Gear Guy

Can I recycle old down to make a new sleeping bag?

Many years ago there were companies that took your old down-filled articles, reclaimed the down, and made you a new sleeping bag. I have an old army two-piece down bag and a down parka that I'd like to reconstitute into a new sleeping bag. I hate to throw away this good down, so do you know of any company that does this kind of work? Keil Endwell, Maine

A: To be honest, I wouldn't waste my time. It is true that down can be removed from a bag or parka, washed, dried, and re-used in a new bag or parka. The question is, Is it worth the trouble? In the case of your old military sleeping bag, my guess is almost certainly not. I doubt the down is of very high quality, and the odds are good it's mixed with a hefty portion of duck down, which isn't the same as goose down. You don't offer any hints as to the make or age of the parka. But in general, if it's more than ten or 15 years old, the down may not be worth re-using. Besides, removing the down from a bag or jacket, cleaning it, and re-stuffing it into a new article would be so labor-intensive that the cost would be prohibitive.

Marmot Arroyo

Besides, from a practical standpoint, I can't even FIND a company that would offer that sort of service. Just no demand for it these days. So what to do? My own belief is that down products these days have never been better. Not only is the down generally superior to what was available 15 to 20 years ago, but the materials used to construct a bag are lighter, softer, and more comfortable. In short, I would not swap my Marmot Arroyo ($259; for any bag I used when I first started backpacking. The Arroyo is rated to 30 degrees, weighs less than two pounds, and stuffs down to near-softball size. It's as close to a perfect sleeping bag as I can imagine.

If you need more warmth, Western Mountaineering's Badger Super MF ($375; is a superbly made bag that is rated conservatively to 15 degrees yet still weighs only two pounds, 12 ounces. And if you're on a budget, L.L. Bean's 20-degree Mount Washington mummy bag gives you 775-fill down and a light Pertex nylon shell for only $205 (

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