The Best Comforter

If I were buying a queen-size down comforter, I would buy the $320 L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter. It’s the best all-arounder for the money—none of the others we considered had all of the best features while being reasonably affordable. Hundreds of down comforters will keep you comfortably warm in a house kept around 68 degrees. Many are stitched properly. Most have good return policies and warranties. Maybe half are generously sized. The real trick is finding a comforter that’s all those things, plus puffy and durable and well priced. The Bean is it. It has a tough shell that our expert and testers loved, but was also the lightest comforter we tested in the under-$400 group, with a queen-size model weighing just 4.5 pounds.

Last Updated: December 19, 2014
Our main pick from LL Bean is currently sold out in all sizes, but be sure to check out our runner-up comforter, the Company Store Alberta Baffled Goose Down. At $340 it's a little more expensive than the Bean, but it's very similar.
Expand Previous Updates
December 11, 2014: Reader Dante points out to us that Feathered Friends voids its warranty if you don't use a cover, so we've updated the piece to reflect that.
December 10, 2014: We tested six new comforters this year, and the L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Down Comforter is still our favorite. It keeps you comfortably warm, is generously sized, and has a great return policy and warranty. It is also the lightest comforter we tested under $400. We have a down alternative pick too, if you suffer from allergies.
October 23, 2014: We're setting this guide to wait status while we work on refreshing it. We've talked to a lot of experts, and while we still feel confident about our main pick from L.L.Bean we're working on an update with some deep investigation that has changed some of our thinking and will affect some of our alternative picks. We do plan to have a new guide published before winter begins.
October 17, 2014: Our main pick, from L.L.Bean, is in and out of stock these days. If you need a new comforter soon and you don't see your preferred size available now, you can always go with our runner-up, the Primary Down Comforter, in Level 1 warmth. It's somewhat less breathable than the L.L. Bean, but otherwise the two are very similar.
October 14, 2014: Our main pick, from L.L.Bean, is back in stock in all sizes, but the company is quoting shipment times of two to three weeks. If you need a new comforter quicker than that, you should go with our runner-up, the Primary Down Comforter, in Level 1 warmth.
October 13, 2014: Our main pick, from L.L.Bean, is currently out of stock in all sizes. If you need a new comforter now, you should go with our runner-up, the Primary Down Comforter, in Level 1 warmth.
August 22, 2014: We've been using the L.L. Bean comforter for the last six months--yes, even in the summer--and it continues to perform exceptionally well. See the Long-Term Test Notes section for more details.
February 23, 2014: We finished testing and updated the guide with our full list of picks and some more information on comforters.
After testing six additional comforters this year, we’ve found that the L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Comforter is still the best for most people. It’s warm, well made, durable, and priced right—a balance that can’t be found in the competition.

To find the best down comforters, we went deep. We talked with four independent experts, spent roughly 85 hours doing research, catalogued the specs of 150 models, and gauged the quality of our sleep for weeks. Last, we cut apart the comforters and found a few surprises inside (including the fact that the Bean might be even better made than claimed).

Also Great
The Company Store's Alberta Baffled Goose Down comforter comes with a lifetime guarantee like our pick. However, it’s slightly cooler and heavier.

If the Bean is out of stock (which it always seems to be), then opt for the $340 Company Store Alberta Baffled Goose Down, which is more expensive but practically identical to the Bean. It is just a bit cooler and heavier, but it has the same soft shell as our premium pick below.

Also Great
Costco’s Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter is a steal at only $130. It’s made of 650 fill power duck down and can compete with comforters that cost twice as much.

If I were looking for something cheaper, I’d step all the way down to the $130 Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter with Pyrenees Down, Year-Round Warmth from Costco. It’s a screaming deal. Among down comforters that cost less than $150, a disproportionate number are way heavy, smell like a barn, and are not actually what they claim to be (en garde, Target). The Pacific Coast is the exception. It’s a moderate weight and very generously sized, won’t bleed feathers, and otherwise matches the look, feel, and durability of many comforters costing $250 or more. It’s not as good as the Bean. The cost-saving stitching allows the stuffing to clump around the edge, forcing you to occasionally smooth it back into place, for one. And the warranty is only 10 years. But those are quibbles at this price.

Also Great
Save money in the long run with the well-constructed, lofty, 700 fill power Feathered Friends comforter, with quality stitching and fabric that will last decades.

If you can spend a little more, the $440 Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700 is everything you want in a comforter. It lofts about 3 inches high, has a wonderfully soft shell fabric, and will last for ages. Wash it every once in a while (more on that later), and it’ll remain cloudlike for 30 years. Repeat: 30 years. The down in all other less expensive comforters, including the Costco and Bean, will shift and create cold spots in maybe a decade.

Also Great
This gel fiber comforter kept us warm without smothering us. It’s cheaper than most down comforters but also heavier.

If you don’t want a “real” down comforter, our favorite alternative is the Carpenter Company’s Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter. It wasn’t as warm as the L.L.Bean, but unlike some of the other down alternatives we tried, it didn’t trap too much heat. The gel fiber is a bit heavier than down, but at $100, it’s even cheaper than our budget down comforter.

Table of contents

Should I upgrade?

If your down comforter has surrendered to gravity, give it a wash and watch it magically return to its former glory. See our Care and maintenance section for more details.

If it’s lumpy, then you can have it repaired to redistribute the down, but if it was cheap to begin with, you’re probably better off with a new one.

If you want to save money on energy costs (1% per degree your thermostat gets turned down), choose a version that’s higher in down weight per square inch. (See How to measure comforter warmth.)

If you’re painfully allergic to down or not keen on using animal products, opt for a synthetic comforter. (See The ethics of down.)

Finally, remember that a good comforter is not only down-proof but also future-proof. No engineer yet has invented anything so light and warm as those wispy, cotton ball-looking things that grow under a bird’s feathers, keeping ’em cozy while paddling around in ponds.

How we picked and tested

Our key source was Jack Sukalac. “If you wanna know anything about down, Jack is the man to talk to,” a staffer at Rainy Pass Repair told us. Forty years ago, Sukalac paid his way through a master’s degree in engineering at the University of Washington by repairing Eddie Bauer’s down comforters. As an engineer, he did things like help build the gears for the Space Needle, but he’s always kept a side business in his basement, All About Down, making and repairing down comforters. He and an assistant have made more than a few comforters for well-known billionaires and have repaired tens of thousands made by other brands.

According to Sukalac and other experts, when looking for a great comforter, details matter—though rarely the ones that are advertised.

Sukalac stitches back together some of the $1,000 worth of comforters we cut open.

Sukalac stitches back together some of the $1,000 worth of comforters we cut open.

Our criteria for greatness were, in order of importance:

  • Duck or goose down
  • 600-699 fill power
  • Down filling that is at least 75% down cluster, preferably higher
  • Fill density of roughly .0040 ounce per square inch (see How to analyze down like a pro)
  • A generous return policy and a long warranty
  • A well-made shell
  • Baffle-box or sewn-through stitching, with a slight preference for baffled (see What makes a good cover)
  • Good enough customer reviews

Price is important, as we are reminded every time some store has a “blowout” sale—but with great return policies promising you won’t be locked into a bad purchase, and long lifespans guaranteeing you can enjoy a good comforter for many years, rock-bottom price isn’t paramount. Given everything we learned, we looked mainly at comforters less than $500, hoping to find a great one for about $250.

Unfortunately, a gagillion companies sell comforters. And third-party reviews are limited to Good Housekeeping, whose tests are five years old. So we went crazy.

Building on the work of two researchers last year, three researchers and I looked for the best comforter in three places.

1) Reputable, smallish American companies: Maine-based Cuddledown, Wisconsin-based the Company Store, and Washington-based Feathered Friends.

2) The most popular big-box stores: Amazon, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Land’s End, L.L.Bean, Eddie Bauer, Pottery Barn, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, IKEA, Costco, Target, JC Penney, Walmart, and Sears.

3) The manufacturers themselves. Just seven American wholesalers—DOWNLITE, Hollander, Down Decor, Down Inc., Pacific Coast Feather, Aeolus Down, and Blue Ridge Home Fashions—supply the majority of comforters sold in America, so we called spokespersons for each and asked for their three favorite models, just to make sure we weren’t missing something.

This left us with a spreadsheet of 82 models. When we got strict about the $500 max price, 600 to 699 fill power range, and year-round weight, the spreadsheet shrunk to 25 models.

