Test Your Limits: Can Your Down Jacket Survive a Drizzle?

When you’re out in the wilderness, you want to be able to rely on your gear to keep you comfortable ... Read more

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

A man wearing a dry Zpacks Goose Down jacket standing by the trail.
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When you’re out in the wilderness, you want to be able to rely on your gear to keep you comfortable and safe.

However, when it comes to down jackets, there is a common misconception that they cannot get wet.

The truth is, down jackets can get wet, but the consequences of getting them wet can be dire if you’re not prepared.

Today we’ll look at the water resistance of down jackets and provide tips on keeping them dry and warm.

A man wearing a dry Zpacks Goose Down jacket standing by the trail.

What are backpacking down jackets?

Your backpacking down or “puffy” jacket is a lightweight, insulated piece of clothing designed to keep you warm when activity levels drop and help maintain heat in cold weather conditions.

They are filled with down feathers, which is nature’s best insulator. The feathers provide warmth with the least weight and bulk, but they are not waterproof.

If exposed to water for an extended period of time, the down will lose its fluffiness and insulation qualities.

To protect against moisture, a DWR coating can be applied to provide additional water resistance and protection.

So then, can down jackets get wet?

Down jackets are an essential piece of equipment for backpacking, and they are the go-to choice of many outdoor enthusiasts. But can down jackets get wet?

The answer is yes but with some precautions. Down jackets have a durable water-repellent finish (DWR coating) that helps in preventing water from penetrating the jacket.

But if the jacket is exposed to water for extended periods, it will lose its insulating properties and fluffiness.

So, it is vital to understand how water affects down insulation and how to dry a wet down jacket because no matter the quality, a wet Zpacks Goose Down Jacket is as helpful as a $30 Amazon Puffy.

What happens if my down jacket gets wet?

Whether you’re out camping, hiking, or skiing, it is essential to know what happens if your down jacket gets wet.

Down jackets are a popular insulation choice for outdoor activities due to their lightweight construction and warmth-to-weight ratio.

But when exposed to moisture, down loses its insulating properties and becomes heavy and clumpy.

To protect your down jacket from getting wet, it is crucial to understand the nature of the down and the effects of water on its insulation properties.

Additionally, you can follow a few tips if your jacket gets wet to ensure it dries properly.

Understanding the nature of down

Down is a natural insulator. It comes from the undercoat of waterfowl and comprises small, fluffy feathers.

This insulation is lightweight and packable, providing warmth without bulk or weight. It’s also incredibly durable and can withstand extreme weather conditions.

But, when it gets wet, down loses its insulating properties as the feathers become clumped together and can no longer trap air and retain warmth.

That’s why it’s important to understand the nature of down when considering a down jacket for your next outdoor adventure.

Effects of water on down insulation

It’s also crucial to understand the effects of water on down insulation, as this can help you make the best decisions when it comes to keeping your down jacket dry.

When exposed to water, down loses its ability to insulate and trap heat. It also clumps together, making it heavier and bulkier.

This is why it’s essential to do whatever you can to keep your down jacket dry. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks you can use to help ensure your down jacket stays dry in wet conditions.

One of these is to use a water-resistant coating on the shell of your jacket.

Tips for drying a wet down jacket

When it comes to down jackets, drying them is an integral part of ensuring they retain their insulating properties.

Wet down has virtually zero insulation properties and can be a breeding ground for mold and bacteria. So what’s the best way to dry a wet down jacket?

There are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • First, use a low heat setting and toss one or two clean tennis balls in the dryer to help break up wet clumps of down.
  • Secondly, air-drying your down jacket is a great way to ensure that it retains its shape and fluffiness.
  • Lastly, if your down jacket has a DWR coating, adding a water-repellent spray can help keep it dry for longer.

With these tips, you’ll be sure to get the most out of your down jacket for years to come.

