Looking to add a down jacket to your winter hiking gear? Make sure you get the best down fill for your budget.
As you probably already know, goose down is light, extremely warm, and soft. It’s been used in everything from fluffy pillows, to comforters, winter jackets, and sleeping bags.
Did you know that mountaineers climbing Mount Everest wear down suits to keep them warm? It’s considered an essential piece of gear.
Of course, not many of us will summit Mount Everest but the point is that down is excellent for staying warm and it can serve you well on your next hiking or camping trip.
I’ve been looking into this because I’d like to get a down jacket for this coming winter. The only down item I have right now is my REI Mojave +15 sleeping bag. It’s insulated with 600-fill power down and rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or -9 Celsius.
How Does Down Work?
Down is an awesome cold weather insulator because it maximizes body heat retention. Down is a feather that makes up the insulating layer on waterfowl. The down cluster has tiny filaments which trap your body heat and keeps this warm air close to you.
Down has primarily been used in dry environments because wet down clumps and becomes useless. Recently though, companies have found a way to coat down with a water repellent making them much more versatile.
Fill Power Quality
The main question we’re trying to answer here is: What does the fill power mean?
Fill power is rated from around 300 to 800 or 900. The higher the number, the larger the pieces of down are, the more air they trap, and thus the better they insulate. Higher fill power also means the down is more resistant to compression so it maintains better loft.
- Higher fill power = bigger down clusters.
- Higher fill power = more loft.
- Higher fill power = more resilient over time.
- Higher fill power = more resistant to compression.
- Higher fill power = less weight, better insulation.
Bottom Line: As the fill rating goes up so will the price of the item you’re buying.
Note: I do not support the plucking of live animals for down. It is illegal in the US and Europe and should be banned worldwide.
Featured Image by Michael Pollak