Eliminating ones with horrible reviews, bad one-year warranties, the tiniest dimensions, specs that the seller didn’t know or wouldn’t share (that’s right, we’re talking to you, Pottery Barn), and other obvious drawbacks, the list of contenders shrunk, amazingly, to just seven models.

We also tested a $440 Feathered Friends Baffled Box Medium 700+, which appeared to be the best deal in a 700 fill power baffle-box comforter and gave us a useful understanding of what more money can buy.

Sukalac, who has made comforters for billionaires, inspects a comforter in his Seattle shop.

Sukalac, who has made comforters for billionaires, inspects a comforter in his Seattle shop.

How we tested

First, one tester slept naked under a sheet under each duvetless comforter, which was allowed to fluff up for at least eight hours beforehand in a room heated to 68 degrees. With the exception of the Macy’s Hotel Collection comforter, which left tiny rivulets of sweat sprouting on the small of the back, all of them were comfortable. None smelled. Paying attention to overall weight, breathability, puffiness, and fabric texture, we noted which one subjectively felt the best (the L.L.Bean) and which one the worst (the Hotel Collection).

Then we weighed each comforter and weren’t surprised to find that the Bean was the lightest, hitting about 4.5 lbs, and the Hotel Collection heaviest, up to 7.1 lbs.

To evaluate the downproofness of the material, we rolled up each one, unfurled it, shook 10 times, and counted the number of feathers or down clusters that popped out. None lost a single bit of stuffing.

Then we took them to Sukalac to evaluate the construction. Some had made questionable design choices, but with the exception of the Nordstrom, the quality of the stitching was universally good, with short stitches of durable thread and healthy seams.

All of the down appeared to be top-notch.

Last, we cut open the front-runners—the L.L.Bean, Costco, and Feathered Friends. After all, it’s mostly what’s inside that you’re paying for. This ain’t no can of corn, so we wanted to see if there were any surprises. There were. The Bean was better made than expected. And all of the down appeared to be top-notch, according to Sukalac.

Our pick

After testing six additional comforters this year, we’ve found that the L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Comforter is still the best for most people. It’s warm, well made, durable, and priced right—a balance that can’t be found in the competition.
Just pulling it off the bed, you can feel how light it is.

The L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter ticked all the boxes for a great comforter. Thanks to smart design choices and what turned out to be conservative specs, it even competed with the more expensive 700 fill power baffle-box Feathered Friends. Most notably, the 600 fill power goose down is very light and fluffy, lofting as high as comforters with higher fill power claims. And the overall weight, at 4.5 pounds, was one of the lowest in the test, on par with the more expensive Feathered Friends. Just pulling it off the bed, you can feel how light it is, especially compared with the 2-pound-heavier Costco comforter. It felt like a wonderful nothing. And it was warm—not hot, not cool. The .0041 ounce of fill per square inch was almost the exact middle in the range of weights for comforters claiming to be year-round. It was a welcome change from the Hotel Collection, whose .0049 oz/in had me breaking a sweat in a 68-degree house.

Sukalac, a passionate advocate for sewn-through models, wasn’t smitten with this baffle-box model of course, but he was pleasantly impressed. He didn’t find any fault with the stitching and liked the 280-thread count shell fabric. “This really high finish on the fabric—it might last longer, be more down-proof, more dust-proof. It’s likely this is the most durable fabric we’ve seen,” he said. Once we cut inside, he was intrigued. The Bean had baffles of course, but unlike most of the others he’d seen, the baffles had little gates, rather than many open holes. “You’re gonna have a tougher time moving the down,” he offered, before quickly hedging and saying, “but you’re also gonna have a tougher time getting it back in place.” (We’d love to recommend a sewn-through model that prevents the down inside from shifting at all; unfortunately, sewn-throughs under $400 don’t stitch all the way to the edges, so stuffing can still move between boxes.)

If you choose to repair your Bean, we think it’ll be at least a decade before you need to spend about $200 to have someone redistribute the excellent down in the durable shell. And if there’s a problem beforehand, Bean’s terrific warranty has you covered. Quote: “If your purchase isn’t completely satisfactory, we’re happy to accept your exchange or return at any time.”

Our previous reviewers also liked the Bean the best, saying, “The first thing we noticed about the L.L.Bean was how lightweight it is, especially compared to many of the other, heavier comforters we tested.” And 89 reviewers at Bean give it 4.6 stars.

Opening up the Bean comforter.

Opening up the Bean comforter.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like most things, this comforter is not perfect. It’s a touch small, at 88 by 96 in, compared with our favorite size of 90 by 98, but that’s nowhere near the too-small measurements of 86 by 86 found on lesser queens.

And it is “crinkly” and “rustly,” as reviewers have pointed out. We happen to like that. But anyway, according to Sukalac, a tightly woven fabric with a high finish is what makes it a bit noisy—i.e., it’s exactly what you’d expect from durable, down-proof construction. Anyone who would rather pay more or opt for less durability is welcome to.

For the rest of us, this is a puffy, large, long-lasting, year-round comforter at a great price with a fantastic return policy.

Runner-up

Also Great
The Company Store's Alberta Baffled Goose Down comforter comes with a lifetime guarantee like our pick. However, it’s slightly cooler and heavier.

The $340 Company Store Alberta Baffled Goose Down is a good alternative if our pick is out of stock, if you want a quieter shell fabric, or if you sleep like a furnace. It’s $20 more expensive and a noticeable pound or two heavier, making it a moderately lofty 600 fill power comforter. It felt a couple degrees cooler when sleeping, so it’s a good choice for someone who sleeps a touch warm.

But it’s also 2 inches wider, has a 90-day return policy and lifetime warranty, and has a soft shell that’s very similar to the $440 Feathered Friends. “The shell looks identical,” Sukalac said. “It’s probably from the exact same people in China. The fabric feels the same, the baffle holes are the same size, there’s nothing wrong with the stitching and seams. It’s no different on the outside from the Feathered Friends. It looks good.”

The budget pick

Also Great
Costco’s Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter is a steal at only $130. It’s made of 650 fill power duck down and can compete with comforters that cost twice as much.

Costco’s best-selling $130 Pacific Coast Feather European Comforter with Pyrenees Down is a tremendous value. It’s not the best down comforter, but it’s far better than the many synthetic comforters offered at that price point, and darn near as good as many $250 down comforters.

The Down Association of Canada has found discrepancies with Target, Walmart, and other sellers’ down comforters at this price.

Its key specs are impressive, right in the middle for a 600 to 699 fill power down comforter at any price—650 fill power, 75% down cluster, .0039 fill density. After we cut it open, Sukalac said the down was “Nothing surprising…Looks normal.” The Down Association of Canada has found discrepancies with Target, Walmart, and other sellers’ down comforters at this price, but so far we have yet to hear of any false advertising by Pacific Coast Feather (which you’d hope, since the company’s employees hold two of the three executive positions at the American Feather and Down Council). Even better, the shell is longstaple Egyptian cotton and an ample 90- by 98-in queen size.

It’s a bit flat and heavy for a down comforter, at about 6.9 pounds, and felt so when sleeping under it, but that’s only in comparison to down comforters like the Bean. Some three dozen reviewers of the previous model, which had a slightly different shell fabric, ranked it around 4.5. So far, one reviewer of this new model gives it 5 stars.

The biggest knock against it is the cost-cutting design. To avoid the expense of building baffles to the edge of the comforter (yes, sewing to the edge is a real and measurable cost, basically because you have to do it by hand instead of robot), the sides and foot of the comforter aren’t baffled or sewn-through. So the down around the edges will shift to the corners over time and you’ll have to massage it back in place if you want that pretty, smooth look. Other design compromises such as little plus-shaped tack stitches that could tear make us think it’ll last about 10 years—which, not incidentally, is the length of the warranty. And after those 10 years, you’ll probably want to simply throw it away and buy a fancier comforter.

But if you’re fine with those shortcomings, then this is a terrific deal, and an absolute no-brainer for a kid’s or guest bedroom.

The stuffing of the Costco comforter, which looks just fine

The stuffing of the Costco comforter, which looks just fine.

The premium pick

Also Great
Save money in the long run with the well-constructed, lofty, 700 fill power Feathered Friends comforter, with quality stitching and fabric that will last decades.
The Feathered Friends Bafflebox 700+, on left, compared to our pick, the L.L. Bean Baffle-Box. The Bean isn’t as fluffy, but it’s the lightest, loftiest 600-fill-power comforter we tested. If you want maximum fluff, skip the Baffle-box 700+ photographed and opt for the sewn-through version, the Feathered Friends Bavarian 700+. The Bavarian is just as lofty and will last for 30 years.

