For those who are looking to learn and know more about Rab’s Down: Here is the best write up I can find about it all! Full disclosure this is from Rab. It was far too well written for me to re-do. I hope that you find it as informative as I have. Happy reading!
The Rab Guide to Down Insulation
No one knows down insulation like Rab does. It’s where Rab Carrington began back in 1980’s Sheffield and ever since those early days, Rab® down products have consistently represented the pinnacle of innovation and design.
Whether you’re mounting a polar expedition or just trying to stay warm at the crag, nothing beats the insulative performance of down. At Rab®, they utilise down’s unique properties in myriad different ways to suit the activities and environments that our customers find themselves in. So whether you are looking for an everyday winter jacket or a means of staying alive on your next Himalayan conquest, this guide will give you the information you need to pick the right jacket for the job.
Down is the layer of feathers that are closest to a bird’s body. These feathers are made of very fine tendrils and fibres that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to provide the lightest and most efficient means of trapping and holding air in position.
This trapped air produces an incredibly efficient thermal barrier, which at the weight and mass of down, is unrivalled by any natural or synthetic equivalent. By using down in the construction of garments and sleeping bags, we can ensure that your body heat stays put, instead of escaping into the atmosphere around you.
The individual down clusters expand, or loft, to fill an area that is vast relative to their size. Because the down consists almost entirely of trapped air, the result is a product that is incredibly light and also very easy to compress. Its down’s ability to pack down small into the pocket of a backpack or stuff sack that makes it the ideal insulation choice for climbers, mountaineers and anyone else who need lightweight clothing.
Down is naturally breathable, which makes it very comfortable to wear, but this comes with a drawback – it can absorb moisture. This moisture can overload the fibres, or cause them to stick together, stripping the down of its insulative properties.
To mitigate this effect we apply a water repellent “hydrophobic” treatment to the down. This treatment significantly improves the performance of the down by preventing the clusters from absorbing moisture and helping it to retain its loft. In the event that the down does become waterlogged the treatment significantly decreases the time it takes the down to dry and its loft to recover.
It’s worth noting that hydrophobic treatment means that a down jacket will perform better in wet conditions, but it’s not intended to make a garment waterproof. If you’re looking for a down jacket that is also waterproof you’ll want something that combines insulation with a waterproof material, like our new Valiance jacket which combines 800FP down with a Pertex® Shield outer fabric.
Down vs. Synthetic insulation
Broadly speaking our garments and sleeping bags use one of two types of insulation – down or synthetic. Although down is, for its weight, always warmer than a synthetic equivalent, there are instances where synthetic insulation may be the preferable choice.
Synthetic insulation is relatively good at dealing with moisture, especially when compared to down that has not been hydrophobically treated. When synthetic insulation is soaked it will offer more warmth than down which makes it a good choice for damp and cold conditions, typical of Scottish winter climbing.
Synthetic insulation is generally easier to clean and care for and is also a less expensive material than down. Ultimately though , there is still no synthetic material that can rival the warmth to weight ratio of duck or goose down. So where weight and packability are a concern there is really no contest.
Duck and Goose down
Rab jackets use either duck down or goose down. Higher grade down (700FP and up) tends to be from geese as the clusters are larger, offering a higher warmth to weight ratio and improved packability.
Although duck down consists of smaller clusters and a reduced warmth to weight ratio, we find that it is still the best choice for everyday jackets. Jackets such as the Sanctuary or Deep cover Parka use Duck down because premium goose down is simply too warm for everyday use. We also use duck down in our Asylum bouldering jacket because here, weight and packability are less of a priority.
Responsible Down Standard
While down products have revolutionised the way we dress for outdoor activities, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that the raw material is farmed from animals on a large scale. As the popularity of down garments grows we have an increased responsibility to ensure that our insulation is produced in environments where animal welfare standards are being maintained.
The responsible down standard is an an independent, voluntary global standard that aims to ensure that down is sourced from ducks and geese that have been treated well. This means farming down in environments that allow them to live healthy lives, express innate behaviours and not suffer from fear, pain or distress.
If you want to find out more about the Responsible Down standard you can visit the website here.
Down fill power
Fill power refers to the quality of down. Fill power does not refer to the amount of down used and it cannot be relied upon to give an idea of a product’s warmth, unless, that is, you are also considering the products ‘fill weight’ too.
We grade down according to the size of the clusters, that is the amount of air that the down is able to trap relative to its weight. To do this we take 1 gram of fully lofted down and record its volume, the result represents the down’s “Fill power”.
All of our Duck down is 650FP and our Goose down ranges between 750 and 1000FP. The range of down that we use allows us to fine-tune our garments to meet the differing demands of our customers, both in terms of budget and intended use.
We use 850 fill power down in our Continuum and new Infinity-G jacket, designed for alpinists who need to minimise weight. Because of the high levels of loft, these jackets pack down small but still provide enough warmth to make them ideal for high altitudes and low temperatures.
We only use 1000 fill power goose down in one jacket, the Zero-G. The Zero-G combines incredibly high quality down with an ultra-fine 7d Pertex® Quantum outer in the ultimate alpine down jacket. Its warmth-to-weight ratio is unsurpassed and it represents the pinnacle of Rab’s down expertise.
