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down vs down

8:12 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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inexpensive 600 or 650 fill puffy down parka (pick your brand, there are many): 16-20 ounces, super warm, compresses to the size of a volleyball or smaller.  often available for about 50-60 bucks on sale.  colors are generally staid and boring (for men, anyway).

expensive 800 fill down sweater: 12-14 ounces, toasty warm but not as much as the cheaper jacket above, compresses to slightly larger than a softball.  available for somewhere between 130 and 200, depending on sales and your tolerance for absurd colors.

i understand these serve somewhat different functions.  my question for you: worth the extra cost to save a half-pound and some space?

9:55 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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It depends. what do you want to do with it

9:59 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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A good question, one that I struggle with personally.  How much is an ounce worth?  Give up a perfectly functional piece of gear and spend new money to buy something lighter?

Here's my example:

My lightest bag weighs 3 pounds 12 ounces, good to about 15-20.  Too warm for summer, but it is my lightest bag and that is what I use.

Replace this bag with a Marmot Arroyo, good to 30 degrees and weighs 1 pound 11 ounces.  I picked the Arroyo because it is available from REI and I would use a dividend some year to buy the bag.

I save 33 ounces in the process.  A significant savings in weight for one item.  My cost for the bag after a dividend coupon plus state sales tax is $246.81.

How do you balance 33 ounces against $246.81?  Somedays it seems like a good idea.

10:32 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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If I was active in mountaineering, winter climbing, or long winter trips, it would be worth it to me to drop some serious cash for Significantly lower bulk and lower weight. Being that such is not the case currently, I am perfectly happy with my $30 600 fill puffer jacket. Haven't gotten pants yet.  

10:59 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I just got a 800 mauntain hardwear to take to Nepal. It was 130 I believe.  I am supported so only have to have it in my day pack as I get higher/colder areas. IMHO there is no substitute for being good and warm and able to stay that way should something go awray. Is this overkill? Would a 600 do as much...only you hard core guys could tell me that.

11:21 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Its mostly just weight savings.  Even my 650 Cabella's puffy (cost less than a $$Benjamin$$) has every feature my OR one does, and its blue, not neon yellow (they called it PILSNER).

Unless you want a hood, just about any puffy nowadays will come with the features you need.  I don't need DWR finish on my puffy, if its raining, I dont need it- its too warm. 

As far as weight goes, there are two sides to that.  Ultra-Light is fine and dandy but the heavier jacket is heavier because its made of sturdier stuff, can be mended and is less likely to tear at the drop of a hat. 

My OR puffy scares me to wear it in some situations like skiing b/c I don't want it to snag, rip and send showers of down evrywhere. 

Can the average mortal on a budget really tell the performance difference between 700 and 900 down besides the cost?  I doubt it. 

I can almost guarantee that someone will chime in here and tell us about their favorite 900 fill, free-range, organic, gluten free, down puffy hand-made by buddist monks which is sooo amazing they would never go back to mere 800 fill. 

But really, ask yourself, how did people ever venture outside before the days of hydrocarbon enhanced super-cloting? That, I think, is the real answer.

 

11:48 a.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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to me, the weight and space savings don't mean much, but i'm not really dedicated to being ultralight.  the main advantages of a down sweater to me are (a) the better ability to layer and (b) the better agility i have from being surrounded by less bulk.  the main advantage of the inexpensive down jacket is the lower price for something that mostly serves the same functions. 

do the new lightweight down sweaters age/last as well as the cheap jackets? i'm assuming yes.  a well cared-for down jacket can provide 20 years or more of service. 

finally - has anyone shopped the patagonia down sweater vs. the eddie bauer first ascent down sweater, and what meaningful differences did anyone observe? i have heard the bauer sweaters are cut a little more narrow/athletic, but not much else. 

 

thanks. 

1:54 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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finally - has anyone shopped the patagonia down sweater vs. the eddie bauer first ascent down sweater, and what meaningful differences did anyone observe? i have heard the bauer sweaters are cut a little more narrow/athletic, but not much else. 

I have shopped both while making my selection, which ultimately was a mountain hardwear. But the FA seems avery bit as reasonable to have....love the PAT too. Mine came down to a sale at Moutnain Hardwear because any one of the three would have fit the bill. And I am a bit plump,  :S   so usually get the mens because all the womens are cut for small waited people.  The cuts were not vastly dissimilar in these three at least.

