; synthetic fillings you can toss in the washing machine - definitely lends itself more to being a day-to-day jacket.
i have a MHW Compressor primaloft jacket that beats the pants off any fleece i've owned - very toasty but lightweight; compresses nicely; great for layering and can wash it every now & then.i wear it almost on a daily basis during the cape winter; its been going strong for 6 or 7-years (recently bought a new one as this one is coming to the end of its life).
oh, and the lightweight part is not only the fill, it is also the shell material - there are some weighty synthetic-fill jackets out there.

as i said, i think the thermoball is overpriced and you could look at something like this as a good value-for-money buy (it is a tad heavy though):
http://www.firstascent.co.za/shop/mens-compass-jacket/

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 7:30 pm
by Justin
What is the price on the Thermoball?

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 8:00 pm
by Justin
The only two I could find (at Duesouth) were: The vest version marked down from R2499.00 to R1679.00

The full women version (below) goes for R3449.00
Personally... lovely jacket for chilling, sport climbing and hiking, but not the sort of gear with which I would choose to go 'exploring'. A tear would irk me too much.

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:32 pm
by PeterHS
Justin,

Thanks. MMO has the men's North Face thermoball jacket at R2935 - see https://www.mountainmailorder.co.za/ind ... uctId=3219. Or 10% less if an MCSA or City Rock member.

MMO sell the men's First Ascent Extreme Glacier down jacket for R3500, without discount. see https://www.mountainmailorder.co.za/ind ... oductId=13

So, there's not a lot of difference in price - say, 25c per day if one plans to keep for 5 years.

I was more intrigued by whether the stuff actually matched up to the sales hype......

P

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:03 am
by mokganjetsi
comparing to the extreme glacier is a huge mismatch - like a land cruiser vs a cross polo :wink: my guess is the extreme glacier will rate around -15 dgrees C and the thermoball around 0. you should look to compare jackets of similar weight.

the REI users absolutely rave about the thermoball, but partly because it is priced well compared to down in the States
https://www.rei.com/product/870199/the- ... acket-mens

locally you can get this which i guess will give you very similar performance and more bang-for-buck
http://www.firstascent.co.za/shop/mens- ... wn-jacket/

i see TNF claims thermoball is comparable to 600-fill down which means the MHW Nitrous jacket (800-fill) will give you more warmth for less $$$s....but then the thermoball gives the option of regular washing
https://www.mountainmailorder.co.za/ind ... uctId=2668

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:13 am
by Justin
mokganjetsi wrote:the thermoball gives the option of regular washing
Between you and me I don't really wash my down jacket :)

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:15 am
by PeterHS
Thanks for the research and comments mokganjetsi. I understand. I drive a Landcruiser ...... P

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 11:40 am
by Old Smelly
Just to throw a brick in your potjiekos...

Thermoball is waaay better than anything comparable for it's size and weight- that is obvious!

I have carried around a down jacket and hardly ever found it cold enough to justify it...sometimes top of the Berg in winter but otherwise combinations of goretex jackets and light fleeces generally do. My opinion is that the only person who needs a full size down jacket in SA is a poser... :jocolor:

Justin is on to something about softshells and light fleeces - much better for our climate...

So what is good for use in cold weather in the Cape - the Cape Storm BELAY jacket - toasty and synthetic - the down side (Bad Pun?) is that you can't get them anymore as First Ascent has turned Cape Storm into a cheap Chinese goods brand...

Mok has it right, compare the Thermoball with similar lightweight mid layers and then justify it compared to a heavier fleece - if you understand the States then you may understand the function - there are many lightweight synthetic and down mid layers by Montbell, Mountain Hardwear etc. The Thermoball is one of the best of those.

Ultimately the Thermoball is much better suited to our climate then a full spec down jacket - which is generally overkill...

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 12:06 pm
by garethza
I have one.

I have used it as my only layer for a whole english winter as well as during a ski trip to france where it was averaging at about 0 degrees and it has kept me warm regardless. When it gets wet it gets a bit sticky but still keeps you insulated a bit unless you jump into a pool of water kind of wet.

It also packs up into its pocket with a climbing friendly tag for a krab to go through which gets extra points IMO! Only downside of using a down jacket for climbing is thats its very easy to rip - thats where a good fleece comes in handy

Gareth

Re: Thermoball - A hot buy or just too cool?

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 4:40 pm
by Xana
I absolutely love my Thermoball jacket!
I do agree that it cannot be compared to a full-on down jacket - if you are going to be in serious cold, (like some way below 0) rather have down.
The Thermoball however is great for the Cape Town winter - I wear it over a t-shirt.
I used it in the Cederberg and Montagu in July (camping and climbing) and simply added some base layers on the frosty mornings - worked perfect and not bulky at all. Also great for belaying (sport) when chilly at the crag.
Worked great on our 8 day Naukluft hike (Namibia) in early August - its super light and packs super small and kept me comfortable during the cold desert evenings out in the open.
I find it a superb product if bought for the right purpose.
As a mid-layer or on its own I would imagine it ranks pretty high.
The price does make one think about it though ...

Ana