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Down Versus Synthetic

Down Versus Synthetic

Jöttnar
May 2019 | Read
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Down or synthetic?

There are many reasons to go with either style of jacket, but in this article we’ll lay out the facts regarding each, allowing you to decide which option best suits your needs.

Down Jackets

Pros

Jackets that use down as a means of insulation are capable of achieving a higher fill power rating, and thus a higher level of warmth. Having a jacket with a higher fill power also means that you need less down to achieve a certain level of warmth, so they are far more packable than their synthetic counterparts.

Down is significantly more durable than any other synthetically manufactured equivalent. Because down occurs naturally in the wild, it has the capability of being compressed and re-lofted repeatedly for a period of years, if properly cared for, whilst still retaining its ability to loft. 

The warmth of down comes from the clustering effect of its thousands of tiny filaments. These clusters are effectively 3-D pockets that capture and retain warm air which is then used to keep the wearer warm.

All of Jöttnar's jackets use DownTek’s hydrophobic (water-repellent) down. Conventional non-hydrophobic down jackets begin to fail when exposed to any kind of moisture, becoming fully saturated within 25-60 minutes of exposure. Once saturated, a down jacket ceases to provide insulation. Our down, however, will take up to 1,500 minutes (25 hours) of continual exposure to moisture to become fully saturated. This means that if you’re caught out in the rain or heavy snow, your jacket will still be able to keep you warm, when you need it most.

 Cons

Taking care of your down jacket does require a little more care than a synthetic jacket. Most down jackets will require using a specific detergent in order not to harm the down or the face fabric (ours can be washed with normal detergent), as well as specific temperatures to wash them at. Down also clumps up over time, especially when stuffed into - and stored - in compression sacks. Where this is easily remedied with a short blast in a tumble drier, there isn’t always one at hand to help with this task.

Given that down originates from birds, there is a chance of it causing allergies with some individuals. Whilst this is uncommon, it can be an issue for those who experience allergies relating to birds or feathers. 

Due to the complex process of obtaining and treating the down, a down jacket is often more expensive than its synthetic counterpart. However, you do get what you pay for in terms of warmth and durability.  

Down Insulated Jackets

Pros

Cons

Higher fill power therefore more efficient at keeping you warm

Cleaning down is more of a considered process than synthetic

More packable than synthetic equivalents

Not hypoallergenic

Very durable with proper care

Tends to be more expensive

DownTek hydrophobic down means saturation far less likely

Loses ability to insulate once saturated 

Thousands of tiny pockets of warmth are created by filaments in each down cluster

 

 Our Fjorm and Fenrir down jackets

 

Synthetic Jackets

Pros

Synthetic insulation has the upper hand on traditional down in the fact that it can keep you warm, even when it gets wet. It also takes far less time to dry than down does due to the nature of the polyester fibres that are used to make it.

If you happen to damage your jacket or snag it on a protruding rock, it is far less likely to leak out of your jacket as down tends to do. They are definitely more resilient as a combination of the face fabric and the insulation, and can be patched up quite easily without losing any fibres.

Compared with down jackets, the prices of a synthetic jacket are considerably less. Due to it being a man-made process there is less time invested into the product so can be made for a cheaper cost, hence the lower price point. This is especially handy when looking for a last-minute replacement on a budget.

Synthetic jackets are also hypo-allergenic, so as opposed to down you don’t have to worry about teary eyes or itchy skin when wearing one of these.

Caring for a synthetic jacket is incredibly easy as well. They can withstand more intense detergents and are easier to return to a dry standard, sometimes taking merely hours to be back to normal.

Cons

Synthetic insulation cannot compete with down's weight-to-warmth ratio, meaning you need far more insulation to reach the same level of warmth as a down jacket. Synthetic fibres simply cannot overlap as effectively as down, and therefore cannot create the clusters which retain warm air.

This in turn means they tend to be heavier and bulkier than down jackets, and can be more difficult to pack down to a small size. 

Synthetic fibres aren’t as durable as down, and will eventually break down over time. Where down can last years and years, fully retaining its lofting properties, a synthetic fibre will most likely need to be replaced sooner, especially if it’s being used frequently in tough conditions.

Synthetic Insulated Jackets

Pros

Cons

Good water resistance properties; insulates when wet

Heavier and bulkier than down

Hypoallergenic

Offers less warmth to weight in comparison to down

Less expensive than down

Less durable than down, doesn’t loft as efficiently.

Easier to care for than down

Doesn’t compress as efficiently as down

Quick-drying compared with conventional down

Cannot compete with the natural ability of down to overlap and create loft and warmth.

Fill doesn’t leak if jacket is damaged

 

 



Our Alfar and Elvar synthetic jackets

 

So should you choose Down or Synthetic?

If warmth, light weight and packability are your priorities then go with down; if versatility and ease of care are important, and there's a likelihood of regular saturation by rain, then go with synthetic.

Each fill has its pros and cons, but establishing your intended use, performance priorities, anticipated climatic conditions and budget will help guide you.

In an ideal world, having one from each camp would be a failsafe way of guaranteeing a no-issues adventure, and covers all of your bases in different weather conditions. After all, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes, right? 

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For more information on our down products, please follow the link below:

Down Jackets

For more information on our synthetic products, please follow the link below:

Synthetic Jackets

 

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Jöttnar

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