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Synthetics should have caught or surpassed down by now!! Try harder
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al b
(ahbradley) - M
Synthetics should have caught or surpassed down by now!! Try harder on 10/21/2010 05:11:43 MDT Print View

I see no reason why synthetics should not have caught up with down:

Why does down cope better with compression: is it that it is made of individual clusters like pom-poms? Then copy that with synthetics. If a different reason then copy that.

Where does downs collapsing when wet feature come from? Would the more hydrophobic polyester (polypropylene would be lighter) synthetic clusters avoid this?

I dont think it matters if synthetic down requires baffles like real down, just that it is equivalent for warmth to weight and loft life, hopefully dropping the "collapse when wet" "feature" of down.

Alternatively, would a nano DWR treatnent like hitec's ion mask "fix" downs wet collapse?

Edited by ahbradley on 10/21/2010 05:13:31 MDT.

Benen Huntley
(benen) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Interesting topic on 10/21/2010 05:30:38 MDT Print View

That's a very interesting topic you've brought up there. I'd be interested to see what people have to say about it. Synthetic never seems an option because of it's poor compressibility and weight compared with down. It would be very nice to have down's light weight and compressibility accompanied with synthetics insulation properties whilst wet. I've never had any down gear get wet do far but I dread the thought. Especially on a chilly night or mid-trip.


Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
synth on 10/21/2010 05:41:36 MDT Print View

Synths have their place. They makeup things like my camp jacket, gloves, head wear, underwear. I would not want an all-down kit. I like a little bit of a safety net, having the synthetic camp jacket also prevents moisture from getting into your down bag while you sleep. Its not that ones better, its about how you use it.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: synth on 10/21/2010 07:43:27 MDT Print View

Unless your camp jacket is a VBL, how does it stop moisture transport into the down layer?

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
syn on 10/21/2010 08:00:09 MDT Print View

If there were synthetic layers that did really loose a good portion of their loft after a few years or being compressed a lot I would be all over them.

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Hmm on 10/21/2010 11:04:22 MDT Print View

Interesting thoughts, but I suspect the reason lies more in raw materials than anything else. Non-continuous synthetics like Primaloft One have most of the features that cause down to be so insulative (a big gain in efficiency was realized in trapping air at the ends of fibers rather than just between them), and actually PL1 will beat low-fill-power down *slightly* when brand new.

However, I think the main problem is that polyester is not grown on the back of a goose. Mother nature can create incredibly complex, fractal-like (I suspect this is the key) materials, and we just don't know how yet.

Edited by dasbin on 10/21/2010 11:06:18 MDT.

Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: Hmm on 10/21/2010 13:22:28 MDT Print View

I suspect it's possible to do it in the lab, but even so it would probably be prohibitively expensive to do in quantity.

With all this new work being done on finding various applications for exotic forms of carbon (carbon fiber, nanotubes, buckyballs, graphene...) it makes me wonder if perhaps they'll stumble upon some sort of "carbon fluff" that might have value as an insulator. In my imaginary reality this substance would loft more effectively than down, not be affected by moisture, be extremely durable, and be reasonably economical to mass-produce. All of us would be very excited to sew quilts and then stuff them with this fluffy black stuff that outperforms the old fluffy white stuff and have 20 degree quilts at 8 ounces. You might have to wear an asbestos mask while doing it, though.

Ah well, one can dream.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Moisture transfer on 10/21/2010 14:08:13 MDT Print View

It doesn't stop all of the moisture but catches most of it in the insulation/layers of fabric. Im less concerned about mositure being caught in my syn than my down stuff.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Synthetics should have caught or surpassed down by now!! Try harder on 10/21/2010 14:12:55 MDT Print View

I can see where a few millenia of evolution could have the upper hand on a couple decades of human tinkering... ;)

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
different applications on 10/21/2010 15:16:46 MDT Print View

synthetics are just used for different applications .. where cost, moisture, and idiot proof are needed

most of the world doesnt use down as much as synthetics, especially 800+fill ...

sure down is lighter, compressed better and last longer if you take care of it ...

but then even some very respectable people use synthetic jackets and quilts ... because they want the bombproofness and idiotproofness of synthetics

it should say alot when people like andrew skurka, mark twight, colin haley, andy kirkpatrick, craig conally and others use synthetics

youd think that such people would be all over down because they absolutely need to be as light as possible... except for one factor ... moisture

honestly ... for most of the backpacking people here do it doesnt matter what you use ...

but for those pushing the limits, synthetics hold their own

800+ fill power down does have that elitist "im yuppier than a primaloft bum" feeling though ...

and i just got a 850 EU fill westbomb koakanee ... so take that !!!


Edited by bearbreeder on 10/21/2010 15:17:37 MDT.

