Everything You Need to Know About Down Jackets

A Down Jacket is a jacket that is insulated with the soft and warm plumage of ducks and geese.

Contrary to popular belief, down isn’t feathers of the bird but the layer that lies beneath it.

This types of jacket is one of the best jackets you could buy. The loft or the fluffiness helps create thousands of tiny pockets which trap air and retains heat.

 

Wildcraft down jackets zen mountain gear shop
Image credits: Wildcraft

Types of Down Jackets

1) Natural Down Jacket

A jacket made from natural fibres will either have duck down feathers, geese down feathers or a combination of the two. Geese down feather is better than duck down because it is lighter and keeps you warmer. A jacket made from geese down will be more expensive.

2) Synthetic Down Jacket

A synthetic down is made from different sized polyester fibres. These fibres are intertwined and mimic the air trapping capabilities of natural down.

Synthetic down requires more filling in the jacket thereby making a synthetic down jacket heavier than a natural down.

Down Fill Power

Down Jackets Fill power zen mountain gear
Image Credits: Backpackinglight

Fill power is a measure of the puffiness of the down. The greater the fill power, the better the jacket will be at keeping you warm.

  • 750-900 Excellent
  • 550-749 Very Good
  • 500-549 Good
  • 400- 499 Medium

Fill power is also a sign of the quality of the down used in the jacket. The better the quality of the down, the higher the fill power would be.

Fill power is tested in labs and is measured in cubic inches per ounce.

Jacket Construction Methods

Sewn Through Method or Tube Wall Method

Tube wall construction down jackets
Image Credits: The North Face

This is a cheaper and more commonly used method for manufacturing down jackets. It’s a simpler method which uses fewer materials and hence easier on the wallet. The problem with the sewn threw or tube wall method is that the down could bunch up in certain spots leaving empty patches in sections of the jacket. This reduces the insulation capabilities of the jacket.

Box Baffle Method

Box baffle method down jacket
Haglofs L.I.M. Essens Jacket. Image credit: Scottish Mountaineer

Jackets made in this method is harder to make. Box Baffle method uses more materials and tends to be more expensive. The box baffle method creates a thicker better insulating jacket than a sewn through jacket. In this method, the down will not cling up in certain spots.

Are Down Jackets Waterproof?

Generally, a  hard shell jacket would offer better protection against the rain. A poncho in combination with a hard shell would be your best bet.

These types of jackets are more suited for dry cold climates. The ability of the jacket to protect you from rains depends on the outer shell material and the DWR coating the manufacturer uses.

A wet down jacket starts losing it’s insulation capabilities and requires to be dry before being worn again. 

Fitting

3 in 1 winter jacket
Layering Tecniques: Kathmandu

Any jacket should have a really good fit if it has to be effective. Only when you follow proper layering techniques will you stay warm on the trail. 

A jacket should not be too loose or too tight. When choosing a size, you have to consider how many layers you would be wearing below this jacket.. As we mentioned earlier, the layers should trap air. 

A jacket that’s too tight or too loose will do a bad job of trapping and retaining warm air pockets. Generally a size bigger that what you normally wear will accommodate a fleece jacket and a base layer comfortably. 

Pros of Natural Down Jackets

  • Lightweight but keeps you warm.
  • Excellent heat retention.
  • Easy to compress and pack.
  • Suitable for wider temperature ranges.

Cons of Natural Down Jackets

  • Expensive.
  • Loses insulating abilities when wet.
  • Takes a long time to dry.
  • Requires special care while wearing and washing.

Pros of Synthetic Down Jacket

  • Cheaper than natural down.

  • Easy to maintain.

  • Does not loose insulating abilities when wet.

Cons of Synthetic Down Jackets

  • Heavier
  • Not as efficient ad natural down.

Ethics

Since down is actually sourced from birds, there have been many controversies regarding this type of jackets.

Western companies such as North Face and Patagonia have had issues with sales of this type of jacket. It had been reported that their suppliers were plucking down feathers off live birds or the birds were part of the “Foie Gras” industry. 80% of the supply of down comes from Chinese manufactures making the situation grimmer. 

Having faced these issues raised by organisations like PETA, most companies have put in place a system to monitor the down sourcing. Patagonia’s ‘Traceable Down Standard’ hopes that live plucking of down will stop. And the down that is finally sourced is a by-product of the meat industry.

If you want nothing to do with this, then we suggest a synthetic down or just a hard shell jacket. 

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Batman has the bat suit. It protects him from everything the bad guys throw at him.

You are a trekker, what do you have?

A Trekker has their own suit. A nice jacket to keep you warm, a nice pair of trekking pants, nice trekking shoes to keep your foot steady on the trail,  a rucksack to carry your equipment, hat, trekking poles and so much more.

Batman wouldn’t wear jeans when he’s out beating up bad guys. So why would you wear a pair of jeans when you’re out in the mountains?

Okay, we’ll stop with the bad jokes. 

Good quality outdoor gear performs 1 simple function, to protect you from the elements.

So don’t compromise outdoor gear for fashionable clothing and don’t buy cheap gear just to save a few hundred rupees. Good quality outdoor gear will save your life.

There is no point being fashionable if you’re going to be miserable.

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