The Best Comforter

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After researching and testing comforters for a combined 120 hours and many nights spent gauging our sleep quality, we’d go for the Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter. It’s the best all-around for the (reasonable) cost. Lots of down comforters will keep you comfortably warm at night. 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 airy, durable, and well-priced. The Brooklinen is it. Although this comforter is the lightest of all our picks, it’s still as fluffy and warm as you’d ever want a down comforter to be.

Last Updated: July 22, 2016
We’re changing our main pick to the Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter because the company recently started adding duvet cover hooks to the comforter and now offers a lifetime warranty. Given these changes, and the fact that this comforter is currently $40 less than our prior top pick, the Alberta Baffled European Down Comforter (now our runner-up), we think the Brooklinen is a better deal for most people.
Expand Most Recent Updates
May 12, 2016: We tested eight comforters this winter and spring, and the Alberta Baffled Down Comforter (our former runner-up) bested our longtime favorite from L.L.Bean for its super-soft and quiet cover. The Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter came in as a close second. The Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700, Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter, Year Round Warmth, and Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter remain our upgrade, budget, and alt-down picks, respectively.
April 30, 2015: Feathered Friends, the maker of our step-up pick, said it’s moving to RDS (Responsible Down Standard) Certification for all of its bedding starting this spring. It just announced the launch of a program that will allow customers to trace the down in their comforter back to the source using a tracking number that will be included with all products.
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.
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.
Our pick
Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter
This is one of the fluffiest and lightest comforters we tried. Its overall performance, reasonable price, and lifetime warranty make it an exceptional value.
Runner-up
Alberta Baffled European Down Comforter
This comforter retains feathers slightly better than the Brooklinen, but it’s more expensive, and we think most people will be happy with our main pick. We tested the medium weight, which we found versatile for year-round use.

If the Brooklinen isn’t available, The Company Store’s Alberta Baffled European Down Comforter is an excellent option. It has a slightly softer cover, which in our testing was also the only one that didn’t let any feathers escape. Like the Brooklinen, this comforter kept us pleasantly warm, and it comes with duvet tabs and a lifetime guarantee. It’s about a pound heavier than our main pick, though, and it usually runs about $40 more for the queen size.

Upgrade pick
Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700
This pricier comforter is loftier than our main pick, and its down is less likely to shift over time. It’s also our only pick made with down certified by the Responsible Down Standard.

If you can spend a little more, the Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700 is a little bit of heaven. It lofts about 3 inches high, has a wonderfully soft shell fabric, and will last for ages. Wash it every once in a while, and it’ll remain cloudlike for 30 years. Repeat: 30 years, compared to the 10 to 15 years you’ll get from the average down comforter, even our top pick. The down in less expensive comforters, including those from The Company Store and Brooklinen, will shift and create cold spots in maybe a decade. As of spring 2015, all Feathered Friends comforters are filled only with certified Responsible Down Standard goose down. (What’s that mean? Check out our section on ethical down.)

Budget pick
Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter
Costco’s Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter is a steal. It’s made of 650-fill-power duck down and can compete with comforters that cost twice as much.

If you want something cheaper, go for the Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter (in the year-round warmth) from Costco. It’s a screaming deal. Among down comforters that cost less than $200, a disproportionate number are heavy, smell like a barn, and lose feathers every time you roll over in the night. 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. The Pacific Coast’s stitching and warranty aren’t as good as the Brooklinen’s but are better than that of similarly priced comforters.

Also great
Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter
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 down comforter, our favorite alternative is the Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter from Costco. It was soft and warm but didn’t make our testers too hot, despite its weight. The gel fiber is a bit heavier than down, but it’s even cheaper than our budget down comforter.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

To find what makes an excellent comforter, we spoke with Jack Sukalac, an engineer who started repairing down comforters 40 years ago and ever since has kept up a side business, All About Down, making and repairing down comforters in his basement. We also consulted David Sweet, president of the American Down and Feather Council; Gary Peterson, a longtime staffer at famed outdoor-gear maker Western Mountaineering; Daniel Uretsky, president of down and down-alternative supplier Allied Feather & Down; and Shannon Maher, assistant professor of home product development at the Fashion Institute of Technology and former product designer for The Company Store.

