Down Jacket Warmth
March 9, 2023
How should you compare the warmth between two different down jackets?
Since warmth and temperature ratings are subjective to both personal preferences and your overall layering system, it can be difficult to compare jackets head to head. It starts to feel like a convoluted high school math word problem: If Pemba’s jacket weighs nine ounces and has a fill power of 850, and Amity’s Jacket weighs 12 ounces and has a fill power of 700, who is warmer?
Let's break it down.
The two numbers that you should pay attention to when looking at a down jacket are: Fill Power and Fill Weight. To keep it simple, fill power is the quality of the down, and fill weight is the quantity of down. The warmest down items will have high quality down (a high Fill Power, 800+), and a lot of it (+3oz for a midweight down jacket, and +7oz for a Parka).
What are some other things to look for in a high quality down jacket?
1) Responsibly Sourced Down. Since down comes from either Ducks or Geese, it is important to choose down options that have been vetted by a 3rd party to ensure that these animals are treated humanely. The Responsible Down Standard works to ensure the highest possible standard that down and feathers don’t come from animals that have been subjected to unnecessary harm (you can learn more about them here). We use RDS certified down for all of our down products.
2) Waterproofing. The biggest pitfall of a down jacket is that once the plumes get wet, it is highly ineffective as an insulating layer. The plumes within will clump together and not loft up until they have fully dried (which may take a while). The solution? Look for a down jacket that has some type of waterproofing. For example, HIMALI uses HyperDRY™ Fluorocarbon Free water resistant down in all of our down jackets to protect against unwanted moisture. While this does not make your down jacket waterproof, it will help delay decreases of insulation due to moisture.
3) Weight. Down as insulation is a great option when looking for lightweight gear that is built to last. When choosing a down jacket, you should consider both the overall weight of the jacket and the fill weight of the jacket. This will help you to determine how much of the weight of the jacket is from the insulation (down) vs everything else (fabric, zippers, etc). Ultralight enthusiasts may want to go with the lightest jacket on the market, but you also might want to consider if other features are important to you (durability, pockets, etc) to make the best choice for you.