No matter what time of year it is, there’s one type of jacket I always have in my pack.

And that’s down.

I have several down jackets which I’ve accumulated over the years: A lightweight Outdoor Research jacket for warmer days or layering; a hooded Mountain Hardwear jacket that’s a little pouffier and has an insulated hood; a North Face parka that goes to my knees (which I’ve had for 13 years and it still looks new!); and a super thick Mountain Hardwear alpine pouffy that’s the equivalent of wearing a hardcore sleeping bag. Sometimes I even go ‘double down,’ layering down coats for incredible warmth.

These jackets can be found in my backcountry ski pack, my hiking day pack (for it’s cold at the top, even in summer!), and my backpacking pack. They are so light, comfy, and packable.

What is Down?

Sometimes people think down is feathers. Actually, down is the soft, fluffy plumage found under the feathers of certain waterfowl. It’s what keeps these birds warm in cold temperatures and cold water. It holds lots of insulating air under their feathers. Down is totally natural and is a byproduct of the food industry, which reduces waste. 

What’s So Good About Down?

Before I owned my first down jacket, I had no idea how amazing this natural material was. Here are some major benefits:

  • Down is amazingly lightweight.
  • Down is compressible and therefore packable.
  • It’s long lasting.
  • It’s breathable.

I love being warm without feeling claustrophobobic. Down breathes and is incredibly lightweight, providing great mobility.

Drawbacks of Down

Nothing is perfect, and everything has its flip side. When down gets wet, it forms clumps and will no longer keep you warm. It also takes a long time to dry. Moral of the story: wear down in dry, cold conditions, wear down that has a waterproof outer layer, and/or put a waterproof hardshell over your down to keep it dry. Simple as that!

Fill Power

The fill power number you read on high quality down jacket descriptions does not necessarily directly refer to its warmth. It refers to what’s called fill power. Fill power is a term used to describe down’s ability to loft. Loft is good because that’s how heat is trapped between those wispy fibres. It also relates to how compressible a jacket is.

Fill power is calculated with a testing device. One ounce of down is placed in the device, and the number it receives refers to how many cubic inches the down can fill within that device.

How to Take Care of Your Down Jacket

DON’T WASH WITH REGULAR SOAP! It’s so important to use a special down wash like Nikwax Down Wash Direct or Granger’s Down Wash. These cleaners ensure your jacket will keep its fill power. Other soaps cling to the down, causing them to clump and lose warmth. Never use fabric softener for the same reason. Check out this Nikwax video for more info:

Come over to Campers Village and we’ll answer any other questions you have about puffy jackets!