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Down vs. Feathers: What’s the Difference in Jacket Insulation?

best woman's down jackets

woman's down jackets

When shopping for a warm winter jacket, you’ll encounter two main types of natural insulation – down and feathers.

Both come from ducks and geese, yet have distinct differences when used in jackets and coats.

If you’re trying to decide between a women’s down jacket or a feather jacket this winter, understanding the unique properties of each will help you choose the best option to stay toasty warm.

Down and feathers may seem nearly identical at first glance – they’re both fluffy filling from waterfowl.

But don’t be fooled by their similarities.

Down and feathers vary greatly when used as insulation material for jackets.

Here’s an in-depth look at what sets them apart:

Down Insulation

Down refers to the soft, fluffy underlayer of feathers found on ducks and geese underneath the exterior feathers. Prized for its exceptional insulation properties, down is commonly used to make women’s down jackets as well as comforters and pillows.

The structure of the down allows it to effectively trap air and body heat. Down clusters have fine filaments that interlock to form a three-dimensional structure with lots of loft and space inside. This provides top-notch thermal insulation and warmth without heavy weight.

woman's best down jackets

Down insulation pros:

Feather Insulation

Feathers are the exterior plumage that covers a duck or goose’s body. They have a more complex structure than down with a central quill and web-like strands extending out from it.

When used in jackets, feathers don’t provide the same level of insulation. The quill and webbing prevent feathers from lofting as efficiently. Air pockets between feathers are smaller, resulting in less trapped body heat.

Feather insulation pros:

Compare Down vs. Feathers

Insulating PowerExcellent. Maximum loft & air trapping.Moderate. Less loft & smaller air pockets.
Warmth to Weight RatioUnmatched. Warmest for very lightweight.Decent. Provides moderate warmth for weight.
CompressibilityExtremely high. Packs down well into small spaces.Low. Bulky, and doesn’t compress as easily.
DurabilityLasts many years if cared for properly.Tough and sturdy as outer fill material.
CostMore expensive. Higher upfront cost.Very affordable. Lower cost than down.
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