How to dry a wet down jacket

Drying a down jacket should be done immediately after it gets wet. To dry it quickly and safely, the best option is to use air drying or a no-heat to low-heat tumble in a dryer.

Set the dryer on low heat and throw three clean tennis balls to help break up any down clumps.

It’s also important to check the jacket frequently and fluff any wet areas. If you don’t have access to a dryer, you can also air dry the down jacket.

Hang it up in a well-ventilated area and fluff it regularly to help it dry faster. A combination of air drying and tumble drying is recommended, although be aware that some jackets may require special care when washing them.

For extra protection against wetness, you can apply a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating to your down jacket. This will help it resist moisture and keep it looking great for longer.

Air drying a down jacket

Air drying a down jacket is always preferable to using a dryer as this is due to the air drying helping the down feathers retain their loft and fluffiness and helps extend the jacket’s life.

For best results, hang your wet down jacket in a well-ventilated area and let it air dry until it’s completely dry. It’s vital to ensure the jacket is completely dry, as any residual moisture can cause the down to clump up, reducing its insulating properties.

To speed up the process, you can use a fan to help circulate air around the jacket and speed up the drying process.

You should also check on your down jacket every few hours and give it a shake or fluff to help the feathers dry evenly.

What is DWR Coating?

In addition to the insulation of the down, another critical factor for keeping your down jacket warm is the DWR coating.

DWR stands for Durable Water Repellent, and it is a coating that is applied to the outer fabric of your down jacket.

This coating helps to repel water, preventing water from soaking through the fabric and into the insulation.

This is especially important in wetter climates, as it can help to keep your down insulation dry and warm.

Some DWR coatings are also breathable, which helps regulate heat and keep you comfortable when wearing your down jacket.

Definition of DWR Coating

Down jackets are a popular choice among hikers and campers as they provide a great balance between warmth, weight, and breathability.

But what happens when they get wet? That’s where Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coatings come in; a DWR is a protective coating applied to the shell of a down jacket to make it resistant to wet weather conditions.

Let’s look closer at DWR and how it can help protect your down jacket from getting wet.

Definition of DWR Coating: Durable water repellent (DWR) is a chemical application that manufacturers use to create rain-proof gear, like rain jackets, rain pants, and waterproof garments.

DWR is a topical chemical coating that is made up of compounds called polymers. These polymers form a protective layer on the fabric’s surface, making it water-resistant by causing water droplets to bead up and roll off.

The DWR coating helps prevent the fabric from becoming saturated with water, keeping it lightweight and breathable while protecting it from the elements.

Types of DWR Coatings

Down jackets require a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating to keep the outer fabric from becoming saturated with water.

A variety of DWR coatings are available, each with different levels of effectiveness and durability. Fluoropolymers are the most common DWR coatings used for down jackets, providing excellent water repellency and durability.

C6 and C8 fluoropolymers are commonly used for DWR coatings and provide good protection against water.

Silicone-based DWR coatings provide reasonable protection against water but are not as durable as fluoropolymers.

Wax-based coatings offer good water repellency but are less durable than silicone or fluoropolymer-based coatings.

Finally, some down jackets are treated with wax and fluoropolymer coatings for better water repellency and durability.

Advantages of DWR Coating on Down Jackets

DWR coatings can provide a great deal of protection for your down jacket if it does get wet.

It helps to reduce the amount of water that can soak through the fabric, and it also helps to reduce the amount of time that it takes for the down insulation to dry out.

DWR coatings can also help to maintain the loft of the down insulation, meaning that it won’t lose its insulating properties as quickly as it would without the coating.


In conclusion, down jackets may be water-resistant but not waterproof. If your down jacket gets wet, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to dry it out as soon as possible.

The best way to do this is to air dry it in a well-ventilated area and use a DWR coating on the jacket to help repel water and keep it dry.

With the proper care and maintenance, you can ensure that your down jacket will stay warm and protected for many years.

If yours has reached the end, I have a massive table for you to compare puffy jackets head to head to find the perfect match!

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