When it comes to insulation, goose down is one of the most popular options in the market. Its softness and protection provide luxurious warmth and comfort like no other. Not to mention its unmatched resilience is popular among outdoor adventurers.
Recently, duck down is gaining recognition, especially among budget-conscious customers. Its price point and availability also makes it easy for manufacturers to produce products from pillow sets to jackets.
In this article, we will examine the key difference between duck down and goose down. We will compare critical factors such as pricing, fill power, durability, odor, and more.
But first, let’s look at the basics.
What is Down?
Bird down, or down feather, is the layer of fine feathers found under the tougher, exterior ones. Chicks and other young birds are clad in down before they grow their outer feathers.
Down is composed of millions of filaments that criss-cross in different directions. It creates air pockets that trap the bird’s body heat to maintain warmth.
It acts as an insulator and protection of the animal from varying temperatures and conditions. Moreover, it is known to be incredibly soft and fluffy.
Consequently, these characteristics make them popular in products that require insulation and comfort. Pillows, jackets, sleeping bags, duvet blankets, and other bedding sets use down for their superior qualities.
Duck Down vs. Goose Down: What are the Differences?
Goose down vs. duck down is a comparison that you should consider when shopping for outdoor gear. It is important if you are buying your first hiking apparel.
Generally, you want to consider your usage, trip destination, and the expected wear and tear that the product will go through. While there are numerous synthetic options, goose down and duck down should be your go-to materials if you want the best insulation.
These provide specific benefits and downsides. Here’s our rundown of goose down vs. duck down.
Goose down is generally much more expensive than duck down. Its high fill power and minimal odor issues make it easy to incorporate the material into various products. However, the quality of the duck down is not far off either.
The pricing of feathers is usually affected by the current supply. More people consume ducks, which significantly increases the supply of duck down. In turn, it decreases the price of the raw material.
Furthermore, prices also fluctuate depending on the seasons. During months when the bird consumption is low, down products are much higher in price.
Note that top quality duck down products are much more expensive than similar goose down options. Brands, product construction, and overall production affect prices as well.
Fill power indicates the fluffiness or the loft of a down product. It is loosely correlated to the insulating capabilities of the down.
The fill rating derives from the number of cubic inches that one ounce of down will fill. That means higher fill power indicates more air trapped by a specific weight of the material. More air trapped means better insulating capabilities.
Backpackers use fill power to determine the warmth-to-compressibility and warmth-to-weight ratio of an outdoor product. The rating ranges from 500 for low-quality insulating gears. On the other hand, high-quality goose down apparel has up to 900 fill power ratings.
Goose clusters are naturally bigger than duck clusters considering geese are larger than ducks. As such, goose down is more robust. Its fill power also lasts longer than the duck feather.
Furthermore, the age of fowl affects the overall filling power. The feather from mature birds is more developed. As such, they can withstand more abuse and are more durable.
The difference between goose down and duck down when it comes to insulation are generally minuscule. These two types of downs have similar structures. As such, they offer almost the same warmth.
When it comes to insulation, the percentage of down material plays a significant role. While goose down is usually warmer, insulation depends heavily on the amount incorporated in the product.
That means two ounces of duck down with 500 fill power is much warmer than an ounce of goose down with 700 fill power. More clusters create more air pockets that trap air and provide warmth.
Check for three numbers when shopping for outdoor gear or any down product:
- Its fill power should be at least 550. A higher fill rating usually results in pricier items, but they perform better in cold conditions.
- The feather ratio should be 70-30. A high amount of down material means good insulation.
- The weight, usually in ounces, of down material that the product contains is a good measure of the amount of down. You want more down for maximum comfort and warmth.
Additionally, read up on the product’s overall construction, weatherproofing capabilities, and similar characteristics that affect the insulation. Even the warmest down jacket will perform poorly if it is not equipped with the right fabric.
Regardless of the type of down material in the product, it will last for many years with the proper maintenance. Furthermore, the usage of the item also affects its longevity. Durability usually depends on the quality of down feathers.
Fat content and natural oil affect the overall quality of down. Birds should have a specific percentage of oil and fat in their body to produce down materials that are pliable and resilient to most conditions.
Processing of the material also contributes to the quality of the end product. Over-washing may remove the fats and oils, which may make the feather more brittle. Similarly, avoid the same treatment on your items and only clean them when necessary.
Just as fat and oil affect the quality and durability of down, they also contribute to the material’s smell. Since it is a natural product, the diet of the bird affects its odor.
Individuals with an acute sense of smell may notice a distinct scent from down products even at their cleanest. While the odor is less noticeable on outdoor gears, their smell is more pronounced if you have them in your pillows, bedding, or duvet.
Geese usually eat leaves and grass. On the other hand, ducks consume almost any type of food. This difference between goose and duck diet results in the latter having more obvious odor in their down feathers.
Factors to Consider When Shopping Goose Down and Duck Down Products
Now that you know the difference between the characteristics of goose down and duck down, you also need to consider other factors when choosing products with down materials. Here are a few:
Design and Construction
Before examining the down material in a product, consider its design and construction first. Whether you are purchasing a sleeping bag, a jacket, or a pillow, the product’s overall makeup directly affects the ability to perform.
For example, comforters should be crafted in a way that spreads down, filling evenly. Even if you have excellent insulating materials, it will not protect you from the cold if it slips around the edges due to poor product design.
Similarly, carefully examine hiking and outdoor products. A jacket may come with the best goose down filling, but if the fabric does not allow enough air within the insulator, it will not keep you warm for long.
The shell material is also an important factor to think about. Consider the type of material used along with the thread count. The latter affects how comfortable and soft the product feels. That is why great beddings and similar products have a higher thread count.
Similarly, what makes or breaks an outdoor material is its shell. For example, a sleeping bag with excellent down insulation can only maximize its performance if it comes with a shell material with good waterproofing.
Down feather sourced from ducks and geese usually come in two colors: white and mottled grey. Color does not have any significant effect on the performance of down.
However, if you are looking for products that use white or lighter fabric colors, white-colored downs look more aesthetically pleasing.
Duck down vs. goose down ultimately boils down to the type of product and its usage. For apparel used in extreme weather, the difference between the performance of varying insulators is significant.
While higher price points typically indicate better down quality, you should also consider other design and construction factors. At the end of the day, you should balance the price tag and the product’s usability that you are looking to purchase.