Down vs Synthetic Jacket: What Insulated Jacket is Best for You?

Even the most experienced outdoors enthusiasts may not realize that there are big differences between down and synthetic jackets. It is important to know the differences because selecting to right one for you can have a huge effect on your comfort levels while camping or hiking. That’s why in this Down vs Synthetic Jacket blog, we’ll give you the similarities and the differences between these 2 types of jackets.

For those who just want to trek back and forth between home and school/work, this review is also for you. So many people just select their jackets based on appearances and fit. They forget that the main reason to wear a jacket is to remain warm without being too warm.

There are two types of insulated jackets, ones made out of down, and ones made of synthetic materials. One will be better than the other based on the particular needs of the one who makes the decision. And in order to make a decision, one must understand the facts and arguments.

Down vs Synthetic Jacket: Quick Overview

Preview
Down Jackets
Marmot Men’s Guides Hoody Jacket | Down-Insulated, Water-Resistant, Lightweight, Slate Grey/Cinder, Large
Synthetic Jackets
Amazon Essentials Men's Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Hooded Puffer Jacket, Black, X-Small
Price
Expensive
Affordable
Compressibility
Highly Compressible and Packable
Less compressible
Warm to Weight Ratio
High
Low
Water Resistance
Depends on Final Coating
Water Resistant
Wet Insulation
Loses insulation when wet
Insulates When Wet
Weight
Lightweight
Heavier
Drying Capability
Takes a long time to Dry
Fast Drying
Durability
Durable with Proper Care
Less Durable
Safety
Not suitable for people with feather allergies
Hypoallergenic
Breathability
Breathable
Depends on materials used
Down Jackets
Preview
Marmot Men’s Guides Hoody Jacket | Down-Insulated, Water-Resistant, Lightweight, Slate Grey/Cinder, Large
Price
Expensive
Compressibility
Highly Compressible and Packable
Warm to Weight Ratio
High
Water Resistance
Depends on Final Coating
Wet Insulation
Loses insulation when wet
Weight
Lightweight
Drying Capability
Takes a long time to Dry
Durability
Durable with Proper Care
Safety
Not suitable for people with feather allergies
Breathability
Breathable
More Info
Synthetic Jackets
Preview
Amazon Essentials Men's Lightweight Water-Resistant Packable Hooded Puffer Jacket, Black, X-Small
Price
Affordable
Compressibility
Less compressible
Warm to Weight Ratio
Low
Water Resistance
Water Resistant
Wet Insulation
Insulates When Wet
Weight
Heavier
Drying Capability
Fast Drying
Durability
Less Durable
Safety
Hypoallergenic
Breathability
Depends on materials used
More Info

Down vs Synthetic Jacket: Is Down Really Better?

For the past several decades, there has been an assumption that down was the best way to go. There was always a good reason for this.

Down jackets have a better warmth-to-weight ratio. This means that for anyone who wants to pack light, they will get more warmth with less bulk. This also makes down jackets especially good for the casual jogger. Not only does it retain heat better, but it also allows moisture from sweat to escape, and does it better than synthetics.

Down vs Synthetic Jacket Comparison

Another main advantage to down jackets is that you can compress them and fit them into a small pouch. Down is so much more compressible than synthetic, and it will retain its integrity by ‘fluffing’ back up even after being cinched down.

So, why would anyone argue against purchasing a down jacket?

There are a few downsides to down that we have not mentioned. One of the biggest downsides is that it is considerably pricier than synthetic jackets. Also, down is only getting pricier, thus discouraging once avid fans of down from purchasing it.

The other major downside is that if your down jacket gets wet, it will lose its warmth retaining quality until it dries back up. Adding to this problem is the fact that down dries up very slowly. So if you get your down jacket wet, you can forget about wearing it for a few hours.

The upkeep when it comes to down is a bit more complicated than with synthetic. Instead of putting your down jacket in the regular wash cycle, you will need to use special detergents that will maintain its longevity. But looking on the brighter side, down jackets last much longer than synthetic jackets.

Down vs Synthetic Jacket: The Benefits of Synthetic Jackets

If you want a relatively inexpensive way to keep warm while you run or hike, synthetic jackets can do the trick. Although they are not as good as down jackets in terms of warmth-to-weight ratios, newer synthetic materials do pack much value for the amount of spend.

Down vs Synthetic Jacket Comparison 2

Unlike many other synthetic products, synthetic jackets are often favored over down for the fact that they require you to wash them more frequently. The more you sweat in your jacket, the more often you need to wash. And due to the fact that down carries with it the burden of needing to use special detergents and washing methods, synthetic jackets are an obvious choice for many people.

Now, if we were talking about much thicker jackets, such as parkas, there would be a stronger argument for down materials. After all, parkas and thick jackets under which people normally wear heavy clothing are less likely to need frequent washing.

Looking for a high-quality synthetic jacket? You might like our Patagonia Nano Puff vs Nano-Air Jacket review.

Down vs Synthetic Jacket: The Verdict

So which is the better; down jackets or synthetic jackets? In general, we argue that both down and synthetic materials are good for different people. But when it comes to picking out a jacket, we feel that most of the time, barring any needs for parkas or other Winter jackets, synthetic materials are better. This is because of the fact that it is less costly, does not need as much maintenance, and will still maintain a good part of their warmth when they are wet.

Going for a down jacket usually involves wanting something that is just as warm, but lighter. Also, light backpackers love the compressibility of down. It just comes with the unfortunately high price tag and the fact that it requires more maintenance than regular jackets.

What is your jacket type? Do you prefer down or down alternatives? Please enter your comment below and start a discussion.

FAQs about Down and Synthetic Jackets

Are down jackets warmer than synthetic?

Down jackets are not necessarily warmer than synthetic ones. But the main benefit of down jackets is that it’s considerably lighter than synthetic jackets. Meaning, you can increase the filling and provide more warmth without the added weight compared to synthetic jackets.

Which material provides warmth even when wet?

Synthetic jackets are constructed to be hydrophobic which makes them more resistant to water compared to down jackets. In addition to that, unlike down jackets which completely lose their insulation when wet, synthetic jackets can still provide warmth and dry more quickly.

If you’re looking for the best insulation during wet weather, you should consider buying wool jackets. Wool is naturally water-resistant and does not absorb water. Thus it’s the best material that provides warmth even when wet.

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