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How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag?
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Ryan V
How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/16/2014 09:51:20 MDT Print View

I'm about to purchase a Katabatic quilt and one of the options is an 850f waterproof down instead of the 900f regular down. It's only $10 more. I've never done any hiking in below freezing environments or very humid areas, so I've yet to encounter a problem with my sleeping bag getting damp. I am considering a few trips this summer to the pacific northwest, which I've heard to be very humid. Would it be worth the investment to get the waterproof down if I won't be camping below freezing?

Delmar O'Donnell

Locale: Between Jacinto & Gorgonio
Good Question. on 03/16/2014 10:40:04 MDT Print View

Good question and to date, no good answer. The opinionsphere is all over the map on this, from "next great revolution in outdoor gear" to "clumps up and loses its loft." Search for the several water resistant down threads and you'll see the diversity of opinion.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re: How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/16/2014 10:41:50 MDT Print View

I was in the same spot as you having recently purchased an Alsek. This is my 2nd quilt from Katabatic that I had the option for the water resistant down and I didn't hesitate to check the 900 fill option.

While the demo's are impressive, there isn't enough real world longterm feedback for me at this point. I have been using down bags since 1972 when I purchased a FF bag that is still serviceable albeit the shell is a bit battle weary. The down however, is fine and this bag thru'd the PCT and half of the CDT as well as being the cover on my bed in college for several winters.

In all the years since I have never had a bag "failure" due to wet down. I have had some seriously damp footboxes that were uncomfortable, but not life threatening. In deep cold, below 0f for extended time, I have used VB clothing to keep moisture at bay. Will the "new" down prove better over time? Time will only tell, until then I am more than happy with the better shell DWR and move from 550 fill down that was premium in 1972, to the 850+ fill now.

I also didn't like the thought of spending more to get more weight. My bigger concern was the effect of the treatment on the down over time - would it just breakdown or cause the down to clump and/or decrease loft. With Western Mountaineering, one of the most respected bag makers taking a wait and see approach, that sealed the deal for me.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

WM doesn't like it. on 03/16/2014 10:57:44 MDT Print View

In lieu of a solid answer, I defer to Western Mountaineering's answer. They seem to have the most investment in whether or not it works, since they're seen as a gold standard among down products.

If I remember correctly, they say it's a gimmick and not worth doing over regular down, as it under-performs.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
900 for life? on 03/16/2014 11:13:05 MDT Print View

I would rather have 900! It's lighter, it might last longer, I wonder what affect the dwr has on the lifespan of down. Does it degrade our clump up easier after 10 years?

With a dwr high tech fabric like pertex, 10d etc. The bag can fight off condensation from a tent. I don't really see how anyone can get a down bag soaked, and at that point I'm not sure anything will help.

Jeremy Mader
(JeremyNoVa) - M

Locale: NoVa
down wash on 03/16/2014 22:43:18 MDT Print View

You could always wash it with a down water treatment if you are that worried about it. Think Nikwax is like $10.

C g
(cgraf) - M

Locale: So Cal
"How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag?" on 03/16/2014 23:35:15 MDT Print View

"With Western Mountaineering, one of the most respected bag makers taking a wait and see approach, that sealed the deal for me."

+1.....additionally, two other high quality produces of down products have not adopted this new technology. Feathered Friends based in Seattle, and Valandre in Europe.

I used down bags exclusively while living in the PNW and never had an issue. Therefore, I will continue to use the traditional/untreated down that has been proven to last for decades if cared for properly.

Edited by cgraf on 03/16/2014 23:37:33 MDT.

Troy Childs
(tchilds) - F
reclaimed down on 03/17/2014 06:33:38 MDT Print View

I use reclaimed down from old garments at goodwill.

No need for the expensive stuff Imo since you shouldn't get down wet with a proper shell.

I have slept in the mist for several hours and in puddles in proper shells and not clumped the down up even once yet.

