Gear manufacturers have been trying to make down insulation—which doesn't insulate when it gets wet—resistant to water for years. We've seen a few new technologies at this week's Winter 2012 Outdoor Retailer: A company called Down Decor is showing off some fancy new water-resistant feathers, and Brooks-Range Mountaineering has stuffed its new Mojave jacket with some, too. But it's Sierra Designs' DriDown technology, which will debut in the form of sleeping bags in June/July and in apparel in October, that intrigues us most.
Sierra Designs is using feathers that they claim will stay dry seven times longer in the presence of moisture than traditional down. How? The company uses a proprietary process that applies a molecular-level polymer to individual down plumes during the down-finishing process. This hydrophobic coating wards off rain, snow, and spills, and, when it gets wet, helps feathers dry a third faster than normal down. The five sleeping bags featuring these water-resistant feathers will be available from 0 to 30 degrees in men's and 20 and 30 degrees in women's and will sell for between $199 and $299. Sierra Designs will also release two DriDown jackets, including the Tov Belay Jacket ($259) and the Gnar Lite ($229).
We had an opportunity to do a quick science experiment before Outdoor Retailer: Sierra Designs sent us two jars, one with down and one with DriDown. They asked us to pour water into the jars and watch what happened. Confirmed: the DriDown definitely didn't absorb water as quickly as the untreated down. They also claimed that DriDown wouldn't smell as bad as untreated wet feathers. Claim denied: smelling both jars nearly made us throw up.