Amy Westervelt, who did our 2016 updates, has wasted thousands of dollars on her own personal hunt for the perfect comforter over the past decade, which at least helped her narrow down the options for testing. This update builds on the excellent work of Jamie Wiebe and Eric Hanson, a former Sweethome editor and writer, respectively, who wrote our previous editions.

Who should get this

If you regularly find yourself cold under your winter blankets, a good down comforter will likely help you sleep better.

If you want to save money on energy costs (you save about one percent 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 for more on buying a toastier blanket.)

If you’re painfully allergic to down or not keen on using animal products, opt for a synthetic comforter.

If you’ve already got a good down comforter that has gone flat and lifeless, give it a wash and watch it magically return to its former, fluffy glory. If it’s lumpy, you can also have it repaired to redistribute the down. See our Care and maintenance section for more details. But if it was cheap to begin with or you simply don’t enjoy sleeping under it, you’re probably better off with a new one.

How we picked

Ultimately, our experts told us, finding a great comforter comes down to a few key factors: price, fill power, outer shell fabric, and construction. Once you’ve figured out your budget and which factors are most important to you (see our Deciphering labels section for a breakdown of common comforter specs and how they might impact your decision), you’ll be well equipped to pick the best comforter for you.

For us, it came down to comforters that met the following criteria:

  • $100 to $500 price range; down comforters can be much more costly, but this range seemed reasonable for what most people could pay
  • 600 to 800 fill power; we explain more about fill power below, but higher numbers mean better insulation
  • 75 percent or higher down cluster
  • A well-woven shell so that down doesn’t escape (our experts recommend cambric, sateen, or jacquard fabric)
  • A generous return policy and long warranty
  • Mostly positive customer reviews
  • A decent size (at least 88 by 90 inches for a queen bed)

We had a slight preference for:

Many companies make down comforters, but we couldn’t find many third-party reviews. Good Housekeeping has some, but they’re mostly five or more years old. So we looked at those that were recommended by our experts or that received high user ratings. We focused on comforters from four types of places:

  1. Reputable, smallish North American companies: Maine-based Cuddledown, Wisconsin-based The Company Store, Washington-based Feathered Friends, California-based Coyuchi, and Canada-based Au Lit Fine Linens
  2. New direct-to-consumer bedding manufacturers: Crane & Canopy, Brooklinen
  3. 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
  4. US manufacturers: Just eight American wholesalers—Downlite, Hollander, Down Decor, Down Inc., Pacific Coast Feather, Aeolus Down, Allied Down, and Blue Ridge Home Fashions—supply the majority of comforters sold in America, so we called spokespersons for each and asked for their favorite models, just to make sure we weren’t missing something.

During the past three years, we’ve looked at 86 models that all seemed promising. But once we got strict about the $500 max price and eliminated ones with horrible reviews, bad warranties, or return policies, too-small dimensions, and other obvious drawbacks, the list of contenders drastically shrunk. For this update we re-tested five of our prior top picks and tested three new comforters:

How we tested

As in previous years, we had one tester sleep naked under a sheet and each cover-less comforter, which was allowed to fluff up for at least eight hours beforehand in a room heated to 68 degrees. Paying attention to overall weight, breathability, puffiness, and fabric texture, we noted which subjectively felt the best and the worst after sleeping under it for two nights.

