Why Down Insulation Is One Of the Best Survival Materials Of All Time?

Prepper Advantage
10 min readJun 9, 2018

Hello, this is Nathan Roarke from Prepper Advantage.

Today I’m going to show you why every serious prepper should consider jackets, sleeping, bags, gloves etc. filled with down insulation in their go bag.

While it may not seem like it, a down jacket is actually one of the most important survival tools you could ever own.

I’d be willing to bet you’d never thought about that…a down jacket being a critical survival tool.

Most people don’t.

Mainly because they believe what they see on TV, and TV survival info is hardly ever geared towards real survival.

Because that’s true the vast majority of beginner preppers stock up on things like emergency food, water filters, guns, ammo, flashlights and similar kinds of gear.

Yes, that gear is important.

But it shouldn’t be your first priority.

The reason why is most of that gear (guns, food, ammo) will only come in handy when a disaster situation extends past 72 hours.

And yet, most people who end up dying in a crisis end up perishing within the first 3 days of a crisis.

The thing that kills them: Exposure to the elements.

Exposure To The Elements Kills Fast

As the classic survival rule “The Rule of 3” states, if you can’t ward off the elements (specifically the cold, wet elements) the chances you’re going to last longer than 3 hours are slim to none.

That’s because exposure to excessive cold (or moisture) will drive your body temperature down below 98.6° fast.

When that happens you become hypothermic.

And hypothermia will eventually cause all your organs to shut down, leading to your eventual death.

This is why you need access to something that’ll help you stay warm and dry.

Because being warm and dry when the elements are trying to kill you will skyrocket your chances for survival.

And It’s for that reason that you need to know about Down’s ability to keep you warm.

Discover the #1 Reason Down Insulation

Is the Best Insulation for When SHTF

In all the years of human manufacturing, mankind has never been able to replicate the incredible, insulating qualities of down.

That’s right, no synthetic insulation keeps us as warm as what mother nature made.

Down, as you know, are the “fluffy” internal feathers found on birds like geese and ducks. These fluffy feathers sit close to the bird’s skin and help keep them warm in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

This is a sample of what down feathers looks like.

There are two things that make down insulation superior for warmth management.

The first is these feathers trap air inside their microscopic “fingers.”

This trapped air, aka “dead air” will stay trapped in place and will prevent heat emitted from your body from escaping.

Instead of leaking out into the atmosphere around you, the warmth from your body stays close to your body, keeping you toasty and warm.

As TripleFatGoose.com notes:

“Just like a sponge traps water, these down clusters trap air in a way that heats it up while allowing the material itself to breathe….down fill has a phenomenal “warmth to weight” ratio, and it resists damage incurred from compression (think: stuffing it into your backpack).

This is why down is widely considered to be the best insulator known to man. Down jackets can keep you comfortably warm without weighing you down. Scientists can’t even create anything as effective in the laboratory!”

Down’s Second Big Survival Strength

The second thing that makes down insulation superior to synthetic insulation?

Well that would be its loft, or “fluffiness” which make it an extremely lightweight insulating material.

Compared to many synthetic insulations (that don’t insulate nearly as well) down weighs anywhere from 25%-75% less than its counterparts.

In a crisis, every ounce matters. And down being as light as it is makes it very easy to travel with and very comfortable to wear.

Plus, that loft allows for it to compress into very small spaces so it’s easy to store. Synthetic insulation is very bulky and that can be a problem when you’re traveling and space is limited.

As you learned, down insulation weighs significantly less than synthetic materials.

What makes it even more effective is it still insulates well, even when compressed.

This means a down jacket packed into the bottom of a backpack will insulate just as well as it would if fully “fluffed” out.

These are the two reasons

Down Protects From These 3 Types Of Heat Loss Better Than Other Types Of Insulation

If you’re ever caught in a crisis, exposure to the elements will cause your body to lose heat in three different ways.

  • Conduction
  • Convection
  • Radiation

Let me show you how down keeps you warm and protects against these 3 types of heat loss.

1 — Heat Loss Via Conduction

Heat loss via conduction one of the most common forms of heat loss in a crisis.

If you were to lay down on the ground with little, to no thermal barrier between you and the earth, the earth as a larger body of mass at a lower temperature will suck heat out of your body.

This is the same thing as getting cold when you lean up against a cold stone or sit on cold concrete.

So if you were ever caught in a crisis, those moments where you have to lie down and rest are opportune times for your body to lose massive amounts of heat.

Down forms a barrier between you and cold surfaces and prevents heat from being sucked away from your body.

Keep in mind that synthetic insulations do this too, but they’re not as effective at keeping heat trapped next to your body as down is.

2- Heat Loss Via Convection

Losing heat loss via convection is one of the quickest ways to experience massive amounts of heat loss in a short amount of time,

Heat loss via convection is losing heat as an outside force strips heat away from the surface of your body.

An example of heat loss via convection would be losing heat as wind blows across your body and taking heat away into the environment somewhere else.

Typically Without exposure to convection, the heat from your body will remain close to your skin.

With convective heat loss, heat gets carried away from the surface of your skin and your body has to work harder to replenish that heat to maintain its 98.6.

