The 6 Top Water-Resistant Down Suppliers You Need to Know About
Outdoors enthusiasts are increasingly becoming more like foodies. While gourmands seek new food experiences, they’re also increasingly concerned about where the ingredients are coming from farm to fork.
Outdoors/endurance sports consumers are also becoming increasingly source savvy, curating their gear with considerable thought and care.
No longer does a company’s proclamations about its sourcing of a particular product or some component of it actually cut it with many of today’s outdoors consumers. They want to know more about the supply chain and they want assurance in the way of verified certifications. They scour online reviews, blogs and ads for inside tips, reading articles and talking to friends. They can smell green washing a mile a way, and if they happen to hear about some exploitative practice, they are likely to vote with their money, either pulling back on a purchase or refusing to buy something they want until it goes deep on sale.
Outdoor enthusiasts also care about cutting weight. The desire for “ultralight” gear has gone from being a trend to being a standard from which many weigh their gear options, which may explain why down insulation is making such a strong comeback. Driving the comeback is the development of hydrophobic—or water-resistant—down.
Here’s the low down on the industry leaders.
ALLIED Feather & Down
In addition to pioneering responsible sourcing initiatives, including the implementation of the Responsible Down Standard, Allied has led the way in the development of innovative down treatments such as HyperDRY™ (a hydrophobic down insulation), HyperDRY ECO™ (a fluorocarbon-free hydrophobic down), anti-microbial BioDown™ and a down/synthetic blend called FX Down™. ALLIED is also an active member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the Conservation Alliance, an alliance that ensures that corporate and social responsibility are more than just abstract concepts.
Their partnership with leading brands is wide and deep, and includes, among others, The North Face, Helly Hansen, Mammut, Arc’Teryx, Marmot, Haglofs, Eddie Bauer, Feathered Friends, Outdoor Research, Nau, The Company Store, Western Mountaineering, Land’s End, and the recently launched Traceable Down Standard developed by Patagonia. They’ve also led the way on an innovative cleaning method that produces the industry’s cleanest down under the most sustainable conditions.
Sierra Designs DriDown™
A pioneer and leader in hydrophobic down development, this company’s DriDown™ features an environmentally safe, molecular-level polymer applied to individual down plumes during the finishing process. This proprietary application method ensures that DriDown stays “dry 7 times longer in the presence of rain, melting snow, or spills, maintains 98 percent loft after a night in a high humidity environment, and dries 33 percent faster when it does get wet for a dryer, warmer, more comfortable night’s sleep.” The company says they neither support live plucking nor use feathers from food byproducts.
DriDown can be found in some of the best sleeping bags and outwear on the market. They’re newly introduced sleep bag designs are not only radical, and potentially industry-disruptive, but are among the best priced of all the brands offering hydrophobic down insulation.
This hydrophobic down “achieves its water-resistant qualities via a relatively benign silicon-based plasma-bonding process as opposed to the fluorocarbon-based wash-in techniques being used by competitors.” The company also says its proprietary process “makes the plumes longer, stronger, and more insulating,” increasing the fill power rating to an unprecedented 1,000-fill insulation rating. Notably, the company says, “Fewer feathers are needed to achieve equal warmth ratings and warmer garments are able to be built with less overall weight.”
Nikwax Hydrophobic Down™
According to the company, their proprietary treatment is applied to raw down during the cleaning process, ensuring substantially less water is absorbed, and that the insulation retains more loft and warmth, under normal conditions. It also, they say, demonstrates improved drying times, and will withstand repeated washing. The treatment won’t add weight or reduce the loft. It’s also fluorocarbon free and complies with the European Down and Feather Association code on traceability. This code of conduct determines the source of down, and ensures that the down is a by-product of a slaughterhouse or harvested during molting periods and is not illegally live-plucked. Nixwax partners with Rab and Lowe Alpine.
The company manufactures both DownTek™ and
DownTek™ ZeroPFC.™ They say their hydrophobic down stays dry 10 times longer than untreated down. Their process includes “a cationic treatment [that] creates surface tension on the down cluster. When molecules of moisture encounter DownTek,™ moisture is forced to collect into a sphere shape and roll off the down cluster rather than adhering to and soaking into it.”
Brands using it in their products include Big Agnes, Brooks-Range, Dynafit, Eddie Bauer, Jottnar, Eastern Mountain Sports, Enlightened Equipment, LL Bean, Kathmandu, Millet, Nemo, Mountain Designs, Orvis, Re:echo, and Salewa.
Mountain Hardwear Q.Shield: The company is the first to label their proprietary hydrophobic down “waterproof,” so confident are they in its ability to repel water.
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