Down & Insulated Jackets Complete Guide
Everyone should have an insulated jacket on hand for cool temperatures. Whether synthetic or down, the fibres or feathers filling these coats work by trapping warm air that will help you fend off the shivers. Whether you’re out for a stroll or hiking, they allow you to keep going.
Lightweight and great for layering clothing when it gets really cold, these coats are cleverly designed to help you stay warmer and dryer for longer. Winfields has created this complete guide to help you choose what’s best for you as well as some of this season’s best down jackets.
Read on to discover more about down and insulated jackets for freezing temperatures…
What are Insulated Jackets?
Insulated jackets are coats that are filled with an insulating material that traps heat in air pockets to keep you warm.
They come in three main types, including down insulation, synthetic insulation or a combination of the two. However, down and synthetic are the most popular. Down jackets are brilliant for cold temperatures, as they provide amazing body-warming insulation.
Insulated jackets from looking like puffer jackets from years ago to being much more sophisticated. They have varying levels of insulation, which means you’ll be able to find the ideal insulating layer for an expedition or walking with the family.
The two main types of insulation are down and synthetic, but what is the difference? Which is better? Simply, they’re both great and will keep you warm.
Down jackets contain a layer of “down” to help keep you warm. This is the fine layer of fluffy feathers underneath geese or ducks.
Down is used because normal feathers are unable to retain loft – the fluffiness – on their own. This is why you may see percentages of down when shopping for a jacket. It’s to balance a percentage of feathers being a “down insulator”. For example, if a down jacket has the percentages 80/20, this means it contains 80% down, and 20% normal feathers.
When down is compressed, the fibres create small air pockets that trap air and retain heat to create insulation. Using feathers gives down jackets a great warmth to weight ratio, meaning that the jackets are often very lightweight while being incredibly warm.
The main drawback to down jackets is how they handle moisture as they are not waterproof. Rain and moisture cause the down to get clumped together, limiting the insulating abilities and taking a long time to dry out.
Synthetic insulated jackets contain polyfibres, a man-made equivalent of natural down.
Synthetics are used to replicate the warming and heating effects of down but without the thickness. They also do this with higher levels of breathability and often at a lower cost. Two examples of synthetic insulation are Thinsulate™ and Primaloft®.
Although heat is circulated easily, synthetic insulation can suffer from heat loss at more quickly than a natural down. It is more suited for when your body is still producing its own heat, during activities, for example during periods of exertion.
Synthetic insulation is also much better at handling moisture than down jackets, and will dry much quicker if it gets wet. So, if you plan to use your jacket in wet conditions, synthetic is best. It also makes it much easier to clean as a result.
Are Down and Insulated Jackets Waterproof?
While we’ve said synthetically insulated jackets are better at handling moisture, these coats, like down filling, are not waterproof. They are much more likely to be water-resistant, meaning that they can stand up to showers. In heavy rain, down jackets will lose their loft, becoming wet and heavy and taking a long time to dry out.
This is why you may have heard of hydrophobic down, where the down is treated with a water repellent coating. This doesn’t mean the jacket will still work when soaked but it will dry quicker, won’t absorb as much water. It will also retain its warmth much better than regular down.
The reason why these jackets aren’t waterproof is that down insulation needs to be able to breathe. A waterproof membrane would make you very hot, making you open the jacket to vent. Then, you’d cool down quickly and end up repeating this all day. Plus, down is designed mainly for snowy conditions rather than heavy showers.
- Baffles: Baffles are sections that contain insulation. Stitch-through baffles keep insulation evenly distributed while box wall baffles allow insulation to expand.
- Hood: Not all insulated jackets come with a hood. They are not just there to shield you from wind and rain but to trap warmth.
- Cuffs: Adjustable cuffs and hem mean you will be able to easily trap warmth inside the jacket.
- Pockets: Internal and external pockets. External pockets can be lined for additional warmth.
- Drawcords: To help keep the jacket closer to your body and retain heat.
- Body-Mapped Design: This has insulation strategically placed to ensure the best possible warmth without adding weight.
Baffles come in two sizes, wide and narrow, which can mean different things with each having their own benefits.
Wide baffles are the warmest option as they contain more grams of down or insulation and can be constructed so there are fewer seams where body heat can escape. However, they can feel heavier and do not layer well or compress.
Narrow baffles work well underneath a waterproof in cold and wet conditions. They also compress down small enough to fit easily in your pack ready to pull out when you stop moving. They are also better for being more active.
When do I Need a Down Jacket?
Down jackets provide a light layer of very warm insulation and they are ideal for low-intensity activities in cold weather, such as dog-walking.
If you are more active, you may get too hot in a down jacket. This is why you may prefer to wear multiple layers of fleece and other materials or synthetic insulation. These are more versatile and breathable.
How Should an Insulated Jacket Fit?
A down or insulated jacket should not be too fitted or too loose. This is to allow for adding layers underneath but not so loose as cold air could get in through the hem and arms. You may have drawcords to help with this. Down jackets tend so remember that you need a bit of room to allow you to move about.
How Warm are Down Jackets?
How warm a down jacket will be comes down to its “fill power”. The fill power measures the loft or fluffiness of the down and its insulating abilities. The higher the fill power, the more air pockets there are in the down and the more insulating it will be. Fill power can range from 400 to 900 with most down jackets ratings falling between 600 and 800.
How Tough are Down Jackets?
Down jackets are designed to be as light as possible with thin fabrics. They are often windproof, but can easily be torn on branches, for example. This is a reason to wear your down jacket as a mid-layer, beneath a tough rain-jacket or be mindful or be where you’re walking.
If winter outdoor adventures are your thing, the ultra-lightweight Tephra Stretch Down Jacket from Berghaus is the jacket you need. RDS-certified down insulation is guaranteed to keep you warm with Reflect Technology boosting heat up to 20% to key areas.
It packs neatly and easily into a Pertex Quantum Shell, providing elite weather protection when needed. Underarm stretch panels create a performance fit allowing freedom of movement. There will be no stopping you on your next sub-zero adventure.
Be prepared for any adventure with the Selenium Down Jacket from Jack Wolfskin. A beautiful and warm, this lightweight jacket boasts a high-quality duck down filling, with MicroGuard synthetic insulation, for a luxurious layer of warmth next to the skin.
Innovative Stormlock technology makes the outer shell water and wind-resistant, fending off the ever-changing conditions with ease. A detachable hood boasts adjustable volume and field of visions for the finishing touches to this bad weather warrior.
A warm and comfortable baffle-quilted jacket from Regatta, the Lofthouse IV features a heavyweight Thermoguard Insulation fill. This traps in the air to keep your little one warm during cold conditions, while being quick drying and easy to care for.
A durable water repellent finish will fend off an odd rain shower, while a grown on hood and elasticated cuffs and hem help seal out the weather. Two zipped lower pockets offer practicality for a warm and versatile jacket to enjoy this season.
You can shop our full range of down and insulated jackets, where you’ll find the biggest outdoor brands and newest additions to make sure you can enjoy the outdoors, no matter how cold it gets.
Browse below for links to our collections and other handy outdoor clothing essentials.