There's a lot to keep in mind when you're buying a down coat. You must look for something that has the insulation properties you're looking for, but you don't want to sacrifice style for quality. Manufacturers also don't always make this choice easy, as the rating systems they use to designate how warm the coat should be can be slightly confusing. This guide can help you make the right choice, and give you suggestions on caring for your coat once you have it at home.
A Word About Down
Air that is still and unmoving doesn't move heat very well. A layer of down, trapped between two layers of fabric, will trap air. Since this air isn't moving, the heat isn't leaving the air. This means the heat your body produces is staying close to your body, and you're staying warm. A high-quality down jacket will be filled with a high percentage of pure feathers. Some smaller feathers are allowed, but their small nature makes them more inefficient at trapping heat than their larger counterparts. A high-quality down jacket will also be filled quite full of feathers. Just a few sprinkles of feathers will do you very little good. Down jackets often have quilting, which keeps the feathers aligned all along your body, rather than clumping in pockets around the seams. Seaming also creates pockets of air, which are useful in keeping you warm. Clumping of feathers is the basic enemy of down. When the feathers clump together, they cannot trap air as effectively, and you begin to feel cold. If you're planning to wear your down jacket in extreme weather conditions, such as on alpine hikes or wintertime camping trips, look for coats that are packed full and tight, with a high ratio of pure down feathers. Styling won't be as important as the ability of the coat to keep you warm and safe. These coats are easy to find in sports stores.
Down coats come in an amazing variety of styles, and it can be difficult to narrow down the proper style for you. Begin by thinking about what you'd like the coat to do. If you need protection from the rain, your coat simply must have a hood. If you'll be walking from cold areas, such as the bus stop, to warm areas, such as the bus, you'll need a zippered coat so you can easily adjust your temperature. Down coats no longer must be the puffy, circular coats children wore in the 1970s. In fact, many compact down coats don't even look as though they have down in them, until you spot the quilting. If you're a fashion-forward person, look for details such as faux-fur hoods, buckles at the waist and bright collars.
Quality and Fit
All of the buttons, zippers and snaps on your coat should be securely attached. Beware of cheap coats with poor detailing, as it's likely the down inside the coat will be of inferior quality as well. Your coat should also have actual pockets that open. Coats with faux pockets are often made by low-quality shops. The lining should be attached securely at the wrists, neck, front and the hem, but loose inside the coat. This allows you the most flexibility as you move around in your coat. When you try on your coat, cross your arms in front of you to determine the fit. The coat shouldn’t pull or feel tight around your back or shoulders.
Before you have your heart set on a hot pink down coat, think carefully about care. Down coats cannot simply be washed in the washing machine. Compressing the coat to fit inside the machine and then getting the feathers wet can cause them to bunch and clump together. The heat of the dryer can cause the feathers to break apart entirely. You can have your coat dry cleaned, but this may also cause minor damage to your coat. Instead, it's best to buy a coat made of a dark material, so you won't have to rush to the cleaners each and every time you spill a bit of coffee on it. Your down coat can be squished if you need to pack it for travel. Just turn it inside out before you begin compressing it. When you store your coat for the winter, make sure to keep it in a cool, dry location so the feathers don't pick up moisture or strange smells.