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L.L.Bean Albany Outing Group Message Board › The Lowdown on Down

The Lowdown on Down

user 23793902
Albany, NY
Post #: 4
"Down" refers to the fluffy part of the feather that lies closest to the skin on water fowl, as seen in this picture. It is considered nature's best insulator. About 70% of the world's down used by humans comes from domestic geese. As a general rule it is a byproduct of the meat industry. It is used as an insulator in consumer goods such as outerwear, sleeping bags, comforters and pillows.

What to look for when you are shopping for down:

Down is rated based on it's "fill power." This is a measure of how much volume one ounce of down fills in a graduated cylinder. The greater the loft in the fibers of down, the more air is trapped and the greater the warmth. Therefore, the higher the fill power, the warmer the garment or comforter is. Generally in outerwear you will see 500-850 fill power. Also, less of a higher-fill down is needed to keep you warm, which is why you see super-thin high-end down jackets.

Down is very light weight and compressible as well. If well cared for, it retains its loft up to three times longer than do most synthetics. Being light weight makes down very desirable as an outerwear insulator. This quality also makes it ideal for sleeping bags while backpacking, bicycle touring and camping. A down sleeping bag packs into a small compressions sack and weighs around 3 or 4 lbs.

Some things to keep in mind about down: Down forms clumps and Does NOT keep you warm when it gets wet. So you will always see down paired with a waterproof shell in outerwear and sleeping bags. Water can also damage the down fibers and wet fibers grow bacteria and house dust mites, so you want to make sure when you are laundering down that you give it a full drying cycle. For things such as comforters, pillows and sleeping bags you want to use a commercial sized washer and dryer. Keep in mind that even if the outside fabric feels and looks dry, the down inside may still be damp. After laundering and drying your down pieces you should hang them to continue to dry and restore the down loft for about 2 days before storing or wearing them. Sleeping bags should never be stored in their compression sacks, and down comforters and jackets should be stored in breathable containers when stored for extended periods of time.

Studies have shown that allergies to down is extremely rare. What most people are allergic to are the molds and dust mites that down collects when it is improperly cared for or are low quality manufactured. The majority of down on the market these days is cleaned to have no dust or allergens before it it sold on the market. There are products such as sprays and washes that specifically kill dust mites, however regular washing and fully drying your down pieces should control any allergy issues you may have.

When buying a down item be careful of the wording on the label or package. Any down item that says it has "feathers" will contain the quill of the goose feather. This is lower quality and the quill can poke through the fabric of the outer shell and it does not have the same warmth trapping qualities of pure down as well. You also want to look for the wording "100% down," if the label reads "down" it can be a mixture of down and synthetic fibers, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. High-quality, warm, durable down pieces are an investment, that will last you a very long time. Down insulation connects us to nature and allows us to stay warm and continue to enjoy outdoor pursuits even in the coldest of temperatures.

"Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain." Doug Coupland

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