Then we weighed and measured each comforter. To test noise and down-proofness, we also rolled up each one, unfurled it, shook it 10 times, and counted the number of feathers or down clusters that popped out.

comforters-02-jack-sukalac

For our 2014 review, Jack Sukalac, a comforter repairman, evaluated the construction of all our testers, including this year’s winner. Photo: Eric Hansen

For our 2014 review, we took the contenders to comforter repairman Jack Sukalac to evaluate their construction. He found that some companies made questionable design choices, but by and large the quality of the stitching was universally good, with short stitches of durable thread and healthy seams. We also cut open the front-runners to analyse their construction. All of the down appeared to be top-notch, according to Sukalac. Based on those findings—and because our current top pick was included in those 2014 tests—we did not have Sukalac analyse the comforters for this round of testing.

Best overall down comforter

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With a fill power of 700, the Brooklinen was one of the fluffiest comforters we tried. It was also the lightest, making it particularly airy but still warm to wrap up under. Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick
Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter
This is one of the fluffiest and lightest comforters we tried. Its overall performance, reasonable price, and lifetime warranty make it an exceptional value.

The Brooklinen All-Season Down Comforter edged out the competition because it has everything going for it with no major flaws. It was one of the warmest comforters we tried, as well as the lightest, and its cover was quieter than most. We also like that it comes with a solid lifetime warranty. It feels just as good to sleep under as our prior top pick (our current runner-up), which is about $40 more for a queen size at this writing.

Several of the comforters we tried felt fluffy and cloudlike to wrap up in, and the Brooklinen was among the best. Although it was one of the warmest to sleep under, we didn’t feel overheated. It has great fill power (700), and at 4.7 pounds it was the lightest comforter we tried. The Brooklinen isn’t quite as fluffy as our upgrade pick from Feathered Friends, but it still feels luxurious and airy.

comforters-9652-brooklinen-all-season-down-comforter

The Brooklinen’s slightly smaller size means it doesn’t drape quite as generously over the side of the bed as some comforters, but it’s still plenty big for most beds. Photo: Michael Hession

The Brooklinen’s fabric cover was also one of the quietest we slept under. You might not mind fabric that rustles as you move, but if you’re sensitive to noise, a crinkling fabric can be annoying. The level of noise was the main reason we dropped our former pick, the L.L.Bean Baffle Box Down Comforter, which we found had a plasticky feel and sound during this round of testing (several readers had similar complaints). In contrast, the Brooklinen made barely any noise.

The fabric shell, made of 500-thread-count sateen, is also soft to the touch. It isn’t quite as soft as the combed-cotton sateen cover on the Alberta comforter, but it is still comfortable against the skin. The thread count may not seem especially high, but it’s actually respectable for sateen. In fact, Shannon Maher, an assistant professor at FIT who formerly designed for The Company Store, told us it’s not worthwhile to buy a comforter for its high thread count. “You can play games with thread count, and a higher number doesn’t necessarily mean a better weave,” she said.

The Brooklinen is machine washable, and it cleans up quite nicely without losing any of its fluffiness. Brooklinen recently added corner tabs to tie on a duvet cover to its comforters. The original model we tested didn’t have these tabs, so we called in a new comforter to try them out. We found the tabs strong, able to resist a firm yank without any stitches popping out.

We think you’ll get at least 10 years out of the Brooklinen before you may need to have it repaired. Readjusting the down and filling it back to its original fluffiness will cost you about $200. If you have any issues in the meantime, Brooklinen now backs the comforter with a lifetime guarantee: The company recently upped its 60-day return policy to a lifetime warranty, which is in part what persuaded us to switch it to our main pick slot, replacing The Company Store’s Alberta, which also comes with a lifetime guarantee. The Brooklinen comforter gives you everything that our prior top pick does, but for $40 less at this writing. It also fits perfectly into our favorite duvet cover, Brooklinen’s Classic Duvet Cover, which we tested for our guide to duvet covers.

