Monday, 17 November 2008 | Tags: , , , , ,

Sliding under a blanket of comfort and warmth can be the perfect start to a good night's sleep. With a variety of options available on the market, we get our fill of down vs. synthetic duvets and comforters.

The Basics

  • The type of duvet or comforter you choose depends on materials and budget:

    • Synthetic duvets are commonly polyester, Dacron, Quallofil or Hollofil, and are easy to care for. However, some don’t breath as well as natural fibres, so you may overheat.

    • Synthetic down duvets are a lightweight, hypoallergenic alternative for people with feather allergies. Though usually more expensive than regular synthetic, they’re still easy to care for and are made from fibres like PrimaLoft, which mimics natural down’s softness and insulating qualities.

    • Wool duvets are becoming more popular since wool is a natural insulator. Stiffer and springier than down, wool duvets won’t provide as much loft and won’t snuggle and drape around your body as well. However, wool is heavier, you’ll feel like you have several blankets on top of you.

    • Down duvets are a popular choice that provide just the right amount of heat for year-round use. Generally more expensive, down duvets can last a long time if properly cared for. (Please note: the down used for products such as this may not be obtained in an animal-friendly way. Animal Rights groups recommend purchasing bedding and clothing that was produced in a cruelty-free manner, or to go down-free entirely by opting for one of the other choices above.)

  • Synthetic and wool duvets can be machine washed. Down duvets should be dry-cleaned.

  • If the label says “80/20” or “50/50”, it’s a mix of down to feathers. Most high quality down duvets will have down only, though the odd feather may sneak in.

  • Try and buy a duvet that will actually keep you warm in the winter but also cool in the summer. A good quality one, by its very nature, should be able to do this.

  • Test for quality of a down duvet by squeezing it. If it feels “lively” and expands back with a light, fluffy and airy feel to it, then it’s probably high quality.

  • Airiness is important: the more air it holds, the warmer it will keep you. Airiness level is called fill power. Rated in cubic inches, fill power is the measurement in which an ounce of down will loft and expand to fill an empty space. The higher the number, the loftier, softer and warmer the duvet will be.

  • Top quality down has a fill power of about 800; a good quality down is between 500 and 600.

Other Considerations

  • Pay attention to the ticking or the fabric that contains the fill. It should be tightly woven with a thread count of 220 or higher so that it is down-proof, allowing no leakage and adding to the loft of the duvet.

  • Synthetic duvets are also measured in fill power. If you’re looking for the best down imitation, consider a cluster polyester.

  • Look for duvets that are sewn in boxes, which does the best job at keeping the fill in place. Avoid channel-stitched duvets, which allow fill to settle at one end or the other.


We took these duvets for a test sleep:

  • Doran SnugSleep (natural all wool): $120
  • PrimaLoft (hypoallergenic, polyester): $280
  • Northern Feather (with antibacterial gel fibre): $315
  • Highland Feather (white goose down): $149
  • St. Geneve Ziegler (premium white goose down): $900

Heat Retention Test

We placed hot water bottles heated to 50°C (122°F) under each duvet/comforter and returned 45 minutes later to measure which retained heat the best. Our readings:

  • SnugSleep: 46°C

  • PrimaLoft: 44°C

  • Northern Feather: 48°C (minimum drop of 2 degrees)

  • Highland Feather: 38°C (maximum drop of 12 degrees)

  • St. Geneve Ziegler: 45°C

Cool Test

We tried each duvet in a warm and humid space to see if any did better at keeping us cooler and more comfortable.

  • We were pretty hot under all of them. None were any better than others.

Cozy Test

When it came to a colder environment, we definitely started to pick favourites.

  • The Doran SnugSleep wool felt too heavy, with not enough loft.

  • The outer casing of Highland Feather, the least expensive down, was very noisy when we tossed and turned.

  • The Northern Feather gel-filled duvet was light and fluffy “like a cloud”, but also very warm.

  • The Ziegler duvet draped well over the body and felt very cozy.


Our test proved that people have different preferences when it comes to duvets, so we can’t pick just one. However, we do recommend you invest in a good quality duvet or comforter for a more comfortable sleep.


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