I don't believe there's a need to spend this kind of money on down and there for don't believe in water proof down either.

If you need water proof down you're not building the shell right

Secondly if you believe something with that much air space can even become water proof you're fooling yourself.

Thirdly, treated down is just another way to destroy the environment you're trying to enjoy that much faster.

Light weight fabrics and treatments take their toll so why add yet another step to build the same thing?

My car and job already make my carbon print millions of times larger than necessary. I urge all stewards if nature to realize this new technology and light weight obsession can destroy the very thing we enjoy so much.

Try to keep the carbon minimal therefore keep the steps in manufacturing minimal. Adding a treatment to down is a perversion of nature and a want not a need.

Please don't take my comment off topic and argue over the carbon prints involved in down. I just felt it necessary to put that out there.

Edited by tchilds on 03/17/2014 06:48:39 MDT.

Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/17/2014 07:46:58 MDT Print View

I guess I haven't seen it referred to as "waterproof" before. It's just resistant to absorption from humidity and vapor was my understanding. So hopefully in the mornings it won't have that "dense" feel when packing it up. Time will tell I guess.

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/17/2014 09:00:34 MDT Print View

I went with the water resistant 850 fill in my Palisade. Have only had it a little over a month and used it for just seven nights, so really have nothing constructive to add regarding the down's performance, but I like the idea of it.

The Pertex shell material has already dealt with heavy condensation better than my sleeping bags' shells, so my initial impression is good.
Don't know about the treated down vs. humidity and perspiration, yet, but that's why I chose it. I've packed a "dry" bag only to have it come out of the sack damp(with the shell often visibly so), and sometimes not wanting to fully loft, far too many times not to be intrigued by the potential advantage it offers.
I certainly look forward to "testing" it some more!

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/17/2014 10:20:16 MDT Print View

Since no one has mentioned it yet, in my mind the most important issue is that there are no results on the longevity of down treated this way, and some serious suspicions that it it will have a short lifetime by some reputable sources. Would you still be interested if the useful lifetime went from decades to 5 years? To 3 years? I pretty much stopped paying attention after that. Maybe in 10 years they will know by trial and error, but I would want an expensive item like that to last a long time, especially as the bar has been set VERY high by regular down in this regard. The longevity shouldn't be taken for granted - how many organic items do you know of that can last for many decades, when properly taken care of, essentially with it original structure intact?

I'm not a big fan of disposable gear, but for something as expensive as down bags, which even with the advent of cuben shelters are still close to the most expensive single items, I am very happy that with proper care I can more or less count on my regular down to last as long as I intend to last.

I'm not going to trot out how *I* never got my regular down bag damp enough to matter in the last 20 years for the same reason I'm not going to bother to tell you how great the fit is on my trail runners - I have no idea how, or in what conditions someone else's bag will be used.

Still it does smack of a gimmick. To paraphrase the slogan of a company selling bison-fur gloves "down, 10 million years of R&D". Not sure it can be improved that much. :-)

Edited by millonas on 03/17/2014 10:29:50 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag? on 03/17/2014 10:29:32 MDT Print View

"Since no one is mentioned it yet, in my mind the most important issue is that there are no results on the longevity of down treated this way, and some serious suspicions that it it will have a short lifetime by some reputable sources."

I am not one to constantly try and improve my kit. If something works, I keep using it.

At this point in time, I don't have the need to improve my down clothing or down gear items. I have never gotten my down "wet." However, I have gotten the footbox of my bags damp, especially after several nights of sleeping in adverse weather. I have been able to dry it out in the sun, when and if Mr. Sunny came out. A few times I was able to dry it out by holding the item above a stove (need to be really, really careful here).

So when and if treated down is shown to be superior I might consider a switch for some items.

useful on 03/17/2014 17:08:57 MDT Print View

How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag?

As useless as teats on a boar hog if you dont let your sleeping bag get wet in the first place.