4:05 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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I think the new stuff will hold up just fine as long as you take care of it.  Outside of snagging a hole in the nylon there is little to go wrong.  I've had a couple of zippers replaced in vintage down jackets and that can be done on modern jackets as well whether they are the lighter or heavier versions.  The high end fabrics feel very flimsy, but may be tougher than we realize. 

4:27 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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Is there a patching material I might want to keep on hand for a long trek? It does feel pretty delicate to me...the outter material on most down sweaters, that is...maybe something adhesive not quite as McGyver as duct tape?

5:45 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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6:55 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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There is not much difference in the price of used 600 fill vrs 650 fill if you buy used in the off season!! 

7:07 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

Is there a patching material I might want to keep on hand for a long trek? It does feel pretty delicate to me...the outter material on most down sweaters, that is...maybe something adhesive not quite as McGyver as duct tape?

 You could always use Tear-Aid. I love the stuff. There are 2 types.

See below:

http://www.tear-aid.com/?gclid=CIblwbrGlqwCFZFV7AodT2HXT

7:43 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said:

inexpensive 600 or 650 fill puffy down parka..

(versus)

..expensive 800 fill down sweater: 12-14 ounces...

I actually see three categories. 

  1. Cheap down for most cold season applications (i.e the 650 down jackets mentioned above).
  2. The expensive high fill down apparel for most cold season applications (i.e the down sweaters mentioned above).
  3. Expedition weight down gear.  (It's all expensive.) 

The first two are more or less interchangeable.  The distinguishing factor is more about the shell fabric and length of the garments, than the type of down used.  Most of the high fill gear utilizes lighter, less bulky shells.  I like the lighter stuff, since I do not need a heavy durable shell for my down articles, preferring to use a dedicated soft or hard shell garment to protect my layering articles.

The expedition down is designed for continuous very cold conditions.  I experimented, trying to layer several down sweaters to emulate the function of a full on exped parka, but found the results fell short of my expectations.  But I do like two high fill down sweaters over a single more bulky 650 down jacket for most winter situations you'll experience in the lower 48.   Some may disagree, however, as the sweaters are cut shorter.  For me this is not an issue, as I also have down bib pants that covers the gap.

Ed   

 

 

 

7:49 p.m. on November 1, 2011 (EDT)
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giftogab said:

Is there a patching material I might want to keep on hand for a long trek? It does feel pretty delicate to me...the outter material on most down sweaters, that is...maybe something adhesive not quite as McGyver as duct tape?

Wear a dedicated soft or hard shell over your delicate down items to preclude rips.

Duct tape is fine for field patches.  Take a needle and thread too; most rips can be sewn closed.  Don't worry if your apparel items take on a damaged and scared appearance; you look like a bum in the city, but in the back country those patches, tape, and stains help separate the tourists from the trekkers.

Ed

9:57 a.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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+1

A tent patch kit, superglue, needle and thread or anything from McNett (I like these people) will work well for holes in a down jacket. Remember when sewing down jackets together, do not pull the seam together too tightly which can cause the delicate fabric to part, superglue-ing a patch in place prevents this issue.  

Ed, I partially disagree with your point about wearing down under a hard shell.  While I agree that this will protect the shell, the down jacket's effectiveness comes from its loft.  Compressing it under a jacket limits its loft/effectiveness.  Similar to what happens when you sleep on a down sleeping bag, the underside compresses and will not insulate.  A down jacket is most properly used in cold-dry weather over the top of all of your other layers. 

1:59 p.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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sage - with expedition-weight down gear, i agree that it's not necessarily intended to wear under a shell, but it does depend on how you size your shell.  for down that might serve as a mid-layer, wearing under a shell is fine most of the time, and necessary in some conditions.  because i gear for very cold and very windy winter trips, not uncommon for me to be well below zero and walking in winds 50 mph or more, i make sure that the hard shells i use in teh winter can accommodate a decent-sized down parka underneath without compromising the insulation.  hard shells geared toward expeditions generally provide that kind of extra space; narrower, athletic-cut hard shells can present the kind of challenge you identified. 

