Jacket - down or synthetic?

Still fairly inexperienced and made a lot of mistakes buying the wrong stuff, only to have to buy again in a short period of time…
In your opinion, which is best : down or synthetic jacket?
With regards to heat retention; rain (know about down getting wet) and possible waterproof coating; weight and compressed size; hoody and lastly fair price…
I need to get one asap but it must be an good all rounder

As the owner of both I can say without a doubt that down is absolutely the bomb for cold weather. the down-side (hehe) with down is mainly:

  • loses some insular capacity when wet (but still more effective than most people think)
  • not machine washable
    My down jacket has never gotten wet though - I wear a rain-shell over it and pack it inside a drybag (with my other clothes); should never really be an issue.
    If you’re looking for a frequent wear, frequent wash jacket I’ll opt for synthetic insulation (also, cheaper)
    If wanting a jacket that will keep you toasty in freezing outdoor temps and offers superior warmth-to-weight characteristics, down is the way to go.

I am with Willem on this one. Looking at your question, it seems like you have a specific activity in mind. The answers will probably vary depending on what you use it for. Very few people hike in the down jackets, but in cold enough weather thermal underwear and a windproof shell is fine to keep water retention out of your down jacket.
This said, if you are looking for a ski jacket or going to a snowy place in Europe/Arctic/Andes then this answer takes a different route.

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Agree with above, a lot of it will depend on the activity and use for the jacket.

Down - Light and compressible with probably the best warmth to weight ratio. If well looked after they will last forever. On the other hand they can be expensive, don’t handle wet weather well and are not always very breathable for wearing while active. I’m not fully sold on either hydrophobic down DWR coatings, as it is a chemical solution to a physical problem, issues over time. If warmth is key you also want to look at down jackets with proper baffles for the down, and not ones that are sewn through, which create cold spots. Google for picks if that isn’t clear :stuck_out_tongue: Same principle as in sleeping bags.

Synthetic - Cheaper, doesn’t loose functionality as quickly when wet and with the right fabrics can be more breathable. Also just less delicate than down, though the insulation material doesn’t last for ever as it degrades. Generaly not as good of a warmth to weight ratio and often less compressible.

If it is for active wear I would also give fleece a serious consideration, particularly microgrid fleece that traps air pockets. Good with getting wet and you can choose fleece weights to match the temp/activity. Very fond of my half zip polartec.

Connected to the intended use, but hoods are great for the warmth, but can be fiddly with layering. And I often forget to think about how I will access the pockets if I am wearing something while wearing a pack.


Thanks. It’s mostly for backpacking, around camp in the evenings. I would also like to do some Drakensberg hikes in the future, so trying to think ahead.
One would not really hike with it on, as you start heating up quite rapidly once moving?
But a concern would be the wet weather… Is down okay to wear underneath a waterproof rain jacket?

Good under rain jacket. I do not buy so called multipurpose jackets. One for rain, another for warmth. Make sure the rain jacket is roomy to accommodate warm jacket. Roomy rain jacket is also good for ventilation when hiking in rain. Agree with previous comments

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Also love my down jacket, nothing beats the warmth. Cape Union is currently having a sale on their Fresco down jacket with has 850 FP down so will be warmer than equivalent weight 650 FP jackets. Also wear mine under a rain jacket with no issues.

K-Way Fresco Down Jacket

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So I purchased a down jacket and am happy to say I love it. Heat without the bulk. So now I need a proper rain jacket for the rainy season. Have a 3000mm waterproof padded one from a well-known outdoor chain - but 5 min in moderate downpour left me cold and miserable earlier in the year. First time wearing it. So what would be a safe bet, without spending a fortune. Anyone experience with Mac-in-a-bag? See they are 7000mm and folds up quite compact

Hi Tom,
I am looking at getting myself a fresco jacket. I’ve eyed out the transit down hoodie for Kway Drake down for a while but figure fresco on special is a worthy buy. So far have you been happy with application wearing of jacket? No seams/stitching issues etc? Will use for mainly in the berg/hiking (i’ve used synthetic RAB jacket but wanting to cut down on weight).
Thanks in advance

Hi, I have the K-way Siberia, which I have been very happy with. It is bulkier thank the Fresco/drake, but the quality has been excellent. Wear it quite a lot, very warm and no issues. I don’t have a Fresco, so can’t comment on that, but K-Way are generally pretty good with returns on any manufacturing issues. Hope that helps.