Last updated on December 18th, 2017
Winter survival involves keeping warm! When outdoors, we keep warm by adding a layer of insulation (in our coats and jackets) to trap body heat. Down is nature’s best insulator. Synthetic fibers are engineered to mimic down. Fleece is usually made from synthetic fibers although some wool still exists.
The advantages of Down insulation are it’s light weight, it is compressible, has the most warmth for the weight, and is most durable.
The disadvantages of Down insulation are it’s insulation is lost if wet, it is slow to dry, and it is expensive.
Down garments make an excellent choice for dry, very cold conditions and are well-suited for moderate activity in dry weather.
The advantages of Synthetic insulation are it’s water resistance, it is quick to dry, and less expensive.
The disadvantages of Synthetic insulation are its modest warmth and bulkiness.
Synthetics are a very good insulation choice if wet conditions are expected. It performs quite nicely in dry conditions too.
The advantages of Fleece insulation are it’s softness, it is breathable, stretchy, dries quickly and is less expensive.
The disadvantages of Fleece insulation are its modest warmth and most bulk.
Fleece is a good choice when insulation is needed during vigorous, highly aerobic activity. (Down and synthetic jackets/vests are best worn for moderate to sedentary activities.)
It sounds to me like having all three types of insulated outerwear is ideal, allowing for all weather conditions and levels of physical activity.
What is Down?
Down refers to the undercoating of waterfowl, including goose, duck or swan, consisting of light fluffy filaments (barbs) growing from a quill point but without a quill shaft. Goose down is larger, yet lighter than duck down making it the down of preference. Down is soft and three-dimensional, used to hold air at high altitudes and low temperatures with a minimum of weight.
Down gives approximately three times the warmth per ounce as synthetics. Far less down is needed by weight than other fillings, which means a much lighter, but warmer product.
Why do down products vary so much in price? An inexpensive product will be filled with immature down, which will provide little warmth, and will most likely collapse after relatively little use. Shortcuts in the cleaning and processing will have been taken, and this will often lead to odor problems. Overall, a “bargain” is usually a waste of money. A quality product will certainly cost more, but it will be warm and cozy and last for many years. Something that costs more but lasts 10 times as long is a better value.
If I lived anywhere in a northern climate, and was a prepper, I would definitely own a high quality down jacket for each of my family members. If you were ever without heat, something like this could save your life. Sounds like good insurance to me… There are plenty of outlets and retailers who sell quality jackets. Do your research and pick something good, that will last you a long time. As a side note, now that I have relocated and am living in a more northern climate, I will be looking for one of these too 😉
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