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  1. #1
    sr1355's Avatar
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    Down Vs Synthetics

    Lots of opinions about the benefits of Synthetic insulation versus Down for wet or high moisture environments. Here's an interesting picture for your consideration. This is the DWR Down demo we took to a paddling EXPO on March 2, 2013. The demo was handled, shaken, & stirred at the EXPO and has been occasionally handled, shaken, & stirred since the EXPO as well. This DWR Down has been in contact with water for 151 days as of today. That's One Hundred Fifty One Days, what would be considered an extreme event in the back country. If your gear is in contact for 151 days with water I think you have a bigger problem than wet insulation...

    Today I read a few threads on types of insulation on HF and the fear of moisture with Down. I think a lot of this fear is from the early years of down. Poor quality down and poor fabrics both contributed to moisture problems. Personally after 25 years of exclusive use of Down in the back country I have had no major issues. From Rain Forest, to heavy sea fog, to week long soaker trips, I've never had a wet piece of Down gear. During the dark tent days the tent floor would get pretty wet on extended rain event but Down gear always seemed to perform when protected by a pad.

    I can't stress the importance of proper practices on trail regardless of insulation type, dry bag your quilts, dry bag your hammock, setup your tarp properly. A high quality DWR fabric is also important as it is the first line of defense against moisture regardless of insulation type. The proper fabric can make or break any insulation system that might get moisture migration into the fill.

    In the end I think personal preference, experience, and your budget will dictate your choice of Down or Synthetic insulation. I for one will take the high insulation value of 850+ Down, the compressibility, and the super light weight that down offers.

    Now remember when you look at this picture the Down has been in contact with the water for 151 days as of today. The water is 4" deep, the containers is 8" tall, there is no Down submerged. It's all floating on the top of the water column.

    No matter your choice, Down or Synthetic, as long as your swinging in the trees your alright by me....



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  2. #2
    Senior Member ringtail-THFKAfood's Avatar
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    origin?

    Down is harvested from water birds. Enough said.
    It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.
    - Mark Twain

  3. #3
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Pretty impressive with the 151 days, SR1355! Particularly since it "was handled, shaken, & stirred at the EXPO and has been occasionally handled, shaken, & stirred since the EXPO as well.".

    That would make it seem virtually impervious to water in any kind of normal or even extreme field experience. I am really interested in this form of down.

    Have you put it to the test in any kind of real world scenario? Although, I don't see how down in a quilt could absorb much water just because a dry bag or tarp leaked, if it does not do so in that jar.

    I am always impressed by folks who have used down over 20 or 30 years in all kinds of conditions and who have never got their down wet, which I suppose also means no loft was lost nor any warmth lost even on long, wet, cloudy, cold trips. I also have not had any such problems- at least not significantly so. But I have used synthetics about 1/2 or 1/3 of the time, so that partly accounts for me being problem free. Unfortunately, I have observed friends of mine having significant loss of loft, always luckily by the end of a trip. On two of those occasions, one was using a PeaPod and the other time he was using either a TNF 20F down bag mostly used as quilt or a similar Big Agnes down bag, can't remember for sure. I can't say if either of those bags had a good DWR or not. But I'm not sure it matters, because I don't believe these folks ever got any external moisture on the bags at all- not counting maybe humidity. I think this was a matter of either condensation or maybe sweat, but moisture from the inside, not the outside.

    The only time I have ever experienced a problem like that was on a 5 day trip to the Wind Rivers back in 87 or 88, using a Marmot Pocket Gopher bag with a very water resistant shell. No water at all got past that shell, probably it didn't even get water on the shell. But when I got home I measured and that 7.5" thick bag was more like 5 to 6" total loft. Even with lows from 40 down to 15F, I stayed toasty the entire time. But if it had been longer maybe it would have become a problem, there wasn't much sun.

    But it looks to me like this new down treatment should pretty much make that loss of loft a thing of the past. I am looking forward to hearing of some real world severe conditions testing! If it lives up to the example of that water jar test, it seems to me it should make a need for synthetics a moot issue, at least in regards to handling water.

  4. #4
    sr1355's Avatar
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    Hi BillyBob,

    It is pretty slick but by no ways a conclusive experiment just an observation from our shop. One thing it shows is DWR down does not seem to wick moisture or this entire amount would be sat on the bottom of the vessel. I've been using DWR Down exclusively in all of Missys and my personal gear for the last 14-16 month, high usage with good results

    I referred to wet insulation as the many threads always point out better performance of synthetic over down when wet. Can you get this down wet, of course you can, with enough agitation it will wet out. IDFL has done some controlled testing on wet out capacity of DWR down from our supplier and its about 180 minutes of machine agitation to full wet out. At 60 minutes DWR down is just starting to wet. Untreated down only made it 14 minutes to full wet out. Pretty decent improvement over standard down.

    Loss of loft can be contributed to by many factors. Moisture, dirt, body oils all will effect the loft of down whether treated or untreated. I too have experienced loss of loft over the course of a longer pack trip with down. My process to minimize it is as follows, proper washing and drying at home prior to longer trip to make sure down is performing to max. Proper protection on trail from rain/water events. Immediately pack down first thing in the morning so moisture can not condensate inside down. At camp in afternoon if not raining allow down gear to dry on tarp line or in sun. Back at home properly wash and dry before storing lofted.

