How to choose the best down jacket?

- Apr 13, 2020-

Synthetic cotton VS down

When you plan to buy a warm jacket, you first need to determine whether you need a down jacket or a synthetic cotton jacket. The down jacket will be warmer and more compressible under the same weight, but if it is wet, it will lose its bulkiness, which means it will lose its warmth. Synthetic cotton jackets are much heavier under the same thickness and warmth, and they are not easy to compress and pack, but they remain most fluffy after being wet, which means that a wet synthetic cotton jacket will still There are some warmth properties to keep you warm.

Down jackets have a longer life, and the down jacket is more breathable than synthetic cotton. Depending on the situation you use, a synthetic cotton jacket will lose most of its warmth in about 5-7 years. Under the same environment, a down jacket can maintain its warmth for 10-20 years. The down rebound performance of compressed down is better than synthetic cotton, so when you open a compressed and packed down jacket, it will quickly return to its original state.

In terms of friction resistance, synthetic cotton jackets have better durability. When you climb a chimney pitch in a synthetic cotton jacket at night and make a few holes in the jacket, it's fine. But if you make a few holes in the down jacket, the stuffed down will shed like white fur. In addition, the white furry filler obtained from poultry is expensive.

Hydrophobic Down VS Ordinary Down

Water-repellent down, a new technology developed in the market for the biggest weakness of down and water. This new nano-material is designed to make the down not absorb water, and let it dry faster after being wet. This down is really a creative new technology, but the effect remains to be seen. Its potential can be exciting.

But how practical is the water-repellent down? Will users replace synthetic cotton with water-repellent down? If you encounter a storm and your jacket is soaked, how long will it take to restore its bulkiness and re-insulate? Can this product be put into practical use? This is a question that these new technology products need to answer when they enter the market. We are very interested in testing a variety of products that actually carry water-repellent down, and testing has begun. At present, we know that although water-repellent down has made great progress in controlling moisture compared to ordinary down, when fully wet, its performance is not at the same level as synthetic cotton. If you are going to participate in a sports activity that may get wet, this will be a key point you need to consider.

Another consideration is durability. Down is inherently durable: it can withstand hundreds of compressions. Cleaning can help the old down to restore performance close to the new down. Another question we all started to ask is: Will this composite water-repellent material sacrifice down durability? The waterproof coating used in jackets has never had a long lifespan, so how long can this water-repellent material covering the down be used?

We plan to do a one-to-one comparison test of clothes and sleeping bags that use ordinary down and water-repellent down, in a difficult long-distance travel environment, to see whether this down technology is significantly different, and this material can How long to stay on. Now that the outdoor equipment laboratory is brainstorming and generating many test ideas, we will use the skin thermometer and thermal imaging technology on the mannequin to form specific insulation data and compare the state of wearing and not wearing down jackets. We will release our report in due course.

Fill Powers (Fill Powers)

The bulkiness is probably the most commonly misunderstood procurement parameter. Usually, a manufacturer advertises that the bulkiness is 650,700,850, etc. These figures indicate the quality of the down used. This number is actually a volume-the volume of an ounce of down fluffy (cubic inches). For example, an ounce of 800 awnings down should have a volume of 800 cubic inches after pressing a standard weight object. If you use 2 ounces of 800 awnings down in jacket A, and 2 ounces of 700 awnings down in jacket B, jacket A (with 800 awnings down) will be warmer because it has greater bulkiness. In this case, an 8-ounce 850 hood down jacket may not be as good as a 12-ounce 650 hood down jacket. The jacket with 850 awnings down has the same warmth but is lighter and more compressible because it uses less down in it. In other words, high-loft down has better insulation-warmth-to-weight ratios.

Example: At the same weight, the greater the bulkiness of the down, the greater the volume, making it lighter and easier to pack sleeping bags. The 900 awning is currently the best. (Note: It seems that there is a down of 1,000 canopies.)

Sewing method

Generally, we have 2 main sewing methods:

1. Common sewing method (Sewn Through)

This is the most common method. For manufacturers, it is easier and requires less time than the box sewing method. The outer fabric is directly sewn on the inner lining to separate the down in different partitions. This method uses less material, is lighter than the complex box sewing method (see below), and has a lower cost. Because of weight, simplicity, and cost, most lightweight jackets and many heavier jackets use this manufacturing method. Although the ordinary sewing method reduces the weight by saving materials, it is not as warm as the box sewing method because the feather is compressed at the seam and the bulkiness at the seam is almost zero. The ordinary sewing method sews into long strips to prevent the down from moving (this is like a box sewing method), but because of the simple structure, it also reduces the best fluffiness of them down and creates a "heat dissipation point" on each seam. (Cold Spot).

The photo below shows 3 things:

1) Down warmth is much stronger than cotton clothing;

2) How the heat is dissipated from the sewing thread of the ordinary sewing method;

3) Chris McNamara, the creator of the outdoor equipment laboratory, is actually an alien!

The thermal sensor photo shows the cotton jacket on the left and the down jacket on the right. You can see how much heat is lost in the cotton suit. There is also a loss of heat from the seam of the down jacket.

