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What is Goose Down Jacket?

by 顺之 聂 11 Oct 2023

Goose down is the most popular type of down today. Down has long been and still is one of the most effective ways to keep warm, despite all the progress made in the production of synthetic insulation materials and the emergence of a large number of unique artificial ones. You probably have a puffer jacket. But have you ever wondered what a down jacket is and how it provides warmth?

Goose down is a benchmark for warmth, lightness, perfectly restores shape after compression, has a high degree of elasticity, and is wear-resistant, with a proper use service life of up to 15 years. It is a very valuable raw material for making various types of fillers for jackets, pillows, and much more. It has a rather low hydroscopicity, which means it does not absorb moisture well, and excellent thermal conductivity. The down fills the allotted space evenly and does not pile up.

Its availability and excellent performance characteristics attract the attention of manufacturers of high-tech clothing for the city and extreme sports. But not all down is the same as goose down and every year it becomes more difficult to find high quality down that meets the stated characteristics. All attempts to copy goose down, creating alternative fibers, have not led to results comparable to the original, each fluff can retain more heat than any other material.

To date, goose down has been and remains the best natural filler. Only waterfowl can boast of the presence of down: the down - "undercoat" protects birds from both cold and overheating. The most valuable of all types of down is goose down. Therefore, it is unlikely to be replaced by anything in the foreseeable future.

What is the Composition of Down?

When buying a goose down jacket, did you notice the word "down"? It means that the product contains down: duck, goose, or swan down. Why is feather added to down?

One of the most popular insulation for winter clothing is considered to be down. It can be duck, swan, or eiderdown, which is considered the warmest and most expensive and is used to make down jackets for people living in harsh climates. The most common option for insulating jackets is duck or goose down. It is often combined with synthetic fiber to reduce the cost of the product.

Down feathers are made up of two components: feathers and down. Feathers are rigid and strong structures that provide the framework for the feather.Down, on the other hand, is a soft and fluffy fibrous covering that serves to retain heat and provide lightness to the down.

Every year, raw material for insulation is collected during the plucking of waterfowls during the natural molting period. Each goose yields about 500 grams of goose down. Not only down, but also some feather of waterfowl is required for making down filler. The permissible feather down composition is a ratio of 70 percent down and 30 percent feather. A ratio between 95/5 and 80/20 is considered the best value in a goose down jacket. The tips of the feathers act as a weightless frame so that the shape of the insulation remains elastic and does not roll into clumps. The weight of the feathers determines the quality of the filling and its elasticity, that is, the lighter the weight, the better.

It is only possible to achieve the exceptional properties of goose down fillings if they are extracted and processed according to all the necessary technical requirements and standards. The production of down filler is controlled by special laboratories that test samples of raw materials for quality characteristics. The results of the characteristics are reflected on product labels, for example, the well-known Fill Power Elasticity Index. Down is a popular filler for down jackets.

Down filler is made from several types of raw materials. Making a quality down filler is a labor-intensive process. And it can only be done twice a year when the bird molts. From each bird (without harm) 100 grams of material is collected, and goose down there is not more than half. Why so little? The point is that not all the cover of the bird is valuable for making filler and the down is not completely plucked out. But the selection does not end there. The filler is divided into grey and white. There is more grey, but white is more qualitative and accordingly expensive.

What is Down Fill Power?

Do you like soft, airy goose down? The elasticity and suppleness of down make it one of the most preferred jacket fillings. These products can be different: softer and flat or tight and lush. Their quality depends largely on value such as Fill Power. Few people know about this well-known and important indicator of down elasticity, which is used all over the world.

Fill Power is used to determine how warm a down product will be. Fill Power (F.P.), an international unit of down product quality measures the ability of a down/feather mixture to regain its volume after compression. It is measured in cubic inches per ounce. The higher the index, the better the goose down material is in terms of quality.

To measure Fill Power, down of a certain weight is placed in a cylindrical flask and pressed down for 1-2 minutes with a weight. Then, measure the volume of down occupying the flask after the weight is removed, and the down restores the original volume.

There are American and English systems for measuring down quality. The American (IDFB) uses one ounce of down (28.35 g). The European system (EN 12131) uses 30 g. They also vary in load diameter and weight. The difference between these methods is about 50 points, so some manufacturers specify both measurements. It is also possible to recalculate indicators from one system to another with the help of tables.

This indicator is directly affected by the ratio of goose down and goose feather. So, in products with a lower feather content, Fill Power will be significantly higher.

The lowest value of 550 F.P. is used for the production of urban clothing and budget tourist equipment. The outdoor industry mainly uses down-feather mixture with 650-750 F.P. For the production of professional mountaineering equipment, goose down with 800-900 F.P. Higher F.P. values of 950 and higher are rare and are used in premium segments of mountaineering equipment.

