Down Comforter Guide
Down is a natural material made from the tiny little under-feathers of birds. Down is the traditional bed filling for high-end, luxurious comforters. Down comforters have been in use for centuries in many of the coldest places on earth; places like Norway and Siberia. Most down is either goose down or duck down.
These days down has spread across the globe and across industries. There are other industries that now take advantage of down's incredible warmth. These include the clothing and camping industries. While technology has come a long way, no synthetic material has yet been able to replicate the warmth and light fluffy feel of high-quality down.
Buying a down comforter can be overwhelming. There's a lot of different manufacturer's using specific industry jargon to claim that their down comforter's are the best. Here at comfortersetguide.com we are not in the business of selling comforters. This down comforter guide is neutral. We are not going to recommend a single best down comforter, because there is no such thing. It all depends on what type of sleep environment you need to get the best nights sleep. Because every individual is different, there can never be a single "best" comforter.
Instead, this guide will show you what to look for to get the highest quality down comforter for the best price. It's up to you to take this information and see which comforter will be the best comforter for your individual needs. Don't buy the wrong type of comforter because you did not know everything you should have.
Down Comforter Benefits
If you are looking for a high-quality, warm comforter, down is hands down the first material you should consider.
The Warmest Bedding Material
There is no other material that is ounce for ounce as warm as down. If the only thing you care about in a comforter is warmth, then you need to get a quality down comforter. There really is no substitute. This is the reason that, after centuries, households in siberia still use down comforters more than any other comforter type.
Down is made from the under-feathers of bird. The highest quality down is made from the common eider. The eider is a sea-duck that lives in the northern most parts of the world. The northern tips of Canada, Norway and Russia. It has evolved to survive in the coldest of environments, and its feathers naturally posses an unrivaled ability to keep warmth.
The warmth of down is also the reason for down becoming so popular in winter jackets and sleeping bags. Those who live in The North know how well down keeps warmth in.
Down is an amazing material if you live in a cold environment, or are naturally a cold person.A single warm down comforter can replace multiple layers of blankets.
Down is warm, but along with the warmth is its lightweight fluffiness. In theory you could layer yourself with ten heavy cotton blankets and get similar warmth to a warm down comforter. But sleeping under ten heavy blankets is going to be uncomfortable and your body will not be able to breath. All the moisture you naturally release will get trapped in those blankets and you will wake up wet and poorly rested.
When we say that down is warm, we mean that down is warm for the amount of material used. A pound of down is going to be warmer than a pound of anything else. If you enjoy a lightweight comforter, then down is a great choice. You can buy a lighter comforter and still get the same amount of warmth.
Not only is down lightweight, it is also fluffy. It expands into a large and soft area. A down comforter can be described as cloud-like. You may have heard of people talking about sleeping on a cloud before. Down is the closest thing to sleeping on a cloud there is. Even if you end up deciding that you do now want a down comforter, you should consider getting down filled pillows. Sleeping under down is great, but resting your head on top of airy down might be even better.
It is the airiness of down that keeps the warmth in at night. The little spaces between the down under-feathers creates little pockets of heat. This is why you want to keep your down comforter unclumped.
If you want the warmth of down but need something a little heavier to sleep under, try a down-feather mixed comforter.
Natural materials are more breathable than synthetic materials. A down comforter is going to be more breathable than any polyester or synthetic comforter. If you tend to sweat a lot a breathable down comforter might be a good choice. A quality down comforter will trap the heat, but still allow enough air flow to let your body comfortably breath.
Finding The Highest Quality Down
The quality of a down comforter mainly depends on the quality of the down under-feathers. But it also depends on how the comforter is stitched together and what material is used on the outside of the comforter. If you know what to look for you will be able to find the highest quality down comforter.
Types of Down
Down is made from the soft under-feathers of birds. Some baby birds are covered only in down before they begin to grow full sized feathers. Many different birds have these under-feathers that can be used for down, but the most commonly used down comes from geese and ducks.
In general goose down is a higher quality than duck down. This is because geese have larger under-feathers and goose down tends to be harvested from older birds. This results in a more durable and consistent quality of down.
That being said, the most sought after down comes from the common eider. This is a sea-duck found in the northern most parts of the world. There is only a few thousand pounds of eider down collected every year. This limited supply creates a very sought after source of down.
Other high quality down will tell you explicitly where the down comes from. For example, "Canadian White Goose" or " Hungarian White Goose". Generally, the more specific the origin of the down, the better the quality will be.
Other than eider down, to get the best quality down fill you should look for goose down. In the United States, the labeling of down is regulated, and can be trusted. When a label says "goose down" over 90% of the down will be goose down.
Quality of Down
There are different qualities of down. In the United States a products that is labeled "100% down, "all down," or "pure down" has to be pure down. The only thing inside a 100% down comforter is going to be down under-feathers.
If the label states that the product is "down" but does not specify that it is pure down, then the manufacturer is legally allowed to mix in other types of fill, such as feathers, into the product.
