What Is a Baffle Box?
When selecting a down comforter, the whole process can seem a bit intimidating, given the vast array of options available, as well as all the industry-specific jargon: loft, feather count, hypo-allergenic, down alternative... you get the idea! And while you probably won’t lose sleep at night worrying if your comforter’s fill content is up to par, you’ll still want to arm yourself with some product knowledge so you can make an informed purchasing decision. After all, a down comforter is both a large financial investment (think several hundred dollars), as well as an investment in your overall sleep quality and comfort.
Just like a building, a down comforter has its own structure, purposefully designed to provide certain benefits based on the options you select. Besides fill power, the largest factor in determining a comforter’s warmth is its method of construction: “sewn-through” or “baffle box.” The basic premise between these two constructions is the same: The outer layer consists of the comforter’s shell, and the inner layer consists of the down filling. However, it’s the overall execution of these two methods that account for their differences.
Think of sewn-through construction in terms of a sandwich: The shell serves as the bread, and the down is the filling, evenly spread throughout the comforter. The downside to sewn-through is that, over time, the down tends to migrate away from the comforter’s stitch lines, where the shell has been sewn together, allowing for cold-spots in some areas, and lumps in others. Also, with time, sewn-through comforters may lose some of their loft or plushness, due to the lack of even fill distribution. As you can guess, sewn-through down comforters tend to be a cheaper option than baffle box.
Baffle box comforters, on the other hand, are constructed by placing fabric walls throughout the inside of the shell, with a small opening in each chamber where the down is then inserted. Essentially, there are a bunch of tiny boxes inside baffle box comforters, so that the down will stay in one place without creating flat spots. It also eliminates the possibility of all the filling migrating to the edges of the comforter and leaving you with droopy sides and an empty top.
With sewn-through comforters, all the stress falls along the stitch lines, which decreases the longevity of the bedding and can lead to tears along the pressure points. Baffle box comforters don’t have this issue as the internal fabric strips allow pressure to disperse evenly over the entire blanket instead of individualized areas, virtually eliminating the possibility of fraying.
Aesthetically speaking, baffle box construction also has the advantage, as the evenly filled pockets provide a smooth outer appearance to the comforter. The extra fabric strips also create three-dimensional boxes, which allows the down to really fluff out to its maximum size- something that is just not possible with sewn-through comforters.
Due to their overall higher quality construction, baffle box comforters retain their loft much better than their sewn-through counterparts. Which means, if you purchase a baffle box comforter it should, in theory, look as great five years from now as it did the day you brought it home. Of course, this does not account for destructive pets or children, but from normal, everyday usage.
Which Should You Choose: Sewn-Through or Baffle Box?
Reading about all the advantages of baffle box, you may wonder, is there an instance where a shopper is better off selecting a sewn-through comforter? The answer is yes; from an economic standpoint, sewn-through is a much cheaper option, typically at half the cost of baffle box. Sewn-through is also the best option if you’ve chosen a low-fill, lightweight down comforter. If the fill count is not high enough, the baffle boxes will remain partially empty, making this method of construction unnecessary for the intended purposes. Basically, sewn-through is great for those who live in a warmer climate, or those that prefer cooler, lighter weight bedding.
If, on the other hand, you prefer a heavier, warmer comforter, and aesthetics and durability are important to you, and if your budget allows for it, you’ll likely want to lean towards baffle box construction. Ultimately, the best down comforter for you will depend on personal preferences, and you can enter your purchasing decision aware of the different options.