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When it comes to insulated winter jackets, most people instantly think of a down jacket as the highest quality insulation to look for. There are several reasons for this: (1) down has great insulating properties and keeps you very warm and toasty, and (2) it’s light and compresses very well, making it easy to roll up and stuff into tight spaces when you don’t need it.

However, your search for a warm, comfortable and convenient jacket that will get you through your ski trip and the worst days of winter does not have to begin and end with down — whose production is marked with cruelty.

A Brief Background on Down

Down is the soft layer of fine feathers from the breast of a goose or duck that is closest to their skin and grows to form quill, but does not have the hard quill shaft found in the outer feathers of birds. Down feathers act as a natural thermal vest for birds by trapping air and preventing the loss of body heat. This is also what makes them a very popular filler material in comforters, pillows and jackets.

However, down is literally picked from birds after they are slaughtered for meat or foie gras and in some cases, by forcibly restraining the animals while they are still alive. In both situations, the birds involved generally live short, miserable lives and die painful deaths for purposes that are absolutely unnecessary in this day and age.

Today, we are fortunate to have the technologies and production processes that can bring us a number of super warm and super stylish 100 percent cruelty-free down alternative winter coats. The synthetic insulation materials within these coats are far superior to down — lasting much longer than their feathered counterparts, which lose their highly coveted “fluff” after a period of time. Plus, with synthetic insulation, you won’t ever have to look like a Michelin Man again. Phew!

Fantastic Down-Alternative Winter Coats

While we could chat all day about the cruelty of down and the beauty of synthetically-insulated coats, we think it’s best to just drive headfirst into some of the wonderful down-alternative coats out there on the market right now. And do keep in mind: even though some of these coats are on the pricey side, no animals were harmed in their making and no lives were taken to make them, so perhaps in this way the benefits really do outweigh the costs.

Without further ado, check out some fantastic down-alternative winter coats below, and be sure to tell your friends and family about them, to get them on the down-free band wagon, too!

Primaloft®

This patented synthetic microfiber thermal insulation was originally developed for the U.S. military in the 1980s for use in clothing and sleeping bags. The goal was to develop a material that (unlike down) would not lose its insulation when wet, but would retain the lightness, softness, suppleness and compressibility found in down insulation. This makes jackets lined with Primaloft® insulation water-resistant, lightweight, very soft, highly packable and a lot less bulky than jackets made with down insulation.

Primaloft® is undoubtedly the leading name in the synthetic insulation field, with several big brands using Primaloft® insulation products for their garments.

North Face makes a range of jackets with Primaloft® insulation including:

Women’s

Men’s

Patagonia also has an excellent range of jackets with Primaloft® including:

In addition, Patagonia uses recycled polyester in their jackets, which is made by weaving polyester fibers with used soda bottles, unusable second quality fabrics and worn out garments.

Cloudveil’s Enclosure Hooded Jackets for men and women are also great synthetic options. If you’re looking for some Primaloft® insulation with more style, try the Lincoln (women’s) or Men’s Pea Coat by ethical (vegan) fashion house, Vaute Couture.

Thermal R

This polyester-based insulation is the brand Marmot’s proprietary insulation that is used in their garments, sleeping bags and gloves. Thermal R is almost as light as Primaloft®, and provides excellent warmth and is very durable. The Men’s Cauldron Hoody and the Women’s Dena Jacket are very good options for the coldest winter conditions, and both come with a relatively reasonable price tag. Some other options for men include:

For women, try:

If you’re looking for a slightly longer jacket with an extra layer of  protection, then Marmot’s Women’s Downtown Component Jacket or the Men’s Uptown  Jacket is a great, durable choice. It features a zip-out insulation layer along with an outer waterproof and windproof shell.

Omni-Heat®

This is Columbia Sportswear’s proprietary brand of thermal insulation, which is advertised as the highest heat retention per gram of synthetic insulation in the industry. Jackets made with this technology are very soft and down-like, but are made out of eco-friendly synthetic materials. Unfortunately, not all Columbia Sportswear Jackets using Omni-Heat are free of animal products. Several use down and feathers.But, these are the ones that don’t, thankfully:

Women’s

Men’s

Cocona Insulation

Nau’s cocona insulation is rather unique in that its made of lightweight and breathable fiber that is crafted from coconut-husk waste that has been discarded by the food service industry. Cool, right?! Not only are many of Nau’s coats animal-friendly, they’re also eco-friendly — double win! Check out a selection of their cocona-insulated coats below:

In addition to the one’s mentioned above, some other synthetic insulation fabrics to look out for include:

Whatever you choose, remember that there is an abundance of synthetic, non-down insulation options that can not only meet your specific functional and aesthetic needs, but also your budget, so, really, there is no good reason to continue buying down (or freeze during the winter), and now you know why!

Happy shopping, Green Monsters!

Did we miss your favorite brand? Let us know! Tell us what you buy to keep you warm & animals free from harm with a comment below!

Lead image sources: Image 1, Image 2

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37 comments on “A Guide to Insulated Winter Jackets That are Not Made With Down”

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DKR
8 Months Ago

Dear Sir or Madam: Having looked at many of the non-down coats on offer here, I find none that will stand up to regular temperatures of -40 degrees (F or C) with a windchill on top of those temperatures. Where can people who live in really cold climates find alternatives to down that will allow us to go about our days without freezing? I'd like a down coat alternative, but so far no company has suggested clothing realistic for my environment. Thank you for considering this question. DKR


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Edizzle
9 Months Ago

Thanks so much for this. The extraction of down feathers is extremely cruel and painful and I will always choose synthetic over animal byproducts. I saw somebody called the author a hypocrite- the real hypocrites are the ones claiming to be animal lovers, perhaps pet owners, who then fund the torture of other animals for their own consumption habits. The biggest polluters of this planet are the ones that fund the meat and dairy trade. Ask the United Nations.


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Susan Kayne
9 Months Ago

Great article, super informative. TY!


Reply
Jeff Leasure
9 Months Ago

I choose natural over toxins. You guys amaze me with your hypocrisy


Reply
Jeff Leasure
9 Months Ago

Unfortunately, Gore-tex is made from the highly toxic, extremely persistent group of chemicals ... stylie "street" brands like Spiewak use polyester-based polyfill or hypoallergenic Primaloft.


Reply
Sabah Ahmed Hathaway
9 Months Ago

Love this! Was just researching about where to get some! Thank you!


Reply
Jim Miller
9 Months Ago

Abigail Lipson Mahnke


Reply
Lindsay Wolf
9 Months Ago

Thank you for existing! Love your articles!


Reply
Clarissa Mc Kenzie
10 Months Ago

I wash mine and they are fine. Because if my thyroid , I get bone cold. I can tell a difference between my poly full and down and my down is Warmer and cuts the wind chill . That's me though.


Reply
Jodie Ross
10 Months Ago

I have always bought down/feather products because i thought they were a waste product of the meat industry. When we had our own farm they were part of using as much of the animal as you could. Waste not. Are you telling me that aside from the fact that the animals may not be killed in a kosher way, they are abused as well? I buy down blankets, pillows, comforters and jackets and vests because you do get the warmest items for the least weight. Those down alternatives may be just as warm, but they are heavier and are made with toxic materials. When you raise your own food, you should use those things like the feathers and the down, the fur from the rabbits can be brushed and spun, why not use those feathers for staying warm in the winter?


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