When it comes to the outdoors, temperature and weather play a big factor in your choice of activities and the gear you use. And until recently, down was the most common insulation used to fill puffy jackets and sleeping bags because it offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio.
But – Down also has its downfalls, and one of those downfalls is moisture.
You see, most of the power from down comes from the warm air trapped inside the plumes of the feathers. Humid weather or light rain and snow can dampen these fibers causing them to lose loft, thus resulting the inability to trap heat.
Moisture and Down
Most manufactures have put different technologies in place to prevent moisture from penetrating down, like a DWR – Durable Water Repellent finish or a waterproof, breathable outer shell. But more often than not this results in water trapped in the baffles of your jacket or bag.
Sweat can also play a factor in dampening your insulation, and even the most advanced materials can’t prevent moisture from finding its way into your insulation. Even high humidity can affect down, due to the moisture in the air passing through the outer shell and into the down fibers, often leaving your jacket or sleeping bag damp, and you cold.
We all know down jackets are super popular, mostly because they are warm and they can last a lifetime if they are cared for properly. However, like we stated before – down does have its downfalls. Down, on its own can’t handle damp conditions, it loses its loft compromising the ability to insulate.
Hydrophobic down, or waterproof down as its better known is designed to perform in wet conditions. This new technology treats the down fibers that fill the jacket with a durable water repellent, or DWR coating – instead of the exterior of the jacket. This allows the down to dry faster and resist water longer.
While hydrophobic down jackets aren’t 100% waterproof, they are a step in the right direction for the outdoor industry.