How Down Coats Are Made

Down jackets are a key part of cold-weather gear, along with long sleeved tops and snow boots.down coats They provide warmth by trapping air close to your body, thereby increasing your core temperature.down coats They're lightweight, pack down to almost nothing when packed into their own stuff sack and work in tandem with base layers to keep you comfortable in harsh winter conditions.

Several factors influence the weight, warmth and durability of a down coat, but in terms of overall performance the biggest factor is the jacket's fill power.down coats The higher the fill power, the more insulating it is, and a jacket with high quality goose down like the Feathered Friends Eos has a higher warmth to weight ratio than any other we've tested (goose down is also a better insulator than duck down).down coats

How is Down Harvested?

Down comes from the soft, fluffy feathers that sit nearest a bird's skin and are chock full of heat-trapping buoyancy-aiding air pockets.down coats It's a byproduct of the meat industry, and in some cases, birds are slaughtered while they're still alive.down coats At the welfare-minded farms where we've tested, however, birds can live their last few days swimming outside and hanging out in their nests until they die naturally and are then plucked.

Once the down has been processed, makers form it into small "boxes" for use in insulated clothing and gear.down coats These boxes are called baffles, and can be either welded together or stitched, and the construction technique used has a big impact on how much warm air the jacket can hold.down coats We prefer welded baffles because they're more durable and can be made to conform closely to the contours of your body without creating gaps, which allows the jacket to retain its warmth.

Another important factor in how well a down coat performs is its water resistance.down coats Most down jackets have a Durable Water Repellent coating, which causes moisture to bead and roll off instead of soaking through the shell fabric. This is good for light rain, but in prolonged downpours or wet snow, a down jacket will eventually soak through and lose its loft.

Some manufacturers also incorporate waterproof shell fabrics in their down jackets, and combine them with hydrophobic or DWR-treated down for extra protection against wet weather.down coats We've seen some excellent options, including the Rab Microlight Alpine which combines a Pertex microlight shell with impressive DWR treatment and Nikwax treated down, and the Arc'teryx Cerium, which features a waterproof and breathable 2- or 3-layer membrane and integrates synthetic insulation in more exposed areas like the shoulders and hood.


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