The main source of heat retention in a feather down blend is the air cushions it forms. In these cushions, the air stays still, and where there is no movement, there is no heat loss, and the down stays comfortable and warm even in cold weather. Crumpled, bunched up down is not warming at all – it has no air pockets. But a natural, high-quality blend of goose down and feather keeps you warm.
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What Affects Fill Power?

The quality of down is primarily influenced by the bird, whose down is used to make the insulation. For example, geese are better than ducks, and geese raised in cold climates are better than birds raised in temperate climates. This is quite logical: in cold climates, the bird is forced to "fluff up" to keep and retain heat. And the absolute favorite is the down of wild polar ducks and Canada goose, with which they insulate their nests.

The second thing that affects the quality of goose down is the quality of cleaning and processing. It is clear that feather down mixtures must be treated in a special way to get rid of all impurities but retain their unique properties. That is why, for example, G'n'K buys raw materials for down jackets exclusively from proven producers - they have certificates, including veterinary certificates, and we are 100% sure of their honesty.

And finally, no less important is the ratio of feathers and down in the finished insulation. Feather is essential - it kind of whips up the down and keeps it from bunching up, but if there is too much of it, the F.P. will critically decrease. The best goose down jackets for Arctic latitudes have a ratio of 95% to 5%, for urban outerwear will be suitable and 70% to 30%.

How Warm Will My Jacket Be?

Very often manufacturers produce insulated jackets, the insulation of which can not be called completely down, because feathers are added to it. It adds volume to the puffer jacket and also reduces its cost.

In the upper part (numerator) is the amount of goose down. From the lower part of the fraction (denominator), you can find out how much feather was added to the insulation. For example, if the label says 70/30, it means that the filling of the down jacket is 70% goose down, and the remaining 30% is occupied by feather.

The feather included in the insulation (a mixture of down and feather is "feather") should be small, with thin rods. The size of feathers is easy to determine by touch through the lining. In budget clothing, large feathers cut into small pieces are palpable in the insulation. If the feathers in the insulation are more than 20% (look at the label), down jacket will not warm up in any frost.

Having received information about the puffer jacket, you need to evaluate it. To do this, you need to know what combination will provide warmth. Increasing the percentage of feather makes the goose down jacket less warm.

In order not to freeze in winter at temperatures up to minus 25 ºC, it is necessary to select products in which the feather occupies no more than 20% (80/20).

Inhabitants of areas with harsh winters should look for a model with even fewer feather: 10% (90/10). With goose down information, you can decide whether a down jacket with this insulation is right for you or not.

And one more important point: do not forget to ask before buying the ratio of down and feather in a winter jacket. A good proportion is considered when the down is not less than 75 - 80%, and feather - 15 - 20%. If the feather in the goose down jacket is more, it is considered to be of lower quality and will warm you much worse.

- If the value of Fill Power is less than 400, you have a low-quality down jacket.
- Fill Power 400 - 450 - medium quality down.
- Fill Power 500 - 750 - down of excellent quality.
- Fill Power 750 and above is the highest quality down.

It is believed that goose down jackets with Fill Power from 700 will be comfortable up to -25 - 30 degrees. At the same time, such jackets are quite light.

The Pros and Cons of Down Insulation

Each material has its own pros and cons. The pros of goose down material are:

Heat retention at very low temperatures, and high wind speeds;
Lightness – despite the bulk, even the densest insulation is characterized by weightlessness, so it is often used for sewing children's clothes;
High wear resistance – the tight fit of goose down fibers with each other prevents them from spreading during wear and protruding through the lining;
Duration of wear of outerwear – 5-6 years, service life of pillows, blankets, bedspreads, etc., more than 10-15 years. - More than 10-15 years. Absence of shrinkage, stretching during wear, washing;
Ability to retain the original shape, thickness, and volume throughout use.

Natural goose down fillings are lightweight, breathable and perfectly retain heat, but they have disadvantages: they are more expensive than their artificial counterparts, and also strongly absorb sweat and moisture, because of this, over time they fall off and stop warming - that's why a down jacket can not be washed in the machine.

Taking Good Care of Your Down

Each wash reduces the insulation properties of down. But you can't do without it either – the goose down is no less harmful to contaminants that can't be avoided in the mountains or in the city: dust, moisture, sweat, skin secretions. That's why you should wash your jacket, ideally at the end of each season, before putting it away for storage. If you rarely use the down jacket, for example, for mountain hiking or climbing 1-2 times a year, then you can wash it less often.

Proper washing, which won't damage your goose down jacket. Wash down products should be washed in water at a temperature of 30 to 40 degrees with shampoo or a special care product for down products.

To begin with, it is necessary to put the product in water for a quarter of an hour, and then, slightly affecting it with your hands, wash it. After washing, your product should be rinsed in several layers, with the last rinse adding a rinse aid or softener to the water. You should wring it gently, without twisting it in any way. Dry down products should be dried at room temperature – in a straightened form on a horizontal surface, shaking from time to time. But this is not the best drying option for goose down jackets and cobwebs.
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