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Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric
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slavenya slavenya
(slavenya) - F

Locale: Israel
Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 13:26:45 MDT Print View

Hey guys,

Please see below my conversation with Gary Peterson from Western Mountaineering about new water resistant down and Pertex fabric.

Me:
There is a lot of talks about DownTek and DriDown technologies. I guess you are aware of these latest development and yet you do not jump with new products.
On the paper the technology looks impressive but real life may be different. Are you going to use dry down techniques in your future products?

Gary:
There are several other name brands of what we refer to as “treated” down because they all share a similar property in that the down has been treated with some type of water repellent finish by a down processor. Each of the suppliers that currently offer a water resistant goose down to manufacturers claims to have a better product than their competitors and we accept that there are likely subtle variations in how the treatments are applied or what the chemical properties are to support a claim of any performance advantage over the other competing brands. In other words, there has been no conclusive comparison tests to really know if there is any one product that stands above the rest. Our position, however, is that we are interested in the technology but have not completed our own tests for longevity or reasonable short term performance in a broad enough range of conditions to make a decision on whether or not it is superior to the down we currently are sourcing that is not treated.
Our goose down, and all goose down really, is naturally very water resistant and it is not easy to get completely wet in any real life scenario. The marketing frenzy for this product started at one of the Outdoor Retailer trade shows with a demonstration taking place at a booth of one company that initially started selling water resistant down. They were showing people what regular “untreated” down would look like after shaking it in a water bottle vigorously for some length of time (I can’t remember how long it took but it was more than a minute of continuous shaking). Sure, eventually it became fully soaked and the once lofty clusters became limp wet lumps of plumage that had little or no lofting properties. At the same time they had a water bottle with some treated down inside shaking it for just as long to show everyone that the down still floated. It is a very compelling visual tool for selling their product but how could this situation every be replicated in the field without taking your sleeping bag, securing it to a length of webbing and suspending it into a waterfall for a couple of minutes while trying to pull it up and down or moving it from side to side while holding onto the other side of the webbing. I cannot imagine why we should purchase raw materials with those kinds of standards in mind, but even if we did the fact remains that this is relatively new technology which hasn’t been thoroughly tested from our point of view. We design our sleeping bags to last in the range of 25 to 40 years or perhaps longer if cared for properly and average amount of use (i.e. not a guide who may spend 200 nights a year in a sleeping bag, but normal people with careers and families who go out on many weekend camping trips and take two or three backpacking trips in a year). With any new technology we want to make sure it will stand the test of time before using it to manufacture our sleeping bags.

At the moment we have several jackets being tested and one sleeping bag. These items are designed to expose exactly how much and what types of performance differences there might be between untreated and treated down from the same batch of raw material. The jackets are split in the middle with one side filled with treated down while the other is filled with untreated down that was sent to us by the same supplier & indicated to be from the same batch of down as the treated side (a portion of the down was pulled out of the batch right before the rest of it was processed with the water repellent finish). The sleeping bag has alternate chambers filled with treated and untreated down. After a year or so of heavy use we will have a better idea about the performance and longevity characteristics of treated down compared to the same down that was left untreated. At that point, we will determine whether or not it is a technology that we wish to embrace.

As for the number of brands already using it, I can only say that many brands are probably not building their products to last 30 years and they are more concerned about profiting while the buzz is strong among consumers (i.e. many brands are capitalizing on the hype with a “Strike while the iron is hot” strategy). We don’t agree with that approach because it seems irresponsible to use customers as a means to field testing new technologies.

Me:
Couple of years ago you told me that you are considering to use Pertex fabric in you products - Did you decide not to?
Gary:
Before we started using Pertex Quantum many years ago I was working closely with Perserverance Mills during their development stages, providing them with insight for making a better constructed lightweight ripstop that would be ideal for down products.

Since the brand name was purchased and re-introduced by the Japanese textile company, Mitsui, we have not purchased any of the Pertex branded fabrics because they were quite different from the original materials we sourced from England.

They do make nice materials but many of the materials are too narrow for our production needs. I look at their fabrics at the trade shows and will be happy to use their materials if the construction properties meet our needs.

Me:
I absolutely agree with your cautious.

Just to add one more concern: even if using chemical gives down nice water repellent features - the same chemicals over time may lead to some nasty health hazard.

As example: lexan for years was positioned as great material for backpackers: light, tough, etc. Then it suddenly became clear that Lexan (which is about 100% BPA built) is problematic material to say least.

Do you have a plan to address this issue?

Gary:
I am also concerned about the level of chemicals used in our industry and we have been pushing for known carcinogens to be eliminated from DWR finishes, for example. The materials we purchase are not finished with chemicals that are on the list of known carcinogens or any that are listed on EPA’s “POP” list (Persistent Organic Pollutants).

