My first experience testing DWR Down

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  • #3756825
    BPL Member


    TLDR and summary – Hung hammock over a pool absentmindedly which resulted in my being dropped  in a 8″ deep pool  of water at 2am. That soaked my hammock and 850-DWR-UQ and slightly wet my 950-NonDWR-TQ. The 950N0n-DWR TQ had immediate noticeable loss of loft. The 850 DWR down showed little or no loss of loft despite being exposed to more water for longer, and dried more effectively the next day. For that reason I will only spec 850 DWR down for my quilts from now on. I see no disadvantages to DWR down.


    Full story – I did a quick 24 hour camp Saturday night, and was hammock camping over a trickling spring (Beartrap in the Los Padres). I’ve done this several times and enjoy the quiet trickle of the spring below me, and there are not any well-spaced trees at the camp 50′ up the hill.

    Well I absent mindedly clipped the dutch hook on the head end into the WRONG side of the continuous loop which I was messing with earlier and apparently didnt cinch tight again. There was enough friction from the gathered end hem that the dyneema loop did not undo itself immediately – I slept for a couple hours just fine, then when I woke up for my 2am whiz, as my legs got over the edge of my hammock BOOM, down I went butt first into the 6″ deep pool right on top of the only rock below me.

    Somewhat disoriented and confused, I quickly popped up and immediately lifted my hammock out of the stream. $h1t repeatedly went through my head, as I quickly grabbed my HG Premium/10d/950-NonDWR top quilt out of the water, then dumped out a puddle collecting in my Warbonnet 7d/850-DWR under quilt. Flipped that inside out and dumped out the puddle in my hammock.

    As I stood there for a moment holding 1 end of my hammock and took stock of what just happened it looked bad. Soaked hammock, puddle in my UQ, TQ was still pretty dry – no obvious water penetration but it was floating on the water for 10-15 seconds, fleece pants were 1/2 wet, socks soaked. I threw my TQ over a tree and went to assess the hammock.

    It took me a minute but got my continuous loop threaded back through the end channel and got the hammock re-hung. I had a dry pair of socks which was nice, but no extra pants so I squeezed those out quickly and put them back on to dry as I got re situated. Unfortunately my 16×30 REI towel was in the hammock so that was soaked already. I wrung that out repeatedly and mopped my hammock as dry as a wet towel will get it. Same with the UQ.

    45 mins later I crawled back in my fairly-wet hammock somewhat worried if I would be warm enough with a wet UQ and hammock, plus the heavy moisture load my TQ would see on top of being damp already.

    My UQ is a custom from Warbonnet made from Membrane7 and uses Warb’s 850 DWR down. The Membrane 7 held up amazingly well with a 5 second submersion and subsequent couple minutes with small pools on it and me furiously dumping it out and mopping up residual water drops. Very little water penetrated the fabric which amazed me. I tore a small hole in it when I landed on the only rock beneath me too, so water had direct penetration in that area. I half-assed tenacious taped it closed until morning when I could properly deal with it. Overall, M7 is some pretty great stuff.

    The mostly-dry TQ on the other hand, with 950 Non-DWR down almost immediately had noticeable loss of loft. I bet it lost 20% of its loft in the 45 minutes it took me to get back in the hammock and slightly more when I wrapped it around me and the micro climate under it hit 100% humidity. None of the baffles were really puffy like normal, they were full, but not lofty. By morning my body heat got the hammock 95% dry, TQ dry feeling, and UQ appearing dry. I did notice the TQ was still less lofty than normal though (despite 2oz overstuff).

    Other than clammy wet discomfort, I slept ok all things considered. It only got down to 49* but had a 40* TQ and 20* UQ so had plenty of buffer under me, but not much buffer with the TQ. The UQ had a tiny feeling of coolness right at my butt, but was otherwise fine after 10 minutes. It remained nice and lofty. I think if it was closer to 40* I would have been too cold on top and been in for a somewhat unpleasant night. In cold weather I can see how an unintended water exposure that affects your gear can become serious very quickly. I bet this light water exposure took 10* off both quilts.

