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Getting down with DOWN: A plea for help!
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Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Getting down with DOWN: A plea for help! on 06/27/2007 20:40:16 MDT Print View

Okay, enough stuff sacks already! (drum-roll please) I’ve decided to attempt down-insulated vests for the wife and I. I’m hoping it ends up something along the lines of Montbell’s lightweight down vests or Patagonia’s down sweater. My final weight target is less than 8 oz. I plan to use Momenum90 nylon and no-see-um netting and 800 down from thru-hiker. I estimate the cost at $60 for each vest.

The intended use of this garment is to have a very light and compressible piece to augment my hooded Patagonia Micro Puff Jacket in camp when the temps really dip. I will wear it under the Puff jacket that is sized to allow full loft of the down vest. I use the Puff jacket insulated with Polarguard around camp so as not to worry about it getting a little wet from rubbing up against wet vegetation, tents, etc. or in the case of rain, a little water could come under my poncho while doing camp chores. The Puff jacket would protect the down vest and the vest would boost the temperature rating of the jacket significantly for little weight and volume.

My past projects have all been fairly simple including Climashield XP synthetic insulated quilts, bug head nets, modifications to commercial tents and, yes, stuff sacks. I think I can manage the cutting and sewing of all the fabrics including seams and zippers. However, the thought of working with material from the GOOSE has turned me into a CHICKEN!

First of all, I have read the excellent article describing the making of a down quilt by Jeremy Padgett on the thru-hiker site. The knowledge that I still lack is how to measure the down into the increments that I need to fill each “baffle tube.” Remember, this is just a light vest so each “baffle tube” will only hold about 2 grams. (I have an electronic scale that measures to 1 gram and has tare capability).

I have considered weighing and filling the same number of ziplock sandwich bags as I have “baffle tubes” in the vest. That sounds organized to me and separates the task of distributing the down from the actual filling of the vest. Does this sound like a reasonable idea or is there a better method out there?

The other task for which I’m groping for ideas is the actual filling of the “baffle tubes.” Again, since this is a light vest, the “tubes” are rather small. I read on this forum where Aaron Sorensen used a vacuum cleaner tube and a broom stick. I think you “load” the vacuum tube with down by cramming is in and then insert the vacuum tube into the baffle and then eject the down by inserting the broom stick into the vacuum tube using it like a plunger. This sounds like a good idea to me but there is always more ways than one to skin a cat (or goose in this case), so I’m very open to alternative ideas.

Also, if anyone has any general advice or warnings about potential pitfalls, I want to hear about it! For instance, are there any reasonable alternatives to setting up and working inside a tent? It does sound like a good way to tame errant feathers but I’d think it would require a dust mask and could get pretty stuffy in there. HEADLINE: CAMPER DIES FROM WHITE LUNG DISEASE IN HIS LIVING ROOM!

I wouldn’t even consider a project like this without the help of you knowledgeable BPL members. Hey! Come to think of it, I will need to make a stuff sack for my vest from some of the left over material!

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Getting down with DOWN: A plea for help! on 06/27/2007 22:44:13 MDT Print View

I found you 1st.
Yes there are more than 1 way to skin a cat.
The zip-lock bags may work out well.
The idea about the post was mainly to use a large trash bag in the corner of your bathroom with the front side about 12" off the floor.
The garbage bag acts as a good buffer for keeping the down into place. The static from the bag helps keep the down in check as well.

The only thing about what ever you decide to use is that it will take you at least a few times to get the right amount.
The vacuum attachment was just easy for me to adjust the difference.
With the zip-lock bag, you could just open the corner up a little and stuff some more in there.
You also wouldn't have to worry about stuffing the baffles until you wanted to.

For me, with the vacuum attachment, I honestly only spill a few cups of lofted down after going through 12 ounces of baffle filling. Trust me, it works good but the garbage bag is the real trick.
Good luck.

Edited by awsorensen on 06/27/2007 22:45:17 MDT.

A.D. Parris
(xirebos) - F

Locale: NTX
Re: Getting down with DOWN: A plea for help! on 06/27/2007 23:03:37 MDT Print View

Here's a tip from Just Jeff's site that is similar to Aaron's, yet different

Hope this is helpful and not just noise v. signal.

