Down is the layer of fine feathers found underneath the outer feathers of adult ducks, geese, and other water birds. This same layer of feathers is the only layer a baby bird has. These feathers provide birds with warmth and insulation, which is especially important to birds that spend a vast amount of time in water in colder climates. It is because of this insulation property that many products, such as blankets, comforters, sleeping bags, and jackets are made with down.
Down has many properties that make it an excellent additive to textile products. Though down can be packed tightly into small spaces, it is also able to trap air in its layers and provide thermal insulation. It is considered to be one of the best insulators against cold and is frequently used in outdoor gear such as sleeping bags, coats, and jackets. However superior its insulating properties are to synthetic filler, down falls short of superior in wet conditions because it loses its insulating properties when wet and does not dry quickly.
While down is a popular filler in outerwear, it is more commonly used in bed linens and pillows. In addition to its insulating properties, it is lightweight and thus cooler in warm weather. These attributes make down very popular as a filler for comforters. Many people prefer this type of bedding even though they can be impractical when it comes to washing. Most down comforters can not be washed in regular laundry detergent and great care must be taken when drying them. However, by placing a quality duvet cover over the comforter, the necessary frequency for washing will be greatly reduced.
In addition to natural down, some manufacturers produce alternatives. Down alternatives are generally made with polyester fibers that mimic the loft and insulation of the natural material. For some people, the preference of synthetic stems from a reduction in allergens, lower cost, and easier care. However, high quality down products rarely aggravate allergies and though more expensive, provide superior warmth.
Whether natural or synthetic, down bedding and pillows are by far favorites of many discriminating sleepers. Products made with this material are lightweight, warm, soft and comfortable. Pillows can be fluffed and re-fluffed to maintain comfort and stay cool while sleeping. When shopping for down products, check the manufacturers fill rating, which rates the fill power of the product. The higher the number, the better quality fill. Also look for products with tightly woven cotton outer shells to reduce potential allergens that can enter natural products.