Bird down has been used for centuries as a means of insulation. Russians traded it to the Dutch as far back as the 1600′s so knowledge of its superior warmth is widespread. I’ve certainly owned a few down jackets and can attest to the lofty warmth provided.
There is one thing that bothers me though-
It seems like a huge reason people are buying down jackets is to go camp and climb.
If you like climbing snow-covered mountains up to 8,000 meters, get a down jacket.
If you need an technical midlayer, get a down jacket
Even if you live in the midwest and need a casual looking jacket for the winter, I suggest getting a down jacket.
Every time I go down to Joe’s Valley I see a group of guys, all drinking, hanging out by the campfire, wearing their big puffy jackets often times patched up in ductape.
And every time I ask myself why anyone would spend upwards of $200 to have a jacket that’s going to smell like smoke and have multiple burn holes.
Smoke ruins the DWR coating on outerwear. Once the DWR is worn down, there is very little standing between the moisture and the down plumules inside. And the worst thing is that when down gets wet, it looses its ability to trap heat, not to mention that it takes forever to dry out.
The fabric used for down jackets is incredibly thin too. It’s certainly an amazing scientific achievement, but tell the manufacturers to let me know once it’s fireproof.
Everyone enjoys the sound of a fire crackling, but it really sucks when some of those embers lands on you. When you’re wearing a down jacket, you’re just begging for your jacket to be ruined
There are types of jackets that are resistant to fire and blistering cold temperatures. They’ve also been used for centuries- a lot more locally, and in harsher conditions as well.
I’m talking about canvas jackets.
I have a closet full of jackets for every purpose: for wind, rain, hot windy rain, wet snow, dry snow, cold dry snow… the list goes on. None of those jacket though, will do any good next to a fire while I’m out camping. I have a canvas jacket lined with fleece and it’s a godsend. Thick woven cotton is resistant to embers from a fire, as well as abrasions against rock or other sharp surfaces.
When it starts to smell funky, a simple cycle through the washer and drier will get it looking like new.
The expensive space-age jackets, tattered and patched up from years of use, have become a status symbol among outdoorsmen. Memories literally burned into the jacket, “earning” a new patch for every trip. The extra few inches of girth around your chest while you split logs with a hatchet can really make you fell empowered.
Ok, so maybe I’m joking.
In reality, wearing an expensive jacket while sleeping on the ground really goes to show how hipster the climbing scene can be(aka Dirtbag Dichotomy)and a general lack of knowledge of gear. Bouldering does not require you be ultralight. Crash pads are HUGE, so there is no reason you need a jacket that stuffs up the size of a grapefruit.
Give your poor down jacket a break and bust out the canvas jacket when you’re ready to get rugged.