This guide will help you choose the right-down jacket to keep you warm in the great outdoors.
The outdoorsy no longer need a high-quality down jacket. Pop stars, politicians, and princesses all have been photographed in a puffa. A down jacket is truly at its best when it is used outdoors.
Knowing what you need to look out for before buying a down jacket can be difficult. We have created a guide to help you choose the right jacket.
What is DOWN?
The natural insulation layer that ducks and geese have is down. It helps to keep them warm even in below-freezing temperatures. It’s usually grey or white and appears like small fluff clusters. These small clusters form millions of air pockets heated by our bodies and kept in place by the down.
Despite substantial investment in synthetic insulation, humans are still far from the insulation power of down, which has the highest warmth-to-weight ratio anywhere on the planet.
Consider that ducks and geese are often casualties of the down trade when choosing a jacket. We recommend you choose “traceable” or “certified responsibly-sourced down”, which allows manufacturers to trace down the source and harvesting practices of the down suppliers.
SYNTHETIC OR DOWN?
Choosing a down jacket instead of synthetic insulation has many pros and cons.
PROS OF DOWN
- The best warmth-to-weight ratio
- Longer-lasting: Down is more durable than synthetic materials.
- Better compression
CONSIDERATIONS OF DOWN
- When it gets wet, it loses its insulation ability.
- Less durable. The majority of synthetic jackets can withstand a scrape or two. Down leaks easily from even the smallest tear.
- More expensive (but longer-lasting).
- For their down, animals are used.
If you are going to be outside in cold and dry conditions, or if your jacket can keep you dry in wet weather, a down jacket is the best choice.
If you are going to be in wet conditions and where performance and recovery are more important than bulk and weight, then synthetic insulation is the best choice.
DO YOU GO DOWN OR DUCK?
Goose down is generally warmer than duck down and weighs less. Goose down is, therefore, more expensive.
Peter at the summit of Aconcagua wearing his Mountain Equipment Skyline Jacket
However, duck down of high quality can offer better insulation than goose down of low quality, so check your down’s quality (or ‘fill power).
DOWN FILL POWER
Fill power is a measure of the quality of down. This refers to the volume one ounce (or more) of down takes up in a climate-controlled test tube. The higher the down occupies, the greater the warmth-to-weight ratio.
It is a good rule of thumb:
- High quality is defined as 650 fill power
- Fill power between 750 and 850 is considered to be high quality.
- The best quality is 900+ Fill Power.
Notice: There are two main ways to measure fill power for the same quality. The ‘US method is slightly more accurate than the EU method. A fill power of 800+ using the EU method is approximately the same as an 800+ fill power using the US method.
A jacket with a higher fill power does not necessarily make it warmer. Eight ounces 850 fill down might be warmer than 12 ounces 650. The first has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio. Because it has less down, it is more compressible.
The average down jacket will lose its loft in heavy downpours. It will get heavy and wet and take a while to dry completely.
Hydrophobic down is down that has been treated with a durable water repellent (DWR). Hydrophobic down repels water as well as synthetic insulation. While this is open to debate, it is advisable to purchase a down jacket with a DWR treatment, at least on the face fabric, if you are travelling in a wet region. Hydrophobic down is also an option if you have the budget.
Baffles are the insulation sections in your jacket. They evenly distribute down, keeping it from gathering at its bottom. Your jacket’s baffle construction can impact its performance.