Box Baffle:

Box sewing method is the best fluffy, warm down filling method. Unlike the ordinary sewing method, which sews the outer layer and the inner lining together to form a partition, the box sewing method means that each partition is an independent cube or cuboid. This means that the down is rarely compressed at the periphery of the partition so that the down is kept fluffy and the appearance of heat dissipation points is minimized. Jackets made in this way are usually thicker and warmer, with smooth partitions to form a more uniform expansion state. Because more materials are used and more complicated, the box sewing method is usually heavier and more expensive, but it provides the best down performance, which is much better than the ordinary sewing method in terms of heat retention. Generally speaking, cold-proof coats use box sewing more than lightweight down jackets.

Some jackets are made using 2 methods, usually box sewing on the chest and back, and ordinary sewing on the sleeves.

The big nut whisperer just got out of the washing machine. Pay attention to the partition of the ordinary sewing method (the suture penetrates the inner and outer materials), and how small the down can be compressed.


The main fabric (outer layer and inner lining) has 4 main parameters: durability, weight, warmth, and waterproof.

A lightweight down jacket weighs about 9 ounces / 255 grams and usually contains 3 ounces / 85 grams of down. Other weights are materials, zippers, and many other small parts such as velcro, adjusting rope, etc. Jackets made of lighter materials have better compression and lighter weight.

Different materials have different durability. Thinner and lighter materials are generally less wear-resistant and can be easily broken. There are a lot of very light fabrics in the market that are impressive. The jackets they can make have an amazing warm-to-weight ratio. However, if you want to find a down jacket that can be worn for many years, then you should put the durability of the fabric on your first importance because down is naturally durable as long as it is properly maintained... When looking for a down jacket you plan to buy, take a moment to look at the fabric and its relative weight with other similar jackets. Some jackets, such as Montbell Frost Smoke, use a variety of fabrics with different weights and durability, making the total weight of the jacket lighter than other similar jackets, but without completely sacrificing durability.

The fabric will affect the warmth of the jacket. You want the fabric to be breathable and allow sweat to escape, which will make the down moist and reduce the bulkiness.

Finally, the fabric will protect the down from wind, rain, and dust. The tightly woven fabric is more waterproof. Although all tested down jackets have a water-repellent finish, they are easily worn out to varying degrees of travel.

If weight and packing ability are your main considerations, consider these jackets that use ultra-light fabrics, such as Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer, Montbell EX Light, or, this warmer, Montbell Phantom ( Mirage). If durability is your first priority, consider these jackets that use stronger fabrics, such as Montbell Alpine Light, Montbell Frost Smoke, OR Excellence (Transcendent), or First Mountaineering (First Ascent MicroThem).

Max Neal wore a Feathered Friends Volant down coat, using box sewing, in Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Pay attention to reinforced shoulders and hats.


Intuitively, the thicker the jacket, the warmer it is. But before you decide to buy the thickest jacket on the market, you have to think about what you plan to do after you buy a jacket. If you need an alpine climb to accompany you, multi-support point climbing or other similar outdoor activities, it is recommended that you consider a lighter, ordinary sewing method, a high compression down jacket, such as Patagoni Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody, Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer, First Ascent MicroTherm, or Transcendent. If you need a jacket for daily wear in winter or occasional self-driving camping, these lightweight jackets may not be warm enough or durable. In this case, it is recommended that you consider these warmer jackets, such as Frost Smoke, Alpine Light, or Mirage jackets, all from Montbell. Or consider buying a real cold-proof coat, which is usually thick and warm, and is more suitable for repeated abuse. Remember that the method of making will always affect the warmth of your clothes. As mentioned above, the box sewing method can minimize heat dissipation points and optimize the bulkiness of each partition.

Do you want a hat?

Overall, the hat makes you warmer, especially on a windy day. Many of the jackets we tested have models with and without hats, and models with hats are slightly more expensive. If you want a warmest down jacket, then choose a hat. If you always wear a down jacket as a sandwich, then you choose a jacket without a hat, which is easier to wear under your jacket with a hat. Note that not all hats are the same design. Some hats are designed for mountaineering helmets, which are really too big if you happen not to wear them. Other hats, like Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer, First Ascent MicroTherm, are designed to fit the face very well and can be worn under the helmet. These hats are very warm when climbing or hiking, and have a snug, neat appearance, but if you walk around the city they will look a little funny.


The hat part of the Feathered Friends Helios jacket is tightened. The two adjustment cords in the hat can be adjusted from the inside, making it much warmer than hats without adjustment capabilities.

Easy to pack and easy to hook:

One of the super features of down is its ability to compress. Many jackets carry a compression bag or can be directly inserted into their own pockets. Jackets that can be tucked into chest pockets or side pockets with a hook loop are better for climbing than jackets with a compression bag because you can easily hang the packed jacket on the seat belt. When climbing the path of multiple protection points, the team can only carry a small bag. The team leader can hang the jacket on the seat belt, so that it can be worn at the protection point, and let the teammates carry the small bag. Another problem with using separate compression bags is that you should be careful not to lose the bag. The photo below shows the compressed size of several jackets stuffed into compression bags or pockets.

MontBell Frost Smoke Parka, First Ascent MicroTherm Hoody, Feathered Friends Hyperion. First Ascent MicroTherm and Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer are stuffed into their pockets.

Pockets and other accessories

Because of the different needs for warmth, lightweight jackets and winter coats are very different in pockets and accessories. Many lightweight jackets save most of the accessories to reduce weight, which is in the test report