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Down vs Feather

Updated: Mar 6

Down vs Feather cover picture. Two hands with down and a feather. By St Genève.

What is the difference between down and feathers?

It's a question that might arise when you're shopping for new bedding. It's perfectly normal not to have the answer readily at hand, as it's not a topic that commonly comes up in everyday conversation or general knowledge. It's not the sort of thing you pick up from chatting with friends. So, if you've landed on this blog, it likely means you need a quick answer before the store closes or your cart checkout time expires. Let's start with the basics…


What is down? Down is the soft under plumage that geese and ducks grow to keep them warm.  It is known for its exceptional insulation properties. Down can trap more air for its weight than any other material for incredible insulation. No other material can compress and then spring back to its original volume the way down does. This is important because resiliency also helps maintain down’s ability to insulate.

What are down clusters? Down clusters are three-dimensional with tiny filaments that look like delicate dandelion puffs.  These filaments interlock with each other to form tiny pockets, capturing warm air effectively. This dimensionality is why down is such a powerful insulator, and why a St Genève duvet or pillow will always use high-quality down.

Close up on two fingers holding a cluster of down.

Mature down, sourced from older, more mature birds, boasts larger clusters with increased filament count. This higher filament density enhances its ability to trap warm air effectively, making it a superior insulator. Despite its clear advantages, mature down isn't universally utilized in bedding products. Many companies prioritize low prices over high-quality materials, opting for cheaper alternatives. However, St Genève stands out by prioritizing quality and partnering with suppliers who share our commitment to bringing mature, high-quality down to the market.


What are feathers? They are the larger, outer plumage of geese and ducks, typically characterized by their flat and two-dimensional structure with a stiff quill running through the center. These range in size from small body feathers to large flight feathers. Feathers are cheaper and more plentiful than down but lack the same level of insulation.

Close up to a white feather

There are many other factors to consider when choosing feather or down.


Down is the best for a puffy lightweight duvet or a springy and lofty pillow.  The beauty of high-quality down bedding is the feeling of being cozy without weight. Feathers add weight, so the more feathers in a product the heavier the product will be. 10 grams (about 1/3 ounce) of mature down clusters would be hard to contain within two cupped hands, while the same weight of flat body feathers would fit within one hand.


Let’s dive into warmth, and answer: Is down or feather warmer?  Down is generally warmer than feathers due to its superior insulation properties. Down clusters trap more air for their weight, providing excellent insulation against cold temperatures. Down allows water vapour to pass through, without allowing the warmth to escape. You will stay more comfortable and won’t get ‘clammy’ because the down will gently wick away the moisture. This is why down duvets are warmer in the winter, as well as cooler and more comfortable for the summer, making them suitable for use in a variety of climates. Feathers, while providing some insulation, are not as effective at retaining warmth. 


There is a popular myth circulating that down is a poor choice for people with allergies. Research proves that this is false. High quality down and feathers, like that used in St Genève products, go through a rigorous cleaning process which renders the fill hypoallergenic. This, along with the tightly woven cotton fabric used on the covering, serves as a deterrent to dust mites.  Studies published in the British Journal of Medicine have concluded that down is a better choice for asthmatics as it does not support dust mites, unlike the synthetic alternatives.


Selection of St Genève pillows. All white in a white duvet with a white brick wall behind.

Down tends to be favoured for pillows due to its superior comfort, resiliency, and breathability. Down clusters make a lovely, puffy and mouldable pillow. The answer is a down pillow if you want a soft yet resilient pillow that you sink into and can cuddle up to.  Examples of down pillows in our range are Embassy, Lajord and Estate.

Curled body feathers are also used in pillows to provide extra spring and support. The curled shape and strong spine add long-lasting resiliency. A feather pillow will be a supportive lower-profile pillow.  We have feather pillows in our cushion form range.

There is a third option, a down feather blend pillow. Down feather pillows use a blend of down feather vs feather only. They are a blend of smaller down clusters and feathers; this gives some support while also allowing you to enjoy the squish-ability of down. A beautiful example of this is our Hutterite pillow or our Chateau pillow with its down feather core.

For some, this might still not be enough support, and they would prefer a more structured pillow. If that is your case, maybe down vs feather is not the question, and the solution is wool. See Piatra for more information on wool bedding.


White down duvet hanging. By St Genève.

Down is typically preferred for duvets. It offers excellent insulation, trapping more air for its weight than feathers. This insulation, combined with down's resiliency and breathability, results in duvets that are lightweight, and warm in winter yet cool and comfortable in summer. Feathers, while cheaper and more plentiful, lack the same level of insulation. Feathers add weight without the same warmth. St Genève has many lovely down duvets like the Eiderdown, Embassy, Ziegler and Estate

We don’t make any duvets with a down feather blend.


Down mattress topper by St Genève.

Bedding products with a higher proportion of down are generally preferred for their superior quality and performance. Remember though, we are not saying that feathers are bad – used in the right products small, springy, body feathers are ideal. For articles needing more support like cushion forms, back pillows and mattress toppers (down feather bed) a blend of down and feather is perfect. Check out our Daundekken and Deckbette mattress toppers.

We hope this has helped you understand down and feather differences, and that you are ready to make a decision. Please let us know who won for you!

Which one is your favourite?

  • Down

  • Feather

  • Blend

  • Wool

Thank you for reading.

We wish you peaceful days and cozy nights.

St Genève Team


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