More Vegan Winter Coats: Down Alternatives
Something happens that I’m head over heels. I never find out till I’m head over heels.
I was singing this fantastic song in my car the other day, and I thought: I totally agree. So I enjoy something at a moderate and healthy level. Fine and dandy. And then… a slide into utter and absolute infatuation. People, places, songs, foods, winter coats. [Record scratches] Winter coats?!
Yes, winter coats. It’s like I’m collecting them now. With years of being unsatisfied by the availability of a quality vegan winter coat, maybe I’m making up for lost time? I know, I know. #firstworldproblems. But coats are important to me. I don’t like to surrender to the elements; I like to be inside of them, whatever they may be. But that had been difficult, till now. And best of all, you there is no need for me (or anyone) to contribute to this needless pain and suffering.
Why do vegans not wear down? Because feathers are for the birds, not us. Even if conditions of collecting down feathers are not from live geese (pictured here), if they’re plucked from corpses after slaughter (possibly from a “spent” foie gras bird) if feathers are “traceable,” if there is paperwork signed somewhere that some level of oversight may exist at sourcing site, or there’s a public relations document that describes said outfitter’s commitment to “sustainability,” feathers come from the skin of a duck or a goose. Greenwash words can’t change that reality.
But no fear, the ubiquitous winter puffer need not be filled with feathers plucked from a live (or dead) goose… nor do they need to contain the hide of a most certainly dead animal. Yes: yet again, vegans can rejoice and reap the benefit of the unique market conditions that open up new product options. With demands for increased mobility and performance, more sustainable materials, allergy and sensitivity free materials, as well as market awareness to consumer trends regarding animal welfare, winter wear suppliers and outfitters are offering alternatives to feather/down insulation. And because I have become obsessed with tracking them all down, here. Take this quick compilation of down alternative information, please.
Who are the star innovators of featherless down? PrimaLoft was the originator. When the U.S. Army needed a water-resistant and synthetic (read: cheaper) alternative to ripping feathers out of geese, PrimaLofft was created. And that was 25 years ago. No wonder their insulation is the trusted source in big whig winter gear outfitters North Face and Patagonia, among others. Sleeping bag outfitters then contributed to the synthetic down selection with well-respected Polarguard® 3D and Climbashield in their arctic bags. Growing still, many well-known brands have created their own proprietary synthetic insulations to supplement their lines and meet market demand. And most recently, in 2014, there was 3M. (You know, like Scotch tape?) They created Thinsulate™ Featherless Insulation in 2014 with the intent to mimic down.
So how can you stay warm without the down? There are so many choices! In the interest if not having to mind this post too much, I am mostly naming the brand and synthetic insulation. Peruse the companies’ sites to see the most current and available styles.
The Canadian Arc’Teryx uses polyester-based Coreloft™. They have plenty of fitted and feminine styles for women. As far as I can see, they don’t use fur in any of their outerwear. Their website proclaims a bunch of blah blah on their down sourcing.
Burton has their own, too. Thermacore Insulation™ boasts breathability and mobility for when you’re “shredding.” Because they’re Burton, expect hip styles and colors.
I am putting Coleman here because I am happy to hear that they have gotten rid of down in all their sleeping bags and outerwear after learning of the pain involved in the industry standard of down sourcing. It looks like they’ve also created their own insulation: Coletherm®.
Columbia, or who I like to call the poor man’s North Face, also has their own proprietary featherless insulation: Omni-Heat®. Omni-Heat® is supposed to have the highest heat-retention of any of the synthetic downs. What what!
Land’s End has their own ThermaCheckk®-300 for some warm base layers, but it seems they use PrimaLoft as insulation in their synthetically insulated jackets. And they’ve got some cute patterns… though they’re more for casual wear.
If you have lots of bucks to throw down, Helly Hansen has some great cold weather coats that are synthetically insulated, like the Blume Puffy Parka and the Luna Parka. And you know they know about keeping warm since they’re based in Norway. They use PrimaLoft.
Is it me or is Marmot the new “it” outerwear brand? They offer their own proprietary polyester-based insulation called Thermal R.
I’ve recently added Merrell‘s Arctic Glow Featherless Parka and Silversun Featherless Puffer (vest and jacket because I’m obsessed) to my winter line-up. Both have Thinsulate™ Featherless Insulation. And they were almost 80% off at Sierra Trading Post at the time of my purchase.
The mighty North Face has its own synthetic insulation: ThermoBall™ powered by the also mighty PrimaLoft. Their women’s styles are beautiful and feminine. (Am I not supposed to say things like that?) A fan of the Denali fleece myself, I love how North Face help a ton of people sport animal-free warm wear. North Face also shares its PR clearly on its site: Responsible Down Standard. Yeah, yeah, thanks.
Another big boy, Patagonia has its own synthetic insulation, too. Their Nano-Air® featuring their FullRange™ insulation seems like the cat’s pajamas. But I feel like I am not outdoorsy enough to sport Patagonia, like it’d be a kind of misrepresentation. If you care, Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard is also available.
Rab is a UK-based outfitter with some great featherless down options included in their 2016 line. They use PrimaLoft and Thinsulate™ Featherless Insulation and the lighter weight Cirrus™ synthetic insulation from 3M.
Along with base and mid layers that many of these brands offer that are animal-free, Spyder has purdy down-free jackets. But they don’t reveal much on the make-up of the synthetic insulation. I’m a bit more sold by something with a name I think.
Sunice. I never hear of this brand either. They have a small selection of sensibly priced cold weather pieces.
Under Armour has a trademarked synthetic insulation: ColdGear®. They offer a pretty large selection of basic insulated jackets and base layers with varying degrees of insulation.
This list is in no way exhaustive. It seems that most, if not all, outdoor outfitters can keep a vegan warm with available options.
Though I am a woman and mentioned some women’s styles, there are a ton of synthetically insulated men’s options by these brands, as well. In some cases, even more.
For research, Back Country‘s storefront is a great resource. You can search for coats and filter for “synthetic insulated.” Many other sites, you’ll simply need to read the style’s tech specs/description. Remember to double-check that fur trim is faux (industry standard these days) and that there are no other animally-derived trim or materials. Some of the outfitters above may offer real fur on some of their coats. You can do a quick check at the company’s website to see if you want to purchase from a company who offers fur.
Once you have a brand and style you like, shop around electronically. Or, if you don’t have pressing needs, wait for an inevitable sale at winter’s end. A good, warm jacket costs a bit more than may seem reasonable. But it should last you many, many years. Resist trendy cuts, colors, or prints and go for classic.
And stay warm!
Though this post is about vegan options from well-established outdoorsy brands, there are a few vegan coat options from 100% vegan companies that are not to be missed.
New York City-based Vaute Couture
Toronto-based Wully Outwear (formerly Mammouth Outerwear)
Additionally, Unicorn Goods has a great collection of vegan coats from many brands in many styles. It’s basically a comprehensive depot of links, though availability is limited on outbound links.