The Feathered Friends Baffled-Box 700+, on left, compared with our pick, the L.L.Bean Baffle-Box. The Bean isn’t as fluffy, but it’s the lightest, loftiest 600 fill power comforter we tested. If you want maximum fluff, skip the Baffle-Box 700+ photographed and opt for the sewn-through version, the Feathered Friends Bavarian 700+. The Bavarian is just as lofty and will last for 30 years.

If you want the best value in a comforter like the ones that were more readily available decades ago—ones that were puffy and light and super durable—the Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700+ is the one to get. It’s not the exact one we tested, but it’s definitely the version we’d recommend. Heck, it’s the one to save up for. It’s the family-owned company’s most popular model, and is made in the sewn-through style that many industry insiders have on their own beds. It’s incredibly light, at just over four pounds, super fluffy, and will easily last 30 years. At $440, it’s expensive, but it happens to be a great deal relative to its few direct competitors, like the smaller, cooler $560 Cuddledown 700 Fill Power Sateen Down Comforter.

The main virtue is the sewn-through style, which guarantees that the down won’t shift from one cell to the next even after thousands of spins around a laundromat’s wash machine. Unlike Cuddledown’s more affordable sewn-through option, the $330 Primary Down Comforter, this sewn-through comforter is sewn by a tailor all the way to the edges, so the down will never shift. (I’m not singling out Cuddledown on purpose, there are just very few people making sewn-through models.)

With 700 fill power, 90% down-cluster down, and a fill density of .0039, it’s lightweight—lighter than the Bean—and cozy year round.

With 700 fill power, 90% down-cluster down, and a fill density of .0039, it’s lightweight—lighter than the Bean—and cozy year round. Sukalac thinks that it offers a wider temperature range than a baffled box, too. We had recommended trying this comforter without a cover because of its fine construction, but Sweethome reader Dante points out that the Feathered Friends warranty states, “Comforters and pillows must be used inside a slip cover to maintain warranty coverage.” 

The other details are up to snuff, too: great 90- by 98-in dimensions, one of the softest, quietest, and lightest longstaple-cotton shells we saw (“that’s my favorite shell,” said Sukalac), and a great return policy (“return or exchange in new condition 30 days, lifetime warranty”). Bonuses: Feathered Friends will sew a duvet from your own sheets for $69, and wash and repair the comforter for you for minimal charges. We couldn’t find any drawbacks.

“I’d choose the Feathered Friends,” Sukalac said.

Of course, Sukalac isn’t actually buying a Feathered Friends. He and his assistant are continuing to sew his own All About Down comforters, in his basement, as he has done for 40 years, for regular people and well-known billionaires. If you have roughly $500, there’s of course no one’s comforters we recommend more highly. You can place an order or chat with him at 206-784-3444.

Opening the Feathered Friends Baffled Box 700+. Good stuff. We think their sewn-through Bavarian is the more durable model, though.

Opening the Feathered Friends Baffled Box 700+. Good stuff. We think their sewn-through Bavarian is the more durable model, though.

Best down alternative

Also Great
This gel fiber comforter kept us warm without smothering us. It’s cheaper than most down comforters but also heavier.

Down is hard to beat for comfort, loft, and warmth, but if you don’t want a down comforter for health or ethical reasons (see The Ethics of Down), we recommend the Carpenter Company’s Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter. In our first round of testing, it was our favorite down alternative comforter. It wasn’t as warm as the L.L.Bean, but it did a far better job than the other down alternatives at keeping us warm without shifting our sweat glands into hyperdrive. And at $110, it’s as cheap as we’d feel comfortable recommending: Go any lower, and you find flimsy comforters that will barely keep you warm. And if you’re lucky, you can sometimes find the Beyond Down priced below $100 on Amazon.

Good Housekeeping gave the Beyond Down an A-, and it tied for their favorite down alternative comforter with the Cuddledown Damask Stripe Synthetic, which costs nearly $90 more. About the Beyond Down, Good Housekeeping said, “It performed almost as well as the down comforters and proved a quality product, especially for the price.” A lot of its success is likely attributable to its microdenier gel fiber filling, a departure from traditional polyfill you’ll find in most synthetic comforters. Microdenier fibers are, as acrylic manufacturer Birlacril explains, smaller than 0.9 denier—very small, allowing for improved breathability. And gel is known for its cooling properties, which explains the Beyond Down’s crisp, cool feeling.

If you’re in search of a heavier comforter, this is also a great pick. It has much more weight than the L.L.Bean, feeling warm and snuggly around the body. If you don’t like feeling confined in your sleep, this might not be the right pick for you, but don’t be fooled into thinking its weight makes it less breathable—it’s still a very comfortable comforter.

How to analyze down like a pro

Down comforters range in price from roughly $80 to $8,000 (for a comforter made of down hand-harvested from the nests of wild Icelandic eider ducks, a source of pride on that dark, cold island). The vast majority of 600 to 699 fill power comforters fall in the $200 to $350 price range.

The type of down matters less than you might’ve heard. Duck down is generally not as fluffy as goose, since most of it is from small ducks with small puffs of down. Ducks are farmed in China, slaughtered for a meal after about 60 days, and the bits of down are removed and sold. (Eighty percent of the down in the world comes from Chinese ducks.) Goose down is generally fluffier, since most of it is from big mature geese that are fed for a feast in Eastern Europe and Russia, so their down grows as big as dandelion blowballs over as much as three years. But these are generalizations.

“Goose is not always better,” said Brian Pride, CEO of Canada’s largest down and feather processor, Feather Industries Limited. “Goose is a larger bird than a duck at same age, but if you have a 120-day-old duck versus a 60-day-old goose, then….”

Kaltin Kirby, client services manager at the biggest down-testing lab in the US, the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL), agreed: “People say, ‘My Hungarian goose down is better than your Chinese duck down,’ but I haven’t seen a whole lot of difference by definition.”

Sukalac takes the argument one step further: “I’ve seen more ‘Hungarian down’ on department store shelves than that country is capable of producing.”

The upshot is that only mature goose down can make a top-end comforter, but both goose and duck down can make really good comforters. Unless you’re breaking about the $400 mark, there’s no reason to turn your nose up at a down puff’s provenance.

Nor is there a reason to favor the whites, as marketers would have you. “The vast majority of white down is white because they bleach it,” Sukalac said. “Color makes no difference.”

Whether from a goose or duck, you want big-cluster down, which provides a lot of warmth per ounce. All other things being equal in a queen-size comforter, huge-cluster down weighs a pound less, fluffs up twice as high, and provides maybe 130% as much insulation as the tiny stuff. A comforter made from it feels airy, like the warmth on your topside is somehow coming from your own skin.

Thankfully, finding big-cluster down is easy. The cluster size is summarized by its fill power, a measure of fluffiness. The biggest clusters have fill powers of 850, and go into many comforters so warm that their rich owners push them to the floor at bedtime. Cheapies start at 500 fill power, and often don’t feel any better than even less expensive synthetic comforters.

A graphic showing down cluster size. (credit Down & Feather Co)

A graphic showing down cluster size. (Credit: Down & Feather Co.)

According to Kirby, 750 fill power represents the most fluff for your dollar. The lab techs at the IDFL have created, for their own benefit, a graph on the lab’s wall, which shows fill power versus value declining in the mid 700s. “In an ideal world, you want 750,” he said.

But he thinks the typical $500 price tag on a 750 fill power queen-size comforter is more than most budgets allow. “Something useful for most people is probably 600 fill power,” he said.

We agree. The equivalent of 600 to 699 fill power was considered a good basic comforter in your parent’s generation, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t consider it good and basic now.1

Why the range? Because even under ideal conditions, measuring fluffiness is tricky. Kirby’s lab only guarantees its fill power ratings to within +/- 5% of the actual fill power. So a humble seller’s “590 fill power” is a boastful seller’s “650 fill power.”

Even an $8,000 down comforter is also filled with broken clusters and feathers and tiny bits of quills.

Surprisingly, when you buy a down comforter, a significant portion of the “down” isn’t actual down clusters. Even an $8,000 down comforter is also filled with broken clusters and feathers and tiny bits of quills.