Over time, this doesn’t just cause you to become colder, you also lose energy because your body is constantly burning calories in an effort to remain warm.

Down insulation protects your body from heat loss via convection because it traps heat and this trapped heat remains close to your skin AND keeps wind or cold air from sweeping body heat away from your body.

3 — Heat Loss Via Radiation

Heat loss via radiation is the simple process of heat escaping from your body.

While body heat might stick close to your skin, the radiative process of heat loss is something that you cannot prevent.

Just like the sun’s heat radiates all the way to Earth, your body radiates heat into the atmosphere.

You can’t stop it from happening, but you can keep that heat close to the surface of your skin.

And down, with its insulative qualities, does that better than any other

4 Important Considerations For Buying Down Insulation

As you can see, down is a great insulative material.

It’ll prevent you from losing heat from the 3 most powerful forms of heat loss.

It’s extremely lightweight.

And scientists haven’t yet figured out a way to make a synthetic insulation that works as well as down.

Now, before you go off and buy the first down jacket (or gloves, or boots, etc.) you need to know a few things about down.

You need to know about fill power, fill weight, down to feather ration as well down’s disadvantages (it’s not a perfect insulator).

1- Let’s talk about fill power

Fill power is a very important aspect of down’s power to keep you warm.

As you’ve heard me say before, the reason down is so good at insulating is because of its loft, or fluffiness.

Well, fill power is the way of measuring just how fluffy the down in your jacket (or down filled item) is.

(Image courtesy of alliedfeather.wordpress.com)

This is also a way to measure the quality of your down.

As TripleFatGoose.com writes:

“Maximum loft occurs when the down clusters are fully expanded. The fill power rating value is calculated by measuring how many cubic inches an ounce of down creates at its maximum loft.

A down fill rating of 600, for example, means that one ounce of down can cover 600 cubic inches.

The process involves putting the down into a Plexiglas cylinder and slightly compressing it with a weight.”

Fill power usually ranges from about 300–900 fill power.

The minimum quality for outdoor use is 550. Below that is considered inferior for insulation.

You’re going to obviously pay more for more fill power because that kind of insulation is rarer in nature (there aren’t as many 800 fill power feathers on a bird as there are 500) and it costs more.

But greater fill power means more insulation in a lighter weight package.

And that leads me to talking about fill weight.

2- Why Fill Weight Matters

As I mentioned above, the higher the fill power, the lighter an insulating device (jacket, sleeping bag, etc.) will be.

(image courtesy of SierraTradingpost.com)

However, fill weight takes things one stop further and actually gives you the weight of the down in your device.

An easy way to think about it is this way. Fill power rates quality, and fill weight signals quantity.

So, if a jacket has been stuffed has a fill weight of 12 oz. then that means you’ve got 12 oz. of down inside.

The more weight in down used, regardless of quality, the more weight period.

Fill weight is important because if a product has too little down (i.e. a low fill weight) it doesn’t matter the quality of the down used, it won’t be effective at keeping you warm.

In my opinion, this is why it’s important to select an item with higher fill power. That way you can get more insulation at a lower weight.

And the last component to down’s insulation is down to feather ratio.

3 — Why Down to Feather Ratio Matters So Much

The last thing to consider when it comes to down insulation is how much down is actually being used.

Most down insulation is plucked from a bird with both the down and the feathers included.

To express how much down you’re getting (as opposed to feathers) you’ll see a ratio like 90/10 (90 percent down, 10% feathers).

The higher the first number, the more down you’re getting.

Cheaper down has a higher number of feathers (which don’t insulate nearly as well as down).

Anytime you’re looking at down insulation see if they list the feather to down ratio. The best brands will because they want you to know why their item is better than the rest.

4 — The Disadvantages Of Down

As you’ve learned, down is one of the best insulators on the planet.

In terms of trapping and containing heat, we’ve never been able to come close to replicating how well it works.

However, down isn’t perfect.

The biggest problem is that when down is wet, it doesn’t insulate well anymore.

Just like a cotton t-shirt will make you wet and cold when it becomes damp, down absorbs moisture and will cling to your body if wet.

This isn’t just a downside to down, in some situations a wet down jacket can prove deadly. (Keep in mind there are a number of synthetic insulations that will keep you warm when wet, but they’re nowhere near as light and effective as down).

So what does this mean?

Should you ditch down if you know you’re going to be in moist environments.

Not even close.

Many down jackets come with water resistant or waterproof shells. That means they’ll still work well, despite the weather.

You can also purchase waterproof shells to wear. These will shield your down from moisture, add extra protection and keep you warm in bad weather.


At the end of the day, if you want to be prepared for a crisis, you absolutely must have a way to protect yourself from heat loss.

Exposure to the elements can rob you of essential heat, fast.

Down is easily the lightest, most effective insulator you could ever own.

For that reason it’s my preferred insulator, and the one I recommend to anyone who wants to be fully prepared.

If you want to get down on a budget my suggestion is to shop online. Sign up for email lists from top vendors and wait for the summer months to roll around and you can score major deals on high-quality down products.

Hope this helps.

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