Choosing a Down Jacket

Whether you're a backpacker, hiker or climber, a down jacket is an essential piece of outdoor gear for keeping warm in the cold. There are many different types of down jackets on the market, ranging from light to heavyweight. Many of them also have special features like waterproofing and breathability to keep you comfortable in wet weather. Some of them even come with Omni-Tech and TurboDown technology, which can provide a hybrid combination of down and synthetic insulation.

The most important consideration when choosing a down jacket is the quality of the down used. This is measured by a number called fill power, which refers to the amount of loft in the down. The higher the fill power, the more warmth it provides. Down is available in various fill powers, with 650 and 850 being the most common. The higher the fill power, the more expensive the jacket will be.

When shopping for a down jacket, it's also important to look at the size of the baffles, the outer fabric and the weight of the garment. A good down jacket should be lightweight, warm and compressible. It should have a water-resistant shell and a down-to-feather ratio of 90 percent or better. It should also be able to resist the tearing and abrasion of rough surfaces.

If you're a backpacker or hiker, a lightweight down jacket that can be easily stuffed into its own pocket or chest pocket is an excellent choice. Some can fit into a stuff-sack smaller than a water bottle, making them an easy addition to your pack on your next adventure. Generally, though, it's best to leave a down jacket unstuffed when not in use to avoid deforming the feathers and causing them to lose their loft.

Some down jackets are designed to be used in wet conditions, with special features like a hydrophobic treatment that makes moisture beads up and run off instead of soaking in. This is especially helpful for mountaineering and alpine pursuits where the threat of snow or rain can be more prevalent.

Many of the leading outdoor brands make an effort to source their down ethically without animal cruelty and with transparency in the supply chain. You can find options that are certified as such by organizations such as Patagonia and the Responsible Down Standard.

As a final note on care and maintenance, it's recommended to hand wash your down jacket whenever possible. This helps to prevent the soap residue from clogging the down and reducing its ability to loft. To hand wash your jacket, fill a tub with cold or slightly warm water and gently work the down jacket through it. Start by turning the jacket inside-out, as this will help to draw the soapy water into the jacket rather than just pushing it around. Repeat the process a few times and rinse until you're confident that all of the soap is out. If your jacket is fitted with a waterproof shell, then it's a good idea to briefly turn it inside-out to ensure the shell and lining are also washed.


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