Know-it-alls like to make a big deal out of this, but it’s not often a big deal. Anything labeled “minimum 75% down content” or more, as you find in 600-fill comforters, will be soft and fluffy and breathable, showcasing the best attributes of down. Those feathers? They’re not Shakespeare’s pen. They’re generally like the feather in the photo below, very soft, just not as light or insulating as a down cluster.

A typical feather from a 600-fill-power down comforter. Not a big deal.

A typical feather from a 600 fill power down comforter. Not a big deal.

 

What’s important to know is that you can use the down content label as a partial fact check on the claimed fill contents. Most 600 fill power comforters are 75% cluster. Most 700s are about 90%. So a supposedly 700 fill power comforter that is only 75% cluster, like the Bed Bath & Beyond Palais Royal Year Round White Goose Down Comforter, raises eyebrows. And a “down comforter” that isn’t even 51% down cluster, like Target’s Fieldcrest Threshold Down Comforter, shouldn’t even be advertised as a down comforter, according to the FTC.

Another term to watch out for is hypoallergenic. Virtually all comforters sold by reputable companies in the US are so-called hypoallergenic. The down is washed, steamed, and sterilized to meet industry standards. Hypoallergenic is not a term governed by any federal standards, but Kirby assures that it is a strict standard nonetheless, and says, “Very rarely do we see down that’s been processed in a factory fail the test.” So it shouldn’t smell like a barn. Ever. And it shouldn’t exacerbate your allergies.

09comforter

Labels for two comforters, one made by Cuddledown, the other made by DOWNLITE for Dillard’s Noble Excellence house brand. Both read “contents sterilized” and “minimum 75% down,” which is what you want to see in a 600 fill power comforter.

 

But since everyone’s allergies are different, the best way to guarantee you won’t suffer is not by struggling to parse claims of “Hyperclean®” versus a “rigorous 6-step quality process,” but to try a comforter from a store with a good return policy.

Return policies are usually generous. They range from a full refund within two days of purchase to a full refund any time. Among those we looked at, a free, 30-day, no-questions-asked trial and 10-year warranty is the average, which is pretty great.

How to measure comforter warmth

The most basic consideration is, of course, the comforter’s warmth. In Britain, this is rated with an easy-to-understand tog number, a unit of warmth probably derived from the English slang for clothes, togs. Independent testers assign a tog number of 4 to chilly comforters, 13 to super-toasty models, and numbers for everything in between. Alas, in the rugged frontier of the new world, we have yet to create anything so civilized as TOGs.

But we can make rough approximations, as one wholesaler informed us. Fill power tells us what size the down is, with larger down being more insulating, but it isn’t the only number to keep in mind. To compare the warmth of two comforters with the same fill power, divide the weight of the fill (in ounces) by the area of the comforter (in square inches). In “year round” queen-size comforters with fill powers of 600 to 699, this yields a range of .0028, for the coolest comforter, to .0051, for the toastiest.

You definitely should avoid the extremes. A very overstuffed comforter, like the .0049 Hotel Collection, may leave you hot or even sweating in a 68-degree house, as it did for us. A very understuffed comforter, like the .0031 Lauren Ralph Lauren Brushed Cotton Down Comforters, may feel cold, like a summer weight comforter.

Around the middle of the range, .004, is where most “year round” 600 to 699 fill power comforters fall and is an ideal warmth for most people.

 

The fluffiness of downs with three different fill powers. An ounce of 800 fill power is not only fluffy to sleep under, but also warmer than an ounce of lower-fill-power down.

The fluffiness of downs with three different fill powers. An ounce of 800 fill power is not only fluffy to sleep under, but also warmer than an ounce of lower fill power down.

Of course, two people aren’t always cozy under the same comforter. To address the hot-cold couple, some comforters come in a split-decision—with one side warm, the other cool. But they aren’t very popular, perhaps because they make it more likely that both sleepers will be disappointed.

The easiest way to please everyone is to use two twin-size comforters, as some Europeans do. A far sexier solution is to fine-tune the warmth of a single .004-ish comforter by adding or removing a duvet cover; turning down the thermostat at night, which the DOE estimates will reduce your energy bill by 1% for every degree lost; for the cold sleeper to supplement the comforter with a twin-size blanket; or for the hot sleeper to let a leg hang out. Keep in mind that some comforters, including the one from Feathered Friends, void their warranty if used without a cover.

Again, if you get a comforter that doesn’t keep you at the right temperature, you’ll want to take advantage of a good return policy, which all of the finalists we looked at have.

What makes a good cover

Sellers tout thread counts as high as 1,200, but even their suppliers call bullshit.

Sellers tout thread counts as high as 1,200, but even their suppliers call bullshit. “The thread count of the shell is just a way to market the comforter,” admitted David Roshberg, marketing manager for Aeolus Down Inc., which makes comforters for places such as Kohls. “High thread counts are ridiculous.” Moderate thread counts, like the 380 thread count found in the $1,695 down comforter from luxury brand Frette, more than suffice.

Baffle-box construction is also in vogue. In a baffled design, sewers build a checkerboard pattern of short walls between the top and bottom sheets, leaving a hole about the size of a Tiddly Wink in each wall. A filler squirts down into each box through the hole and then quickly sews the exterior edge shut.

The author finds one of the interior holes hidden in a baffle-box-style comforter.

The author finds one of the interior holes hidden in a baffle-box-style comforter.

In the alternative sewn-through design, down is spread evenly between two sheets and then sewers simply stitch the top and bottom sheets of the comforter together in a grid.

Everyone agrees that in the moderate temps in which nearly all of us sleep—far toastier than the old, unheated farmhouses of Europe, where baffle-box comforters became popular—both styles are equally warm. The debate between the two centers around style (baffle box) versus longevity (sewn-through).

A baffle-box comforter puffs up evenly throughout the comforter. Almost all display beds in stores are made up with baffle-box comforters because they look awesome. But after about three washings, the down tends to shift from one cell to the next, sliding through the interior holes between each cell. Eventually, after maybe 5 to 12 years, the comforter needs to be taken apart and restuffed. Sukalac said, “Thirty percent of my business for the last 40 years has been redistributing the down in baffled comforters, then topstitching them.”

A sewn-through model clearly lasts longer—many of the industry people that I spoke to sleep under sewn-through models.

A sewn-through model clearly lasts longer—many of the industry people that I spoke to sleep under sewn-through models—but the checkerboard pattern doesn’t look as fluffy to some eyes and is only 10 or 20 bucks cheaper, at best. Less expensive sewn-through models also aren’t sewn all the way to the edge, allowing down to slip between cells and clump just like a baffled comforter, which is annoying. Whatever the price, sewn-through models are far less common, so great deals are fewer.

If baffle or sewn-through comes down to personal preference, then fabric quality definitely doesn’t. You want longstaple cotton, such as Egyptian and Pima, in breathable but tightly woven, low- to moderate-thread count cloths. (Hearing a crinkly sound is fine. It means the shell is made with a tight weave or with a strong, heavy finish, and anyway, the noise will go away over time, as the threads soften.) You want interior seams that are neatly overlocked or French-seamed, not sloppy and ragged. And you want to steer clear of fabrics with designs or anything claiming to be affordably priced batiste, as these are often not as tightly woven. “A good, low-thread count shell will last 50 years,” Sukalac said. “Floral prints, stripes—they tend to leak and tear.”

You don’t need to use a duvet cover.2 But if you have a duvet cover, then you might want to shop for a comforter that fits. If you don’t, then beware that comforters skew small. Queen mattresses are 60 by 80 in, but queen-size comforters range from a tiny 86 by 86 in, which is supposedly a common dimension for bolts of Chinese fabric, to an enormous 94 by 96. Something around 90 by 98 is best. It’s not so big that it’s unnecessarily expensive, but it’s big enough to cover a deep mattress on three sides while still providing plenty of softness to tuck under your chin—even if you stuff it into a slightly small duvet, as Sukalac recommends, so everything looks extra plump.

The ethics of down

Down is a bit like grapes in Italy. Small farmers supply co-ops, which sell to bigger suppliers, which sell to another supplier, which sells to a wholesaler, which sells across oceans. Everything gets mixed up along the way. So it’s very difficult to sort out exactly where your down is coming from, let alone whether it was collected through the little-discussed practice of plucking from a live duck or goose. Thankfully, some comforter companies are trying to use only humanely harvested down.

