Down v Synthetic Jackets – A Buyer’s Guide

Choosing a jacket for the outdoor enthusiast involves much more than whether the colour or fit is appealing. For walkers, the main considerations should be warmth and waterproofing which will obviously be affected by the time of year and weather conditions, and naturally opens the debate of down v synthetic filling.
At BCH Camping we supply a wide range of jackets, both down and synthetic. We know it can be tricky to navigate your way through the advantages and disadvantages of these two options so we’ve put together the following guide.

Down insulated jackets

If you’re thinking feathers, think again. The word you’re looking for is “plumage” which, let’s be honest, sounds far more interesting than “feathers”. Down is made from the fluffy stuff (plumage) found underneath the feathers of ducks, geese and other waterfowl. Constructed with thousands of tiny air pockets, down is highly breathable which allows unwanted moisture such as sweat to escape.
The effectiveness and quality of down is measured by fill power, based on the number of cubic inches to 1oz of down that can fill a control-sized container. This can range from 450 to the warmest, lightest and most expensive at 900. The higher the fill, the less chance there is of cold spots forming so the down will insulate more efficiently – hence the higher price tag.
BCH Camping stock a wide selection of men’s and women’s down jackets. They include the Berghaus brand with its own Hydrodown® filling of a special down that repels up to 75% of water and dries 50% faster than ordinary down. We also stock Jack Wolfskin and Rab down jackets of varying thicknesses and weight. The Rab Microlight can be used as both a mid-layer or an outer, while the Rab Electron is ideal in colder conditions as an outer. The Rab Valiance is a 100% waterproof down jacket.

Synthetic insulated jackets

Synthetic insulation, whilst not as warm and breathable as down, is seen as a viable alternative with the added benefit that synthetic jackets generally dry more quickly than down jackets so they are more versatile.
Synthetic jackets are insulated with polyester which needs to be heavier than down to reach the same level of warmth, but due to product enhancements in recent years, there are now many high-performance synthetic insulations available that have an improved warmth-to-weight ratio.
BCH Camping supply men’s and women’s synthetic insulation jackets from suppliers such as Buffalo, Paramo and Berghaus. The Buffalo range has the reputation for retaining its warmth even when soaking wet. A staple of the British military, Buffalo is perfect for all aspects of the great outdoors. We’re also proud that BCH Camping of Trowbridge, Chippenham and Bath have become Paramo 'store in stores'. Paramo’s Bentu Windproof Jacket has a zoned Pump Liner for greater protection and is designed to perfectly complement the Bentu Fleece in colder conditions.

The benefits of down insulated jackets

  • Warmth! Regardless of the improvements in synthetic insulations, very few manmade fibres can match down’s warmth-to-weight ratio. For those cold winter walks, down jackets will keep you toasty warm, while also being breathable so that sweating doesn’t become a problem.
  • Down is highly compressible and lightweight. While walking you may want to pack your jacket into your bag – down jackets take up less room and are lighter than a synthetic insulated jacket.
  • Down retains its shape and loft well.
  • Down is incredibly resilient so if the owner cares for their down jacket correctly, it can last for decades offering an incredible return on investment. This is where the owner makes a difference! There aren’t many synthetic jackets that can beat down's longevity.

The benefits of synthetic insulated jackets

  • Synthetic insulation is water-resistant, or at the very least resistant to moisture, and will still provide some warmth when wet.
  • Jackets filled with synthetic insulation will dry much faster than those with down filling.
  • Synthetic jackets are easier to care for, with most being machine washable and dryable.
  • The majority of synthetics are hypoallergenic and will not cause allergies, as long as you keep them clean.
  • Cost saving. If you’re looking for a budget purchase, synthetic insulation will usually keep you warm for less money.


Although there have been significant improvements in the technology behind synthetic insulation, with its warmth-to-weight ratio, down insulation takes some beating. It comes down (excuse the pun) to whether you regularly walk in wet conditions, how much time you spend outdoors and the elasticity of your budget. If you’re a regular walker whose priority is warmth and you have the money to invest in the most suitable jacket for your needs, then down insulation is most probably for you. If your enthusiasm for the outdoors is less consistent and you don’t want to spend too much on a jacket, then a synthetic insulated jacket will probably meet your requirements.

Get in touch

If you still have questions about down v synthetic insulated jackets, get in touch either by emailing us at, visiting us in store, or giving us a call on 01225 764977. Our staff are always happy to help.