Should I wear a down jacket while wading for trout?
Simple question, is it safe or even sensible to wear insulated jackets, whether it’s synthetic or down while wading or fishing for trout?
Many people are afraid to wear insulated jackets, especially around water. They try their hardest to avoid getting it wet. There is a belief that once wet, down quickly collapses in on itself, becoming waterlogged and losing all insulating properties.
While down is undoubtedly not swimwear, it is much more water resistant than many people give it credit. Down is what ducks wear next to their skin to keep themselves afloat and warm in even the coldest of water. So its inherent property is to repel water.
In my opinion, down jackets are safe to wear while fishing. I have worn them while wading for years, and a little splash or even a quick dunking is not going to spell disaster. That is because down has enough natural water repellency, to maintain loft even after coming in contact with water.
I also will note, that all clothing loses insulation value when wet. Even magical wool once saturated is going to struggle to keep you warm on a cold day. When fishing in winter conditions, wet clothing no matter the material is going to be unpleasant and probably will result in an early trip home, or at least a change of clothing.
Prolonged water exposure is a different story.
With that said, down repels water, but it is not waterproof. It can only take so much punishment before it becomes saturated. Wearing a down jacket in the rain is just asking for trouble, and sooner or later the lofting will fail and the insulation value will decrease.
Regular vs water-repellent downs
Many brands have come out with downs that have been treated with special chemicals to make them water-repellent. Yes, these chemicals do work. There are dozens of videos on YouTube of people jumping into lakes while wearing down jackets to demonstrate this.
But even regular, untreated down does a good enough job at repelling water. The feathers of waterfowl is naturally covered in oils that repel water, and some of that even remains after processing. The end result is that, all down basically naturally repels water.
The treated downs might work slightly better, but regular down does not wet out and becomes saturated the moment it comes in contact with water.
I will embed a video from the Prolite gear youtube channel below, while the video is 10 years old, this channel did a good job demonstrating just how well down repels water.
Sierra Designs DriDown Agitation Test – YouTube
Synthetic insulation handles water even better
There are now countless brands of synthetic insultations on the market today and for the most part. They all handle getting wet even better than down. Synthetic insulation keeps its loft for longer, repels water and maintains its insulation value for longer.
So, yes. Synthetic insulation is probably a better choice for a target to wear while fishing. I personally wear both types of material.
Many down jackets also have water resistant outer layers.
As an additional protection for the down inside jackets, many jackets actually have a water-resistant out layer. This further protects the down inside.
Why wear a down jacket when laying works?
I find down jackets to be more convenient, and comfortable than wearing multiple layers of merino and fleece. It is also quicker to throw on a thick jacket than wear three or four layers.
Yes laying works, and it works well. But it is not the only option. If I was planning to spend all day fishing, far from the car. I probably will layer up, but I might keep an insulated jacket in my pack for emergencies.