Gary Peterson, a longtime staffer at famed outdoor-gear maker Western Mountaineering, which also makes a down comforter for luxury brand Duxiana, said, “Collecting goose down two or three times a year from one bird is getting less and less common because there’s pressure to not live pluck, but it’s extremely common in duck downs. If you’re buying 800 or 900 fill down, the material is unlikely to be live plucked because you can’t get a large enough cluster from a 14-week-old goose that’s strapped in a cage. We get our down from a place that’s raising mother geese, which live to 3 or 4 years old, for breeding. They’re roaming around. We collect the down after the molts.”

Carol, the owner of Feathered Friends, is a bit more cautious. “We get our down from Allied Feather. They know we’re fussy. They say they can trace it, that the geese are not live-plucked or force fed, and I like to think so, but we don’t have the means to double check.”

Recently, some premium outdoor-gear makers have begun trying to guarantee that their products use only the good stuff. Most notably, this fall, all of Patagonia’s down clothing will meet their strict Traceable Down Standard. Comforter makers haven’t gotten on the bandwagon, as far as we know, but they do seem to be edging that way. In a heartening move, supplier DOWNLITE recently promised to supply down that meets The North Face’s Responsible Down Standard standard by next fall. We only hope they and others go further and people start offering TDS- or RDS-certified comforters soon.

The competition

Below, the main challengers, in order of least to most filling—or, roughly speaking, coolest to warmest. One of these could be an okay choice for you. Emphasis on “could.” They don’t compare to our picks even on paper, and we didn’t test them or evaluate most of them with Sukalac, so caveat emptor.

Baffled

$230 (on sale) Lauren Ralph Lauren Brushed Cotton Down Comforter. The biggest queen size we saw, at 94 by 96 in, but very cool, with a fill density of .0031.

$209 (on sale) Land’s End Elite Goose Down Comforter. Also just .0031, with many reviews complaining that it’s thin.

$250 TRUMP HOME 300 TC White Down Comforter. Free shipping, but only a one-year warranty.

$250 Dillard’s Noble Excellence 350-Thread-Count White Down Comforter. A fair and honest price for a comforter that’s a close runner-up. But we’re leery of the 30-day return policy, which says “the merchandise must be in its original, unused condition.” Dillard’s offers no warranty. And Sukalac worried about the durability of the shell. “It looks like trill or sateen, weaves where they skip threads,” he said. “It’s not as robust, could leak more, could split.”

$328 Nordstrom at Home Medium Weight Down Comforter. It’s virtually identical to the Alberta, but has a gusseted edge, which some people find attractive. Sukalac isn’t one of them. “Basically you now have two seams to leak down instead of one,” he said. Even worse, our sample wasn’t double-stitched all the way around the edge, increasing the likelihood that it might tear open during washing. Thinking our sample might be a lemon, we looked at three more in the store, but they too had patches of sloppy single stitching. “Not good,” said the salesperson.

The beginning of about a twelve inches of sloppy single stitching on the foot of the Nordstrom, the only bad stitching we saw among our top contenders.

The beginning of about 12 inches of sloppy single stitching on the foot of the Nordstrom, the only bad stitching we saw among our top contenders.

$263 (on sale) Pacific Coast Feather SuperFluff Deluxe. Ten reviewers give it only 3.8 out of 5 stars.

$383 (on sale) Eddie Bauer Premium Goose Down Comforter Medium. More expensive than the Bean for no apparent reason.

$400 TRUMP HOME 400 TC Down Comforter. Made in America from ducks in the Midwest and American-grown cotton, but only a one-year warranty.

$281 (on sale) Pacific Coast Feather Cozy Loft Comforters. Amply stuffed, but tiny, at just 88 by 90 in, and the same design as our $150-cheaper step down pick.

$174 (on sale) Blueridge Home Fashions 500 Thread Count Damask Stripe White Down Comforter. Cheap, but napkin-size at 88 by 88 in.

$360 (on sale) Macy’s Hotel Collection Medium Weight. Supersized, with a fantastic review score. 30 owners rank it 4.8. But at .0049 fill density, it slept hot, actually causing our tester to sweat. And it weighed almost twice as much as our step up pick. Sukalac said, “very thick fabric, maybe not as breathable. Feels like more of a winter-weight type comforter. It’s too heavy, unnecessarily heavy. I’d avoid this.”

$370 Down Inc. Serenity Fall Weight. With a fill density of .0051, this was the densest comforter in the range—which means it’s too warm for most people.

$249 Pottery Barn Classic Down Comforter. No standout features, and neither the website nor customer service agent could tell us how many ounces of down were in the comforter or how it was made.

$250 Bed Bath & Beyond The Seasons Collection Year Round Comforter. 80% down cluster, but unknown fill density, and 26 reviewers give it 2.6 stars.

$495 ($396 on sale) Bloomingdale’s My Warmer Down Comforter. Another biggie, at 94 by 96 in, but unknown fill density and it costs as much as fluffier 700 fill power comforters.

Small vs. big. The Cuddledown comforter, the smallest in our test at 88” x 92”, on top of the Macy’s Hotel Collection comforter, the largest in our test at 94” x 96”, on a normal queen-size bed with a low metal frame. The oversized Hotel Collection is a good size for a deep mattress. The Cuddledown is worryingly small on any bed, especially if used by a couple or a tall person. A common comforter size in the middle of the two, 90” x 98”, is great for everyone.

Small vs. big: The Cuddledown comforter, the smallest in our test at 88 by 92 in, on top of the Macy’s Hotel Collection comforter, the largest in our test at 94 by 96, on a normal queen-size bed with a low metal frame. The oversize Hotel Collection is a good choice for a deep mattress. The Cuddledown is worryingly small on any bed, especially if used by a couple or a tall person. A common comforter size in the middle of the two, 90 by 98 in, is great for everyone.

Sewn-through

$189 L.L.Bean Classic Colors Down Comforter. 600 fill power. Great reviews, with 203 reviewers giving it 4.5 stars, but so thin, with just .0028 ounces of filling per inch, that it’s a summer-weight comforter for adults or something for a hot-blooded child, not a year-rounder for a typical adult.

$239 (on sale) Pacific Coast Feather Lunesse Batiste Comforter. 600 fill power. A lightweight fabric that should make for a fluffier comforter, but cool and priced suspiciously low for truly durable, 1-by-1-weave German batiste. (Using great German batiste increases the total cost of Sukalac’s comforters by 50%, he said.)

$559 Cuddledown 700 Fill Power Sateen Down Comforter. 700 fill power but small and cool, with a fill density of .003, compared with the Feathered Friends Bavarian, at .0039.

$329 Cuddledown Primary Down Comforter. 600 fill power. Puffy and popular, with 57 reviewers giving it 4.6, but small, at 88 by 92 in, and not a true sewn-through design. The stitching stops 2 inches before the edge. “The opening at the edge is the same size as the openings of baffled comforters,” pointed out Sukalac. This allows down to shift around the periphery, which is a bummer.

$299 L.L.Bean Box Stitch Down Comforter, Warmer. 600 fill power. 49 other reviewers give it an average of only 4.1 stars, and like the Primary Down Comforter, the stitching appears to stop before the edge. It could compete with the baffle-box version, but it definitely doesn’t match the softer, fluffier Feathered Friends. If you’re going to own a comforter for 30 years, we think you’d be way happier spending an extra $5 a year for the Step Up.

$309 (or $274 on sale) The Company Store White Bay. 625 fill power. Might compete with the Bean baffled box, but 2 inches shorter, slightly cooler, and no reviews.

$500 The Company Store Legends Geneva. Warm, but too expensive for a 625 fill power comforter.

$679 Cuddledown 700 Fill Power Sateen Down Comforter. 700 fill power but very expensive and warm, with a fill density of .0043.

Care and maintenance

The consensus: Shake your comforter each day, dry it outside or in the dryer every couple months, and wash it every couple years in a commercial washing machine. Wash it once a year if you’re not using a duvet cover, and maybe even more frequently if you sweat a lot (which is bad) or let pets wriggle around on your bed (which we understand). When washing it at the laundromat, remember the thing isn’t a pair of tree-trimmer pants. Use a bit of mild soap (such as Nikwax Down Wash, not detergent) and warm or cold water. Choose the delicate setting. Extract water from it twice. Dry it on low. Forever.

