Are You Wasting Your High-Tech Active Insulation?

It's pretty revolutionary, really. Insulation that breathes to keep you comfortable whether you're moving fast or taking a snack break. Pieces like our UberLayer Hooded Jacket and the Deviator Hoody can make high-exertion activities in chilly weather much less soggy and clammy. If you layer them right, that is. We chatted with designer Melanie Sirirot to find out what mistakes many people make when they're wearing active insulation pieces, and how to use them most effectively to keep yourself comfortable—so you can go farther. Here are her tips.

Add active insulation over a base layer—never over something that blocks the wind. "The key is to let the layers to their job," Melanie says. "The jacket should be worn over a base layer or light fleece, but not over anything that’s windblocking. In dry conditions, snow, or even light rain the jacket will perform best being worn as the outerlayer. You’ve basically combined your insulative layer and outerlayer into one."

You can use it as a mid-layer. "The active insulation jacket serves as your insulation layer and your outerlayer. It can also be used for warmth under a shell, in place of fleece," Melanie says. "For example, I use the UberLayer under my ski shell. The woven fabric glides better against the brushed tricot shell lining, and I don’t get sweaty and then chilled as I would if layering with down."

Don't be afraid to leave it on for the uphill. "Because of the breathability of the fabrics, in cooler temperatures you should be able to regulate your heat output by unzipping the jacket or pushing up the sleeves," Melanie says. "With traditional puffies, people take the jacket off to go uphill, then put it on when they stop. The concept of the Active Insulation is that you can put the jacket on and leave it on."

Trust its water repelling power—you might not need another outer shell. "DWR-treated woven face fabric can repel a fair amount of moisture," she says. "Except in a true downpour, you don’t need a waterproof jacket over this layer."

Use it for what it's best for—moving. If you're shopping for insulation, ask yourself what conditions you'll be using it for. "If you’re looking for maximum warmth in really cold, wet, or windy conditions and you’re mostly sitting around—belaying or at camp—it may not be the best choice for you," she explains. "But if you want something with the warmth of fleece but the weather protection of softshell, the active insulation is the perfect choice."