Buying Guide – Shopping for the Best Feather Mattress Toppers
The term ‘topper’ refers to an individual cushioning layer that can be added to a mattress for extra comfort, softness, and — in some cases — improved support. Depending on their design, toppers may be tucked beneath top sheets or rest freely on the comfort layer of the mattress. Toppers are available in corresponding sizes for all standard mattress dimensions; toppers are slightly smaller, which allows them to fit more easily beneath sheets without clumping.
Feather toppers, or ‘featherbeds,’ are typically made from the plumage of ducks or geese. Most featherbeds are filled with coarser, exterior feathers. However, some models may contain a combination of outer feathers and softer, underside plumage known as ‘down.’ Down can be measured using ‘fill power,’ which refers to how soft it feels and how effectively it insulates.
The feathers/down in these toppers are typically encased in a cover made of cotton and/or polyester. Featherbed covers are often quilted, or baffled, in order to keep the feathers contained and prevent clumping. Featherbed covers are measured using thread count, which refers to the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch. Higher thread counts mean that the cover is less susceptible to wear and more likely to contain the feathers.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Feather Toppers?
Benefits of using a feather topper include the following:
- Enhanced Comfort: Featherbeds are exceptionally soft, and will improve the feel and comfort of most sleep surfaces.
- Easy Movement: Feather toppers provide little to no resistance, making them easier to move on that other toppers that sink deeply beneath a sleeper’s body.
- Good for Sex: Featherbeds are responsive, somewhat bouncy, and low-resistance — and all three of these factors make them fairly suitable for sex.
- Lightweight: As the name ‘featherbed’ suggests, these toppers are exceptionally lightweight. Most models weigh 20 pounds or less.
- Sleeping Cool: Featherbeds retain minimal body heat, allowing them to sleep fairly cool compared to other toppers (particularly memory foam models) that tend to sleep hot.
- Low Price-point: Featherbeds are fairly inexpensive ($100 to $150 on average) and have lower price-points that many competing topper types. And because they usually perform for two to three years, they offer more ‘bang for your buck’ than memory foam toppers, which have similar lifespans and higher price-points.
Some drawbacks associated with featherbeds include the following:
- Minimal Motion Isolation: Featherbeds do not absorb and isolate motion to the same extent as foam or latex models. This can be problematic for people who share their bed with another person and awaken easily due to motion.
- Poor Shape Retention: Many featherbed owners claim that their topper becomes lumpy and misshapen after limited use. For most, the only solution is constant fluffing and shaking.
- Odor Potential: Feather toppers often emit unpleasant smells when they are removed from their packaging, and these odors may persist over time.
- Below-average Conforming: Featherbeds do not conform as closely as memory foam or latex toppers, and may not be suitable for sleepers who experience pain or pressure in sensitive areas of their body.
- Expensive to Clean: Most feather toppers should only be dry cleaned, and never machine washed. These expenses can accumulate over time.
- Allergy Risk: Feathers carry higher allergy potential that other topper materials.
- Protruding Feathers: This issue is unique to featherbeds: some owners complain of feathers poking or protruding through the cover, which can cause discomfort and — in extreme cases — pose an injury risk.
Who Should Use a Feather Topper?
Feather toppers are considered most suitable for the following groups:
- People whoown hard or overly firm mattresses. Featherbeds are usually thick and soft enough to improve the comfort and feel of most sleep surfaces.
- People whotend to sleep hot. Feather toppers absorb minimal body heat, allowing them to sleep relatively cool throughout the night.
- People whohave a hard time lifting heavy objects. Feather toppers are fairly lightweight, making them easy to adjust and maneuver for most sleepers.
- People who prefer less restrictive mattresses. Featherbeds do not restrict movement to a significant extent, making them fairly easy to move on.
However, featherbeds may not be suitable for the following groups:
- People whoawaken easily due to motion or noise. Featherbeds do not absorb or minimize motion to a significant extent, and most models make crunching or squeaking sounds when bearing weight.
- People who aresensitive to smell. Featherbeds may produce unpleasant odors that linger long after the topper has been unpackaged.
- People whoprefer a closely conforming sleep surface. Featherbeds do not conform closely, and those seeking a contoured fit may want to explore other topper options.
- People who areprone to allergies, as feathers and down tend to accumulate dust and microbes, triggering allergies in the process.
How Much Does a Feather Topper Cost?
The average featherbed costs between $100 and $150. Toppers that supplement the feather fill with down for added softness tend to be more expensive, as do models with luxury covers made of materials like organic cotton. Compared to other toppers, featherbeds tend to cost less than memory foam, latex, and wool models. The graph below compares average price-points for the six most common topper types.