Department stores might suggest that you dry clean your comforter, but Sukalac advises against it. “In the old days, dry cleaners used Stoddard dry cleaning fluid, which was bad for the environment but mild,” he said. “Now they’ve started using Perc, which isn’t so bad, but is really harsh. It takes all the oils out of down. It ruins it.” Down is usually cleaned to retain about 1% of its oil. If you remove the last drams of oil, then the down become dry and brittle and soon gets crushed to dust. Not good.

Wrapping it up

The $319 L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter ticks all the boxes for a great value in a comforter—terrific reviews, well made, ample size, proper year-round warmth, a great return policy. Most important, it’s as light and fluffy as a comforter costing hundreds of dollars more.

The $130 Pacific Coast Feather European Comforter with Pyrenees Down, Year Round is more than 2 pounds heavier than the Bean, but as good as many of Bean’s pricey competitors. If it wasn’t sold at Costco, it’d cost $100 more.

The $440 Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700 is everything you want in a comforter, and it’ll last 30 years or more.

And if you opt against down, the Carpenter Company’s Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter provides fair warmth and extra weight for a mere $100.

Footnotes:

1. Decades ago, a 600 to 699 fill power comforter would have been rated 500 to 599 fill power. But changes in fill power testing have led to fill power inflation. Western Mountaineering’s website goes into detail about how today’s fill power testing produces “optimistic” ratings, but basically, the down is perfectly dried and cleaned before testing, but not before it gets put into a comforter at the factory. The only consequence is that people tend to think of a 650 fill power as a middle ground, when, put into historical perspective, it’s actually more of an introductory level. Jump back.

2. A duvet cover is a good idea. It increases the lifespan of the more-delicate comforter, especially baffle-box style, by reducing the need to wash it.

Experts recommend cotton duvet covers. A synthetic, non-breathable, dollar-store cover can easily make your comforter too warm. And heavy duvet covers with thick embroidery or fabric can compact down comforters, robbing them of their fluffiness, which was of course the reason you bought one. A lightweight cotton cover will breathe well and slightly increase the warmth of a baffled comforter.

But don’t be afraid to sleep without a cover. In summer, replacing a duvet cover with a flat sheet can make the comforter pleasantly cool. And the acidic body oils that eat away at cotton? Not a huge deal. Even if you never wash the comforter, it’ll be years before the oil rots the cotton at the edge of the comforter. “That’s where comforters always wear out,” said Sukalac. So go ahead, skip the duvet cover if you want, especially if you have a durable sewn-through model, and just toss the comforter on your bed like some hotshot photographer living in a loft. Only make sure to wash it. And keep dogs and cats away.

Some companies will void the warranty on a comforter if used without a cover. L.L. Bean should honor their satisfaction guarantee either way, but Feathered Friends requires a comforter cover to honor their warranty. Jump back.

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Sources

  1. Bedding Reviews, Ratings & Comparisons, Sleep Like the Dead, December 27, 2013
  2. The Best Comforters, Real Simple

Originally published: December 10, 2014

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I have this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000J4MIFW/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    and I have to say, it’s fantastic. I live in Connecticut and while we heat with wood our house gets pretty cold by 3 am and this comforter keeps us very warm. No allergies, no sweating, heavy enough but not too heavy.

    I also bought the lighter version of it for summer and love it too.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005O58TRC/ref=wms_ohs_product?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    • Jamie Wiebe

      We tested that one and liked it quite a bit! It didn’t beat out our favorites, but our testers rated it pretty highly. If you have that comforter, I certainly wouldn’t say you need to get a new one.

    • Skibum

      Thanks for this recommendation! My wife and I sleep Euro-style, one big mattress with a shared fitted sheet but separate comforters, and this looks like a more affordable option considering we need two new ones.

      • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

        Great. I really like both of the ones I have and I’ve never been cold in winter or hot in summer. I have them in duvets which help trap more air, always a good thing to do with these kinds of comforters anyway. Let me know if you get one and what you think.

    • MNightShannalan

      How has it held up for you? Some reviews on Amazon mention that it falls apart, but other than that, it sounds great.

      • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

        Both of them have held up perfectly. I’m using the heavier one now and it’s in great shape after a year and a half of use. We put it inside a duvet cover which no doubt helps wear and tear and makes it warmer by trapping more air.

        • MNightShannalan

          Very helpful — thanks!

          • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

            You’re welcome. Of course, I’m just speaking from my experience but I’m picky so unless there is huge manufacturing disparity I think you’ll be fine.

  • http://twitter.com/rickroberts Rick Roberts

    Massive suffering goes into the production of down products. Technology has advanced enough that we no longer have to do it this way. I won’t post links to the horrific accounts, but a quick search will do it for you. We are better than this. Please buy synthetics instead.

    • Michael Zhao

      Duly noted. We are also testing many synthetic comforters and will definitely have a vegan option in the finalized piece. However, nothing is comparable to the feel of down so far.

      • http://twitter.com/rickroberts Rick Roberts

        Thank you, Michael. I don’t wish to be a scold, but I think smart people should at least be aware before they make a purchase. I, too, used to think down and wool were benign, but they are most assuredly not. I, for one, don’t mind sacrificing the perfection of down to an almost-as-good synthetic. There are some amazing high-tech fabrics and insulators out there as anyone who buys sport clothing is surely aware. Small measures that lessen harm add up, and that harm should be part of the value equation as much as the price, usability, and longevity.

        Thanks for this site. It is my go-to before I shop.

        • Farmboy

          Sure, use harmful chemical products that turn into a wonderful plastic wrap around you if exposed to open flame. The flame retardant ones are great for the cancer loving health care system as the chems are carcinogenic. And living in northern Canada, I’ve come upon zero synthetics that come close to natural bedding, some Sportswear, yes, but most of the high end is wool or down there as well. And growing up on farms, most practices cause no more than mild annoyance, wool anyway, no clue on down as we got that from the Hutterites.

    • N Martinez

      I am glad you are worried about geese, ducks, animals in general.
      I certainly hope you feel the same way about a baby in his mother’s tummy.

    • http://www.featheredfriends.com Garrett Nixon

      Hello Rick. I oversee production for Feathered Friends and I can assure you, animal welfare is something we take very seriously. Beginning in spring 2015 all of our products will use 100% RDS Certified down. This is a huge step forward towards ensuring the ethical treatment of geese and you can find more information on this program here: http://textileexchange.org/RDS

      Goose down remains one of the finest insulating fibers in the world and unlike synthetics, which are commonly derived from petro-chemicals, down is entirely biodegradable.

      Everything we consume has an impact and I would encourage anyone shopping for a comforter to do their own research in advance. My opinion is not impartial, but I strongly believe that if we can make use of a byproduct from an industry that feeds millions of people while ensuring the ethical treatment of the animals raised for this purpose the environmental impact is far less than a synthetic alternative.

  • Vera Comment

    down has nothing on SILK.. lighter and warmer. My LLBean has been in the closet since I got my silk comforter.

    i believe silk is also hypoallergenic so if you can’t use down because of allergies, silk may be an option to pure synthetics.

    • Jamie Wiebe

      We tested several silk comforters, and didn’t like either of them quite as much as wool or the LL Bean (although they did beat most other down and down alternative comforters). We haven’t done the final rounds of testing, though.

    • http://www.myheartandmyskull.tumblr.com Lauren

      What kind/brand of Silk comforter do you have?

      • Vera Comment

        no clue. My sister got it for me in Shanghai when she was over there.. i picked one up while I was over there too, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the one my sis got.. it’s on par with anything you’d find at macy’s or nordstroms.. even the cover is really nice, don’t need a duvet.

        I’ve had it 6 or 7 years now.. and it’s like new. never even wash it, just hang it in the sun for a day once a month or so.

  • Erik Thulin

    If one was not concerned about allergies but is looking for a more budget friendly pick than a $350 King, would the one from overstock still be your pick, or is their a more budget friendly down?

    • Jamie Wiebe

      Erik, when we have the complete article, we plan to have a more budget-friendly pick, but we haven’t run the full gamut of tests yet and right now none of the budget picks have really stood out.

    • Melissa Tan

      Hi Erik, I did the San Francisco testing for this guide. The cheaper down we tested is the Pinzon Pyrenees, but for the money, I’d recommend our down alternative, the Beyond Down from Amazon. The cheaper down option wasn’t great, whereas the nicer down alternative was quite nice (and still cheaper than the cheapest down). Hope that helps!

  • Dean

    Any word on medium/long term durability? I have a great comforter from the Company Store that sheds a small mountain of tiny down particles every time I remove the duvet cover for laundry. It’s not harmful by any means, and it’s still warm, but an annoying clean-up task.

  • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

    We were looking at Sheex products when we were in Bed Bath & Beyond the other day; Have you (or will you be) testing any Sheex comforters?

    Separately, will you be giving recommendations for hot sleepers as well as “split-temperature” sleeping couples (one hot, one cold)? If so, you’d be our heroes :)

  • Ryan

    did you test anything that’s available in cal king?

    • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

      +1. @jamie_wiebe:disqus , we’ve got a cal king and all of your picks seem to come in king, but not cal king. In fact, do companies even make cal king comforters or are we supposed to buy king comforters to fit cal king beds?

    • Brian Kramp

      Also interested in California King. Or perhaps the difference isn’t too noticeable?

      • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

        Via our expert:

        “Nobody really makes California King comforters. Haven’t seen any of the quality brands do so. You should be able to use a King comforter, just check the dimensions”

        Hope this helps!

        • Brian Kramp

          Per dimensions on the sites the LL Bean comforter is 4″ longer than the runner up. Exactly how much longer the Cal King is. Now if it were just in stock.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye
  • Maurice

    Will you do a review on bed sheets? So much confusing info out there, that thread counts are untrue or not meaningful, etc.

  • pupshut

    Never buying down products again, even the most expensive products using it will leak feathers all over the place, can’t wash it, ends up stinking eventually. Terrible.

  • mjoshea148

    How does this comforter compare to the All Season Down Alternative featured under back to school?

    • Jamie Wiebe

      Much better. We didn’t do any hands-on testing for our back to school article. We included the All Season in this round of testing, and it’s certainly a strong competitor for budget pick.

  • mayhap

    http://www.downlitebedding.com/product/750105072661/

    This one has been my favorite. I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and I came across this one in more than one. It’s very light and keeps the temperature perfectly. Never gets too hot never gets too cold. I’ve finally ordered one for myself too. I typically use a fleece at home because I don’t like heavy blankets but this one is a must have for me.

  • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

    Jamie, awesome write-up (and perfectly timed)—thanks!! How would the LL Bean comforter be for a couple that consists of a hot-sleeper and a cold-sleeper? Also, how does it compare to Sheex’s comforters?

    • Jamie Wiebe

      Thanks, Luke. I’ve got a hot and a cold sleeper in my bed and it’s been doing well! Sometimes the hot sleeper sticks a foot out to get some air, but it did by FAR the best job of compromising between our two sleep styles!

      As for Sheex — we didn’t test any Sheex comforters because, quite frankly, $400 is way, way too much to spend on a comforter—plus, there really isn’t enough review support out there to make us think it’s a viable contender. At that price, you’re really paying for the 600 thread count shell—which is all hype and completely unnecessary, especially for a comforter that should be in a duvet. It feels like with Sheex you’re paying for buzzwords and hype, not any measurable, $150+ increase in quality.

      • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

        Awesome—thanks Jamie! Since we have a cal king bed, I’m struggling to rationalize $359 for a comforter. Is the LL Bean one worth the additional $220 and $240 over the second place down and wool recommendations, respectively?

        On a separate note, I replied to @mjoshea148’s comment about cal king comforters and thought I’d ask here as well. Do companies make cal king comforters or are we supposed to buy king comforters for cal king beds?

      • http://LukeRB.com/ Luke Bornheimer

        Hey Jamie, thanks again for your reply.

        We have a cal king bed, so the LL Bean comforter you recommended would cost $359. The Sheex comforter in king size is $299 on Amazon[1] and $349 on Bed Bath & Beyond[2] (so $279 after 20% coupon). So the Sheex comforter is ironically less expensive than the LL Bean one you recommended as well as the Primary Down one you suggested as a runner-up to the LL Bean.

        Any chance you can test and review a Sheex comforter, or offer insights from research and reviews you’ve found elsewhere? Also, are there any king-sized comforters you would recommend under $250?

        Thanks again!

        [1] http://www.amazon.com/Sheex-Performance-Alternative-Sleep-Comforter/dp/B00914XV5W?tag=613240924-20
        [2] http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/1/1/98416-sheex-performance-european-white-down-100-egyptian-cotton-comforter.html

  • http://thinkweirdthoughts.blogspot.com Phira

    I was checking the site today because I was telling my mom about it, and I’m really glad I spotted this update. We just finished our wedding registries yesterday, and we selected the Australian wool comforter based on this review (my partner need hypo-allergenic bedding and I quite honestly hate down comforters). I’m glad I caught the update because the Beyond Down comforter actually sounds MUCH more like what we need. Thank you!

  • SalishSeaSam

    Great reviews and discussions. I went the down and synthetic route over the past decades until I ‘discovered’ wool. I bought two Daniadown summer wool duvets, thinking I’d use the other one for winter, but so far have not needed to. So, the second one is for guests. The single keep me warm and, as one who sweats, am pleased at how dry I stay.

    http://www.daniadown.com/Shop/Duvets/Summer_Duvets/Summer_Wool_Duvet/Product.aspx?ProductID=585&DeptID=29&RefID=102

  • crinosage

    How about a recommendation for best duvet cover since it is so important as well? I just bought the LL Bean comforter, but don’t know what to cover it with.

  • JS

    Hi – I’m a bit surprised that my issue with my comforter/duvet setup wasn’t mentioned – The comforter constantly bunches up inside the duvet, so I have an uneven covering, my wife may have all comforter on her side, while I’m left with empty duvet cover sheeting on my side. We have to get up and shake out the duvet to even out the comforter inside it constantly.

    On top of that, it is enclosed by small buttons at the bottom, and the comforter inside often “leaks” out between the buttons or buttons come undone and half the comforter has “leaked” outside the duvet cover. Not only does this look terrible, but it is incredibly annoying to constantly fight against when you just want to go to sleep.

    Any suggestions on solutions to this problem with the proper duvet/comforter combo?

    Thanks

  • Arielle Nguyen

    What happened to the reviews on the best mattress? Is it being updated or removed completely?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We haven’t reviewed them yet.

  • Ian

    I live in Houston, TX and it is hot here year round. I also have a girlfriend so we are honestly more concerned with having a comfortable comforter that breathes very well than one that keeps us particularly warm. I like having the big fluffy comforter and if down is the way to go, that’s cool but is this LL Bean just going to increase my a/c bill?

  • cuisineclassica

    Interior Designing is all about the optimal space utilization in your home

    http://www.cuisineclassica.com/

  • Teyan So

    based on your research is there any comforter you would recommend that is super heavy, thick, maybe with the baffle box stitching you mentioned, and won’t shift in your sleep if you move a bit? I found one like this in china but no where else. If it’s too light for me i end up sleeping on it and feeling too tucked in. Toasty all year round is not an issue. Basically I want the super comforter that should have been used by the army to build forts out of because it is so thick.

  • Ella

    Any tips on the best down comforter at Bed Bath & Beyond? Bridal registry can be limiting and was hoping for a nice option that we can list.

  • Jelser Kyldwaine

    The article mentions that you did not consider comforters with a down/feather mix, but I chatted with an LL Bean customer service rep about your #1 choice, and he said that the fill material is “75% white down.” The remainder, I presume, is non-down feathers.

  • jm

    They’ve bumped the price on the king up to $399.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the heads up!

  • Briana

    I just want to note I purchased the Beyond Down Gel Fiber comforter in August on Amazon and by October have already noticed the baffling breaking down and filling migrating to the edges.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Just looked and couldn’t find anyone with this issue. The reviews on Amazon for this are incredible. 70 4 & 5 star reviews, Two 3, 2 & 1-star reviews (6 total). Have you considered returning it? Maybe you happened to get a bad one that slipped past QC?

  • rogobot

    Hi there,

    On the LL Bean site there is the recommended comforter in Warm and in Warmer It appears that the Warm is the recommended type, but any thoughts as to respective comfort levels?

    Thanks

    Roger

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      If you live in the far northeast or Canada, get the warmer. Otherwise the warm version should be sufficient.

  • http://markbao.com/ Mark Bao

    LL Bean’s shipping estimates for this item are slipping to 2-3 weeks, FYI.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Should be available now!

  • Celeste

    Hi! I’m considering buying the Beyond Down for my toddler’s bed, but I’m concerned about the weight. Would this be too heavy for a child?

    • https://twitter.com/mhzhao Michael Zhao

      It’s not really something we can speak authoritatively about, unfortunately. I don’t know what would qualify as “too heavy” for a toddler.

