Synthetic or Down insulation?

There are pros and cons for both. So, which should you choose?

Many people say down is warmer and lighter. And that synthetic better in damp environments.

So read on to learn the ins-and-outs of each.

Down Insulation


Down insulation has a superior warmth-to-weight ratio. That means when compared to the same weight of synthetic insulation, down will keep you warmer.

It's highly compressible. The small plumage that comes from geese and ducks is very airy. It can be packed right down and stored in a stuff sack, so it takes up less space in your pack.

And it can last a lifetime. Down degrades a little over the years, but it still performs well. Good care for your down jacket means you'll be able to use it for a lifetime.


Don't get it wet. If down gets wet, it can lose its loft, alongside all its insulating properties. Leaving you feeling cold and damp. Drying takes time and you need to take care doing so. Incorrect drying can damage the jacket.

Take care when washing. Caring for your down jacket or sleeping bag is not as simple as you might think. The drying needs to be done just right to get full loft back into the baffles. Luckily, we have a simple [washing guide here](LINK DOWN WASH GUIDE). Or, if you'd rather, we offer a down washing service. Click here to learn about Rab Wash.


Synthetic Insulation


Synthetic insulation is generally cheaper. Much of our synthetic insulation uses recycled fibres as well, so it's a better option for the environment too!

It works well when wet. Synthetic insulation will generally operate at 80 - 95% of its dry performance when wet. That's great for the conditions we get here in the UK. Particularly for cold, damp Scottish winters. Although it's not waterproof and you will still get damp, you'll stay much warmer compared to a down jacket.

Tougher. So you don't need to be as fragile about your synthetic jacket. Synthetic insulation withstands snags and tears much easier. Due to the nature of the insulation, if you get a tear in your jacket, you'll lose less insulation. That means a warmer you, for longer.

Of course, once you're back, you can always send it to us to repair. Learn more about our repairs here.


Naturally, it does have its weaknesses too.

Synthetic insulation is heavier than down. To achieve the same warmth, we need to put more insulation in to a synthetic jacket. So it'll be heavier than the down equivalent.

More insulation means a bulkier pack size. As there is more of it to compress, this'll take up slightly more space in your pack.

Less life span. Sheet synthetic insulation flattens over time, quicker than a well looked after down jacket. So you'll get fewer years from your synthetic insulation jacket.

However, newer technologies, such as our Cirrus insulation is blown into place, much like down. This lasts longer and is now challenging the life-span narrative for synthetics.


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