If someone with black and white face paint asks if you’re down with the clown, then turn around and run away. But if someone with a puffy coat asks if you’re down with down, then pull up a chair and bring them a cup of hot cocoa.
What is Down?
Simply put, down is the natural insulator that keeps ducks and geese warm. Its thermal properties make it ideal for pillows, sleeping bags, and yes—coats. In fact, feathers trapped in ancient amber has lead paleontologists to believe dinosaur possessed down-like feathers themselves. When down feathers are trapped closely together, they trap warm air next to your body creating an excellent, natural insulator. Plus, it’s super soft and comfy.
Dress like a Dinosaur
Unlike a 9-ton T-rex, down provides a relatively lightweight option against blistering cold temperatures. Down gives you the most warmth for its weight, meaning it doesn’t take a whole lot of it to keep you warm.
When you look at the specs of a down jacket, you’ll notice a number called “fill power.” This is the number of cubic inches an ounce down can fill. Finer down has more fill power, and therefore provides more warmth at a lighter weight. Fill power ranges anywhere from 450 to 900, with outdoor gear commonly rated between 600 and 800.
Keepin’ It Real
Down has the incredible ability to shrink, which makes it ideal for storing in backpacks or stuff sacks for short trips. You shouldn’t use this as a long-term storage option, as this causes the feathers to clump and stick together resulting in uneven insulation. Otherwise, hang it up for storage.
Before washing your down jacket, check the manufacturer’s tag for any specific instructions. Otherwise, it’s common to hand-wash down coats with mild soap. Afterwards, throw the down in the dryer on the lowest heat setting with a couple of tennis balls. This’ll help puff up the down while it’s in the dryer.
Unfortunately, down isn’t for everyone, or every type of weather.
Activities that require minimal movement like hayrides, waiting at bus stops or fiercely cheering for an NFL team during a frosty playoff run (go Broncos) are best for down. Unlike wool and some synthetic fabrics, down isn’t very breathable and doesn’t wick sweat. In fact, it’s best not to get down wet at all as it retains water and doesn’t and takes hours to dry, even overnight. So keep clear of rain, snow, sleet, or sprinklers or other forms of worldly precipitation as it will render your down jacket useless.
Want more info on down jackets? Learn more about every kind of outerwear here.
Maintaining your rain gear is important to prolong its performance and longevity.
Nearly all rainwear is treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) to fend off adverse conditions. While waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex stop water from entering the jacket’s interior, DWR is the first line of defense.
How does DWR work?
DWR is a coating that covers the individual fibers in your jacket, not the pores, so it doesn’t affect breathability. However, DWR diminishes over time due to general use, dirt, body oils and repeated washings.
How to Wash
Liquid detergents reduce performance in waterproof breathable garments by clogging pores. Powdered detergents work better.
Put in dryer, but no dryer sheet, as this will also clog the breathable pores. Dryer helps restore the dwr. Reduce abrasion by snapping all buttons, zippers and Velcro, protects DWR. Check pockets b4 washing/drying.
Testing the DWR?
Test your rain jacket by spraying some water on the surface. If the water beads and rolls away, then you’re in good shape. If the water is stagnant and starts to soak into the fibers, then it’s time to revive the DWR.
Follow specific cleaning instructions on your jacket! Does wonders to revive DWR when dirt and oil is removed. After washing, place in dryer on low or medium for 10-15 minutes.
Applying a New Coating
If the above steps don’t quite work, then it’s time to apply a new coating to your DWR. Besides, a new coating of DWR should be done at the beginning of every season in order to maintain peak performance. DWR revival products are typically spray-on or wash-in. When reapplying DWR, make sure all pockets are shut.
Baa-ram-ewe, Baa-ram-ewe. To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true. Sheep be true. Baa-ram-ewe.
This chant taken from the 1995 classic “Babe” offers some great advice for taking care of your fleece jackets. Be true to your fleece, and it will be true to you. Besides, the fleece jackets of today like The North Face Denali jacket are just as much investments as they are a fashion statement.
It’s perfectly acceptable to wash your fleece wear in a machine, though they need a bit more TLC in order to keep fresh.
First, turn your fleece inside out—this keeps the nap soft and smooth like the way you bought it. Rinse the fleece twice, because detergent residue often hides in the fabric’s tiny fibers. Always wash with cold or lukewarm water on the gentle cycle.
Before you throw your fleece in the washer, make sure all pockets are closed and zippers are zipped. This will keep the fleece around it protected during/after the wash cycle.
We recommend hanging your fleece up to dry. Fleece jackets are already water-resistant and contain moisture wicking properties, so it’s best to just give them some time after washing. If you must put them in the dryer, don’t use fabric softeners or dryer sheets—this diminishes the efficiency of the fabric.
Cats. Dogs. Alpacas. Pigs?
No matter what kind of furry creature you’re harboring at home, its hair will find your fleece coat and cling to it like a kitty in an earthquake. A great way to combat the cling of these wiry fiends is by using a latex glove and wiping the hair off in a downward or circular motion.
New leather jackets are slick, but a well-worn piece of leather tells a story. To reach this James Dean-level of cool, you have to keep up the maintenance and cleanliness of your tanned companion.
Leather jackets will last as long as you let them. They’re a wardrobe investment—something you’ll wear years from now, so get used to the idea of proper leather care.
Though we’re talking about a physical kind of care, it won’t hurt to care emotionally about your leather jacket, too. So go ahead and name it, give it it’s own spot in the driveway and space closet—it’s going to stay a while.
If you don’t maintain your leather jacket, you won’t have anything to clean, right? Right.
Check the Tag. To start, check the manufacturer’s tag for specific cleaning instructions. Even if you’ve cared for a leather jacket before, check again—instructions can vary by gender, leather type and even climate.
Outside Protection. Earth, wind, fire (hopefully not) and water come against your leather coat someday, unless you live in a hyperbaric bubble of cleanliness. Protect your jacket by treating it with a leather protector, which is usually applied through a spray-on application. These sprays are odorless, colorless and are sold at most clothing retailers. Opt for a silicone polymer spray over grease and wax-based products, as the former tents to affect the color, smell and longevity of leather jackets.
Hang it up. When you’re not rocking your leather coat, hang it up on a large shoulder-shaped hanger—this will preserve the shape and prevent dents in the shoulders. Store it away from sunlight and away from heat sources, preferably in a cool, dry closet.
Cleaning a leather jacket isn’t as simple as throwing it in the washer. If it were, then this post would have been one or two sentences—three if I was pushing it.
Dab it. Spot clean your leather outerwear by wiping dirty areas with a damp washcloth. Then, use leather cleaner and gently scrub problem areas with a sponge. Use the damp washcloth to clear away any residue. Then, hang it up to dry in its special closet space.
Love may fade, but the deep colors on your leather wear don’t have to. Conditioning your leather coat restores oil to jacket and keeps it from cracking, drying out and discoloring.