As a new kid on the block and a direct-to-consumer retailer, Brooklinen puts a major emphasis on customer service—so much so that almost every customer review on the site makes a special mention of it. We called posing as customers with both questions and complaints, and we received great service every time, including when we said we wanted to return our comforter just because we decided we didn’t want a comforter after all.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

In our tests the Brooklinen’s faults were minor. The cover was ever so slightly scratchier than that of the Alberta, our runner-up (despite its 500-thread-count sateen fabric). We measured the full/queen size at 88 by 90 inches (it’s advertised as 90 by 90 inches), so it’s at the smaller end of the spectrum, particularly when compared with the Alberta’s 90-by-96-inch queen. The comforter is still big enough to offer a nice drape over the side of a bed, though, so we don’t think its size will bother most people.

Finally, past Brooklinen customers have complained that this comforter does not have duvet hooks. As we mention above, Brooklinen recently started adding duvet hooks, and all of the company’s comforters now come with them.

A more downproof alternative

comforters-9671-alberta-baffled-down-comforter

With a fill power between 600 and 650, the Alberta wasn’t the fluffiest comforter we tried, but it was still airy; the notably soft cover feels nice against the skin. Photo: Michael Hession

Runner-up
Alberta Baffled European Down Comforter
This comforter retains feathers slightly better than the Brooklinen, but it’s more expensive, and we think most people will be happy with our main pick. We tested the medium weight, which we found versatile for year-round use.

We like the Alberta Baffled European Down Comforter (medium weight) from The Company Store almost as much as our main pick. In fact, originally it was our top pick, because it offered a better lifetime guarantee. But now that Brooklinen offers a lifetime warranty as well, we think most people will be happy saving $40 and going with that comforter. Even so, the Alberta could be a better choice if you want a slightly more generously sized comforter and one that won’t shed any feathers.

The Alberta is a touch heavy—5.7 pounds for the medium weight (the light option weighs 5 pounds). It’s a full pound heavier than our main pick, which means it can get warm, although it never made us sweat during our winter testing. With a 600 to 650 fill power, the Alberta is slightly less fluffy than the Brooklinen comforter. (The Alberta’s fill power range is due to natural variation in the filling process, according to The Company Store.) The Alberta was also one of the largest comforters we tested—the queen measures 90 by 92 inches, big enough to cover a king—so it’s particularly nice if you sleep with someone else.

comforters-9668-alberta-baffled-down-comforter

The Alberta comes in larger sizes than other comforters, which allows for a generous drape over the edges of a bed. Photo: Michael Hession

The Alberta was the only comforter we tested in 2016 that didn’t lose a single feather in our roll-and-shake test. All of the other comforters we tested shed some amount of feathers. We think the Alberta’s downproof cover bodes well for it over many years of washing and use. Several years ago, commenters on The Company Store’s site complained about the Alberta losing feathers. We asked The Company Store about this, and the representatives told us that the company had addressed the problem by changing the fabric cover.

The Alberta was the only comforter we tested in 2016 that didn’t lose a single feather in our roll-and-shake test.

The Alberta’s cambric shell is slightly softer than that of the Brooklinen, and it also comes in a wide variety of colors in addition to the usual white. That’s an advantage if you don’t want to mess with a duvet cover. That said, you should use a cover because stains void the comforter’s lifetime guarantee. We didn’t find any drawbacks to this comforter, except its slightly higher price.

Loftier and ethical down

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The Feathered Friends comforter was by far the fluffiest, sink-into-the-clouds type comforter we tried. Photo: Michael Hession

Upgrade pick
Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700
This pricier comforter is loftier than our main pick, and its down is less likely to shift over time. It’s also our only pick made with down certified by the Responsible Down Standard.

If you want the best value in a luxury comforter—one that’s puffy and light, but also super durable—the Feathered Friends Bavarian Medium 700+ is the one to get. The Feathered Friends Bavarian feels like sleeping wrapped in a cloud. Heck, it’s the one to save up for. It’s the family-owned company’s most popular model, 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 about $460 for a queen-size comforter at the time of writing, it’s expensive, but it happens to be a great deal relative to its few direct competitors, like the smaller, cooler Cuddledown 700 Fill Power Sateen Down Comforter.

comforters-9639-feathered-friends-bavarian-medium-700

The Feathered Friends comforter has sewn-through construction, so the down and feathers stay equally distributed over time. Photo: Michael Hession

We had previously recommended trying this comforter without a duvet 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.”

