When the weather turns cold, you start pulling out your cold weather gear. While this may include a number of items, it definitely includes coats and jackets. There is a high amount of crossover combined with differing levels of versatility in the jacket world.
One of the critical items that you do not want to overlook is a down jacket. It can take you from the freezing nights to slightly warmer days. You might want a more general, all purpose winter jacket or something specifically to wear on the slopes.
There are many down options from which you can choose based on your needs and budget. Continue reading this article to find out more about down jacket options.
What is a Down Jacket?
A down is one that is insulated with the under feathers of a goose or duck. These feathers are warm and soft. When one hears the word down, it is specifically referring to the fine layer of fluffy feathers that sit below the outer feathers of these birds that tend to be rough.
These feathers are an excellent insulator that is lightweight and compressible. Down is a great insulator because the loft, or fluffiness, of it, creates many air pockets that trap warm air and hold on to heat. This is what helps keeps you warm in the coldest weather when you were it.
What Does Down Fill Power Mean?
Down fill power refers to the loft, which means the fluffiness of the down and how well it insulates. The higher the power is then, the more air pockets there are in the down, and the more it insults. So down with a rating of 700 or higher is considered great, and if it is in the 550 – 650 range, it is very good.
The fill power is determined in a lab under specific conditions, and it is measured in cubic inches per ounce. To test the down, an ounce of it is compressed by weight in the glass. What is calculated is its ability to bounce back.
This also indicates the quality of the down. Higher quality down has a higher fill power. This also means that less down is needed to provide the same level of warmth.
Jackets that have a higher fill power are lighter and more easily compressed. Many people will stay in the 400 – 550 range, but once you get up above 550, you can see the real power behind down. While fill power helps keep you warm, it is not the only feature.
Fill weight is also a factor. The fill weight is how much down is in the jacket. The jackets that keep you the warmest have a high fill weight and a high fill power.
Fill weight is a measurement of the ounces of down the jacket contains.
Different Types of Down
1. Natural Down
Natural down is the best insulator as it provides the most warmth with the least bulk and weight. It is critical to remember that you cannot get the down wet. Natural down is incredibly warm, light, and easy to pack.
Once it gets wet, it will no longer provide insulation. It dries slowly once it is wet. If you have a down jacket and you expect to be in wet conditions like snow, rain, or humidity, you may want a water-resistant down.
If you are going to be active and might sweat, you also want to consider a water-resistant down or a synthetic down alternative. This type of down is best for mild exertion and casual wear.
2. Water-Resistant Down
When down is treated with a polymer, it allows it to handle dampness. The down remains just as light as it was before it was treated. It is similar to any natural down jacket except that it can handle more exertion.
However, it is expensive. It is not as good in wet conditions as synthetic down is.
3. Synthetic Down
All synthetic down uses a form of fibers that repel water and are compressible. As technology advances, the gap between synthetic and natural down closes. Synthetic insulation can still perform even when it is damp.
It dries quickly and is not as expensive as down. On the other hand, it is slightly heavier than natural down. It is not as easy to pack because it does not compress as well. Synthetic down is not as durable and does not hold up as well as natural down.
Nevertheless, synthetic down can handle strenuous exertion.
4. Natural and Synthetic Down Combined
This type of fill is a combination of synthetic and natural fills. This blend is used throughout the entire jacket. Some manufacturers blend the two fills by using them in different parts of the jacket.
For example, you may have natural down in the core of the jacket and synthetic down in the arms and sides. This hybrid blend is more affordable than a completely natural down jacket. This is a great way to have a down jacket but stay well within your budget.
In addition, this type of down jacket can handle strenuous levels of activity.
5. Wool and Synthetic Down Combined
Some manufacturers combine wool with a synthetic down material to create sheets of fill that will insulate the jacket. This blend allows the jacket to benefit from wool’s ability to resist odor and insulate even when it is damp. This type of down combination jacket can handle strenuous levels of activity.
Different Types of Down Jackets
6. Sewn Through
The most common type of down jacket is the sewn through version. On this type of down jacket, there are chambers created between the stitches as the outer fabric is seen through to the lining of the inner fabric. With this type of jacket, there is no extra fabric needed, which makes it a lighter weight jacket than the other options.
7. Box Baffle
On a down jacket that is a box baffle type, it has small chambers of down that use a wall of fabric to separate them. On the jacket, it looks like you have lines of squares touching each other. In this jacket, extra fabric is added, which makes it heavier than one that uses the sewn through the method.
The technique used to sew these types of jackets is more complex due to the extra fabric. This also makes this type of jacket more expensive.
8. Heat Seamed
A heat seamed baffle is often referred to as a bonded or welded baffle. This baffle is created when the outer fabric is bonded to the inner fabric with heat. Chambers are created between the baffles in the heat seamed version.
These chambers are not created with stitches which means there are no seams. These jackets tend to be warmer because heat cannot escape from the seams because there aren’t any. In addition, this type of down jacket is more resistant to water and wind.
What Does Down to Feather Ratio Mean?
The down to feather ratio is the percentage of down compared to the percentage of feathers in the jacket. Typically, you will see numbers like 70/30, 80/20 or 90/10. The number on the front is the percentage of down in the jacket.
The number on the back is the percentage of feathers in the jacket. The number on the front also indicates the quality of the jacket. The higher the number is means the higher the quality of the jacket.
You are also going to pay more for a jacket with a higher front number. However, you are also going to get better insulation and warmth from a higher quality down jacket. This means that a 550 fill power down with a 70/30 down to feather ratio is not going to be as warm as a 55 fill power 80/20 down to feather ratio jacket.
Down is the material that is plucked from underneath the outer feathers of the duck or goose. They are warm and comfortable. The feathers are on the outside of the duck or goose and which allows them to fly, float, and stay dry.
They are also firm and it does not feel good to be poked by one.
How To Care For a Down Jacket?
To care for your down jacket, you want to put it in a front load washer. You want to avoid machines that have an agitator as it can damage the feathers. You want to be sure to wash your down jacket in cold water.
You want to add cleanser that is specifically intended for down. After you the wash cycle, you want the jacket to go through the rinse cycle. You may want to set it for an additional rinse.
After that dry it on low heat. This may take a few cycles because you want to ensure your jacket is completely dry.
Is Down Ethical?
It is essential to understand that ducks and geese are casualties of a down jacket. If you are a vegan, a down jacket is not something that would interest you. If you are interested in a more ethical way to get a down jacket, you can ensure that the one you purchase has traceable down or certified responsibly sourced down.
These down options are ones where the manufacturers are able to trace the source of their particular down. This also means that they can understand the harvesting practices of those that provide down to them. It is also possible to find products with recycled down.
This is a sustainable alternative to traditional, or virgin, down. It also helps to reduce the impact of using down on the environment. This means that there is not a need to use virgin raw materials to make down products.
This can prevent waste from ending up in landfills.