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01 Nov 2021


Down consists of clusters of filaments growing and radiating from a central quill point (Wing Feather), but without a quill shaft. Its three-dimensional structure allows it to make thousands of air pockets, called loft. This will trap air, making down the perfect insulator for winter jackets. Another advantage of down is that it is highly resilient, able to resist damage caused by compression. In particle terms, this means it can be stuffed into a bag again and again, and it will never lose its ability to keep the wearer warm.

When considering a new down jacket, it is important to understand what makes them so effective at keeping you warm. Below are the main factors that should be considered when choosing the perfect down jacket

Weight will be an important factor in most clothes purchasing decisions. A jacket must match the requirements of the buyer. For example, for backpacking and outdoor travel, a lighter jacket will often be preferred. This is where filling power becomes important as, to provide the same warmth, a down jacket with 500 filling power needs to be bulkier and heavier than a jacket of 800 filling power. Higher filling powers can therefore equate to lighter garments but there does need to be a trade-off between filling power and weight, which can depend upon the jacket’s function.


Construction > 

There are numerous quilting methods these days for down jackets, and sewn-through baffle, box baffle and welding are a few.

The most common method is sewn-through baffle, which involves stitching around each baffle’s edge that goes right through the garment – from outer to inner layer. This method is easier to make and it keeps the down securely in place. It is therefore the most commonly used method but it does have one major drawback – the outer and inner layers will be drawn together by the stitching, reducing the loft amount and causing loss of warmth.

Box baffle is more difficult to construct as it allows each baffle to have its own three-dimensional rectangle. This reduces pinching at seams and therefore allows maximum possible loft, giving better insulation.

Ultrasonic welding…



Synthetic insulation > 

Simulated down is becoming a common alternative. It has the benefit of maintaining its properties when wet, will dry quickly, and it generally more moderately priced. There are currently many innovations in synthetic insulation, including a newly developed microfiber material that closely mimics the look and feel of natural down but, when wet, has double the loft of natural down. It is also lightweight and highly breathable. With advances like these, the gap between synthetic and natural is diminishing.

Shell and lining material

When choosing an insulated jacket, it is important not to forget the shell and lining materials. These can have a profound effect on durability, weight, warmth, and water resistance. For an outdoor jacket, it is important to choose a breathable shell fabric that will allow perspiration. If this is neglected, moisture will be trapped inside the jacket, dampening the down.

Nylon and polyester are commonly used for outer layers, since they are durable and can withstand harsh conditions. It is important, however, to inspect a jacket before purchasing to ensure no feathers are leaking through the shell fabric, lining, seams and/or stitching. A good tip, when buying a down jacket, is to choose one with an extra layer laminated onto the fabric. This will increase the jacket’s ability to prevent down and feather leakage.

Photography: Noi Due Creative (

Model: Jean Chang

Location: Buxton, UK

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