Feathered Friends has always had a good reputation for its sourcing, but as of fall 2015, all of the company’s products contain only down that meets the Responsible Down Standard. Each comforter even comes with a tracking number where buyers can use trackmydown.com to see the source of the down inside.

The other details are up to snuff, too: great 90-by-98-inch dimensions (for a queen), one of the softest, quietest, and lightest long staple-cotton cambric shells we tried, and a great return policy (“return or exchange in new condition 30 days, lifetime warranty”). We couldn’t find any drawbacks except for the price, but you get what you pay for.

Good quality for under $150

Budget pick
Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter
Costco’s Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter is a steal. It’s made of 650-fill-power duck down and can compete with comforters that cost twice as much.

The Pacific Coast Platinum European Comforter with Pyrenees Down is Costco’s best-selling comforter for a reason. It’s not quite as soft and fluffy as our top picks, but it’s far better than the many synthetic comforters offered at that price point and nearly as good as many $250 down comforters. If you’re not a Costco member, you’ll only be charged an extra $5 at checkout.

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 percent down cluster. 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 Company.

It’s a bit flat and heavy, at about 6.9 pounds, and felt so when sleeping under it, but still didn’t make us sweat. Costco customers routinely give the Pacific Coast a deserved 4.5 or 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, because you have to do it by hand instead of by robot), the sides and foot of the comforter aren’t baffled or sewn-through. The down around the edges will shift to the corners over time; 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.

That said, Pacific Coast also makes the Kirkland Signature down comforter at Costco, which, although even cheaper, is nowhere near as good (it’s loud and has that wet dog hair smell that so many down comforters have). For the price, we think their European Comforter with Pyrenees Down is a terrific deal and an absolute no-brainer for a kid’s or guest bedroom.

A very good down-alt comforter

Also great
Sleep Better Beyond Down Gel Fiber Comforter
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 Ethical down, below), we recommend Costco’s Sleep Better Beyond Down Comforter. Although really heavy—7.6 pounds, to be exact—it still felt fairly fluffy and soft and didn’t trap too much heat. At just under $100 at the time of writing, it’s also a steal. (Costco non-members will be charged an extra $5 at checkout.) We liked that it didn’t have the odd smell that many down alternative comforters tend to have.

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 the traditional polyfill you’ll find in most synthetic comforters. Microdenier fibers are, as acrylic manufacturer Birlacril explains on its website, 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 down options, feeling warm and snug 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.

Deciphering labels

Higher fill power means a comforter will be warmer without necessarily increasing the weight of the comforter.

The world of down comforters has its own language and can be really confusing for consumers. Here’s a breakdown of what the terms mean and, more importantly, how they might factor into your decision-making process.

Term: Fill power
What it means: The volume of one ounce of down, measured under laboratory conditions. The more volume taken up by one ounce of down, the higher the fill power will be, and the higher the fill power the more insulation the comforter provides. Higher fill power means a comforter will be warmer without necessarily increasing the weight of the comforter. Bigger down clusters also increase the fill power.

What to look for: For an entry-level down comforter, 600 to 700 fill power is fine, according to David Sweet, president of the American Down and Feather Council. If you want a comforter that’s going to last longer (like 30 years), Sweet recommends ponying up for an 800-fill-power comforter.

Term: Down cluster
What it means: The fluffy stuff underneath a duck or goose’s feathers. It’s what keeps them warm when they’re paddling through water; it’s puffy and round and is composed of individual fibers that are connected to one another at a central point.

