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When you need to choose a down jacket to keep your core body insulated during winter, how do you decide which one? And what exactly do the sleeve numbers mean?
Down is the light, fluffy undercoating that’s clustered beneath the feathers of waterfowl. It helps protect them from the cold.
Many of Kathmandu’s insulation jackets have down fill. The down:
Down jackets are worn for warmth and to protect you against the wind. They aren’t waterproof but can be water repellent to some degree.
You can measure the quality of down by taking note of the fill power – usually shown as a number on the sleeve of your jacket.
Fill power determines the loft or ‘fluffiness’ of down. Higher fill power reflects better quality down that’s capable of:
Fill power numbers help you decide which down jacket to choose for your outdoor plans.
Kathmandu’s down jackets range in fill power from 550 to 800. But what does that really mean?
The fill power number on your jacket comes from a standardised lab test and indicates how many cubic inches one ounce of down occupies with a standard weight resting upon it.
A higher number means the down takes up more space and is capable of trapping more air.
As an example, our Epiq Down Jackets are filled with 600 fill power down – so in the above test, one ounce of this down takes up 600 cubic inches of space.
If the down in your jacket has a higher fill power number, the:
Your jacket will also be lighter than one with a lower fill power number that has similar warmth, fabrics and design features.
Let’s assume fabrics and design features are the same for these examples.
If Jacket A is filled with 227 grams of 800 fill power and Jacket B is filled with 227 grams of 700 fill power, Jacket A would be warmer.
Why? Because down with a higher fill power will trap more air and create a thicker layer between your body and the environment.
If you had 113 grams of 800 fill power in Jacket C and 227 grams of 650 fill power in Jacket D, they could have similar warmth.
However, Jacket C would be lighter and more compressible because it contains less down of a higher quality.
A higher fill power number doesn’t automatically mean a jacket will be warmer.
The advantage of choosing the XT Ultralight is that it has less fill because it uses a higher fill power, so it’s:
There are still a few urban myths around the down traps. Some that we can categorically dismiss are that:
A higher fill power number is always warmer – this isn’t necessarily true as the warmth of a jacket also depends on the weight of the down filled into it (as Jacket D in the above example shows).
Goose down is always better than duck down – a high quality duck down can be better than an average goose down.
Down jackets are filled with feathers – they’re actually filled with down clusters that grow under the feathers of ducks and geese.
It’s important to know that all down jackets will have some minimal plumage. A few feathers are valuable for giving your down jacket a little bit of robustness and structure.
Equally important is that all down should be certified by the Responsible Down Standard.
Base your choice of down jacket on the main activity you want to use it for. How warm and compressible do you want it to be?
Consider whether you need a jacket filled with water repellent down – one which will take longer to absorb:
Also take into account the construction and fit of the jacket you want to buy and how you want to layer it – as a midlayer under your rain shell or as an outer layer over your thermals.
At Kathmandu, we label each of our down jackets on a ‘warm’, ‘warmer’ or ‘warmest’ scale along with weight and packability levels – so you can make a well-informed choice on which down jacket is best for you.
Everything else is hi-tech. Why can't your underwear be?
Known as the all-rounder of jackets, it’s better to carry a softshell than not.
Down provides exceptional warmth and is incredibly lightweight and breathable.
What do those numbers on your jacket mean?
It's warm, practical and adaptive. Our best-selling range continues to evolve to suit your needs.