The fill power is an industry measure which shows how much space an ounce of down under-feathers takes up. The more loft, or space, the down takes up the fluffier and light weight it will be. A higher fill power equals a higher quality down. Higher fill means is also equivalent to more warmth per ounce.
650 to 750 fill power is a high quality down. 800+ is the best possible quality.
A heavy down comforter with low fill power will not be as warm as a lightweight down comforter with high fill power. It takes less high quality down to produce the same level of warmth as a lot of low quality down.
Down versus Feathers
Be warned, down is not made from feathers. Feathers are bigger and are found on the outside of a bird. Down are the small under-feathers found under a bird's regular feathers.
Feathers are useful for flying and repelling water. Down is useful for keeping warm.
A comforter may have feather mixed in with down. A mixed down and feather comforter is going to be cheaper than a pure down comforter, but you get what you pay for. Feathers do not keep warmth is as well as down. They also have larger quills which can poke through the comforter's shell. The highest quality down products will not have any feathers mixed in.
White versus Gray
Down comes in a few colors, white and gray being the most common. The truth is there is no real different in quality due to color. White down is more sought after because it sounds cleaner, but there is no actual different.
The shell is the outside layer of the comforter. For down comforters this is usually going to be cotton. For the highest quality comforter shell, you will want to go with cotton that has a higher thread count. Anywhere over 400 would be good.
Down comforters are going to be kept inside a duvet cover. Because of this, you do not need too find a comforter with a very large thread count. The duvet cover will be what is touching your skin, not the comforter itself.
The reason you do not want a very low thread count for your down comforter is that if the threads are not tight the down will start to escape the comforter.
Down comforter shells can also be made from silk, but again, the duvet cover is going to matter more than the shell of the comforter itself. Consider getting an organic shell.
Baffled or Stitched
The down inside your comforter can move around. To avoid clumping of the comforter you should purchase one that has stitching to keep the down in place. There is stitching across the comforter which keeps the down spread throughout the comforter.
There are two types of ways this is accomplished. Stitching straight through or using baffles. Stitching all the way through is stitching that connects the top of the comforter to the bottom of the comforter. The threads of the stitching go all the way through the comforter.
Baffles look similar, but are actually pieces of vertical material which act as walls inside the comforter. These walls keep the down in place, but the stitching down not go all the way through the comforter. Instead the baffles are stitched to the top of the comforter and then another set of stitches connects the same baffles to the bottom of the comforter. The point is that there is more room for the down to expand and fluff.
Stitching all the way through constricts the down, resulting is less warmth and less fluff. Get a baffled down comforter for the highest quality.
Getting The Best Deal On A Down Comforter
You can find a deal on down comforters any time of the year. The best comforter sales are going to be around January and August.
During January many stores will have a "white sale". This is when stores want to make sure that they are able to sell their stock of comforters before winter is over. Stores know that people do not buy new comforters as often in the summer as they do in the winter.
The other best month of get a deal on a comforter is in August. This is when college students are shopping for their dorms. It is also a common time for people to move. It's also the very start of the comforter buying season (aka the colder months of the year). Stores want to be the first to get your business and they do so by offering sales their down comforters.
Basically, the best time to buy a comforter is right before winter starts or right when winter is ending. Department stores like Khol's, Target and JCPenny all have big sales around this time, as do online retailers such as Amazon.
Who Should Avoid A Down Comforter
While down is generally the most sought after bedding material, it is not for everyone.
Those who often suffer from allergies may want to avoid down. Or at least test sleeping under a down comforter before purchasing one. Down allergies create symptoms similar to hay fever. The allergic reactions people get to down are usually not to the down itself, but to the dust and other impurities that can settle inside the down.
As mentioned above, down traps heat by creating little pockets of warm air. These same pockets can trap dust and other impurities which will cause allergies. One solution is to ensure that your down stays clean. Regular cleaning of your down comforter will cut down on the chance of forming an allergic reaction to your comforter.
If you are concerned about allergies, consider a sile comforter as a down alternative.
Cleaning a down comforter is more of a hassle than other types of bedding. The nice thing about down is that when you use a good duvet cover you will not have to wash your comforter very often. Down lasts a lot longer than most other synthetic materials before it has to be cleaned.
You should always follow the directions of your comforter's manufacturer when cleaning your down comforter. Otherwise you can damage the under-feathers and make the comforter less warm and less fluffy.
Down is a natural material. It cannot be produced synthetically in a factory. Because of this, it is harder to get down, and so the price of down tends to be higher than that of synthetic materials.
Remember, you get what you pay for. A high quality down comforter may be pricey, but you will be able to use it daily for decades. You use your bed daily. Having high quality bedding is a great investment.
Check out our list of the best down comforters.
As amazing as down is, it might not be for you. If you are having trouble finding the perfect down comforter, consider a natural silk or cotton comforter.
Down alternative comforters are also an option. Though they are unable to fully match the qualities of down, these synthetic comforters come pretty close. Down alternative comforters tend to be more affordable and better for those with allergies.