What’s the difference between down and synthetic insulation? More importantly...does it matter? We at Allweathers get asked this question a lot! There are several key benefits of both natural down and man-made synthetic winter warmers, which cover things such as weight, packability, and the ease with which they can be cleaned. Hopefully, this covers everything you need to know, and we’ve picked out some of our top choices for each to help you take your pick.
Down insulation is made of the soft, light, and extremely cosy feathers that trap body warmth as close as possible to a bird’s body. These fine, very delicate fibres are used in down jackets in the same way as they work in nature. That is, they create a highly warming thermal layer that keeps in body heat, making down insulation jackets like The North Face Women's Gotham II Jacket an ideal choice for chilly autumn and winter days and nights.
There are several factors that make down insulation a top choice, most notably its incredibly compressible and lightweight nature: both of which make for less bulky, yet amazingly toasty winter wear. When choosing a down jacket, coat or parka, a higher ‘fill power’ describes a higher warmth-to-weight ratio of an item, as well as how compressible it is. With a fill power of 80%, for instance, winter gear such as the The North Face Men's McMurdo Parka means more air is trapped by a certain weight of down, which makes for a warmer choice!
One other thing to note is the quantity of down inside a jacket—a high fill weight can provide just as much insulation when (understandably) the weight of a jacket isn’t a bit issue. Hiking, trekking, and outdoor activities where packability is a concern often make a lightweight, high fill power jacket like the Rab Men's Microlight Jacket a more practical choice, therefore. In contrast, a higher fill weight jacket like the Rab Women's Deep Cover Parka can offer style, comfort, and all-around cosiness where portability isn’t a top priority.
On the other hand, if you’re having a tough time deciding or would prefer a versatile option for keeping out the cold—you can opt for a gilet instead. We love The North Face Men's Peakfrontier II Vest , as a flexible option that is easily dressed up or down. For an extra layer of warmth that sits snugly against your core, this is a great choice made with soft and toasty goose down that comes with zipped hand pockets. Our favourite thing about the Peakfrontier II vest, though, is the fleece-lined neck guard—amazing for keeping the wind off your neck!
In the same way that down insulation traps air to keep you warm, man-made synthetic insulation also serves as a thermal protective layer on the greyest of days. And the most drizzly of days too, because while they retain less warmth per unit of weight, synthetic insulation jackets keep in more heat when it’s damp. We like The North Face Men's ThermoBall Sport Hoodie for outdoor winter adventuring, thanks to its ability to keep you warm during drizzle and damp.
Another upside of synthetic insulation is that it is easily cleaned, which is perfect for country walks. If your dog loves to splash in puddles then a synthetic choice like The North Face Men's ThermoBall Jacket is wiped down in moments. So you can wave bye-bye to muddy paw prints. At least for a while!
One key advantage of synthetic insulated jackets that definitely merits a mention is that it is often a more economical choice than down. If you’re headed on an outdoor adventure, and require specialist gear, this can be a big benefit. The Rab Men's Altus Jacket and its counterpart, the Rab Women's Altus Jacket are both not only wind-resistant synthetic options, but boast all the features of a well-made down jacket at a much more budget-friendly price. From stitch-through mini-baffles and zipped hand-warmer pockets through to an internal zippered security pocket, they hold their own against the wind and drizzle. A great choice for outdoor rambling and mountain trekking alike, they both can be easily stuffed into the left pocket for greater convenience.
Another of our favorites here in the Allweathers team is the Rab Men's Nimbus Jacket , which is a brilliant example of synthetic insulation’s easy-clean properties. Like the Rab Women's Nimbus Jacket , which comes in celestial blue, it’s a stress-free choice for our volatile British weather. Whether it’s raining or sunny when you head out, the Rab Nimbus jackets are easily packed and carried when the weather flip-flops. Which, here in the UK, it usually does!
To sum it all up, your choice is likely to come down to the activities that you love to do most frequently in winter. Whether that’s hiking, walking your faithful, furry best friend or taking long strolls by the captivating misty seaside, there’s always a huge range of suitable options for you. And you’ll find that right here at Allweathers!