Podcast Episode September 24, 2021

Episode 46 | Water-resistant Down

The extended video version of this podcast episode is available to Unlimited Members.
  • The extended video version of this podcast episode is available to Unlimited Members for free as part of their membership. Become an Unlimited Member »
  • You must be logged in with your Unlimited Membership account to see the extended video version of this podcast episode here. Login Now »
Login Membership



In today’s podcast, Andrew chats with some of the folks from IDFL Laboratory and Institute (originally known as the International Down and Feather Testing Laboratory) about water-resistant down. Also in this episode, Andrew shares some of the creative things listeners are doing in the backcountry and gives his final thoughts on the Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 pack.

Photo: IDFL Laboratory and
IDFL Laboratory and Institute


  • Andrew’s final thoughts on the Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 pack – performance review coming soon
  • Ryan put together a layering system Q & A, make sure you check it out if you are a member
  • some noteworthy recent articles: Daniel Hu’s review of the Vargo ExoTi BOG backpack, Ben Kilbourne’s review of the Durston X-Mid 2P shelter, and Maggie Slepian’s essay on dealing with mental lows on trail
  • interview with IDFL Laboratory and Institute: Stewart Van Wagoner and Meig Outsen
  • introductions
  • what does IDFL do?
  • down 101 – the things that give down its magic
  • down composition
  • goose vs. duck
  • fill power
  • moisture and down
  • how the heat from your body excites down
  • what is water-resistant down?
  • the tests that IDFL runs on water-resistant down
  • water-resistant down’s performance at full saturation
  • the regulation (or lack of regulation) around water-resistant down
  • does the DWR (durable water repellent) treatment add any noticeable weight to the down?
  • does treated down loft as well as untreated down
  • care of treated down (washing best-practices)
  • would Stewart buy a garment based entirely on a DWR treatment?
  • RDS (Responsible Down Standard)
  • the ubiquitous nature of RDS
  • how consumers drive RDS and other certifications
  • the nuts and bolts of the actual certification process
  • chain of custody and supply chain
  • be on the lookout for our next long episode (coming in a month, not two weeks like Andrew said in the pod! ) where Ryan and Andrew will follow up on this conversation
  • Backcountry Creativity follow-up photos
a travel watercolor kit and some paintings next to a lake
Photo: Joanna Stanberry
Woman sitting with mountain in background
Photo: Alice Hengst
Watercolor paints with notebook
Photo: Jen T
  • 50th episode is coming up – email us “ask us anything” type questions about gear, techniques, skills, philosophy, past guests, why cats are clearly superior to dogs, or anything else at [email protected]

About the Backpacking Light Podcast


More Episodes

Feedback, Questions, Tips?


  • Backpacking Light - Executive Producer
  • Ryan Jordan - Director and Host
  • Chase Jordan - Producer
  • Look for Me in the Mountains - Music


  • This episode of the Backpacking Light Podcast is supported and kept advertising-free by Backpacking Light membership fees. Please consider becoming a member which helps support projects like this podcast, in addition to a whole slew of other benefits!


You can contact us at [email protected], or follow us on social media -


(Updated April 9, 2024)

  • Product mentions: Backpacking Light does not accept compensation or donated/discounted products in exchange for product mentions or placements in editorial coverage, including podcast episode content not excplicitly identified as sponsored content.
  • Some (but not all) of the links in these show notes may be affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and visit one of our affiliate partners (usually a retailer site), and subsequently place an order with that retailer, we receive a commission on your entire order, which varies between 3% and 15% of the purchase price. Affiliate commissions represent less than 15% of Backpacking Light's gross revenue. More than 70% of our revenue comes from Membership Fees. So if you'd really like to support our work, don't buy gear you don't need - support our consumer advocacy work and become a Member instead.
  • Learn more about affiliate commissions, influencer marketing, and our consumer advocacy work by reading our article Stop wasting money on gear.
Free Handbook

Get ultralight backpacking skills, gear info, philosophy, news, and more.

