Vegan Down Alternatives

By Divya Kashyap. Published: May 2022.
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Down is fantastic at providing insulation and warmth, but it comes at the cost of serious cruelty to waterfowl birds, mainly ducks and geese. It also poses sustainability concerns. 

This is where vegan down alternatives come in, and we have advancing technology to thank for it!

Whether you’re looking for bedding material, vegan jackets, or thermal gear, there’s a vegan down alternative for it. And unlike down, a lot of them are waterproof or water-resistant.

So, what is vegan down made of? Well, it can be from synthetic and/or natural fibers. Check out some of the materials that make a great replacement for traditional down.

Read also: Is Down Vegan? What Is Down Made Of?

1. Gore-Tex

You are likely to come across Gore-Tex when looking up outdoor gears. Gore-Tex is a brand of durable, waterproof, breathable membrane fabric that was designed by WL Gore & Associates in 1969. 

Gore-Tex fabrics are made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and tetrafluoroethylene (TFE). Other chemicals are added to create the desired properties in the fabric.

Vegan Gore-Tex is a material that contains no animal products like leather, wool, or silk. 

2. PrimaLoft

PrimaLoft debuted in 1975 as the world’s first synthetic insulation and has continued to evolve over the decades. It’s now used by athletes in all types of winter sports and is highly praised for its ability to trap air while being lightweight.

Primaloft is a type of synthetic down that mimics the feel and warmth of the down found in animal coats. Primaloft is made from polyester and has a water-resistant, breathable shell fabric. Its high insulation properties keep the body dry.

However, there are some concerns about PrimaLoft’s sustainability. Its synthetic material doesn’t require resources such as water and land to be produced. However, environmental groups have raised questions about what effect its widespread use can have on our planet.

3. 3M Thinsulate

Thinsulate is a trademarked brand of synthetic insulation fiber first produced by 3M in 1979. 

Thinsulate is created from a variety of polymer mixes. The majority are polyethylene terephthalate or a blend of polyethylene terephthalate and polypropylene.

It is not simply a specialty lining. It’s the product of a solution to the following problems in down insulation:

1) Down feathers need to be treated for water repellency. With Thinsulate, there is no need for this process because it’s inherently water and windproof.

2) Thinsulate has an open-celled structure and doesn’t compress the way down does. It maintains its insulative properties far better than conventional thermal insulation materials.

The material has been used in clothing, footwear, sportswear, and even in the automobile industry for its ability to dampen sound. Thinsulate has featured in the roof and upholstery of many sports cars.

4.  ThermoBall Eco

Thermoball Eco is the world’s first, and now most advanced, 100% recycled polyurethane foam insulation product. It’s a new form of PrimaLoft synthetic insulation used by renowned outerwear brand The North Face.

The product offers the following benefits besides its eco-friendly application:

– 50% less weight than fiberglass

– 50% less volume than fiberglass per unit thickness

– Sustainable manufacturing process with no hazardous emissions or waste generated during production

ThermoBall Eco uses 100% recycled polyurethane foam as a base material and adds an attractive layer of decorative “stain” (wax) on top of it. But, it is not biodegradable.

5. PlumTech

Plumtech technology was innovated by an outerwear company called Save The Duck. It features padding made of polyester fiber entirely from recycled materials.

This synthetic down allows for freedom of movement. It is also durable, light, packable, and machine-washable making it easy to care for.

Plumtech has the soft feel and compressibility of down, as well as thermal insulation, thanks to its high-density fibers.

6. FLWRDWN

FLWRDWN is a bio-based fiber created by the brand PANGAIA made using a combination of wildflowers, a biopolymer, and aerogel. 

The brand steered clear of unsustainable alternative synthetic fill such as polyester. By this, they omitted using non-biodegradable and finite petrochemical resources.

This innovative material is warm, breathable, and animal-friendly. FLWRDWN has been utilized in outerwear jackets, vests, and accessories by the brand. It makes for a great biodegradable alternative to down.

7. FLOCUS

FLOCUS is a type of natural fiber that’s extracted from the Kapiaceae plant species, otherwise known as Kapok trees for use in textiles. Kapok trees are mostly found in tropical rainforests and produce the highest quality of fiber than that any other plant. 

The fibers from these trees provide insulation, making them valuable as bedding materials, apparel, and shoes. They are also used in a variety of other applications in the automotive, medical, and construction industries.

The fibers can also be processed into fabrics like linen or clothes after being made into yarns. The material is comfortable, lightweight, hypoallergenic, and soft. It also features properties like moisture management, temperature regulation, and insect repellence.

Like FLWRDWN, FLOCUS is also a natural alternative to down.

8. NuDown

NuDown is the only outerwear brand that uses revolutionary technology to use compressed air as insulation in apparel.

NuTech, NuDown’s proprietary technology makes use of a pocket-sized hand pump that users can use to change their level of warmth while on the go. 

For more warmth, the air is pumped into the garment’s dynamic chambers until the clothing is a snug fit. For quick cooling, there’s a release valve to let out trapped air.

9. 37.5

37.5 (previously known as Cocona) developed a wonderful alternative to down. They combined active carbon particles obtained from volcanic sand containing billions of micropores. 

The technology itself was invented by a Ph.D. photo-physical chemist and inventor inspired by his trip to Japan in 1992. There he experienced an epiphany around the mechanism of active carbon particles.

Depending on the environment, the particles in the clothing use infra-red light emitted by the human body to keep the body warm. To keep it cool, they move the moisture out.

10. Ingeo

Ingeo is a renewable material that can be made from any cellulose source and is biodegradable. It has been around since the early 1900s as a form of insulation in Japan. NatureWorks

Ingeo’s versatility makes it great for use in flooring, shopping bags, food containers, and consumer electronics. It is also an excellent down replacement for garments and sleepwear.

It is a material that is breathable, quick-drying, UV-resistant, and hypoallergenic. Additionally, it offers excellent moisture management.

Summary

Thanks to emerging innovations, there are plenty of vegan down alternatives in the market that are cruelty-free. By choosing any of the above options, you actively vote for a kinder planet.

Featured image: courtesy of The North Face

Divya is a content crafter at Vegan Avenue. She is a long-term happy vegan who is also enthusiastic about slow, mindful living in the company of cats.