T kawa
(kitsune) - F
fo real on 10/21/2010 16:04:38 MDT Print View

"I can see where a few millenia of evolution could have the upper hand on a couple decades of human tinkering... ;)"
seriously, how long has polyester been around anyway...50 years? primaloft is pretty good and it's only gonna get better.

and maybe we don't want better tech, isn't all that stuff petroleum based? we're just upping our dependence on oil!=)

anywho, don't worry about it, we'll have nanobots heating the 1mm layer between your event and your pile soon enough=D

chris kersten
(xanadu) - F

Locale: here
synthetics on 10/21/2010 17:23:28 MDT Print View

Maybe all of the good chemical engineers are busy right now trying to figure out how to make Mountain House foods taste like "real" food? Just a guess.

Chris Peichel

Locale: Eureka
Synthetics on 10/21/2010 18:04:31 MDT Print View

I have gone away from synthetics completely. I would reconsider if they were more compressible, AND lasted longer.
I rarely get out for more than a few days so the build up of moisture in down is minimal, and not a big concern to me. If I had the time to get out on longer trips in wet weather I would consider synthetics.
I have spent more then a few miserable nights in wet synthetic gear, yes they probably would have been worse with down but wet synthetic still is miserable.
Did I mention that synthetics are miserable when wet.
I am no longer into mountaineering/ rock climbing, and I take care to keep my gear dry.
So until synthetics can keep up with all the advantages of down, I'm sticking with down.
BTW I do wonder why synthetics haven't caught up. I wish they would.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Hmm on 10/21/2010 20:11:26 MDT Print View

> I suspect it's possible to do it in the lab, but even so it would probably
> be prohibitively expensive to do in quantity.



Erik Danielsen
(er1kksen) - F

Locale: The Western Door
Re: Re: Re: Hmm on 10/21/2010 20:27:45 MDT Print View

Your "yup" intrigues me. Are you aware of any actual examples of higher-grade synthetic insulation being produced, perhaps as an experiment or proof-of-concept, that were simply too expensive to bring to market? I'm quite curious.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
modular on 10/21/2010 21:18:18 MDT Print View

I think it would be great if they could make a syn bag that had some baffled compartments with a zipper on the side also so that every few years you could pull out the insulation and replace it.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
synthetic bags on 10/21/2010 21:36:14 MDT Print View

keep in mind guys that for the same price as a top of the down bag ... you can get 2-3 top synthetic bags

doesnt solve the compressibility or weight difference

but it does mean that you can tear apart that bag with our crampons, ice axes, use it in exposed bivies, etc ...

still patch the thing up with tape ... since it wont leak out down like down bags when torn ...

still use it with repair patches fine ...

and buy 1 or 2 new ones when it finally dies

and while synthetic bags suck when wet too ... they sure dry out quicker in my experience

different uses for different purposes

alot of people routinely choose synthetic when it suits them ... and these are the guys when that extra 6 oz of weight saved can mean that extra day of melted water that could save yr life in a bivy ...

weight and compressibility isnt the ONLY thing that matters

except for elitist BPLers that "need" an 800 fill jacket/bag for a weekend hike in a temperate environment ;)

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: synthetic bags on 10/22/2010 05:12:35 MDT Print View

>800 fill jacket/bag...

Pffffff. 850-900. ;)

Colin Krusor
(ckrusor) - M

Locale: Northwest US
High-tech vs. Natural insulators on 10/22/2010 17:33:11 MDT Print View

Biological polymers like keratin (in fur, feathers, rhino horns, etc.) are essentially assembled by microscopic machines, one monomer at a time. Polymerases and other enzymes build the keratin strands in a down cluster by latching onto the growing strand and attaching each new subunit individually, adding branches in just the right places, and terminating the strand at just the right length. It will be a long time before human technologies can permit such finely controlled fabrication processes. This is analogous to sending magically shrunken teams of skilled construction workers into a chamber to build a single tuft of Primaloft at the molecular level.

Sea otter fur can have a million hairs per square inch, each growing to an optimal length that provides insulation but doesn't become entangled or trap debris, and the whole pelage is kept waterproof and breathable by a continuously secreted and finely tuned concoction of sebacious oils, free fatty acids, alcohols, and waxes.

Synthetic insulation is very crude by comparison. To me it doesn't seem at all unexpected that we haven't yet improved upon down.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Some synthetic alternatives.... on 10/22/2010 18:10:14 MDT Print View

The synthetic insulating fibers that are hollow have more of the stationary "boundary air" both on their outer surface and inside teh hollow core.

Boundary Air is the one or two molecule layer of air that sticks to the surface of insulation doesn't move as readily as the rest of the air around it and is therefore less prone to losing heat from convection.

Perhaps a siliconized hollow core fiber that, during the extrusion process can have some of the outer surface blown into fibers like the tiny fibers on down plumules. This
treatment creates more surface area for more boundary air.

I too keep waiting for a "down-like" synthetic breakthrough. Maybe synthetic fibers are not the way to go. In this vein perhaps synthetic "puffs" of some kind, rather than fibers are the answer.