Essential First Steps to Finding Your Perfect Down Comforter Part I

by Sean Rook - Date: 2007-04-30 - Word Count: 979 Share This!

Finding the perfect down comforter shouldn't be a painful experience. The reality, however, is that there is a host of information to gather and understand before you can make a knowledgeable purchase of a down comforter. Your choices are many and varied, given the wide array of down comforters available. This article identifies and explains three fundamental criteria to help you narrow down your options and to make your search for the perfect down comforter easier, quicker, and maybe even enjoyable. When purchasing a down comforter, you will want to know what size you need, what warmth level is most appropriate for you, and which of the many construction designs best suits your needs.


The first step is the easiest. Know what size down comforter you are looking to buy. This may seem common-sensical, but there are some considerations to ponder. Make sure you know the actual dimensions of your bed, not just whether it is a twin, full, queen, or king. Having this information will give you a better idea of how well a particular down comforter will fit your bed. For instance, knowing the dimensions of your queen size mattress will help you decide whether a 'full/queen' down comforter will work for you. Some people opt to buy their comforter one size larger than their mattress, either for appearance (to have a fuller drop around their bed) or for practical reasons (considering who will be sleeping under the down comforter).


The second step is to determine your sleeping warmth level. Are you generally a hot or a cold sleeper? What is the average room temperature when you are asleep? Determining this, you can now consider two variables: fill weight, and fill power. Fill weight is simply the amount, in ounces, of down fill inside the down comforter. The more down, the warmer the comforter. Fill power is a measure of the loft, or fluffiness, of the down. Higher fill power means the down comforter will have higher loft and greater insulating properties. Therefore, a down comforter with a high fill power requires less fill weight to retain warmth. Fill power has further implications, but for now, just know that a down comforter's insulating value is really a function of both fill weight and fill power.


The third step in the process of finding your perfect down comforter concerns the design, or construction, of the down comforter. There are two main categories: baffle-box design, and sewn-through stitching. Baffle-box construction can be further divided into closed, open, and partially-open baffle-boxes. Each has its own attributes; none is necessarily better than another. Only you can know which will work best for you. Let's examine each one.


Sewn-through box stitching indicates that the comforter cover, or tick, has been divided into equally sized squares by sewing the top and bottom layers directly together. Sewn-through box stitching contains the down fill in individual compartments to prevent shifting of the down and to minimize cold spots. This is an effective and traditional technique that results in a typical quilted appearance. It is also a cost-effective technique: sewn-through stitched down comforters are generally less expensive. However, sewn-through stitching can prevent the down from attaining its highest loft; and the stitching lines themselves are effectively cold areas.


Baffle-box construction is a more labor intensive and, therefore, a usually more expensive option. Baffles are strips of fabric, 1 to 1 1/2 inch wide, that are sewn into the inside of the down comforter and form vertical walls between the top and bottom of the cover. Baffle walls allow the down fill to attain higher loft, creating a fluffier appearance and optimizing the down's natural properties. This is particularly relevant in heavy fill weight, high fill power down comforters. If the baffle boxes are 'closed,' this means that the down fill cannot shift or be moved between individual baffle boxes. Closed, or true, baffle box down comforters, like the Deluxe Exclusive or Thermostep, are particularly effective at preventing cold spots.

Open box designs, on the other hand, do allow the movement of the down between compartments. These types of down comforters are 'adjustable' in the sense that the down fill can be shifted to cover certain areas more so than others. For instance, a sleeper with cold feet would be able to position more down over his feet and legs for added warmth where he needs it. For co-sleepers with different warmth needs, an open box down comforter can be adjusted to keep the colder sleeper warmer and vice versa.

Open baffle box down comforters may be open along the vertical, along the horizontal, or equally and each way. There are also degrees to which a down comforter's baffles are open. Some, like the Punktstep down comforter, are about as open as is possible. Others, like the Rubinstep, are about halfway between open and closed. Ideally, an image of the quilting pattern of the down comforter would be made available as it is not always possible to determine these by merely seeing the exterior of the comforter.


You are now adequately equipped to determine the size, warmth level, and design that will make your new down comforter the right down comforter for you. You are able to choose to best size down comforter for your bed and sleeping arrangements. You know that the insulating properties of a down comforter are a function of both fill weight and fill power. You also understand the differences between sewn-through box stitching and baffle-box construction, as well as the differences between closed and open baffle box designs.

Of course, there is more to consider - and to learn. You will want to know the source, type, and quality of a down comforter's fill. You will also want to know the type, quality, and other attributes of the down comforter's cover, (or tick, or shell). My future articles will explore each of these criteria in greater detail.

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Sean Rook's website,, specializes in down comforters. With so many options from which to choose, let The Down Source help you find the perfect down comforter for you.

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