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While searching for a sleeping bag I was told that goose down is clearly superior to duck down in terms of quality. I guess that means e.g. the fill power (measured in cuin). What exactly are the differences, is goose down always preferable?

What I was also told is that duck down is more prone to smell bad when it was getting wet. Goose down isn't. Is this true?


This topic is related but gives just a kinda overview and it asks for all down species. Here I am solely interested in sleeping bags and in the comparison of duck vs. goose down.

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Down is a natural product, so fill quality, odour and durability can vary quite markedly within a species depending on the breed, age and condition of the bird.

Practical performance is also strongly dependent on the skill of the processor and the quality of any proofing applied.

These sources of variation are greater than any variation between duck and goose down, so in practical terms duck and goose down of equivalent fill-power should perform similarly, provided they both come from a reputable supplier.

Philip Werner at SectionHiker.com reviews a lot of gear. Here's his take:

The down fill power test doesn’t care if the down being measured is duck down or goose down and the manufacturers I talk to think that 800 duck down provides the same insulating power as 800 goose down. I agree based on my experience using the products. You can’t tell the difference. Even more so if they’ve been treated with a water-proofing technology. I think there’s a lot of emotional baggage that people carry when they insist there’s a difference.

However high quality duck down is quite rare. The best quality down is harvested from mature birds, and ducks are normally slaughtered at too young an age. I think that the prevalence of goose down in the higher quality outdoor products is more a factor of its wider availability rather than any inherent technical superiority.

If you have any doubts about the potential of duck down, just recall that the very best down of all is Eiderdown (though this is academic for most of us as the cost is eye-watering).


The best source I have found is from Nemo

  • Thx for the answer. Have you worked in the industry or what resources do you used? E.g. for the first part about differing quality I would assume that manufacturers use big batches because they have to guarantee quality standards up to some level. That means it's not common and would be difficult to market if one bag is 20% better than the next one of the same brand and type. – Wills Jun 16 '16 at 5:03
  • Also I wondered because in the higher quality products it seems that the top items have a high fill power and they often use goose down. So the point about higher availability of goose down is also new for me. Your linked article says "More than being just as thermally efficient, duck down is more readily available as a consistent source, and oftentimes more affordable". If you have I would be interested in other links too. The one you provided was really interesting :) – Wills Jun 16 '16 at 5:08
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    @Wills - good info is surprisingly hard to find. I used to know the founder of a well known bag manufacturer, and he knew a lot about down quality. My other source was a testing lab, but their info is a bit confusing: idfl.com/pdfs/IDFL%20Info%20-%20Goose%20vs.%20Duck - essentially they are saying that it's easier to find good quality goose down, but it's matched by the best duck down. When Nemo say duck down is more readily available, I suspect that they are talking about sub 700 fill power. – Tullochgorum Jun 16 '16 at 9:55
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    @Wills, Standardfiber puts it like this "Goose clusters are generally larger than duck clusters and typically come from older, larger birds. As a result, their down tends to produce higher fill powers, be more resilient and durable than duck down. Because a duck’s diet is usually more diverse (a goose only eats grass), goose down also tends to have fewer odor problems than duck" – Erik vanDoren Jun 16 '16 at 16:32
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    @Wills, to me it seems to agree with what the others have said, thats why i left it as comment, but it seemed clear and concise and addressed your question about goose&high fill. There might be a misunderstanding in "goose more common than duck" when its rather that at a certain quality point the goose down is more available that the best duck down as the duck down is generally of lower quality due to the way its obtained... – Erik vanDoren Jun 16 '16 at 18:33
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Bit or preamble: Down is measured in "Fill Power".

Fill power is a measure of the loft or "fluffiness" of a down product that is loosely related to the insulating value of the down. The higher the fill power the more air an ounce of the down can trap, and thus the more insulating ability an ounce of the down will have.

Ultimately this is what you want to be looking for. The better it's fill power the better insulating it will be, regardless of species.


Now that said different species produce feather of consistently better loft. So back to the actual question... the main difference between a duck and a goose is it's size. This has an advantage in loft because the larger goose produces larger feathers with more clusters and downy fibres:

Goose clusters are generally larger than duck clusters and typically come from older, larger birds. As a result, their down tends to produce higher fill powers, be more resilient and durable than duck down.

This does not mean all Goose down is better than all Duck down it just means that the Goose down is gernally better lofting than duck.

According to IDFL, the world’s largest down and feather institute, goose generally tends to be a better product when compared to duck. However, in some situations, a high quality duck down can be better than a mediocre goose down.

source of quotes above

TL;DR

The fill power is the most important aspect, not whether it is a duck or a goose. Though geece produce (generally) a consistently better loft.

  • So if I understand you correctly, I sum it up as this: If I compare the same weight down filling with the same fill power of duck and goose (say e.g. 400g of down with 800 cuin), the differences in performance are low. Still, goose down is mostly (but of course not always because there are lots of different kinds of duck and goose down) more robust/resistant and according to a prior comment it smells better. For me the conclusion is that I will have an eye on it while shopping and tend to goose down. – Wills Jun 17 '16 at 9:02
  • Yes it's generally (though not exclusivly) better quality. From a performance point of view if the fill power is the same it will be roughly the same. The bigger feathers do also tend to break less so there is an improvement in the longevity. How much I don't know. I'd say if it's a lot more expensive then don't bother if it's a little then choose goose. – user2766 Jun 17 '16 at 9:08

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