Despite recent news that water resistant down manufacturer DownTek has added even more partners, some outdoor brands are actively choosing not to go that route. At the same time, Greenpeace is still on the case of the outdoor industry, and although companies such as Sierra Designs, Jack Wolfskin, and Rab all claim their water resistant down is Bluesign approved, it is still a chemical treatment in the end.
Outdoor Research tested various water resistant down technologies with the intention of introducing the new insulation into their product line but were not happy with the results. According to the test results, the treatment reduces fill power (not everyone has found this), meaning you need to use a higher quality feather to deliver the same amount of warmth. And although the treated down is water resistant, it will eventually wet out, leaving you to ask why not just wear your hardshell when it gets wet? An obvious solution perhaps for apparel but what about sleeping bags?
Outdoor Research instead chose to take an outside-in approach to creating a lightweight waterproof down jacket. The Floodlight Jacket ($375) uses a Pertex Shield+ waterproof breathable exterior shell with an interior lining that is bonded to the exterior shell in order to create channels for the 800-fill down insulation on the inside. As a result, the Floodlight becomes a waterproof shell and down jacket all in one.
Western Mountaineering, Columbia, and Westcomb are a few other companies abstaining from water resistant down for the moment. Westcomb just doesn’t see the need for the treatment as they use Canadian Hutterite down that they claim is naturally water resistant.
So, will the benefits of water resistant down outweigh the added cost, not to mention the environmental and performance questions that remain? Only time will tell.