If you are looking for a jacket to keep you warm without the weight of heavy insulation, look no further than a down jacket. You may be looking for a stylish jacket to get you to and from work or you may be looking for the right jacket to keep you warm while you camp or hike. Down products are durable and can last years when taken care of properly. The International Down and Feather Bureau has put together a list of things to look for when making this important purchase.
600, 700, 800 – what does it mean? Fill power is the measurement of how much cubic space down occupies. Generally, the higher the fill power of the jacket, the greater the amount of warmth or puffiness per ounce. Fill powers generally range from the lightest at 550 to the highest at 900. When looking at a down jacket, consider what you plan on using the jacket for as this may help determine the amount of fill power that you need.
Down with higher fill-power numbers includes fewer feathers and uses bigger, more mature down clusters. Larger down clusters are more durable and can better withstand repeated compressing.
A feather ratio will tell you the amount of fill which is made of down clusters compared to feathers. As feathers are a bit more course than clusters, this may affect the softness of your apparel. The higher the percentage of down, the softer your jacket will be. If you have questions about the differences between down clusters and feathers, check out our FAQ page.
The material you choose to have on the shell of your down jacket should also be determined by what you plan on using the jacket for. Nylon is the most common material used in down apparel. Some jackets have a softer material on the inside shell or liner.
As down does not perform well in wet conditions (it can lose its loft and some of its warmth-retaining abilities), looking for a jacket with a water resistant outer shell can be important. Additional information about elements that can be harmful to down products can be found on our FAQ page.
Hoods are not a necessity, but are often an important part to your down jacket. If purchasing the jacket for hiking and other extreme outdoor use, a built on hood is recommended. If you are looking for a fashion jacket, you might prefer to pair the jacket with a matching hat.
Whether you are an experienced global adventurer or you are a weekend family camper, down is the best product for sleeping bags for these reasons:
- Down is nature’s best insulator, so it will keep you warm at night;
- Down provides with warmth with less weight than other natural and synthetic materials, so it will be lighter to carry;
- Down compresses more easily than other materials, making your total gear kit more compact;
- Down is durable and creates a loft that helps to keep you warm.
When shopping for a new down and feather sleeping bag, the key element to look for is the fill power. Fill power is an indicator of the insulating ability of down products. The amount of volume, or space, of one ounce of down, when measured, is what the fill power represents. The more volume taken up by one ounce of down, the higher the fill power will be; and most importantly for campers, the higher the fill power, the more insulation the product will provide per one ounce. Most experienced campers opt for a fill power of 900 as optimum.
Down’s value is a result of its ability to provide lightweight warmth. As the fill power of down increases, it is possible to use less weight in the product while achieving the same warmth provided by heavier products. It is important to keep this weight to warmth aspect in mind, if you will be carrying your sleeping bag far distances while you are camping and hiking.