As an insulator, there is still no other product on the market that offers the warmth-to-weight benefit that down does. For the right application there is nothing that can compete with it in terms of overall performance. And while certain synthetic fills can offer a substantial alternative for certain needs, the carbon footprint of a down fill is a fraction of what is required for the â€śequivalentâ€?synthetic. Renewable and recyclable, it is the most effective and environmentally friendly insulation available.
Throughout history, down from various species of wildfowl, gulls, and other seabirds has been used for insulation. Today, however, the down collected comes from domesticated geese and duck as a by-product of the food industry. There are no parts of the supply chain where birds are simply raised for their down and because over 90% of the birdâ€™s value lies in its meat and these birds are consumed at a very young age, some of the â€ścommonâ€?issues that arise in discussing the welfare of the animals are not nearly as â€ścommonâ€?as some sources claim. However, it still is important to have a traceable and transparent supply chain to bring a peace of mind to the consumer to take advantage of downâ€™s superior performance and environmental sustainability.
300 g OF TOTAL PLUMAGE
When looking at a down cluster, there are several things to consider.
What makes down such an efficient insulator is its structure. The down cluster does not have a central quill as feathers do which allows the cluster the unique ability to compress completely and the resiliency to regain its dimensionality. The down cluster has thousands of filaments spreading from this central point which lock to provide a layer of trapped air that, when in bedding or garment, work to keep warm air in and cold air out - all with an extremely low weight.
The first thing to consider is the difference between down and feathers. A feather, the principal covering of birds, has a flat, 2-dimensional construction. It has a hard, tubular quill shaft from one end to the other. Feathers are stiff, flat and heavier whereas the down cluster has the appearance of a ripe dandelion pod. Down is a completely unique part of the bird separate from the feathers. Down does not come from feathers nor do feathers come from down. It is also important to note that down grows only on waterfowl.
Larger down clusters tend to have a larger number of longer tendrils able to trap a greater amount of air. The more air trapped, the greater the warmth-to-weight ratio will be. This is what gives down itâ€™s unique â€śloft.â€?Measuring this loft is done through Fill Power. Fill Power is a unit of measurement (Cubic inches / 30 g of down to be exact) that quantifies the volume of air that the clusters have the ability to trap. The larger and stronger the cluster, the more air it will be able to trap resulting in a higher fill power number.
The size of the down cluster is dependent upon several different factors.
One of the most fundamental quality indicators of down is species - duck or goose.
Ducks are a smaller bird than geese and tend to be consumed at a much younger age as a more tender meat is desired. This means smaller birds with smaller and less mature down. Some very high quality down can come from duck, but generally, the highest fill powers and most desirable comes from geese.
Geese are larger and tend to live to a more mature age before consumption and down collection.These larger and older birds produce a significantly more complex, larger and stronger down cluster.
The quality of the raw material is a combination of specie, age and climate; and region plays a large role in determining this. While down is sourced throughout a majority of Europe and Asia, we choose to source from countries and regions that generally have the coldest climates. When the birds are raised in these colder climates, their down tends to grow larger to create greater warmth for the bird.
The European regions also tend to consume the birds at a more mature age allowing for larger and more complex down than the Chinese counterpart. However, with our supply chain in China, we are still able to provide a premium, ultra-warm down that has many of the same characteristic of European material.
Many lots are even blended to provide superior performance characteristics at a more consumer-friendly price. After all, a majority of the worldâ€™s duck and geese are eaten in Asian countries which accounts for China producing close to 80% of the global down supply.