Home Forums Episode 46 | Water-resistant Down

Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 17 total)
  • Author
  • #3728087
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: Episode 46 | Water-resistant Down

    Andrew chats with the down experts at the IDFL Laboratory and Institute about water-resistant down.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Going to bump this as it’s a pretty interesting discussion without getting into proprietary trade secrets (different manufacturers offerings) of down.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Just remember: the Europeans won’t have anything to do with IDFL, because they think the IDFL figures are a bit of a con. You can never get close to those figures in the field.



    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    A few things in this podcast were new to me.

    – Body heat and moisture helps down loft up and insulate better. That’s why down sleeping bags and quilts are puffier after sleeping in them overnight, not just because they decompressed a little more.

    – There are no regulatory requirements for the “water repellent” part of DWR-treated down. But most manufacturers pay to test water repellency on a scale of roughly 15 to 1,000, where 15-30 is untreated down. I can’t recall seeing that number for any down product. I also don’t know if in real life 1,000 is 66 times better than 15.

    – Washing improperly is the #1 killer of down. Follow the label instructions. Don’t substitute detergents, use hot water, or dry with heat. I postpone washing down stuff as long as possible.

    – Down is a byproduct of raising geese and ducks for meat. If down doesn’t go into a sleeping bag or other product, it goes into the trash. And down has been re-used for new garments for hundreds of years.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.

    — Rex

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    What’s wrong with regular old goose down, untreated?  It’s worked for a hundred years.  I don’t think WM or FF even bothers with the stuff.  And then there’s this question—does the chemical treatment out gas into the sleeper’s lungs???


    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Water-resistant down is still early in its development cycle, at solution seeking a problem.

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I don’t think WM or FF even bothers with the stuff.

    WM is crystal clear about it:

    We have found in our own testing that the performance enhancements of hydrophobic treatments on high quality down are widely overstated. High quality untreated down already has naturally water repellant oils on it left by the geese (makes sense since geese spend a lot of time in water). These oils help repel water and keep down lofted. More importantly is that these oils last indefinitely. Hydrophobic treatments wash out like a DWR and remove the natural oils during the application process. Because of this, and the water resistant capability of our shell fabrics, we feel that hydrophobic down does not provide a considerable impact on performance and could actually inhibit performance over the lifetime of our products.



    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    Amen Todd T—end of story.

    Chris R
    BPL Member


    If the oil on down lasts indefinitely why do geese (and other birds) have to preen themselves, applying oil from the uropygial gland?

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    Chris…..I believe this site will help you understand the preening  process and why it is necessary.


    Chris R
    BPL Member


    I know why birds preen, for waterfowl one of the reasons is thought be that it helps waterproofing. My question is over the assertion that natural oils last indefinitely.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    A solution seeking a problem? Not quite, just marketing seeking something that sounds good in a press release even if meaningless in reality.


    Dave @ Oware
    BPL Member


    Locale: East Washington

    Having washed down bags in the tub, it can take quite a bit to get the water throughout.

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Having washed down bags in the tub, it can take quite a bit to get the water throughout.

    I was going to make the same comment.  And in the subject podcast, the IDFL guy spoke of a test where they had to shake the down in a jar of water for about a half-hour (IIRC) to reach saturation.  A half-hour!?  And we need to augment its water resistance?

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    It’s all marketing.

    BPL Member


    Haven’t used these guys yet,  but intend to when I need to wash my premium down gear



    BPL Member


    Locale: N NY

    Get out the pitch forks  ;0)


Viewing 17 posts - 1 through 17 (of 17 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Join Our Community

Become a Backpacking Light Member

Forum Access

Unrestricted access to all forums, plus the ability to post and start new threads.

Premium Content

Unrestricted access to all 2,300+ articles, gear reviews, skills, stories, and more.

Community Posts

Post new content to the community including gear swaps, reviews, trip reports and more!

Online Education

Get unlimited access to all our online education (*Unlimited membership required).

Pack less. Be more. Become a member today!

Get Started