The fill in Nunatak products is goose down. A natural material, its commercial quality varies from cheap pillow fill rife with prickly feathers, to ultra fine, clean, almost feather-less down. To regulate such a changeable commodity, the industry has several standards and certifications in place. For our purposes at Nunatak two of these apply: fill power and the Responsibly Down Standard. More about this in a bit.
Quality down is, plainly spoken, incredible. Its weight to warmth ratio is unsurpassed, legendary. Feeling the raw down between your fingers and watching it puff up in clouds of complex structures puts you in awe. This fleetingly light medium also carries the warranted reputation of being the longest lasting fill for rugged outdoor use. It will re-loft again and again after compression, moisture attacks, abuse of all sorts. Compared to some synthetic counterparts, the ephemeral down seems virtually indestructible.
All that said, the synthetics still have the upper hand in one department, although with new technologies this edge is dulling. Yes, we are referring to moisture resistance. For down sleeping bag users, it pays off to be somewhat alert when water vapor abounds.
Two simple rules will go a long way to ensure dry down:
*Use safe storage on the trail, such as a dry bag. Even when the sun shines one can slip while crossing a creek.
*At night take measures not to rub against the often wet fabric of the shelter. With the proliferation of single wall designs the inherent condensation issue of waterproof tent fabrics has grown and can create a soggy mess out of your sleeping bag.
While the almost hydroscopic quality of down is consistently brought up negatively in pro/con discussions, in real life it seems much less of an issue. In several decades of quite advanced outdoor activities I have yet to have a 'down disaster' involving my sleeping bag, nor do I remember any partner recounting serious loss of loft due to moisture. We have lived and climbed out of snow caves in arctic Norway for 10 days without seeing the sun. Packrafted coastal British Columbia. Stuck on the side of El Capitan in deluges. Our down sleeping bags often were the least of our concerns.
Down garments, on the other hand, are more likely to suffer, and I do recall several times trudging thru the hills with wet down. Here I would be hard pressed to unanimously favor down under all circumstances.
We use goose down with a laboratory rated fill power of 900-950, and lower grade 800FP in a few select products. What is fill power? A higher number provides better fluffiness or warmth to weight ratio, without going too technical. A few years back 800FP was the stuff to get. So 900FP is good, very good. Most suppliers currently cannot offer any better than straight up 950FP goose down.
Quality down comes from geese. Ducks also produce down suitable for insulation. Nunatak do NOT use duck down.
So we got you covered with top shelf down. What else?
Well, there's this: Innovative tinkerers in the industry have devised a method where every surface of the vast and intricately shaped down is treated with a water repellent chemical without significantly adding weight or reducing loft. This is, of course, brilliant, bettering the only shortcoming of down. The effect is noticeable, yet not strong enough to skip the usual moisture controlling precautions outlined a few paragraphs up.
This treatment is based on a 'chemical', although one that is certified to be safe for consumers. Some folks remain skeptical, as funky compounds are encroaching every aspect of our lives. Therefore, Nunatak gives the option of old fashioned pure down or 'Dry Down'.
Our in-house testing shows that Dry Down exhibit less lofting ability than regular down with the same fill power. Nunatak products built with Dry Down will therefore contain up to several ounces more fill, and as such exceed the weight expectations to some degree.
In the same vein we have the important Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certification. Down is harvested, as they say, but from birds, not fields. In today's interconnected world we can no longer ignore our environmental impacts and down has the potential of leaving a trail of gruesome practices in the name of profit. Nunatak's supplier is a pioneer in developing the rigorous Responsible Down Standard, thus giving us full disclosure of a humane and ethical supply chain. More than the dry treatment mentioned above, we feel this is the most important step we and the consumer can take.
Thanks for reading.