Last Updated on 06/05/2022
Are Down Jackets Waterproof? To answer this question we need to know two things, does your down jacket have a waterproof coating on the outer shell, and has the down insulation been hydroponically treated? If the answer to both these questions is yes then your down jacket is water-resistant.
To find out if a down jacket is waterproof you can do a few things whether you own the jacket or are about to buy it. The first thing you can do is look up the brand name and any other details you know already. If you can find the manufacturer’s website you can usually find the answers you are looking for.
Are Down Jackets Waterproof?
To find out if down jackets are waterproof the first thing we are going to do is look for any visible signs of what the outer shell is made from. For example, Gore-Tex products always have some kind of tag or label on the outside (however it is rare to see a Gore-Tex Down Jacket. Most often the shell material on down jackets will be made from some form of polyester or nylon with a DWR treatment.
As an example, click on the image above to check out the Rab Microlight Alpine Down Jacket and look at the features listed at the top. You will see two things, the down is hydrophobic and the shell is made from Pertex Quantum Ripstop which is water-resistant. These two features combined make this down jacket pretty waterproof.
What is Hydrophobic Down?
Hydrophobic down is essentially just downy feathers that have been treated to repel water, retain loft when wet, and dry out faster. Hydrophobic down is typically made from goose down which has some natural water repellency properties already. The chemical treatment is totally safe and helps to prevent water absorption which is the one area regular down often falls short of synthetic insulation
What is a DWR on a Down Jacket?
DWR stands for durable water repellent and is an abbreviation often used when talking about waterproof clothing and camping equipment fabrics. It is basically a thin finish that is applied to the outside of the fabric to create a water-resistant barrier. DWR treatment is not the same as a waterproof membrane like Gore-Tex however it does have lots of benefits.
The additional protection that a DWR coating offers prevents the outer shell from becoming saturated and forces the water to just bead off. This barrier does degrade over time which is why it is important to keep topping it up with some waterproofing treatment or spray every 6 – 12 months.
How Waterproof is Hydrophobic Down?
To understand just how much difference hydrophobic down makes just take a look at the image above from the Gear Junkie website. The jar on the left shows regular down with no treatment and you can clearly see the negative effects that water has. On the right, you can see that the hydroponically treated down repels the water and retains almost all of its loft (up to 90-%).
In terms of rain protection, this means that even if your jacket gets soaked and you can feel the jacket material wet against your skin the down filling will continue to keep you warm. The importance of retaining thermal insulation properties should not be underestimated as getting wet is often followed by getting cold. At least with hydrophobic down you know you will always stay warm.
How to Tell if Your Down Jacket Is Waterproof?
The easiest way how to tell if your down jacket is waterproof is to check the labels or manufacturer’s website or on another online retailer that sells the same down jacket. Look at the specifications and search for the outer shell material as well as the description of the type of down filling.
If you can’t find the same model online but you already own the down jacket, you can perform a quick test to find out if it is waterproof. Holding your jacket sleeve over the sink, leave the sleeve under the tap for about a minute or so. If the water beads off it probably has a DWR which is a good start. Then give it a squeeze and if lots of water comes out and the down filling feels bunched into a small ball then it is likely not hydrophobic down.
What to Do if Down Jacket Gets Wet?
If your down jacket gets wet then you should try and keep it as lofty as possible and avoid compressing the down insulation by stuffing it into your backpack or something. You should try and dry it out as soon as possible as the longer it stays wet the more saturated the down becomes until it turns into mushy balls of fluff. You can dry your jacket out slowly on a clothesline or about 2 feet away from a radiator, but there is a better way.
What is the Best Way to Dry a Down Jacket?
Believe it or not, the best way to dry a down jacket or down vest that isn’t waterproof is to put it in a dryer on low heat with some dryer balls (or clean tennis balls). But you don’t just throw it in and forget about it. You need to constantly stop the machine and give your jacket a shake to break up any clumping down in the baffles.
This process of drying your down jacket for 20 minutes and then checking the down ensures that you don’t overheat the jacket and damage the down. One other tip is to dry your jacket inside out and make sure that it is the only thing in the dryer. The reason for this is that the abundance of space allows the jacket to retain its loftiness.
We hope this answered your question, “are down jackets waterproof?”.