2:52 p.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Sub-zero cold plus 50+mph winds, sounds like winter in Canada's NWT or even northern BC-Alberta; miserable conditions and not much fun to be out walking!

I dunno, but, while I have and do wear some shells over some of my down gear, I won't over an expedition parka, as such a shell would be far too large and sloppy for my tastes in the mountains. I do wear an ID Pullover in eVent over my Montbell TWrap UL or even one of my ID Rundle jackets, but, this is really a "stopgap" measure and I wouldn't do this with a down jacket.

I think that the whole issue of down "quality" is very much a product of marketing hype and while I have seen substantial differences in down in the gear I have had, the really good stuff makes itself obvious, as it lasts and lasts and lasts and still performs like new. Back when "mature white Polish goosedown" ws THE ONLY way to fly for the "egspurts", I bought my Richard Egge double duvet and it is STILL as lofty as ever, 37 years later.

So, for me, I look for various indicators of quality in a down garment and don't sweat it if the label says "900 fill-organic Buddhist picked" or merely "800 fill white Polish by the most cool gear designer ever" or, even my humble, old "600 fill" from Marmot Mountain Works in '77-'78, which has been among the finest down I have used since my first circa '65.

If, I were to wear a shell over a lofty down parka, I would do so in the cold of the Arctic and the gear worn in places like Minnesota, works just fine there, as well. I know this as my wife and a couple of relatives are former Arctic "outpost" RNs and other friends are former CanForce survival instructors in Canada's enormous and empty north and they have told me what they wore.

3:24 p.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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Two issues that have not been mentioned, are quality of down, and type of baffles. These are both factors in warmth, and longevity. Higher quality down, after being compressed, will return with more relative loft than poor quality down. This may not become apparent until it has had some extended use. As has been mentioned, high quality down products can last twenty years or more. I have a Bauer "Buzzard Proof" :-) sweater(duvet) made in 1964 and it still works well and has good loft.

Baffles are another matter concerned with warmth. If the down doesn't stay where it is supposed to, there will be cold spots.

A final note is about fabrics. Heavier fabrics tend to compress the down and consequently have less warmth than the same product would made out of a lighter material.

Ultimately, we all have different internal heaters, and what kind of layers you are wearing over and under your down garment. I personally have two sweaters and while the old Bauer is clearly warmer, I like my Mont Blanc for it's compressability.

9:44 p.m. on November 2, 2011 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

..Ed, I partially disagree with your point about wearing down under a hard shell.  While I agree that this will protect the shell, the down jacket's effectiveness comes from its loft.  Compressing it under a jacket limits its loft/effectiveness...

Point of clarification: I wasn't suggesting using shell garments over extreme weather down articles, as expedition parkas usually have a soft shell for their exterior.  My comment was directed at most down apparel worn in lower 48, which typically has less than half the loft of exped down articles.  If I were selecting a new non-expend down article, I'd prefer one with the lightest fabric shell possible, and use in conjunction with a dedicated hard or soft shell sized to fit over all my layers without compressing what's inside.  This application more or less is in line with John's and Dewey's advice.  If I am only wearing a t shirt under my shell parka it does look like kid dressed in his daddy’s coat, but it works for me.

Ed

4:49 p.m. on November 3, 2011 (EDT)
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after all this, i pulled the trigger on a patagonia down sweater, discounted 35% because, apparently, 'light gecko green' isn't a very popular color for men.  my wife will probably steal it. 

i'm keeping the cheap puffy EMS down jacket, though the particular model I have has some of the worst baffling in the sleeves that I have seen; i have to annually shake down from one side to the other to avoid cold spots on the inside of my forearms/elbows.

one more comment - i don't recall ever wearing a hard shell over my heaviest down parka.  in part, that's because it might be a tight squeeze under a shell, but it's mostly because that down parka has a waterproof/breathable outer shell that's very effective at blocking the wind.  whether that shell material (mountain hardwear's "conduit") is really waterproof or really breathes is beside the point.  can't rain when it's below zero fahrenheit, and i only wear the thing in circumstances where i'm more worried about freezing to death than sweating.  (i made the mistake, once, of taking it to a soccer game in very cold, drizzly weather, maybe 35f outside.  the cold mist and wet beaded up on the outside - and i was sweltering within). 

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