Down or synthetic? It’s what’s on the inside that counts
As winter tightens her icy grip around South Africa, you’ll be seeing more and more puffer jackets in your 6-9am exercise window. While they may all seem pretty similar at first glance, their performance, price and planet-friendliness is heavily dependent on whether they’re filled with DOWN or SYNTHETIC fibres. Read on for the pros and cons of each…
Down: Super-toasty…But pricey and harder to look after
Down is a natural fibre that’s plucked from the underplumage of live ducks and geese. The highest grade of goose down is the world’s best insulator. It’s also fantastic at wicking moisture away from your body and incredibly lightweight. That said, it does have some downsides (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Ethically farmed, higher-grade down is never cheap. Affordable down is either not very good quality, not very nice to birds, or both. If you’ve got your sights set on Everest, spending an arm and leg on a 950-fill, waterproof goose down jacket is easy to justify. But if you’re just going to be knocking about Mzansi it’s probably definitely overkill.
Even if money is no object, down does have some practical limitations. Not only does it lose all its powers of insulation the moment it gets wet, the waterlogged plumes also take ages to dry (especially in a Cape winter).What’s more, down has very specific care requirements and although it can be machine washed you need to use expensive, imported down detergent and very specific settings.
Lastly, the whole process of getting the down off ducks and geese and into your jacket isn’t especially pleasant for the birds (or particularly good for your carbon footprint).
Synthetic: Pretty darn warm, affordable and easy to maintain
In recent years there’ve been incredible advances in the design and manufacture of synthetic fibres. Synthetic puffers now come pretty close to achieving the insulation and moisture-wicking properties of natural down. But they are much better at dealing with getting wet, much easier to look after, and much gentler on the wallet. Hi-Tec’s new puffer jackets are also extremely eco-friendly, as they’re filled with 100% recycled polyester!
Perhaps the biggest performance bonus of synthetic-fill jackets is that getting wet doesn’t have a massive impact on their performance as they’re specifically designed to repel water. This means that they also dry out much more quickly than down.
Washing your synthetic puffer is a doddle. Simply put it in with the rest of your stuff on a regular 40˚C cycle and hang out to dry. It’ll be bone dry and ready for more action within hours.
On top of all these benefits, the new range of Hi-Tec puffer jackets is also incredibly eco-friendly. All Hi-Tec puffers contain a state-of-the-art recycled polyester fill that’s manufactured from previously oceanbound plastic bottles.
Despite all these benefits, Hi-Tec puffers are also much more affordable than jackets filled with natural down.