    Fabrics have improved vastly since the 80's yet alone 90's as has down. We are expecting our first shipment of 15d DWR fabric late August. This fabric has a true DWR finish while maintaining breath-ability, the first line of defense for your down gear against environmental moisture related issues including loss of loft. DWR (Durable Water Repellant) finish is critical to the performance of any fabric intended for sleeping gear. It helps keep body mositure, body oils, and dirt out of the down.

    All major manufacturers of Sleeping Bags use a proper DWR finished fabric. TNF, Marmot, Feather Friends, Western Moutaineering all use DWR treated fabric to protect their insulation as well as you. Many DIY quilt makers do not have access to true DWR fabrics or choose not to spend the money on the cost of this fabric. It can be expensive when your dealing with fabric finished weights of less than 1 oz/m. I'm amazed that people will pay top dollar for 800-900FP down but have no concerns with the fabrics being used. Regardless of whether you DIY or purchase from a cottage vendor be sure to ask for/use a true DWR fabric, and if they won't tell you then buyer beware. Proper fabric selection will help protect against wind and moisture related factors just like a good wind breaker.

    Another thing we do to offset loss of loft between wash cycles is over-stuff. Part of the reason for over-stuffing is to allow for minor loss of loft during wash cycles and extended use. Again, people have a fear of washing their down to a point of never washing it resulting in poor performance. We have care instruction on our website and regularly wash down gear at home. We invested in front loaders for this purpose and have had no issues. We did recent wash a 50*TQ with the new fabric, first it was very hard to wet out in the washer, we had filled it with DWR down. Second it was completely dry in under 10 minutes in the dry on low heat. Granted you won't have access to a dryer on the trail but some trail drying of minor moisture is possible.

    As for high fill power down in general you can expect it to have some maintenance needs. It's the lightest insulation available for the warmth, it's the highest compressible insulation for the wamth, if has an extremely long life with proper care. So if I have to wash it a little more regularly to get the maximum benefits out of it so be it. A highly tuned car that goes 180mph will need more tuning to keep it running 180mph as well and it sure is fun to drive...

    Overall my personal experience with DWR Down over the last year or so has been positive. It does not add to the cost of our products, it does not add to the weight of our products, and we offer untreated down for those that prefer not to use DWR Down.

    So again no matter your personal flavor as long as you swinging in the trees your alright by me...
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  5. #5
    Acer's Avatar
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    Ahhh,,,tell me more about 15d fabric! weights? Softness? colors? Nice info Paul. And,,isn't this water proof down,,hypoallergenic for those that have a allergy to down?
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  6. #6
    sr1355's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Acer View Post
    Ahhh,,,tell me more about 15d fabric! weights? Softness? colors? Nice info Paul. And,,isn't this water proof down,,hypoallergenic for those that have a allergy to down?
    Hi Acer,

    15d details coming soon, we will be offering it in 7-8 colors across our product line. That's all you getting for now until the official announcement...

    DWR Down is not water proof, that is the Holy Grail for down. It is water resistant and hypoallergenic, several member with severe allergy to down and down dust have ordered from us and can now use down with all it's benefits.
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  7. #7
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    One test study that I have not heard yet is the drying time! I am not sure if it has been done or not but how long would it take for the treated down to dry vs. non-treated down? Since the DWR (or Dri) down has a hydrophobic coating (or something close too it) would it dry faster when wet when compared to non treated down? As well what would the difference be when whetted out?

    I have had my down wet out once, and it was completely my own stupid fault, I did not pitch my tarp correctly and did not position it properly (wind drove the rain right in the end of my tarp) which soaked the foot end of my quilt. I literally ringed the water out....
    "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift---thats why its called a present" - Master Oogway
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  8. #8
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    Sorry sr1355, I forgot to mention that was a great post and had a great deal of information, thank you.
    "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift---thats why its called a present" - Master Oogway
    It's always best if your an early riser!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Gravity's Avatar
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    I would be interested to know more about the longevity of the DWR on the fabric. My current understanding is that the DWR finish deteriorates with time and use, and it needs to be re-applied periodically. Is this the case, especially with reference to the new 15d fabric?

  10. #10
    sr1355's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gravitino View Post
    I would be interested to know more about the longevity of the DWR on the fabric. My current understanding is that the DWR finish deteriorates with time and use, and it needs to be re-applied periodically. Is this the case, especially with reference to the new 15d fabric?
    Like all applied finishes DWR does deteriorate over time. In the case of fabrics the outer wear industry requires for a fabric to be called DWR to retain 80% of it properties over 20 wash cycles. So if your washing gear twice a year that's ten years, process applied to the down is similar and results are comparable. Our supplier is a major global down supplier to the outerware industry, they have done there home work on this. Pu Coated Fabrics, Sil Coats Fabric, DWR Fabrics, Teflon Fabric all deteriorate over time, unavoidable. But if a quality DWR is not adding to your cost up front and is going to serve you for 8-10 years or longer then where's the harm....
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