    In the morning I put the quilts in the sun to dry for a couple hours and had moderate condensation formed in a couple of the UQ baffles, but the water stuck to the surface of the M7 fabric and was completely repelled by the down. There were probably 20-30 large droplets on the fabric after the sun baked it for 15 mins.

    The TQ, which had much less severe water exposure also had some condensation form before burning off, but when I moved the quilt around the water droplets were more readily absorbed by the 950 down then would reappear on the inside of the fabric after a couple minutes in the sun. After about 2 hours in the dry California sun everything was dry and I packed them up, so not a ton of water in them clearly, but enough to matter.

    Based on this experience, I can say DWR down definitely made a difference in loft after water exposure. Also, the down rejected the water droplets more effectively than non-dwr. I know people like to malign the usefulness of DWR on down, but in my limited experience it made a difference. Considering DWR down is available from many cottage makers in 800 or 850 fill, I think it provides the best weight-performance-cost ratio and I will spec 850 DWR down in any future quilts. Also the 900-1000 fill down is so whispy it compresses with very little force, so in anything but ideal conditions its easy to lose loft just form humidity. I think the occasional stiff feather helps lower power down retain more loft when humid.

    More than anything, I was angry I ripped my UQ as its the first piece of UL down gear I’ve torn in 2 years and I have NEVER been dropped by my hammock until then! Broke my streak. Mis-hooking my hammock was a one-off event, but I will certainly double check my loops from now on too

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Was not always clear which references are to DWR treated down, or to DWR treated outer fabric.

    David Hartley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western NY

    One thing to consider is – probably not a lot of down in a 950 fill 40 degree top quilt – 9 oz? maybe 10? Probably doesn’t take much moisture in the shell fabric to turn it into a flat tire. Where as the 850 fill 20 degree under quilt had a lot more down.

    Christopher S
    BPL Member


    Overfill or overstuff definitely supposedly helps the down collapse issue with moisture. Also how did the face fabrics differ?

    The other issue is that you cannot (as far as I know) really get DWR down in super high fill powers. FF and WM still dont use it partially for that reason. FF also told me that some DWR down also has a higher chance of clumping.

    To really know I think we would need someone to do extensive testing of the down outside of a shell fabric – meaning just raw down stuffed into water. I am actually super curious how the different DWR down treatments compare because we know that for exterior DWR the quality varies a ton. I would guess the newer DWR that do not use C8 or C6 do not work as well. Hard to say however. Better quality non DWR down will also have more of the natural oils present which could theoretically improve moisture resistance a lot – geese and ducks do spend a lot of time in the water after all. We might find that the best DWR down really is better than the uncoated stuff but also might find that the worse DWR treatments also do not do well. Hard to say.

    I am also really interested if the wash in DWR products work at all – I would imagine not very well but they might still be a small improvement. Or maybe soaking the down in the DWR wash in instead of just adding it to the wash cycle might work better. Or even soaking it in a higher concentration of DWR. That way at least your not also flushing a bunch of chemicals down the drain.

    I think overall I do like FF methodology best but it does not unfortunately apply to most manufacturers because they are not willing to pay extra for more down. They seem to use the highest quality down that still has some natural oils and then overstuff the crap out of each baffle (they are especially overstuffing if you consider that they are using down that is 900 or 950+ FP) and then also use a very waterproof outer fabric. I would guess that a quilt made with a waterproof outer fabric (even with the seams unsealed but stitched using a method that does not wick a lot of water) would do pretty well in the scenariou you are describing even with non DWR down.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Make a down garment with DWR on just one side.  Then use it over a number of years.  That would be a real test.

    A made a vest with DWR down on the top, non DWR on the bottom.  Because I ran out of DWR down.  Top vs bottom isn’t as good a test.  I can’t really see any difference between DWR and regular, but I try not to get it wet.

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