Good Luck!

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Getting down with DOWN: A plea for help! on 06/28/2007 07:32:10 MDT Print View

Aaron, I was hoping I'd get your attention. Thanks for the tips.

A.P., What a great video you sent me to on Just Jeff's site! Thanks.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Getting down with DOWN, A plea for help! on 06/29/2007 16:32:10 MDT Print View

I just wanted to share this suggestion with you all for measuring the proper amount of down for each baffle.
It was passed along to me by another hiker but originated with AYCE at thru-hiker. It is a really easy way to stuff the baffles.

Put the box with the down on the scale, and tare the scale. Remove some down until the scale reads minus how much down you want to add. This way you only handle the down once.


Eric Fitz
(pounce) - F
Wet the down? on 10/25/2008 23:48:36 MDT Print View

So, I'm running through the steps to build a zero degree bag and I'm thinking about the issue of the down. It's great to see I was thinking some of the same things with the shop vac and the scale...

What about wetting it all down and then working with it in wet clumps? If you know how much you have after wetting it down you could weigh it and then divide as needed. Toss the correct portions into the baffles and sew them up. Once you are sewn up you dry out the down and fluff it up.

In my head this seems like a good strategy. I'm actually taking the down from a king size comforter that drove me crazy with how many little feathers it would shed so I'm trying to avoid reliving the past.

What do people think? Wetting the down a bad idea?

Tim Marshall
(MarshLaw303) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Wet the down? on 10/26/2008 08:23:31 MDT Print View

i've only done one down bag in my life and it was a few months back for Rog Tallbloke on these forums. I tried to do it as Jeff in the video demonstrates. However, i found that with more than a couple grams (say 5 or 6) of down in the vac tube it was very tought to blow it out.

So i would recommend either using the broom stick to plunge it out or only sucking up 3 grams at a time.

For your project the vacuum should be perfect as you only have a couple grams in each tube. However a scale that only measures to the gram (as i have also) will give you vastly differing fills in those small tubes. I found i could add or remove a great deal of down before a gram would register on my scale. For tubes of 20grams or so this isn't a big deal but for a smaller scale project you could find big differences from tube to tube.

I aggree with the way AYCE suggested, just weigh the whole thing and take out what you need. I would suggest however, instead of putting it in a plastic bag to be weighed and held for use you buy a medium sized garbage can and put the down in unlined (this is why it should be new, or just for down)I found the down would cling to the garbage bag and made it tough to get the last few grams out, also the bag would suck up into the vac (a real PITA). SO i'd leave the bag alone. I did find that i could do the whole process with little spilled down (even on my first try) so i wouldn't worry about the tent.

NOTE: If you plunge the down from the vac tube be careful not to lose your no-see-um screen inside the baffle. This happened to me twice and is a pain to fish back out.


Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Wet the down? on 10/27/2008 13:45:24 MDT Print View

>Wetting the down a bad idea?

Yup. Wet down sticks to everything it'll never get it off your hands!

Eric Fitz
(pounce) - F
Ok, no wetting my down on 10/27/2008 14:08:51 MDT Print View

Thanks. I thought about using tongs etc to grab clumps of wet down. I think I'll use the vacuum method.

How do people do this in production? How does a small cottage shop work with down? There must be a trick to it.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
No Worries- on 10/27/2008 17:17:29 MDT Print View

FWIW, I didn't make any particularly special preparations for down delivery when I made my down vest--and I didn't have any real problems. I just closed myself off in the bathroom so I could collect any errant down. I stuffed the baffles by hand, and used a wooden spoon when I needed to reach further in. Even with such barbaric and uninspired methods I doubt I spilled more than a couple cups of easily recovered down. Just have fun with it! (And don't open the bathroom door too fast.)

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
Working with down on 10/31/2008 16:40:43 MDT Print View

Go into a small bathroom. Hang the baffles to be filled from the towel rack. Put the bag of down on a scale. Pinch out what you need by hand. Cover your hands with climbers' chalk dust to keep the down from sticking to your fingers. Down that escapes can be picked up later. This is much less cramped than going inside of a tent.