What to look for: Some comforters will list the percentage of down cluster (versus feathers or other materials) it includes. To ensure fluffiness and loft, you’ll want at least 75 percent cluster. However, Daniel Uretsky, president of down supplier Allied Down, says cluster percentage alone won’t tell you everything you need to know. “You can have a blend that’s 90 percent down, 10 percent feather, but fill power is only 600 because the down is small. Whereas you could have 90 percent down that’s over 900 fill power because those clusters are big and robust. So really it’s the source material combined with the way it’s processed— a blend of clusters and fill power.”

Term: Goose down or Duck down
What it means: The down in comforters comes from either ducks or geese. Goose down tends to come from Europe, while duck down tends to come from China or North America. 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. Because goose down is bigger, some manufacturers prefer it, but it matters more how old (and big) the bird was when the down is harvested. 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 spending more than $400, there’s no reason to turn your nose up at a down puff’s provenance.

What to look for: The type of down is typically listed on the label or packaging of a comforter. Since goose down is usually priced higher, Sweet recommends looking for Hungarian down. “In Hungary they would historically grow geese for a very long time and they still do. So that means the plumage is going to be larger and thicker—that mean’s you’re going to need less of it, the fill power will be higher, the cluster content will be higher, and it will generally be of higher quality.” But other experts disagree. Kaltin Kirby, client services manager at the biggest down-testing lab in the US, the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL), said, “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.”

Term: Down alternative
What it means: Down alternative is a catch-all term for any non-down comforter filling. At the low-end, it will be a polyester-cotton blend that comes in sheets like batting. From there, it goes up to gel-fiber filling or a patented product called Primaloft.

What to look for: Gel fiber and Primaloft increase the price of a down-alternative comforter by an average of 15 to 20 percent, but they deliver far better value. Daniel Uretsky, president of Allied Down, which supplies both down and a variety of down alternatives to the bedding and apparel industries, describes gel fiber as a material that “feels really nice and soft, is puffier than average polyfill, and looks nice.” Shannon Maher, assistant professor of home products development at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, says Primaloft is lightweight, breathable, dries quickly and does a better job of mimicking the properties of down than other alternatives. It’s not always labeled, though, so Maher recommends feeling the comforter between your hands as a test: “When you put it between your hands you can feel that the inner material is slick and slides around.”

Term: Baffle-box
What it means: Down comforters are typically described as being either “baffle-box constructed” or “sewn-through.” (See here for a visual of the two types of construction.) With a baffle box construction, the product has boxes sewn into it, but the boxes have vertical strips of fabric sewn to the top and bottom fabrics, creating baffled walls between each box. The baffles allow down to move into the boxes initially, but help prevent the down from shifting from the boxes later.

Allied Down’s Uretsky says baffle-box comforters tend to have slightly more cold spots than sewn-through options. According to both David Sweet at the American Down and Feather Council and Shannon Maher at FIT, comforters that are labeled as “gusseted baffle-box” tend to be especially good at keeping the down evenly distributed and lofted.

Term: Sewn-through
What it means: The top and bottom material of the comforter are sewn together to prevent fill from shifting. Sewn-through comforters may be sewn together in boxes, channels, or other patterns. Sweet says if you’re not interested in maintaining something at all, go with the sewn-through. “You’ll never have to worry about fill shifting. They’re pretty bullet-proof in a way,” he says. “But if you’re willing to shake it out once a year and hit it with a tennis racket to prevent clumping, you’ll be happier with the lightness and loft of baffle-box.”

Term: Thread count
What it means: Manufacturers calculate thread count by adding up the vertical warp and horizontal weft yarns in a square inch of fabric. Generally, the finer the yarns, the more that will fit into an inch, resulting in a smoother and more durable fabric. For a comforter, the thread count of the shell fabric isn’t just important for its look and feel, it also plays a key role: keeping down feathers in. For that reason, FIT’s Maher says it’s something to watch out for in a comforter purchase, although she also says that higher numbers don’t necessarily mean a better weave. Manufacturers also sometimes inflate thread count by counting two-ply yarns as two yarns; thus a 300-thread-count cover made with two-ply yarns might be advertised as 600.

