What are the key differences in performance?
Down is lighter in weight and weight-for-weight it is actually warmer than synthetic insulation. It is worth noting that down fails to insulate when it’s wet, not ideal for our famously soggy climate. Synthetic insulation, on the other hand, maintains its insulating power in damper conditions.
When down insulation is best
Down is more suitable in cold dry conditions. Very cold conditions such as above the arctic circle or atop high peaks are often also very dry with moisture taking the form of snow and ice. Down is the perfect solution to dry-cold climates or on expeditions where weight is an important factor.
Down does not usually do so well in wet conditions unless protected by a waterproof shell, however many of the brands within our range use water resistant treatments on their down which pushes it to be more resistant to moisture allowing you more time to throw on your trusty waterproof when the sky begins to pour.
When synthetic insulation is best
Very versatile, synthetic insulation is easy to take care of, keeps you warm in a variety of conditions, including cold and soggy environments and is more cost effective. It is particularly useful in the UK as well as much of mainland Europe’s soggier, off mountain conditions.
Though less packable and often heavier than down, many brands carry excellent options if you’re looking for weight prioritised synthetic options such as Cirrus from Rab, Plumafill from Patagonia or Thermoball from The North Face.