Should I Buy a Feather Bed or a Mattress Pad?

Last Updated on March 30, 2023

Featherbed vs Mattress pad…

It’s a question that first-time bedding buyers usually ponder. Should you buy a feather bed or a mattress pad?

Or should you just buy both?

Each one has its own individual set of purposes, although they do overlap a bit. There’s no “one size fits all” answer to the question.

Which one you need really depends on your own preferences, what you are trying to accomplish, and what kind of mattress you currently have.


a featherbed on top of a mattress


You might be looking to add some more comfort to an older lumpy mattress.

Maybe you’d like to add a layer of protection for a new mattress. Or maybe you want that cloud-like feel that you experienced at a hotel.

Each purpose has a different answer.

So let’s take a look at both options, and help you decide if you should buy a mattress pad or a feather bed. Afterward, we’ll consider if maybe you just need to buy both.



The case for a mattress pad

A mattress pad is particularly useful for three purposes:

  • Protect your mattress
  • Add a subtle layer of comfort
  • Securely hold layers in place

Let’s take a look at these three in detail.



Mattress protection

Practice safe bedding!

Ok, so maybe that’s not how the saying goes, but it’s still true. Mattresses take a lot of abuse throughout the years, and most fail long before they should.

A lot of that abuse involves fluids. Sweat is the primary one, among others. We sweat a decent amount while we sleep, and that sweat transfers through the sheet, and into the mattress.

One night of sweat might not seem like much until you multiply it by a few thousand nights.

Have you ever noticed watermarks on your mattress when you change the sheets?

Those stains are kind of like an iceberg. You see the stain on top, but you don’t see the fluid that seeped into the mattress below. Over time, that fluid breaks down the insides of a mattress and reduces its lifespan.

A mattress pad – particularly the water-proof varieties – adds a protective layer to keep unwanted fluids out.


a mattress pad on a bed


A layer of comfort

A mattress pad – like most types of pads – will add a plush layer of comfort. If you prefer a soft mattress, a mattress pad won’t add too much. However, if you prefer a firm mattress, a pad will add just the right amount of comfort.

And if you want some added heat, a heated mattress pad can do that as well.

Mattress pads aren’t too thick, so they won’t make a firm mattress feel mushy.

Because of their shallow depth, and fill material, mattress pads don’t offer much in terms of structural integrity, or rigidity. If you’re trying to get a few years out of an older lumpy mattress, a traditional mattress pad won’t help much.

They tend to follow the contours and curves of the lumps. You’re better off opting for a foam topper.



Securing layers

If you like a layered bed, a mattress pad – particularly the type with anchor bands – will securely hold the layers in place. The elastic around a fitted sheet is much better suited to keeping the sheet in place rather than holding down layers.

Traditional mattress pads with skirts are capable of doing the job. Anchor bands do it better!


a mattress topper on top of a mattress


If you pull up the fitted sheet at any fine hotel, you’ll almost always find a mattress pad underneath. And the majority of the time, that pad will have straps.

Layers tend to move and shift as you do. A good pad with straps will hold all of those layers securely in place, so you won’t have to make the entire bed every morning.


a mattress pad with anchor bands secured around the corner of a mattress



The case for a feather bed

A feather bed is particularly useful for three purposes:

  • Add cloud-like comfort
  • Improve old and lumpy mattresses
  • Provide insulation

Let’s discuss…



Featherbed comfort

Whereas a mattress pad adds a layer of comfort, a feather bed creates a fluffy cloud. Sleeping on a featherbed is a true sleeping experience.

A good quality option, like a feather bed from Pacific Coast Feather Company, provides that “sleeping on a cloud” feel that is unmatched. Do you remember how well you slept the last time you stayed at a nice hotel?

Did you notice how comfortable and cozy the bed was? Did the bed make you want to hibernate for your entire stay?


a featherbed on top of a mattress


Good quality hotels (even a lot of the cheaper ones) have one thing in common. They all place a feather bed on top of the mattress!



Reviving an older mattress

Whether your mattress has gotten lumpy, or just too firm for your liking, a feather bed will transform your bed, and make it feel like new.

Because feather beds are so thick and substantial, they provide a forgiving layer.

They don’t provide relief for a sagging or uneven mattress the way a mattress topper will, but for other types of worn mattresses, they will perform magically.

And you still get the plush comfort too – which is a good bonus.



Insulation properties

Much like the down in a comforter, the feathers in a feather bed provide a layer of insulation which does wonders in terms of creating a cozy and inviting bed.

If you have an air mattress or a waterbed, you’ve probably noticed that they sometimes get a bit too cold. While we all appreciate a cool sleeping environment, there is such a thing as too cool.

Sleeping on a surface that’s too cold tends to result in an achy back.

a Beautyrest air mattress

A feather bed provides insulation and makes any type of mattress feel exponentially more cozy and comfortable.



The case for using both

If you want that hotel-like sleeping experience, then you need both a mattress pad and a feather bed. There’s just no way around it.

Hotels have spent a lot of time and resources in search of the optimal sleeping experience. Hotel beds aren’t just put together, they’re crafted.


a variety of bedding and linens in a hotel room


For that hotel-like bed, you need layers. You need a feather bed to provide that lofty plush feel. And you need a mattress pad to finish it off and hold it all together.

For this combination, we highly recommend a mattress pad with Anchor bands. It doesn’t need to be very thick or plush – the feather bed will provide that. But as mentioned before, layers tend to shift and move, especially when you do.

Anchor bands are much better suited to keep layers in place than an elastic skirt.



Final thoughts

While comfort is definitely a good thing, keep in mind what level of comfort you prefer. If you tend to sleep better on a firm mattress, a feather bed will probably make your bed too soft.

If you have a newer style mattress with a thick pillow-top, you won’t notice much in terms of comfort from a mattress pad. In which case, don’t waste your money on a super-plush pad.


a featherbed encased inside of a protector


Finally, if you opt for a feather bed, don’t forget to add a feather bed protector.

The feathers inside do break down over time, and this process is fast-forwarded when things like bodily fluids and dust mites enter the party.

Feather bed protectors are cheap, and will easily add another 5 to 8 years of life to your awesome new feather bed.

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