What to look for: Covers with thread count under 400 are preferred; anything above that is likely marketing. Manufacturers/retailers will note the thread count of the shell.

Term: Cambric, Sateen, Jacquard
What it means: All three are fabrics commonly used for the outer shell of comforters. Cambric is a densely woven, soft cotton; sateen is a softer, shinier cotton with a more open weave; jacquard, the most expensive, is a specially designed, tightly woven fabric with a decorative pattern and/or finish.

What to look for: Both Sweet and Maher recommended cambric fabric. Maher says it has “an extremely dense weave that really keeps the feathers from getting through the fabric, but still allows air flow.” Sweet also sings the praises of jacquard, particularly if you’re not going to put another cover on the comforter, and notes that even with a comforter the fabric of the outer shell matters, as it can affect the overall weight. While Maher points out that sateen’s more open weave could let more feathers sneak out of your comforter, Sweet notes that sateen batistes are 40 percent lighter than Cambric, “so you feel like you have a cloud resting on top of you.” Our top pick, the Brooklinen comforter, has a sateen cover, and few feathers escaped from it in our testing.

Term: Duvet or Comforter
What it means: Technically, a comforter is a bed covering that is sewn shut, is usually a color or pattern, and does not require a cover. A duvet is typically made of down and is made to be inserted into a duvet cover. According to FIT’s Maher, in the US, these terms have become interchangeable, and many down duvets are made with fabrics that would be just fine right against the skin.

Term: American Down & Feather Council Certified (ADFC Certified)
What it means: The ADFC seal indicates that the manufacturer is a member of the ADFC and is voluntarily complying with the council’s labeling requirements. The focus of the seal is primarily on ensuring that marketing claims are valid—that a comforter claiming to be 800 fill power really is, or that one marketing itself as Hungarian down is in fact filled with Hungarian down.

What to look for: The ADFC seal is found on the packaging of most major home manufacturers.

adfc-certified

Ethical 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. Here are two designations you can look for that may ensure the down was harvested in an ethical manner.

Term: Responsible Down Standard (RDS)
What it means: The RDS certifies the traceability of down and that no animals are live-plucked. Started as a partnership between The North Face and Allied Down, which supplies down to many apparel and home companies (including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Feathered Friends, The Company Store, Cuddledown, Target, and Costco), in 2014 it became an industry-wide standard, owned by the Textile Exchange. It’s enforced by Control Union for The North Face.

What to look for: The RDS seal appears on all products from companies that are operating within the standard’s requirements and whose products are audited and certified by Control Union. You can enter the lot number of any RDS-certified product into the TrackMyDown website and trace the down back to its source.

responsible-down-standard

Traceable Down Standard (TDS)
What it means: This is a similar program to the Responsible Down Standard but spearheaded by Patagonia. Both avoid down from live-plucked or force-fed birds. It’s enforced by NSF International for Patagonia.

What to look for: The TDS is slightly stricter than the RDS. The latter allows for a mix of certified and uncertified down in products bearing the RDS stamp, and also allows what’s called ‘parallel production’: down can come from farms where force feeding does happen for other products, so long as the down itself doesn’t come from force-fed animals. The TDS also reaches farther back along the supply chain to ensure its down is coming from a line of sustainable farms. But—and this is a big but—due to its more stringent requirements, the TDS has struggled to scale beyond Patagonia’s offerings. So far, we have yet to see a TDS-certified comforter, but RDS options are becoming increasingly common.

How to measure comforter warmth

In the US, we don’t have an official warmth rating for comforters (as they do in England), but If you want to compare the warmth level of comforters you can make rough approximations, as one wholesaler informed us. 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 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.

Around the middle of the range, .0040, is an ideal warmth for most people and where most “year round” 600-to-699-fill-power comforters fall.

