How to choose a jackets
The primary job of a winter jacket is to keep you warm and dry. One of the first decisions you have to make when buying a winter jacket is the choice of padding. Down and synthetic padding both have excellent warming properties, but there are differences which mean that different paddings are better suited to different situations. Which insulating material is best for you is determined by what you are intending to use the jacket for and what weather conditions you are going to be exposed to most.
Down – when weight is important and it is very cold
Down filling provides the most warmth in relation to its weight, and is easy to compress to a small packing volume. If you are going to spend time in very cold conditions, down is the obvious choice. The same applies if low weight is a priority. Drawbacks include the fact that down does not insulate as well if it becomes damp, and that it is more sensitive to incorrect storage and handling during washing, for example. In severe cold, the air is dry and down really comes into its own. Some down jackets have a moisture barrier (membrane), enabling them to withstand wet weather.
Synthetic – perfect in damp conditions
Synthetic padding is less sensitive than down and the fibres are able to regain their shape even after long-term use. It can also withstand a certain amount of moisture without any dramatic loss of insulation capacity. Jackets with synthetic padding can be washed and are cheaper to buy. One drawback is that a synthetic jacket does not provide the same level of insulation as a down jacket of the same weight, and it takes up a little more space when packing. In temperatures fluctuating around freezing point – when the weather is alternating between rain and snow – synthetic padding is an excellent choice.