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Does down really wet out?

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Does down really wet out?

Postby Dave B » Thu Mar 07, 2013 2:34 pm

Prolite gear just posted a video of a little experiment testing whether or not normal down even wets out when in direct contact with water.

It doesn't really seem so unless an unrealistic amount of agitation is applied. It's a long video but pretty interesting at the same time, makes me wonder about the "wonders" of the new dry downs.



I've washed my down jackets and sleeping bags twice and have, both times, had a problem getting either to wet out (i.e. collapse) completely. I figured it was because my HE front loader didn't use enough water, I think in reality down is already naturally water repellent.
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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby Bean » Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:02 pm

After two weeks of rainy glacier living, my down bag was heavier, less lofty, and less warm than at the start of the trip. I've had a down sweater in the same pack as a leaky water bottle and it was flattened where water came in contact with it.

I don't think it's necessary for most people in most situations, but I definitely see value in it (mostly in sleeping bags for long trips).
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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby pvnisher » Fri Mar 08, 2013 8:13 pm

Wetting out and losing efficiency are different things. As is drying time.
I have a number of the new magical down products (jackets and bags) and they maintain loft longer in very damp conditions (ie Scottish winter) and don't lose as much efficiency.
When you're out in the winter, a 10-20% loss of efficiency (which you might not notice with the naked eye, or just "feeling" the loft), will be a big deal when the night falls.
They also dry faster when you get that brief sunny spell.

To me the "down vs synthetic" argument that synthetic insulates when wet (while down doesn't) has been silly because if you have a wet sleeping bag, you're hosed, no matter what it is made of. But if you have a damp bag, or it's been 99% humidity for the past 8 months (including whilst your bag was in storage), then synthetic (or dry down) becomes a better deal.

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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby MuchosPixels » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:25 am

pvnisher wrote:To me the "down vs synthetic" argument that synthetic insulates when wet (while down doesn't) has been silly because if you have a wet sleeping bag, you're hosed, no matter what it is made of.


Exactly! Keeping gear as dry as possible is key. Also there some down bags that have waterproof breathable outer fabrics. Same with jackets. This helps from it getting wet from outside moisture but...

I dont like to use down as a mid-layer insulator because if I get sweaty it does gets somewhat damp. For that I use the awesome Arcteryx Atom LT.

Generally down is great for cold weather, say below 25F high temps. Anything above that and synthetic is a better option, specially in humid climates.

I usually end up using a combination of down and synthetic items.

Down for camp and synthetic for when im more active.

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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby Dave B » Sat Mar 09, 2013 10:36 am

All good points. Mostly I find it quite interesting the difference in down's response to water in the ProLite video versus the response of natural down at 0:07 in this video. Color me cynical but if they have to exaggerate the effect of water on natural down to sell their product, the advertising campaign begins to carry the legitimacy of sham-wow.

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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby MtnClimber82 » Sat Mar 09, 2013 3:47 pm

Although I found the videos very enlightening, I don't think they discredit the added functionality and security of the treated down materials. Really, all that viewing this video has changed for me is to know I don't have to avoid a drizzle like the plague when I'm using down; because I too thought the down would just soak up that water like a sponge. While I do think the methods the companies are using to show how "regular down" will loose its loft when wet are misleading, I don't yet see many downsides to using these products. Most 'dry-treated down' materials come at little to no increase of cost, weight, or compressibility, so I feel they have a valuable place in my backpack...

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Re: Does down really wet out?

Postby shearmodulus » Sun Mar 10, 2013 4:47 pm

I used synthetic bags for years. I picked up a Marmot Never Summer 0-degree bag for my winter excursions. I will never use a synthetic bag again.

Lighter, warmer, more comfortable... and it dries fast. I've learned that you can "iron" the exterior of a down bag with a water bottle that has been filled with boiling water to speed up the drying out of the bag. Said water bottle then goes in the bag with you, keeps you warm, and speeds up the driving out of moisture from the bag while you sleep.

Any synthetic bag heavy enough to match a zero-degree down bag (in my opinion) would still be a waterlogged mess the next day.
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