Down jackets are vital gear for combating the cold, especially in the chill of the winter season. Having a down jacket-particularly in frigid weather- makes any activity enjoyable. Down jackets, typically lightweight and packable, feature soft geese and duck feathers insulation. Down is considered a warm and reliable option due to its superb warmth-to-weight ratio.
A down jacket requires washing only once or twice a year with average usage. However, you may be required to wash it more often if you wear it every day. Nevertheless, the rule of thumb requires you to clean the jacket whenever you notice uneven or clustered feathers, grime and dirt build-up, dirty sleeves or unusual odor.
A typical down jacket will come heavily priced. As such, you should properly attend to it so that it can serve you a lifetime. Limiting compression is key maintenance to lengthening longevity. While you can stuff your jacket in a stuff sack or pack for backpacking or a day hike, ensure that you store it properly when the trip is over. Moreover, before storing the jacket at the end of the winter season, ensure that you wash it.
Avoid Compressing It
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is never to store a down jacket compressed in a stuff pack. Otherwise, the feathers will lump together and lose their loft, thus creating cold spots in addition to making insulation patchy. The same is true even if your jacket features synthetic insulation.
Similarly, extended periods of compression will result in faster breaking down of the feathers’ structure and natural oils. Before storing it away for the summer:
- Unfurl your jacket and keep it in a dry place.
- Ensure to wear your down jacket dry because it becomes cold and heavy and loses all its insulation capabilities when wet.
- Swap your down for a raincoat during rainy weather.
- When wet, dry your down garments completely to avoid mildew formation during storage.
Keep It Clean And Fluffy
Despite the popular notion, most manufacturers agree that washing your down jacket on your washer won't damage it. However, specific brands may require you to have your jacket cleaned by a professional specializing in down.
Besides leaving it smelling and looking good, washing and de-griming your down jacket allows it to fluff up more. Moreover, once it fully fluffs, it will trap more air, thus offering more insulation. Additionally, proper maintenance and cleaning can revive the Durable Water-Resistant treatment on the outer fabric, which will allow light moisture to bead up and roll of the garment’s surface.
However, washing a down jacket more than required maximizes wear and tear. It is even recommended to spot-wash the garment instead of throwing it in the laundry. If it is necessary to clean the entire jacket, check the manufacturer’s care label for specific washing instructions.
Never use a top-loading washing machine-especially one with an agitator- to clean the jacket since it will damage the fabric. Instead, either hand wash it or use a front-loader. After washing, place the jacket in a dryer running on a low-heat setting alongside several tennis balls to facilitate the re-fluffing process. This step requires patience since a wet down jacket takes a lot of time to dry. After drying, store the jacket by hanging it on a coat hook or hanger.
A simpler alternative involves airdrying your jacket. Although it’s a seamless and quick process, it will require a lot of patience -perhaps a week- before the jacket dries fully. This process entails placing your down jacket on a towel in a warm and dry spot away from direct sunlight. Remember to redistribute the feathers occasionally to prevent them from lumping. Finally, ensure that the jacket has dried off completely before wearing, packing, or storing.
Note: While washing your jacket assists in maintaining optimal performance, keeping it clean, and preserving its loft, too much washing can negatively impact the jacket’s performance.
A well-worn down jacket is frequently exposed to ragged experiences and elements such as burns or slices from tree branches. Regardless of the quality, it is almost inevitable to have a tear on your garment during its lifetime. Fortunately, you can minimize unexpected tears with a stronger outer layer construction with modern technology. With a high-quality nylon layer, feathers remain undisrupted in their required position inside the jacket.
A simple tear will result in a hole that allows feathers to leak, making the jacket lose its warmth and loft. Don’t allow the feathers to fall off whenever your down jacket rips. Instead, push them back to prevent the hole from expanding, thus paving the way for more feathers to follow.
Typically, most people use duct tape to repair holes in their down garments. Although it serves as a temporary fix, ensure that you deal with the hole as soon as you can to lengthen the service span of your jacket. However, never attempt to mend a rip using a needle and thread. Using a needle will poke new holes in the fabric.
Using fabric glue or nylon repair tape for a dime-sized patch or smaller should help stick the hole’s edges together. You can purchase all these accessories online or at a craft store near you. For a larger hole, use fabric repair tape that you can easily access in various colors, depending on your preference. Using one will stop the ripping instantly.
Things To Keep In Mind
A down jacket consists of polyester fabric or low denier nylon that makes it light and comfortable. Although it is built to last, a tear or rip from a ski edge or tree branch is inevitable. The next thing you'll notice after a rip is falling features. You need to attend to it quickly since it tampers with the insulation-eventually beating the jacket's sole purpose. Compared to using a duct tape patch, or sewing, I recommend gluing since it is more efficient and lasts longer. Down and synthetic insulation jackets alike are an investment that requires proper love and care. Ensure that your jacket is clean and fully lofted at all times to ensure that it remains warm and classy for every occasion.