A guide to buying down jackets
We all know down is brilliantly warm and cosy. That’s why we use it to make duvets and sleeping bags, as well as winter jackets. But what are the main benefits and features of down? And what is synthetic down?
Our simple guide helps you choose the right insulated jacket by explaining the key features of our technologies and identifying the main things you should consider before investing in your new winter warmer.
Our feather down - All of the feathers and down we source for our products come certified by the Chinese Feather and Down Industrial Association. This means they’re a by-product of the food industry and do not come from factories that produce process or sell live-plucked feathers.
WHAT IS NATURAL DOWN?
Down is made up of the soft feathers from ducks or geese. As you can imagine both of these birds survive harsh winters outdoors, so their feathers have naturally evolved to be brilliantly warm. When you pack these feathers together, air gets trapped between each tiny strand (or barbs as they are officially known) and acts as a layer of insulation. It then retains all of this air so it keeps you warmer for longer.
WHAT IS FILL POWER?
You have probably noticed the word Fill Power being used a lot. This is the measure of ‘loft’ or ‘fluffiness’of down. The number usually sits between 450 and 900. The higher the number, the higher the loft, or warmer the down will be. Unless you are planning some serious cold weather expeditions, a Fill Power of 450 to 650 should do the trick (UK winter).
WHAT ARE RATIOS?
All down jackets have a ratio to indicate the percentage of down to feathers. The higher the percentage of down the warmer the jacket will be.
90/10 –is our top performing down. It provides incredible insulation and is used across premium jackets for adventuring at higher altitudes.
80/20 - provides plenty of protection for the coldest UK weather. You will find this high ratio in our longer length parkas designed for everyday winter wear.
Nb: You won’t really see 100% down anywhere because it is impossible to separate the feathers with this level of precision.
WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT DOWN?
Brilliantly warm and lightweight - Feather down has high warmth-to-weight ratio. It provides a lot of warmth without the bulk and retains heat for a long-time.
Packs down small - It is very compressible and has excellent recovery (returns back to its original shape after being compressed). This is an advantage if you need to pack your jacket away frequently on long walking trips or when travelling for example.
Durability -Feather down insulates year after year and has excellent longevity. All of our down jackets have a special down proof finish to help seal the feathers in for a longer jacket life.
WHAT IS NOT SO GOOD ABOUT DOWN?
Down does not perform well when wet. The feathers flatten and lose their loft. All is not lost though. We treat the outer fabric of our jackets with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish - this will guard both you and the down against showers (but not against really heavy rain).
AND WHAT ABOUT SYNTHETIC DOWN?
We have developed our special synthetic down technology called WARMLOFT. It’s engineered to mimic the benefits of natural feather down and is made up ultra-fine synthetic fibres that trap pockets of warm air to keep you insulated.
Unlike feather down WARMLOFT insulates even when wet and is quick drying. It not quite as light or compressible as our feather down jackets though and it does not retain heat as well. But this can be an advantage during fast-paced activities when you could get hot.
WHAT KIND OF DOWN JACKET SHOULD I CHOOSE?
If you are heading up to higher altitudes and might need to stow your jacket away during tougher parts of the climb, then natural down is extremely warm, super light and highly compressible. Our featherweightIcebound Jacket ( is designed without a hood for reduced bulk while the Highfell has a grown on hood with stretch binding for a close, protective fit.
Our lightest jackets (Icebound) use a super-fine nylon yarn for a low pack-weight. If you are expecting the jacket to take a lot of bumps and scratches, you might want to choose our textured polyamide fabric (Highfell) - this is heavier but more robust. All of our longer line parkas, such as the Adena and PetUlia, use tough-wearing outer fabrics to stand up to every day wear and tear.
Down jackets are primarily designed for warmth. All of ours will protect you from snow flurries and light showers, but not heavy rain. It is best to choose a lightweight, low bulk option and wear it under your shell jacket if you think you will be heading out in really wet weather. It might be worth remembering that WARMLOFT insulates even when wet, so if you are looking for an everyday jacket, this could be a better choice.
Nb: we don’t make our down jackets with a waterproof membrane because down needs to breathe and you would have to keep opening your jacket for ventilation
Because down retains heat for a long time, it will keep you warm during periods of slow movement or even when you are still. WARMLOFT retains heat to, but not for as long. You might want to choose this for every day wear, when you are in and out of buildings or for high-paced activities when you might get hot.
And of course you need to consider budget. Synthetic options are typically lower in cost than natural down, although natural down does last longer. Whether you are heading out into the hills or looking for a super stylish parka for every day around town, we have got the cold months covered.