Find out answers to the most common questions and learn how to choose a down jacket that’s right for you in our down jacket guide.
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A down jacket is a jacket which has been insulated with the soft and warm under feathers from duck or geese. Down is a fantastic insulator as the loft (or fluffiness) of down creates thousands of tiny air pockets which trap warm air and retain heat, thus keeping the wearer very warm.
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.
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 and the more insulating the jacket will be for its weight.
|400 – 450||Medium|
|500 – 550||Good|
|550 – 750||Very Good|
|750 – 900||Excellent|
Fill power is calculated in laboratory conditions and is measured in cubic inches per ounce. 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.
Fill power ranges from 400 to 900. For down outerwear ratings will generally fall between 600 and 800.
Stay warm with this lightweight down jacket, the perfect packable layer for winter.
With a down fill power rating of 600, this water resistant jacket will keep you warm.
As well as fill power you will often see another figure associated with down jackets, this indicates the percentage of down to the percentage of feathers. Generally the higher the percentage of down to feather ratio the higher the fill power. As feathers do not provide any loft, the higher the percentage of feathers the lower the fill power and the less insulating the jacket will be.
There are two different rating systems, one is a US rating and the other is an EU rating. The US ratings have higher values than the EU, generally you would take off 100 when converting from US to EU eg a US rating of 600 would be 500 for EU rating. Be careful when comparing the two as this does not mean that a US rated jacket is warmer as it has a higher fill power.
Down feathers are much lighter than synthetic insulation so down jackets tend to be very lightweight in comparison to a synthetic version. The sheer quantity of feathers used in a down jacket will make it seem bulkier (they can be rolled or folded up into a smaller size by squeezing out the air).
If you are doing an active pursuit, such as hiking or skiing, a down jacket may cause you to heat up too much. If you are a naturally warm person a synthetic filled jacket may be a better option.
|Excellent heat retention||Loses insulating ability when wet|
|Lightweight- better warmth to weight ratio||Takes a long time to dry out when wet|
|Wider comfort temperature range- making it suitable for cold and warm temperatures||More expensive|
|Easier to compress and packs small||Requires special cleaning|
|Retains insulating properties when damp/wet||Does not retain heat as well as down|
|Cheaper than down||Bulkier|
|Easier to clean||Heavier|
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.
The outer material of the jacket is stitched directly to the inner lining, allowing the down to be separated into different baffles or lines. This helps to stop the down feathers from clumping together. However since the feathers are pinched at each sown line some of the potential loft is lost creating potential “cold spots” in the jacket.
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. 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:
The shell will often be coated with a Durable Water Repellency (DWR) coating to offer some resistance to rain. Waterproof down jackets will combine this waterproof coating with a waterproof membrane to help keep moisture out. A waterproof down jacket will often also be breathable allowing moisture and sweat to escape.
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 bulkier than regular waterproof jackets or wool coats so remember you need a bit of room in it to allow you to move about.