For the best in cozy and lofty warmth, down jackets are in a class of their own. Find out answers to the most common questions and know how to choose a down jacket that’s right for you in this article.
1. What is Down Jackets?
A down jacket is a jacket which has been insulated with the soft and warm under feathers from duck or geese. Down insulation is obtained from geese and ducks: the smallest feathers found next to the skin. Generally speaking, goose down has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio and packs down smaller than duck. The warmth of a down jacket, or the 'loft', is measured by its fill power. The higher the fill power rating and the ‘loft’, the more warm air the down can trap, and the warmer and more packable the jacket.
The down fill of a jacket will be either goose down, duck down or a combination of the two. Goose down is often regarded as the warmest and lightest but duck down jackets, or jackets with a combination, are often cheaper.
2. What is Down Fill Power?
Down fill power is a measure of the loft or ‘fluffiness’ of the down and its insulating properties. The higher the fill power, the more air pockets in the down, so the more will be for its weight.
Fill power is calculated in laboratory conditions and is measured in cubic inches per ounce. Fill power ranges from 400 to 900. To test fill power an ounce of down is compressed by a weight in a glass cylinder. It’s ability to bounce back and ‘loft’ is calculated as the fill power.
Fill power is also an indication of the quality of the down used. The better the quality of down the higher the fill power. As less down is required to provide the same amount of warmth, jackets with a higher fill power tend to be lighter and more compressible.
The down jacket ratings will generally fall between 600 and 800.
3. Down Vs Synthetic Insulation
The main drawback of down insulation is that it loses its ability to retain heat if it gets wet, because this causes the down to stick together. Therefore, down jackets only perform well in dry conditions. Down jackets which have a hydrophobic (water resistant) coating are available, however, they still don't perform as well as synthetic insulation in wet conditions.
In synthetic fill jackets, man-made polyester strands are used to imitate the air-trapping down filaments to create pockets of warm air. These fibres are moisture-resistant, and retain their insulating properties when wet. If you plan to use your jacket in wet conditions or when you're highly active, synthetic insulation is the best choice.
4. Insulated jacket features
Baffles are the containing sections of insulation. Their purpose is to prevent the material from gathering in the bottom of your jacket and evenly distribute the insulation across the jacket. The way the baffle is constructed can affect how well your jacket performs.
There are two types for down jackets, Sewn Through or Box Baffle.
This is the most common and generally the cheapest type of down jacket. It is simpler, less time consuming and as less material is used, cheaper to make. Stitch-through baffles keep the insulation evenly distributed. However, the stitched areas can cause heat to be lost.
This method maximises the loft and warmth of the down fill. Each separate baffle has its own section of down. This allows less pinching, meaning loft can be maximised and “cold spots” minimised. Box wall baffles allow the insulation to expand to its maximum loft, and the stitching is designed to reduce heat loss. Jackets made this way are generally thicker and warmer than sewn through versions but as extra material is required and they more complex to make, box baffle jackets are often more expensive.
The materials used for the outer shell will have an effect on the jackets performance in four vital ways:
-Waterproofness / Breathability
5. Durability & Weight
A super lightweight down jacket will be made with a thin, light material for the outer shell. Although ideal for reducing weight they can be more vulnerable to snagging and abrasions. This type of jacket is great if you are wearing it now and again on cold days. If you are looking for a jacket to wear regularly for many years to come, it is worth looking for a slightly heavier and thicker outer shell which will last far longer.
A down jacket should not be too fitted or too loose. You should allow for adding layers underneath but ensure it’s not too roomy as cold air could get in through the hem and arms. Down jackets tend to be heavier than regular waterproof jackets or wool coats so remember you need a bit of room in it to allow you to move about.
Hoods – A hood will help add extra warmth but will also add bulk. If you are wearing a down jacket as a mid-layer, i.e. under a waterproof coat, you may consider wearing a jacket without a hood. If you’re going to be using your jacket in very cold, low-activity environments then a jacket with an insulated hood may benefit you. Conversely, if you’re looking for a packable, lightweight garment to keep your core warm, then a hood may just add bulk and weight.
Cuffed waist and wrists – Help to seal in the warmth.
Pockets – Padded lined pockets are ideal for cold hands.
Still not sure which insulated jacket is right for you? Contact us for advice from our experts.
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