Vanes vs. Feathers Which One Is Better?

This article clearly states which fletching is better vanes or feathers? We discuss the pros and cons of vanes vs feathers and clearly describe the effect each type of fletching has on your performance.

Here is the key takeaway of the article you should keep in mind.

As a general rule plastic vanes are better than feathers on your arrows due to their durability, affordability, and ease of replacement. The main downside of plastic vanes is the fact they require you to use an elevated rest on your bow.

There are a few benefits to feathers as you will see in a moment. But before we continue, here is what I mean when I say an elevated rest. Keep this picture in mind it will come in handy when we discuss the importance of elevated rests in relation to plastic vanes.

Example of How An Elevated rest Might Look Like

So now, let’s see how you can improve the performance of your arrows.

The Main Purpose of Fletching On Your Arrow

The main purpose of fletching is to stabilize and spin the arrow in its flight toward the target. The fletching usually consists of three feathers or plastic vanes attached to the back of the arrow.

When you fire an arrow a lot of force is transferred from the bow to the arrow in order to propel it forward.

All of that force applied causes the arrow to behave in weird ways, among other things, it wiggles during flight. Imagine a snake moving through sand, it wiggles from side to side.

That movement can throw the arrow off course and make it far less accurate. The arrow doesn’t travel in a straight line after leaving the bow.

It’s the job of feathers or vanes on your arrow to stabilize your arrow during flight and even spin it. That spin allows you to get better accuracy and performance out of your arrows.

The Benefit of Having Feathers as Your Fletching

They are lighter than most standard vanes. Meaning over long distances the arrow doesn’t “sink” as much as a heavier one would.

The other advantage of feather fletching is that feathers compress when encountering resistance.

Meaning when your feathered fletching makes contact with your bow rest it will compact and continue on its trajectory.

Like this.

That is also an advantage if it encounters resistance during its flight path. Like moving past a tree branch (if you bow hunt or do 3d archery).

Given that feathers are longer than plastic vanes they have the effect of stabilizing the arrow more quickly.

Which is great if you are shooting at shorter distances.

You Can Shoot From Either the Shelf or an Elevated Rest

You are not limited to one or the other. So if you want to try out another bow (if your arrows are the right length) then you can.

It’s unlikely you will be shooting from any other bow than the one you’ve picked for yourself but still, it is a benefit.

The Problem With Feather Fletched Arrows

As cool-looking as they are, feather-fletched arrows have some drawbacks.

They are Harder to Fletch

than arrows with plastic vanes. Let’s face it, your arrows and your fletchings will get damaged. Once your fletching is damaged you have two options.

Either you replace the arrow entirely, which would be a costly and dumb idea.

Or you simply replace the fletching.

Unlike with plastic vanes, feathers tend to be most quickly attached with a fletching jig.

The fletching jig is a device that holds your arrow in place while you apply glue to the feather and with the help of the device you attach the fletching.

Which is a tad more complex than fletching with plastic vanes.

They Cost More Money Than Plastic Vanes

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Plastic vanes tend to be cheaper than feathers (real or fake). So even when your feathers get damaged you will pay more than you would with regular plastic vanes.

At the time of writing this, you can find 50 pieces of natural feathers for fletching for around 31 dollars. The comparable  36 pieces of plastic vanes can easily go for just 12 dollars.

Again, it’s just 31 dollars but it’s something you should be aware of when considering the type of fletching to use. Since you will be replacing them regularly.

The Benefit of Plastic Vanes

The Low Cost

As I mentioned you can get normal plastic vanes for more than half the price you could feathers.

The reason is quite simple, plastic can be made very cheaply, while there is more manual labor involved in actually collecting the feathers necessary for arrows.

When you order your pack from Amazon, this is what you get.

Plastic Vanes in a bag

The Smaller Profile

The smaller profile of plastic vanes means the arrow experiences less drag and that leads to better performance of the arrow.


The plastic vanes, since they are made from plastic, behave a lot better in bad weather and overall are more durable than feathers.

Bowhunters prefer plastic vanes over feather ones precisely because of their durability in bad weather.

It Is Easier To Fletch Your Arrows

This one is a biggie for me. We discussed many times how arrows tend to get damaged as well as the fletching on your arrow.

So what do you do when one of your vanes is damaged?

You tear it off, apply some glue to a new plastic vane and reattach it to the same place.

Granted, it won’t be as accurate as when you’re using a fletching jig, but it’s a quick way to fix a damaged vane. 

The Drawback of Arrows With Plastic Vanes

You cant use them with a bow that has no elevated rest.

If your bow has no elevated rest, it means you have to order yourself one.

Other than that, my recommendation is you stick with plastic vanes, provided your bow supports shooting arrows with plastic vanes.

In Conclusion

The answer to the question “feathers or vanes”?

Is vanes.

If your bow supports shooting vane fletched arrows then definitely stick to using those.

Plastic vanes are cheaper, more durable, and easier to replace.

If you wondered if they should be straight or helical then you can read a detailed breakdown here.

Of course, many archers won’t agree with this assessment and will stick to using feathers. That’s okay since in archery it’s always the matter of picking what fits you best.

I’m just averse to spending more money than I need to.

So, thank you for taking the time to read this article, and if you wish you can take a look at my article on how many arrows you really just go here.

Take care.

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