The Outerwear Chronicles: Down Insulation vs. PrimaLoft Insulation

The Outerwear Chronicles: Down Insulation vs. PrimaLoft Insulation

When it comes to fall and winter outerwear, there are a lot of choices to make. You want to create outfits that make sense of your style and unique needs from head to toe. What type of jacket do you need to stay warm? Should you choose natural or synthetic down coats as your winter coat? What's the difference in their performance? When you need to be out in cold weather, you only want the best material to insulate you and keep chilly winds at bay.

Overall, either material is well-equipped to keep you warm in the winter — especially if you get a couple long down coats for those particularly chilly days. However, natural down and PrimaLoft have different characteristics that suit different needs and circumstances. When you factor in the weather, styling needs, and a few convenience factors, you can make a firm decision on which coat insulation is better for you.

Natural Down Insulation

Duck and goose down are excellent natural insulators. Before the age of furnaces and temperature-controlled interiors, apparel with duck and goose down was vital to survival. The softness of natural down is still unparalleled, even though synthetics have come close to replicating its feel. By using the same pillowy feathers to insulate blankets and jackets, people have been able to brave the cold for thousands of years. In fact, down-filled coats have protected climbers to the top of Mount Everest — so you know they work! However, goose down has some drawbacks. In some individuals, the material triggers allergic reactions. It also has a higher upfront cost than synthetic insulation and more intricate care instructions. Sometimes, the tiny feathers can poke out of materials, especially if it’s a down comforter that hasn’t been washed correctly. And lastly, natural down can absorb a lot of water, which isn't convenient for rainy and cold weather.

Synthetic Down AKA Primaloft

To meet the demand for insulated jackets and blankets that are easier to wash, feel lighter, and won’t absorb water, the patent for synthetic down was made in 1986. Over the years, several types of synthetic downs have been manufactured, including cluster fiber variations like ThermoBall®, short-staple downs like Thinsulate®, PrimaLoft®, and Omni-Heat®, and continuous filament down alternatives, which includes Climashield®.

PrimaLoft® stands out because it was originally developed for use by the U.S. military. This particular synthetic blend mimics the excellent performance of natural goose down while not holding water or weighing the wearer down. A waterproof down jacket makes a big difference between freezing in the elements or staying comfortable and dry. Synthetic down is also easy to pack and highly insulating like a natural goose down. So, if you want a synthetic down coat that provides warmth, weighs little, and resists moisture, PrimaLoft® is for you.

Cost Considerations

Goose down is a high-quality material that can last for years with proper care. It costs more than synthetic down, but it’s a high-quality investment that will keep you warm and stylish season after season. It also holds its loft, or “fluffiness”, longer than synthetic down, which makes its higher initial cost worth the investment. Synthetic down options like Primaloft cost less than natural down but generally lose their loft sooner. However, these coats can last for years when you follow their care instructions. Since it costs less than the traditional goose down, it’s easier to obtain and keep up with your changing preferences. If you prefer having down coats in multiple colors, then you can get more outerwear when you choose Primaloft.


When it comes to the environment, both materials rank high in mindfulness. While natural down is biodegradable and made from authentic down feathers, Primaloft® Eco Black insulation is made of around 13 plastic bottles. If you want to make sure that you’re doing the best for the environment, make sure that you take good care of your down coat so that you enjoy it for years. When it’s time for a new look, donate your old down coat so that it doesn’t go to a landfill. Want the best of both worlds? Try a women’s down vest in natural goose down while wearing a cozy Primaloft coat! Who says it has to be one or the other?

Caring for Goose Down Vs. Primaloft

When it comes to upkeep, both coats are rather simple to clean. Goose-down coats need slightly more care than Primaloft coats, but the difference is minimal. For goose down: Machine wash warm on the delicate cycle with an extra rinse. Then, use the spin-only cycle to get rid of any extra water. Then, dry the jacket on extra-low with 2-3 tennis balls to prevent any clumping. If you want to line dry, shake the coat out to evenly distribute the feathers. For Primaloft: Machine wash with a mild detergent on a gentle, cold cycle. Then, tumble dry low. If you have more time, line drying is preferable. Tumble dry on low or line dry. Machine wash polyester in warm water on the “permanent press” setting. For either type of insulation, use a mild laundry detergent. Line drying will keep your outerwear in better shape than machine drying. However, if you’re ever concerned about moisture being trapped in your coat, run it on extra-low until it feels 100% dry.

So, the verdict is in: either material is excellent for keeping warm and has plenty to offer. Down is a great insulator, but so is PrimaLoft. The bottom line: the choice is yours!


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