Down or “synthetic”, which is best?
We often get asked this question.
The answer is that it depends on use and weather conditions, as well as a few other things.
Most people have heard of down. When we talk about “synthetic”, this is an abbreviation of “synthetic insulation”, which like down is used as padding in clothes to make them warm and cozy.
Nothing can beat natural down when it comes to insulation relative to weight.
Down has a complex structure which allows it to trap and retain your body heat. Down also has good wicking properties and packs very small. Some properties can also be water-repellent. The main disadvantage is that down collapses when wet and then loses all its ability to keep you warm. You can find the down jackets shown in the picture here woman and men.
Synthetics isolate even when it gets wet and damp.
There are many different types and qualities of synthetic insulation, each with their own technologies and advantages. The best-known supplier is perhaps PrimaLoft®. A synthetic insulating material is made up of ultra-fine microfibers that form dense accumulations of air pockets. These insulate by retaining body heat and keeping out cold air. Synthetic insulation can be seen as a sort of imitation down.
A common feature is that synthetic insulation is also that it is lightweight. It has good wicking and breathing properties and dries quickly. The biggest advantage of synthetic, however, is that it also insulates if it gets wet and damp.
Some of our synthetic products
Let the weather forecast decide.
The weather forecast will determine which material is best. Down is the best choice if the forecast is for cold and dry weather. Synthetic is a great alternative though if it looks like being cold and wet. That said, new down products are continually being developed with outer fabrics which can withstand a lot of water, so it also depends on the amount of moisture in the air.
If you prefer being outside rather than stuck in the laundry room, then synthetic is also good because it doesn’t require special washing procedures like down. Synthetic can be washed using a delicate wash and will drip dry quickly. A good thing to keep in mind, for example if you are looking for a jacket that you will wear for intense activity and will sweat a lot.
A little fun fact...
PrimaLoft® was invented in the early 1980s because the US military was looking for an insulating material that could repel water. They were trying to come up with something better than down, but it’s worth noting that man still hasn’t quite got there yet. That says a lot about nature.