I’m not sure about the health hazard of the water resistant “treated” goose down because the suppliers have been somewhat careful about discussing the exact chemical “recipe” they use, claiming that both the “formula” they use and the way it is applied are what makes their product better than other competing water resistant down products on the market. In terms of a plan we have to address these issue, we don’t have a formal policy or plan that outlines any specific course of action for tracking or reducing the environmental impact of chemicals used in our supply chain. However I make a point to research our raw materials as much as possible and personally visit our suppliers regularly (sometimes unannounced) to inspect the factories, facilities, farms or processing plants throughout the supply chain to make sure that our materials are produced in a way that is ethically responsible and with the least environmental impact possible. I am by no means an expert on the ins and outs of every raw material we use, but I have made a conscious effort to gather as much information as possible by visiting weaving mills, dyeing houses, finishing plants, down processing facilities, goose farms, etc. In fact, many of the textile sales agents who I purchase fabrics from have never taken a trip visit the weaving mills which make the fabric that they are selling. I have been to Japan four times in the past 12 years to visit multiple textile processing facilities, was in England at the Perserverance Mills factory when they were producing our Quantum ripstop fabric many years ago, and have been to Poland a couple of times to inspect the goose farms and processing facilities for our insulation. Both the owner of our company and I have had numerous meetings with IDFL in Salt Lake City (International Down and Feathers Laboratory) to learn about the various grades of down and discuss the changes that have taken place over the years for Fill Power testing standards.

I am proud of all aspects of our brand from the sourcing through the manufacturing processes and we are committed to making improvements as we learn of new issues, technologies or advances in sustainable resources.

Me:
Why don't you use you experience and quality down sources and enter market of super light down duvet for inside use?
I have one custom made for me 3 years ago by one of the cottage manufactures with 900FP down and it is absolutely wonderful.
It is baffled one which allows me to shift down from one side to side in order to create proper micro climate for us the distribution 65%-35% is about right.
And it saves money as we stopped to heat the house at night. The only problem with it that it is very hard to get out ;_)

Gary:
We have thought of this and been recommended the idea from multiple sources. I have been working on some prototypes and we may introduce something like this in the next couple of years but our company is small and slow to bring new products to market.

Edited by slavenya on 10/30/2013 02:23:15 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric" on 10/29/2013 13:46:57 MDT Print View

On the down stuff, quite a similar response to a question I asked a year ago.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 13:53:35 MDT Print View

Who are you? Consumer? Journalist? employee?...

Interesting info - makes sense to me - thanks for posting

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 14:06:37 MDT Print View

Further: ok, there are quite a few brands who use it, but there are at least the same number of specialised or semi-specialised down brands who don't use it.

slavenya slavenya
(slavenya) - F

Locale: Israel
Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 14:54:52 MDT Print View

To add one more concern to the equation:

Even if using chemical gives down nice water repellent features - the same chemicals over time may lead to some nasty health hazard.

As example:
Lexan for years was positioned as great material for backpackers: light, tough, etc.

Then it suddenly became clear that Lexan (which is about 100% BPA built) is problematic material to say least.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Verrrry interesting... on 10/29/2013 16:48:53 MDT Print View

Thanks for posting this. I own a WM Megalite bag and love it. My -20 F. winter bag is a HEAVY monster of a MH with Polarguard Delta.
My next winter bag will be one with a DWR treated down, absolutely.

It's good to hear that WM is in the process of testing DWR treated down against thier own high quality down. This shows that they are actively investigating the situation with real world use, always the best predictor of customer experience with new products.

From my seat-of-the-pants hunch I feel that Patagonia's method of molecular level deposition of DWR might turn out to be the best way to go, provided the DWR chemical they use is up to the task. This deposition method may be best at getting the DWR into every barbule of the down plumules.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 16:51:38 MDT Print View

Precisely the questions I've been asking! Thank you, Slavenya, (and Gary of WM) for the input!

I hope that as part of their testing, they'll launder the down occasionally.

Until I see long term results, I'm not about to ditch my current (untreated) 7-year-old Ultralight! I expect it to outlast me, unless the puppy I'm looking for gets hold of it! Applying DWR on the shell after laundering and using a vapor barrier when it's below freezing seems to keep the down dry just fine.

Edited by hikinggranny on 10/29/2013 16:54:37 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
How often and under what conditions do people get their down wet? on 10/29/2013 17:01:37 MDT Print View

How often and under what conditions do people get their regular (untreated) down wet?

I've used down bag a few times, and a down vest same thing.

Do I really need to worry about them getting wet?

I'll use bag under tarp and vest under eVent rain jacket and they haven't got wet that I've noticed.

Maybe they get a little damp and lose some of their warmth? But since down is twice as warm for the weight I'll still be ahead.

I won't submerge under a waterfall.

Rarely, I screw up and get bag in a puddle of water or something.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: How often and under what conditions do people get their down wet? on 10/29/2013 17:06:45 MDT Print View

"I've used down bag a few times, and a down vest same thing.

Do I really need to worry about them getting wet?"

Ah... yea... if you are in very cold and wet conditions you can find yourself dead in the morning if your down gets wet.


