Animal Down Vs Vegan Synthetic Insulation — A Complete Comparison
For centuries, since the first human used a sharpened rock to skin an animal, we’ve been using their furs, skins, and down to keep warm.
It’s undeniable that this has contributed to our ability to spread across the planet, into the most inhospitable climates.
Over the course of literally thousands of years, we’ve had very few other options, and our survival depended on the animals we hunted.
Times have changed, though.
We have options now, and they just might be better than what we’ve been using for all those years.
It would be great if things were cut and dry, but that’s rarely ever the case.
What it actually boils down to is that both types of insulation have certain benefits, and which you’ll want to use depends a lot on you and your situation.
If we were to talk strictly about warmth and ignore every other factor, down would be the winner.
While you can get equal warmth with vegan insulation, you require a bit more of it, which increases your weight.
The debate doesn’t end there though, far from it.
Moisture is practically unavoidable when it comes to cold weather — even if it’s definitely not going to rain outside, it’s still easy to get wet.
This is where down runs into serious problems and is actually why the vegan option was originally created.
When down gets wet it quickly becomes waterlogged, less effective as insulation, and can become moldy if not dried carefully.
Jackets made with synthetic insulation are highly water repellent and retain their full insulating properties when wet.
They’re also a lot easier to dry, and far less likely to harbor any nasty mold.
The cost of your jacket is going to vary based on a lot of factors, but when getting a comparable product, animal-based insulation is going to cost you more.
It’s simply a lot harder to produce, and there’s no way around that.
When you’re looking at a new jacket, you want to make sure you get one that will last.
The key to making it last is taking proper care of it, and with that proper care either insulation option can last you quite a long time.
Down sees its downfall here though, as it requires special detergent and can be quite difficult to dry without leaving pockets of moisture that can cause problems.
Vegan options you can toss in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with regular detergent and hang up to dry.
There’s literally no contest here — if you’re concerned about sustainability, you want a synthetic product.
That may seem counter-intuitive, synthetic is more sustainable?
We have to consider the source, though — down is coming from animals, which no matter how you acquire it, is going to be a problem.
If we completely ignore the fact that geese aren’t sheep, and their down can only be plucked after they’re slaughtered, there’s still the matter of the land, crops, and CO2 involved in raising them.
Primaloft, the most common brand of synthetic insulation, is made using a super low CO2 process, out of recycled plastic.
So they’re actually removing plastic that would otherwise end up in landfills, making things better for us, rather than worse.
On top of that, they’ve actually produced a type of synthetic insulation that completely biodegrades, leaving no plastic behind at all.
Don’t expect to find that in your winter jackets just yet, but it will be coming soon.
There is a time and a place for animal down winter wear — if you’re climbing Mt. Everest in super dry conditions for example.
If the cold is extreme, and there’s no chance of getting wet, it could be worth it.
For any other situation though, winter wear with synthetic insulation will offer you comparable warmth, and you’ll have a much better time if things get damp.
Add to that the easy washing, sustainability, and the fact that it’s cruelty-free, and it’s hard to argue for any other option.
I know, I tried.
I wanted to be as straight down the middle with this as I could be, but sometimes, one choice is simply better than the other.
And that’s alright — at least I know what I’ll be choosing.