  • Laka

    I used down comforters for 30 years and always liked them. But, as Rick Roberts notes here, when you use one you are participating in cruelty and unnecessary harvesting of animals.

    I have been using a wool-batting filled comforter for about half a year. I don’t miss the down at all. It’s extremely comfortable, warm, never scratchy. In fact, I think the wool moves better with you as you shift around during sleep. I don’t notice any additional weight. I think the moisture-wicking properties of wool actually make it more comfortable, overall, than down.

    I’m not a fanboy, and I’m not in the industry. But I think wool comforters, encased in cotton, are an excellent, natural, humane alternative to down.

    • https://twitter.com/mhzhao Michael Zhao

      That’s why we have wool and down alternative picks as well if this is a priority for you.

  • Alex Martinez

    Alright.. i just ordered the L.L.Bean’s Baffle-Box Stitch Down Comforter and.. it was kinda a shock how little it had inside of the comforter.. there was barely anything inside of it and is so thin and flat.. im not sure but for paying 260 for a full size comforter its a disappointment . I saw one comment on LL bean where a person bought the same one from 2006 and bought another one recently and said that its alot thinner then how it was when he bought his first one.

    • https://twitter.com/mhzhao Michael Zhao

      Less is more when it comes to down. Literally. That’s what the power fill ratings are all about. Higher-quality down means you need less of it to get the same amount of warmth. So yes, there’s less in there, but it should be just as warm, and a lot more breathable. Make sense?

  • http://elementcast.com omerzach

    How soon do you think you’ll update this guide?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Very soon!

      • markuswarren

        Make it sooner! :-D
        Winter is here, well, certainly feels like it, and snow is due later this week. I need a new comforter! :-D

      • Rex Park

        My patience is getting cold! haha

  • jm

    I recently ordered the LL Bean comforter and it is very loud (crinkly). Is this just how they are or do I just have a weird one? Does this go away over time?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Just heard back. Noise indicates a tight weave, which is good – however this will go away with time. If you want it to go away sooner rather than later, you should wash it a couple times. – via Eric & Ganda

      Hope this helps!

  • paulbrandenburg

    Hey Sweethome guys – in case you haven’t seen the main pick from LL Bean is now sold out until next spring (LL Bean Customer Service suggested to check back in April 2015). Not sure how they could screw up demand planning that much but in any event – that plus the current hazard that alternative picks will be changed shortly makes this guide not useful ;-(

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      I just checked and all sizes are available and ship in 2-3 weeks. Where did you originally see this?

      • paulbrandenburg

        Indeed – LLB’s CS rep must have been mistaken. Ordered mine today and hope it lives up to the high praise received here!

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          I’m confused. Did their customer service really say don’t expect any until Spring 2015? I don’t understand why they would say that but have them available on their site.

  • Alec

    First off, thank you for all of the reviews. When will this be updated? I need to order soon.

    • jryding

      +1 for this comment – I am also waiting on an update.

      • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye
        • markuswarren

          All good and well, but having some kind of, you know, date as to when this will go live would be great. Saying “before winter” and then “coming soon” isn’t really that good. If the testing is done, and the decision made, then surely it’s just a case of a write up, which would be what, two weeks max?

          Perhaps some insight into what goes into a review and the whole process, from inception to appearance on the site would be great.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            I’m sorry you don’t agree with our process.

            As for our review process, it’s all in the guides. We show all our homework. We test products, interview experts & researchers, write, write, write, test more, publish.

          • markuswarren

            I think the biggest problem is that the review goes into a “wait” status, but there is no indication of when it’ll be updated. Granted some tests can take a long time, or be ongoing, however, you must know how long after test completion it is before you’ll be able to post the new review, and that’s the bit I think most of us want to know. Saying “it’ll be ready before winter” when winter is here does irk a little.

            I’m certainly not denying the quality or quantity of the reviews, they are excellent and I do trust them, it’s just the timing aspect.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye
      • Zauron

        How soon?

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          HOURS

          • Zauron

            Great! This is the last item on my holiday shopping list! Was considering getting the wool option because its for a very hot sleeper who complains about blankets in the summer either being too light (doesn’t “cocoon” them enough) or too warm (wakes up in the middle of the night sweating). I hear wool comforter can be both decently heavy but still decently cool, even moreso than down. However I wanted to see if this update has anything new to say about wool comforters before buying it.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            :)

          • Zauron

            Hmm, I assumed HOURS meant, like, less than 24, otherwise why not say DAYS instead? :P

          • Zauron

            Is there a way to get an e-mail notification when this actually updates? I’ve kept this page open in my browser refreshing it every few hours for 2 weeks now, its starting to drive me crazy.

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Unfortunately no :(

            I meant like 48-72 hours.

            Check back tonight between 8pm & midnight. Pinky promise.

          • Zauron

            Okay I’ll stop refreshing until tonight then, thanks!

  • Guest

    Its definitely Winter, at least where I live, when is this “before winter begins” update coming online? I was hoping it would be before Black Friday / Cyber Monday… :(

  • http://facebook.com/danputnam SurfSwitch

    Given the size of the retailer, has anyone tested IKEA comforters?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      I don’t believe we have – but I own a mid-range model of theirs and I wouldn’t even call it a comforter. More like a padded blanket. It’s literally subpar across the board and I’m excited to replace it with one of the picks above ASAP. BUT FWIW I picked the Ikea one out fast because it was cheap and I needed a comforter.

  • Zauron

    Well this update certainly goes into a LOT more detail than before, but at the same time, I’m disappointed it doesn’t even mention the alternate fill types like Wool or Silk any more, just Down (and synthetic Down).

    I heard some great things about Wool elsewhere on the internet, I was hoping the update would talk more about it, in particular the claim that Wool is better for hot sleepers than Down is when you aren’t blessed with an air conditioner (and if you prefer a heavy comforter).

    • Eugene

      Where are the wool alternatives mentioned? I searched the page for “wool” and the only results are in this comments section.

  • dante

    Thanks for the thorough update.

    Just a note that Feathered Friends says using its comforters without a duvet cover voids the warranty. :(

    “Comforters and pillows must be used inside a slip cover to maintain warranty coverage. The accumulation of normal body oils contributes to an accelerated breakdown of both the cotton shell and the down.”

    http://featheredfriends.com/warranty/

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Thanks for the note!

  • Alessandro

    Guys, so much thanks for all of your reviews, such a great work from you!

    A question, now: there’s a possibility you’ll take care of comforters for a single bed, and not for a double?

    Thanks in advance!

    (Or… I don’t know, maybe “single bed” is not the way I should call them?)

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      I’m not certain I understand your question. LL Bean sells the comforters in twin, full, queen and king.

      • Alessandro

        Uhm, you could have a point here, tony.

        Maybe “twin” is what here in Europe we use as a single bed?

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          Yes, a ‘twin’ bed is a regular sized single persons bed here Stateside!

          • Alessandro

            Oh, I see, that’s clear now!

            (I should punctualize the weird use of “twin” so, if it’s about a bed for one person. XD)

  • Anonymous

    I could swear I read this just several weeks ago (as I was looking for a down comforter) and your runner up pick, the ‘Alberta’ from The Company Store, was then described as not being very breathable and therefore prone to sweatiness. Did not purchase because of that. I did go with Cuddledown, which I could also swear you were then saying the Primary Down was an excellent runner up choice to LL Bean… Why the change?

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Hello, we had previously dismissed the Alberta in part because we had thought it was on its way out since it was on clearance, but it’s clearly still here. The writer, Eric Hansen, says:

      “I wish our picks remained the same, but new downy info and expert opinions forced us to change ‘em. We didn’t notice until Sukalac pointed it out that the Primary Down Comforter isn’t sewn all the way to the edges. The stitching stops a couple inches short. Combined with the small size, that became a real demerit. So we changed our pick. It’s a bummer, but, well, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” as Emerson says. (Feel free to vomit into your old Lit 101 textbook. ; ) )

      Emerson aside, it’s important to remember that the difference between the two picks is small. Both the Alberta and Cuddledown Primary Down Comforter are /really/ good comforters—in the top seven of the 82 we looked at.”

      Regarding the stitching, though, keep in mind that Cuddledown, like the Bean, has a really solid unlimited lifetime guarantee, so if the down shifts from its boxes, you should be able to call Cuddledown up and get an exchange or refund.