Bill D.

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
down on 10/29/2013 17:14:09 MDT Print View

Does a dri-down sleeping bag lose less loft over time from body oils?
Does a dri-down sleeping bag lose less loft from body moisture in cold conditions?
Does a dri-down jacket or sleeping bag have a lower compression life than normal?
Does dri-down have any drawabacks as the down/treatement ages?
Does a dridown garment/bag maintain its loft after 2 dozen washings? What about its heralded properties?

Does it dry faster, or slower than a regular bag in sunlight? Or a dryer?


To my knowledge, not a single one of the important questions have been answered.

"look, it dont soak up water as easy"

Edited by livingontheroad on 10/29/2013 17:15:27 MDT.

David Olsen
(oware)

Locale: Steptoe Butte
cotton down bag on 10/29/2013 18:18:17 MDT Print View

I used a cotton covered down bag in the North Cascades for a summer of Bounding Outward. With a tarp. Lots of rain and wet bush whacking.

Choose your sites well. Put the down bag away if it is going to get wet.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 18:40:15 MDT Print View

I've said pretty much the same thing re: "water-resistant down" in multiple past threads on here.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: cotton down bag on 10/29/2013 19:06:28 MDT Print View

thanks David

I think I'll just try to be careful and see how it goes

This winter should be a good test

I do put my down sleeping bag in a waterproof bag inside my waterproof pack so I should be good

I intentionally put by down vest on the patio when it rained a few tenths of an inch of rain and there was no huge loss of loft or anything

and all this leads me to believe that treated down is un-necesary

I hate those tests where, for example, they submerge down in a bottle of water and shake. My "con" alarms are going off. Maybe it'll end up being a good product though.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 19:59:14 MDT Print View

I have to admit it's refreshing to see a company actually test a new product before they put their name behind it & tout it as the next big thing. Good for WM. One of the reasons why they are arguably the best.

Ryan

Edited by ViolentGreen on 10/29/2013 19:59:47 MDT.

slavenya slavenya
(slavenya) - F

Locale: Israel
Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 21:32:01 MDT Print View

Guys, I updated the first post with more answers. Please read it again.

This is actually an impressive way from the Western Mountaineering company to think about these problems. I am highly impressed.

I guess there is a better way to do it perfect but it will cost much more:

Cognac is an example of this. Very strict production regulations: grape sources, bottle type, cork that could be used, etc - and priced accordingly.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Down can get wet and useless on 10/29/2013 21:37:52 MDT Print View

Our goose down, and all goose down really, is naturally very water resistant and it is not easy to get completely wet in any real life scenario.

Long ago near a mountain top far, far away ...

The forecast was hot and windy.
I was cowboy camping in a down sleeping bag.
In the middle of the night, snow started falling.
By the time I woke up,
the down bag was soaked,
and soon I was shivering.
That was a long, cold, scary night.

I don't know if "water resistant" down would have helped.

But wet down does happen, and it's not fun.

-- Rex

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: Down can get wet and useless on 10/29/2013 21:52:38 MDT Print View

I agree Rex... the most miserable night I ever spent in the mountains was wrapped up in a sopping wet down bag.

This quote:
"Our goose down, and all goose down really, is naturally very water resistant and it is not easy to get completely wet in any real life scenario."

I feel is maybe quoted out of it's original context, but the way it was presented here I feel is quite irresponsible.

My experience with down bags, clothing, etc over 40 years says down gets wet quite easily (though DWR coated shells do help some)... and once it's wet it takes quite some time to dry it out... Even exposed to only very high humidity and no direct contact with liquid water, it can lose half it's loft.

The smart choice in a wet, humid climate like the Olympic Peninsula is synthetic instead of down.


Bill D

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Down can get wet and useless and worse on 10/29/2013 21:56:58 MDT Print View

"Our goose down, and all goose down really, is naturally very water resistant and it is not easy to get completely wet in any real life scenario."

That is simply a lie.

I just about died one night due to a very wet down sleeping bag, and it took no effort at all to get it that way.

--B.G.--

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Down can get wet and useless on 10/29/2013 21:57:27 MDT Print View

I've cowboy camped when weather was supposed to be good and then it rained a bunch. I left tent back at car. It was synth so it wasn't the end of the world. Probably better not forget tarp with down.

I've cowboy camped many times when weather was supposed to be good, and it started raining, so I quickly put my tarp up and didn't get wet enough to matter

slavenya slavenya
(slavenya) - F

Locale: Israel
Western Mountaineering on water resistant down and Pertex fabric on 10/29/2013 22:33:01 MDT Print View

I don't think that you will find somebody that would argue that having water-resistant down is the GREATEST feature of all.

The only question is how safe and how good is it - both are remain to be seen.

Fabric can help as well - old British made Pertex fabric helped a lot with keeping my sleeping bag dry when others in our group had some "wet" problems with theirs.

Edited by slavenya on 10/29/2013 22:35:18 MDT.