There is no evidence that it will do anything for condensation, which is the bigger risk for wetting out a bag over the course of several days in cold wet weather.

Edited by livingontheroad on 03/17/2014 17:10:07 MDT.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: useful on 03/17/2014 17:31:24 MDT Print View

It am waiting patiently to see what Bpl has say about this.
I did try out a Downtek parka last year but it did not work out as it was vastly underfilled so sent it back. I did purchase a pair of Borah down trousers a few months ago which have Dwr down but gave yet to see the advantage.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Whut Delmar sed... on 03/17/2014 17:36:31 MDT Print View

As of now the DWR treatments for down are varied. Thus Delmar's "all over the map" comment. Down Tek, Dri Down and Patagucci's own DWR down treatment seem to have different chemicals and application techniques.

I would bet that Patagonia's application technique is the best, being that it appears to use smaller particles in a more "nano-based" application, thus likely (likely) to be more thorough in covering the down plumules entirely.
But that's just an educated guess right now.

But, yeah, I'd prefer a DWR treated down, especially for winter. The temperature differential between you and the air outside your bag is great and your body vapor WILL condense inside the bag's shell and on the outer portion of the down.
With that knowledge we can infer that DWR treated down will let more vapor condense on the inside of the outer shell because the DWR down will absorb less vapor.

Then what?? Well you may be able to shake that frosty condensate to one side of the bag to isolate it a bit, or, if conditions are warm enough, let it sublimate to vapor again and pass through the shell into the atmosphere - hopefully.

For body vapor freezing in down bags refer to the ill-fated Scott South Pole expedition and their eventually useless down bags.

Edited by Danepacker on 08/21/2015 11:46:33 MDT.

Glenn S

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Re: Re: useful on 03/17/2014 17:38:27 MDT Print View

Until there's some side by side comparisons, any real world testimonials will be highly subjective. There isn't really "evidence" to support either side of the claim yet as far as I can tell. Just lab tests, hyperbole, and critics.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Moving the dew point on 03/17/2014 18:50:44 MDT Print View

I am not sure if Dwr down will help (I hope it does) when down can freeze when damp in sub zero temperatures.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: "How useful is waterproof down in a sleeping bag?" on 03/17/2014 20:06:10 MDT Print View

" With Western Mountaineering, one of the most respected bag makers taking a wait and see approach, that sealed the deal for me. "

the deal is, that when i called WM and asked them why the cord locks for the draft collar still hang down my nose, and suggested that the smart place to put them is over by the zipper, they could Not have been less interested in improving their sleeping bags. sort of like how military's of the world sometimes get locked in a pathetic inability to change plans, and send everybody off to die, instead of fixing the problems staring them in the face.
seen new bags from WM lately ?
seen a proper half zip from WM ?
because WM management is stuck, has failed to embrace change, and is culturally unable to move forward.

do i run WM bags ? sure. and they are excellent.
but excellent does in No Way Shape Or Form mean "can not be improved".

i would suspect WM is like a lot of america, in that after a period of successful effort, things got too easy, and they (we) backed off, thinking (quite wrongly) that the rewards of effort would somehow last interminably.

just my op on down coatings.


Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Western Mountaineering on 03/17/2014 21:19:38 MDT Print View

Sorry, Peter, I disagree with you on this one. One reason WM has been able to maintain its very high standards over many years is that it does NOT make everything over for the current flavor of the month. Instead its changes are measured, usually adopting new fabrics proven elsewhere. Only a few new bags in the last decade, mostly to accommodate UL hikers, as in the Versalite and its siblings. My Sequoia is basically the same bag today as when I bought it in the 1990s. And still a great bag. If it ain't broke don't fix it.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Re: Western Mountaineering on 03/17/2014 21:23:25 MDT Print View

They are stuck in their old ways, a lot of people think that. They make good bags, lighter than sierra designs etc. Who cares they are rich. No innovation from them, I havent even seen a quilt from them.