Down Vs. Synthetic Insulation

I love playing outdoors all year-round but like most people I hate being cold. I've heard it said that there is no bad weather just bad gear or poor planning. One key piece of your layering system is an insulating layer. The insulating layer traps warm air and helps keep you warm. Down is a warm insulating material that has been around for a long time but today's synthetics also provide a lot of warmth for insulating layers.

So which is better, a Down or Synthetic jacket?

It depends. Look over the below pros and cons and decide which will work best for the way you will use it.



Down is not actual feathers but is the fluffy undercoating from ducks, geese and other water fowl. People have been wearing down for years and it really is a wonderful material for warm jackets and sleeping bags. The warmth from down comes from air being trapped within tiny clusters. Down naturally lofts up to take up more space and therefore creates more warmth than synthetics can. Down jackets will be lighter than their synthetic counterparts and will pack down into smaller stuff sacks making down a great choice for backpacking trips or for winter travel. Here are some pros and cons for down.

* Down is extremely light-weight.
* Nothing compares to down for warmth to weight ratio
* Down can be compressed into small stuff sacks for excellent packability
* Quality down is extremely warm
* You must keep down dry. It does not provide warmth when it is wet.
* Down is more expensive than synthetics
* Requires a little more attention when cleaning
* May contain allergens



There are many types of synthetics including Polarguard®, Primaloft®, Thinsulate® and Thermolite®. Basically, synthetic jackets are filled with long polyester fibers that mimic the warming capabilities of down. Synthetics are slightly heavier than down and they don't pack down as small but they do have some positive points that can make synthetics a good choice including their ability to still provide some warmth when they get wet. Synthetic jackets are also more affordable than their down counterparts.

* Keeps you warm even when it's wet
* Dries quicker than down
* Easy to wash and care for
* It is man-made and hypoallergenic
* Less expensive than down
* Heavier weight
* Bulky and less compact
* Breaks down over time
* Can be stiff and less comfortable than down

You'll find both Down and Synthetic Jackets available at Sierra Trading Post at 35-70% off retail prices from brands like Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, Skea, Outdoor Research, Hi-Tec and many more.
Andy Hawbaker
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Andy Hawbaker
Andy is a hiker, backpacker, snowboarder and outdoor fanatic. When he isn't exploring the Rocky Mountains, burning marshmallows or scratching his dog behind the ear, he shares his experiences here on the Sierra Trading Post Blog.
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