Image Source: Montbell
Not all down jackets are created equal. So how do you choose? We’ve broken down the six key things you need to know when buying a down jacket.
With the weather really cooling down, having a good quality, warm jacket is an absolute wardrobe essential. Down is a great option for keeping cozy this winter - it’s light, compressible, incredibly warm and has a luxe feel.
Comparing down jackets can get a bit confusing because there are so many different factors to consider. It's important to look at the jacket as a whole when deciding which one is the right one for you. In this article we’re cutting out the guesswork on down jackets.
Image Source: Helly Hansen, Roxy, Bogner
1. Why Fill Power is important?
Fill Power is definitely the most misunderstood of all the qualities of a down jacket. Fill power is actually a measurement of the quality of the down inside the jacket, not a measurement of the jacket warmth. In fact, two jackets with the same fill power rating could have vastly different levels of warmth depending on the other factors we will look at today.
What the number refers to is the number of cubic inches that one ounce of down will occupy. The higher the number, the finer, fluffier, compressible and warmer the down jacket will be. One ounce of down from an 800-fill power jacket will occupy 800 cubic inches. One ounce of down from a 650-fill power jacket will occupy 650 cubic inches.
All other things being equal, a jacket with a higher fill power rating will be more compressible, and warmer than a jacket with a lower fill power rating. But to know how warm a down jacket will be, fill power alone is not enough. Which brings us to...
2. What does ‘Fill Weight’ actually mean?
Fill weight is essentially how much down is inside the jacket. This measurement is usually taken from a size medium jacket as different sized jackets will have different quantities of down fill. A jacket with 200 grams of down will be much warmer than a jacket with 120 grams.
It’s worth keeping in mind that if a jacket has a hood, that hood will add to the overall fill weight. It usually takes about 30g of down to fill a hood so if you’re comparing jackets remember while a jacket with a hood may seem like it has a higher fill number it might not necessarily be true for the body of the jacket.
When you are choosing a jacket, considering fill weight along with fill power will definitely give you a much more accurate picture of how warm the jacket will be but there are still other important factors.
3. Does the construction of a down jacket make a difference?
If we want a down jacket to keep you warm, the down must be held in place, or it will all sink to the bottom of the jacket. Most down jackets will need a degree of maintenance in this way, just the same as you shake your doona at home.
The down is held in place by running baffles through the jacket. This gives down jackets their distinctive ‘Michelin man’ look. The lightest weight and best value construction method is stitch through.
Simply by pinching the outer layer and the inner layer together with a seam, a tube is formed which will hold the down in place. Box Baffle uses an interior bulkhead to form a baffle that is a square shape rather than an oval. This reduces cold spots and keeps you covered in a much more even layer of down, but it is much more expensive to produce and makes a much heavier jacket.
Image Source: Montbell Australia
4. What fill blend should I look for?
Whenever down is harvested from fowl, there are going to be feathers mixed in with the down balls. Unlike down they have a central stalk and a sharp pointed end that often sees them work their way out through the fabric of your doona and on to the bedroom floor.
Removing these feathers from the down is a labour-intensive process and adds a considerable amount to the cost of the jacket. Most high quality down will be made up of a 90/10 blend (90% down, 10% feather) although there are some high-end jackets with a 95/5 down blend.
When you first start wearing your down jacket, it is normal to get some feathers working their way out of the jacket. A higher fill blend ratio will result in less of this insulation loss over time.
5. Does the outer material of a down jacket matter?
The thickness of the outer material of the jacket will have a huge effect on how small the garment will pack away, and it will also have an effect on how warm the jacket will feel. Thicker outer materials and waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex will contribute to heat retention and offer greater durability but will make the garment heavier and bulkier.
6. How to get the best fit on your down jacket
Make sure your down jacket fits nicely with the layers you intend to wear it with most of the time. Men should look at the fit across the shoulders. If it’s too big it will look shapeless, you will look lost on the inside of a big jacket. Women should check the small of their back. We want the jacket to curve nicely in at this point. If you make sure the jacket fits well in these areas the jacket will be warmer and look more flattering. People often worry that a down jacket will make them look fat but a well fitted down jacket actually has a slimming effect.
Fit will also affect warmth. To keep you warm, a down jacket must first warm itself up. If the down jacket is too big there will be too much airflow and your microclimate will be replaced too often. The jacket won’t get warm and then it won’t keep you warm.
Looking for the perfect down jacket? At Larry Adler we have some amazing options whether you’re hitting to slopes or watching the kids play sport. Here are some of our favourites: