A lot of camping gear comes in either a choice of down or synthetic. If you’ve started to enjoy camping and have decided to purchase some gear, you might be wondering what is the best option.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that down is far superior to synthetic materials when it comes to filling for sleeping bags and jackets. But when it comes to choosing between duck or goose, which one is superior? Is one warmer than the other? Find out the difference between the two and what to consider before you buy.
So is duck down or Goose down warmer? Goose down is slightly superior because it has more insulating power. The difference is only minor but in the coldest conditions this will make a big difference. The slight warmth difference will not be noticable in temperatures above 50 degrees.
If you are trying to choose a sleeping bag, once you finish this article, be sure to come back up and check out our article- How to choose a sleeping bag
Down vs. Feathers
What’s the difference between down and plain feathers? Down is different from feathers because it is the soft layer underneath the tougher exterior feathers that keeps duck or geese warm and dry. Feathers have quills that can be stiff, hard, and poky. Down is softer and fluffier, making it perfect for insulating when compared to synthetic fills.
Both duck and goose down are quite soft and will insulate well, keeping you warm. They are also quite breathable, allowing moisture to pass through them to escape from your body.
Goose & Duck Down Uses
Both types of down are popularly used to insulate a variety of items. When it comes to camping, you can find sleeping bags that are filled with down and provide excellent insulation against the cold.
Many winter jackets are stuffed with down to provide superior warmth while remaining lightweight. Some gloves may also utilize down for an added layer of warmth. Home bedding such as comforters and pillows may also contain down.
Choosing a Quality Down
There are quite a few things to consider when comparing goose and duck down. Although goose is thought to be superior, you have to take into account the quality and what kind of bird the down comes from.
An immature goose will not produce high-quality down when compared to a mature duck. This is because the best down comes from birds that are larger and more mature.
A good down cluster will be larger and fuller in size. Anything filled with quality down will be very light, fluffy, and warm while low-quality down will be flatter and require more fill to get the same level of warmth.
Because down is harvested when animals are slaughtered, it’s important to choose manufacturers in locations where the birds are raised to maturity. Look for European or Australian down because these places often raise more mature geese and ducks.
Asian countries often slaughter the birds much earlier, resulting in a poor down that collapses quickly due to the fragile fibers. Goose down is known to be a little more durable and long lasting that duck down. So if you are concerned about longevity and getting the most out of your investment, goose down is a good option.
What Is Down Fill Power
Fill power relates to how much down is needed to fill a certain space. The rating comes from measuring the cubic inches that one ounce of down will fill. If the down clusters are larger, less down will be needed, resulting in a higher fill power.
Most fill power ranges from about 300 cubic inches per ounce up to 800 or 900 (or more) for down that is of the highest quality. Most products will have a fill rating of about 400 to 500. The higher the fill, the warmer an item will be.
Both duck and goose down have a similar fill power. But, because geese are a larger bird compared to a duck, their down may be larger. Of course, this also depends on the maturity of the birds and the quality of the down.
What is Fill Weight
In addition to fill power which references quality, fill weight is a measure of the weight and is used to determine the quantity of down used to fill a product. Heavier fill weight sleeping bags and jackets, for example, won’t be as easy to compress. This could make a big difference when it comes to backcountry camping and backpacking.
For more information on staying warm in a sleeping bag you should try this article that we wrote. Staying Warm In A Sleeping Bag (Easy guide and charts )
Smell: Another Reason to Choose Goose Down
Duck down can sometimes have a bit of an odor to it. This is because the belly of a duck is much lower to the ground than that of a goose. This means their down may come in contact with the ground and other debris more often.
Some also say that ducks will eat just about anything while geese primarily consume grasses and leaves. This may be another reason there is a distinct smell when it comes to duck feathers.
The presence of fat and oils within the feather is another reason some down may have a slight odor. All down should be processed and cleaned thoroughly before it is used. It should not be overwashed though or completely stripped of oils because a small amount is necessary for optimum insulation.
While most people will not be able to sense a difference, those with highly sensitive noses might find this rather off-putting.
Color Preferences of Down
Both duck and goose down can be found in either white or grey with white being more popular. Grey down is not as sought after because it can sometimes show through whatever it has been stuffed inside.
The gray color may make something appear dirty, although this mostly applies to blankets, pillows, and comforters. However, this preference does mean that white down is more expensive than gray. If you’re looking for warmth and don’t mind using the grey down, this may be a way to save money while still getting a high-quality down product.
Cost of Goose vs. Duck Down
Although goose down has become more popular and is often preferred over duck down, the demand for goose meat has declined. Duck is a much more popular dish, especially in Asian countries which are a source of down due to the popularity of these birds.
This means that goose down is not as widely available as before and will be more expensive than duck down.
The only exception to this is when it comes to Eider Ducks which produces Eiderdown. This down is very soft and the clusters are quite dense. It is one of the best insulating downs even compared to high-quality goose down.
This also makes Eiderdown very expensive because of the quality and rarity. For most people, purchasing something filled with Eiderdown won’t be practical. Although goose down is now pricier, it is still a good quality option when compared to duck down.
Benefits of Down vs. Synthetic
Anything filled with down (whether it be goose or duck) will be much more insulated than its synthetic counterpart. This means it will be able to withstand colder temperatures which is important when camping in the winter.
For sleeping bags, down is much more comfortable because the down inside is soft and fluffy if it has enough loft. Backpackers often prefer down items because they are lightweight and compact. One of the perks of down is that it can be easily compressed inside your pack without damaging the filling. The only downside to down is that it is quite pricey and it doesn’t do well when it gets wet.
Damp down will become flat and can take a long time to dry out and fluff back up. However, if it does get wet or need to be washed, know that it will get its loft back once it does dry out. Synthetic items can sometimes be lighter than down but you may compromise on insulation. They are also much more water resistant and some are even fully waterproof.
A synthetic sleeping bag has an edge over down due to durability and the fact that you don’t have to worry about the down escaping if there’s a tear. Even if the bag gets ripped or torn, the filling won’t leak out and you can still use it.
Synthetic items are also a bit more affordable so, depending on your budget and camping style, this may be the best option. They are also perfect for beginning campers who don’t want to spend a lot of money just to try it out.
Down also requires a little more experience to clean it properly and special products may be required to prevent damage.
We have a great article dedicated to this topic. You should definately read it to find out all the advantages that both synthetic and down offere. Click here to read it.
Even if you opt for the highest quality down you can find, if whatever is filled with down is not covered with a good shell, the down won’t be able to do its job. A good fabric shell will keep the down inside and allow it to insulate you.
The material should also be made from a high thread count which makes it soft so it is comfortable against your skin. Also, the fabric should be durable to prevent any rips or tears which would allow the down to escape.
Overall construction and design of any item filled with down are important to prevent down from slipping to the edges. The down should be evenly distributed and internal baffles or other structures can help to do that.