Getting The Lowdown On Down.

For thousands of years, humans have been using different forms of insulation in our clothes to combat the environments we live in. Using down has been a big part of that story, but what is down?

Down is the fluffy undercoating of feathers on ducks or geese. Down works as a natural insulator for birds, trapping air in the clumps of down which holds warmth. On a down garment, you will get a down-to-feather ratio and a fill power rating. The down-to-feather ratio will look something like 90/10 or 80/20. The first number is the percentage of down and the second number is, therefore, the percentage of feather. The higher the percentage of down in a garment the warmer it's going to be. Fill power is a measure of, essentially, how fluffy the down is. How fluffy the down is affects how well the down retains warmth. 550 would be considered a medium fill power, this would be the fill power of an average jacket. Fill power can go all the way up to 800+ for serious pieces of kit for extreme weather conditions.

In the field of real down, there are two options presented to you, duck or goose. The key difference between the two downs is the size and fill power. Goose down is generally warmer because it comes in larger down clusters. Goose down comes in larger clusters because geese are larger animals and tend to live in colder environments and therefore demand their clusters be larger and fluffier.

There is a third option for down jackets, synthetic down. If duck and goose down are tricky wingers, synthetic down is the hard-working, ball-winning midfielder. They both have their place but play very different roles, synthetic is capable of doing some bits duck and goose aren’t (normally at a reduced cost). The advantages of real down is that it is light for the warmth, packs small and it has a long lifespan. However, one of the main drawbacks of real down is how it manages with getting wet. Unless a real down has been treated to become hydrophobic it will clump together. Clumping together means that it will lose its ability to retain heat. Synthetic down doesn’t suffer from this same issue as it is normally treated to cope better in humid and damp conditions, it also dries faster than real down. Ultimately, whichever down is best for you is situational, if you’re going to be out in wetter weather then synthetic is the obvious choice, however in most other situations, real down is going to be superior.

At Project and Washed, we stock several garments which utilise down. In Project we have the Calland Ripstop Puffer Coat from Hikerdelic which is filled with synthetic down, it also has a DWR coated ripstop outer to assist in the water-resistance of the coat. We also have the Padley Long Black Coat from Matinique, this coat uses real down sourced ethically. With an 80/20 down-to-feather ratio, this monster coat is sure to keep you warm. Washed has plenty of down coats, it is impossible to say what will be in store when you come in. Some of the brands we often have in store that use down are The North Face, LL Bean, Patagonia and Jack Wolfskin.

Charlie Price.