We’ve been lucky with the weather so far, but no-one could have failed to notice the cold snap over the last few days. And with Christmas fast approaching, now might just be the time to invest in (or ask for!) a brand new insulated coat or jacket.
Not many of us will be climbing Mt. Everest but we won’t be hibernating either. If we have a white Christmas there’ll be paths to clear, snowmen to build, long walks to go on to digest all that festive food. And what could be better than a seriously warm coat? Just one thing – which do you choose? Down or synthetic fibres? Each has its own unique benefits as well as a few ‘challenges’ too. So let’s look at the facts.
Down is considered nature’s best insulator. It’s the world’s warmest material for its weight. That’s thanks to the feathers. Each feather has microscopic layers of plumes and at the end of each one is a pointed little bulb. One feather wouldn’t do much, but fill a coat with them and those tiny clusters hold each feather up instead of it falling flat. The better the loft (which really refers to the amount of fluffiness), the more air is trapped inside the coat and the smaller amount of draft that can sneak in.
But down is not without a few drawbacks. One of the biggest problems is one of supply and demand. With a dwindling population of our feathered friends, there is only so much around. Which is why many places have stopped using real down in their products. (We’re not a company to take the easy route, so we still do!)
The low down on down:
- Best warmth-to-weight ratio: superb warming power, yet weighs next to nothing.
- Ultra durable: lasts for years if cared for properly
- Resilient: scrunch it up, then give it a good shake to fluff it back up
- Great for dry, cold climates
- Not an unlimited supply, can be expensive
- Get it wet and goodbye warmth as it will absorb the moisture and lose its loft
- May contain allergens for some people
Man made option
One alternative to down is piling on umpteen layers until we closely resemble the Michelin® man. But now, thanks to technology, man-made fibres can closely emulate some of the best characteristics of down – and at a lower price tag. So what is synthetic insulation made of? (Technical moment ahead.) It’s essentially polyester threading that is moulded into long single threads or short staples to mimic lofty down clusters. Whereas down once reigned supreme over all synthetics, today’s lighter, warmer and more compressible versions, like PrimaLoft®, are slowly closing the gap.
PrimaLoft, which was developed for the US Army in the 80s, is widely regarded as one of the best performing synthetic insulations on the market. Which is why we use it in several of our Jackets. This ultra-fine microfibre blend has down-like softness, is lightweight and adds little bulk. But it also has one major advantage over down – its insulating ability even when wet.
A quick guide to synthetic insulation:
- Dries quickly and still insulates even when wet (moisture is trapped between the fibres rather than absorbed into the fibres
- Easy care: machine washable
- Hypoallergenic: sneeze free warmth
- Generally less expensive
- Great in variable weather conditions
- Breaks down over time
- Less expensive synthetics can be bulkier and stiffer than down
The answer? Both have their place in a winter wardrobe. So it really comes down to personal choice. And to settle the debate? Buy one of each – there’s no such thing as too many stylish ways to stay warm this winter.