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—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 .0040-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 one percent 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.

Care and maintenance

The expert 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 shouldn’t happen with a good comforter) 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 Carhartts. Use a bit of mild soap and warm or cold water. Choose the delicate setting. Extract water from it twice. Dry it on low for forever.

Department stores might suggest that you dry-clean your comforter, but Sukalac advises against it. Although Sukalac says dry-cleaning chemicals have evolved over the years, they’re still harsh, taking the oils out of down. “It ruins it,” he says.

The competition

Below, the main challengers. 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
L.L.Bean Baffle-Box Down Comforter: Our top pick for a few years running was unseated this year for three main reasons: It was crinkly to the point of being loud (for the record, Sukalac says that can be a good thing—it means the cover shell is durable—and the noise can wane over time, but for our tester and several Sweethome readers, noise was just too loud); it smelled musty right out of the box; and it was several ounces heavier than the weight listed on its label (it weighed in at 5.1 pounds but was labeled at 4.7). The company says the weight fluctuation is just a natural variation in the filling process and that some comforters will weigh in at 4.7 while others may be heavier. It’s still a decent comforter, but for the price, we think most people will be happier with the Alberta or the Brooklinen.

Crane & Canopy Classic Goose Down-Filled Comforter: Fairly close in quality to our runner-up Brooklinen and ever-so-slightly cheaper, but again, we’re leery of any 30-day return policy, especially one that says the comforter must be unused and unwashed.

Dillard’s Noble Excellence 350-Thread-Count White Down Comforter: We tried this now discontinued comforter; the cover wasn’t as robust as our those on our winners and Sukalac thought it might be more prone to losing feathers.

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.

comforters-12-sloppy-stitching

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. Photo: Michael Hession

Macy’s Hotel Collection Medium Weight: Supersized, with a fantastic review score. About 30 owners rank it an averaged 4.8. But at a .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.”

Costco’s Kirkland Signature Comforter: Although very reasonably priced and made by the same company as our budget pick (Pacific Coast), this comforter had some issues: it’s cover was loud and shiny, and it smelled a bit like wet fur.

The L.L.Bean Primaloft Down Alternative Comforter: This down-alternative option had many of the same issues we found with the Bean’s down comforter this time around: the cover was loud and stiff, and it had an odd chemical smell to it.

Lauren Ralph Lauren Brushed Cotton Down Comforter: The biggest queen size we saw, at 94 by 96 inches, but very cool, with a fill density of .0031.

Land’s End Elite Goose Down Comforter: Also just .0031, and many reviews complain that it’s thin.

Trump Home 300 TC White Down Comforter: Free shipping, but only a one-year warranty.

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

Blueridge Home Fashions 500 Thread Count Damask Stripe White Down Comforter: Cheap, but napkin-sized at 88 by 88 inches.

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

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.

Bed Bath & Beyond The Seasons Collection Year Round Comforter: 80 percent down cluster, but unknown fill density and low customer ratings.

Bloomingdale’s My Warmer Down Comforter: Another biggie, at 94 by 96 inches, but unknown fill density and it costs as much as fluffier 700-fill-power comforters.

Sewn-through
L.L.Bean Classic Colors Down Comforter: 600 fill power. Great reviews, with 203 reviewers giving it 4.5 stars, but so thin (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.

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 percent, he said.)

Cuddledown 700 Fill Power Sateen Down Comforter: 700 fill power but small and cool, with a fill density of .003.

329 Cuddledown Primary Down Comforter: 600 fill power. Puffy and popular, with over 100 reviewers giving it 4.5, but small, at 88 by 92 inches, and not a true sewn-through design. The stitching stops two 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.

L.L.Bean Box Stitch Down Comforter, Warmer: 600 fill power. 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.

The Company Store White Bay: 625 fill power. It’s two inches shorter, slightly cooler, and in possession of no reviews.

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

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

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Originally published: July 22, 2016

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