Warmth to weight
How warm your Jacket is will depend on a number of factors, but in the main it comes down to fill power and fill weight. Most lightweight, technically oriented jackets tend to use a very high fill power, however, this doesn’t mean our lightweight jackets are necessarily warmer. The Asylum jacket uses our lowest grade 650FP duck down yet it is one of the warmest in our range, simply because it contains a lot of down.
A jacket for everyday use can use a larger quantity of relatively low fill-power down, because weight isn’t a concern and the warmth requirements are modest. In contrast a jacket designed to be carried on climbs in winter conditions must be both light and warm. in this case using a high fill power down lets us put less in the jacket and achieve a higher ratio of warmth to weight.
Box-wall garments are made from distinct box-shaped compartments that run horizontally around the body. Because the box-shaped baffles are not pinched at the edges there is space for the down to fully loft throughout the chamber allowing for an even distribution of down and vastly reducing the likelihood of cold spots. The extra material used to create each box means that these garments are usually heavier and less packable. However, in the most extreme temperatures, they are often the best solution.
Without the array of revolutionary Pertex® fabrics that our designers have at their disposal, creating down garments that meet the very different requirements of our customers would be impossible.
The longstanding relationship between Rab® and Pertex® is key to ensuring that the garments we produce represent the pinnacle of design. Below we outline the Pertex® fabrics that we use in our range.
Pertex® Quantum is a material with a tightly woven structure which is both light and soft. These properties make it an ideal fit for down clothing as it allows down insulation to fully loft. It is also highly windproof, so the warm air inside your jacket stays there even in high winds. Pertex® quantum also has a durable water repellent (DWR) applied which helps to shed light rain and snow, extending the time before your down starts to absorb moisture.
We use Quantum across our range in a variety of different fabric weights, balancing weight and durability from our classic kinder smock to our ultra-light Infinity-G
Pertex® Quantum Pro
Pertex® Quantum Pro uses a water resistant coating to provide increased weather resistance. This makes it ideal for jackets that are going to see year-round mountain use, especially when they also feature hydrophobic down.
Rab uses Pertex Shield across our range of waterproof jackets. For those down jackets that need to be waterproof as well as warm, Pertex Shield is the outer fabric of choice.
Everyday Jackets are made to be your go-to winter coat, whether it’s quick bouldering sessions, warming up at the climbing wall or braving a freezing January commute.
By combining the technical knowledge we gain from our more specialist jackets with durable outer fabrics and high quality European duck down, our everyday jackets are the perfect companion for colder weather.
While most of the jackets in our range have a technical fit to allow for layering and fit around harnesses our everyday jackets are built with comfort and style in mind. The Microlight Alpine Parka and the Deep Cover Parka, for example, both provide top to bottom protection from the cold making them perfect for wintery commutes and walks.
This category isn’t just for wearing around town, though, and we’ve also included jackets like the Asylum, which is a perfect outer layer for boulderers and our classic Kinder Smock, which gained popularity around the Peak District as a belay jacket but which may be just a tad too heavy for more technical excursions.
These jackets use ultra lightweight materials and very high fill power down to keep you warm in full winter conditions without compromising on weight or packability.
While all these jackets offer exceptional warmth for their weight, there is still variation in the range. Jackets like the Neutrino Endurance and Positron weigh a little more, and are built from more durable outer materials. They also have the highest fill-weight of down in this category. They are best suited to high altitude mountaineering where guaranteed warmth and durability are an absolute must.
By contrast, The Continuum Jacket and Infinity G are designed with a focus on maximum warmth to weight ratio.. To achieve this they use ultra-light outer materials and high fill-power down, allowing for lower fill weights without compromising warmth. This is what makes them the go to choice for alpinists who are looking to stay warm while saving on weight, allowing them to move as quickly as possible in the mountains.
One product that stands apart in this category is the Zero G – it’s our first 1000FP down jacket, and the culmination of decades of design experience. The Zero G is a specialist piece for those who truly appreciate every gram saved, but still require a jacket that can deal with the harshest of Winter conditions.
From the rugged ranges of Alaska to the vast expanses of Antarctica these jackets are designed for high-altitude and polar environments. These products have taken people to some of the most extreme locations in the world and back again. All of the jackets below are built to be hard-wearing and warm in even the most hostile conditions.
One of the distinguishing features of jackets in this category is the use of box wall construction to ensure consistent warmth without cold spots. They also use waterproof Pertex® Shield as an outer fabric to keep the weather at bay and have a generous fit to accommodate multiple layers.
Our Resolution jacket is designed for environments where water resistance isn’t going to suffice. It combines 800FP goose down with a fully taped Pertex® Shield outer. The result is an exceptionally warm jacket that is also fully waterproof.
The Batura Jacket is a classic of the Rab range. It’s designed to provide warmth and weather protection in polar and high altitude environments. Redesigned in 2017 it’s now 200g lighter than before without compromising warmth or protection. Waterproof, warm and rugged the Batura offers unrivaled levels of warmth and weather protection.
Once you’ve got your new jacket, you’ll want to make sure it lasts – we’ve got a few pointers for proper down storage and cleaning.
To keep your equipment in working order for as long as possible we offer a variety of services which are carried out in our head office workshop; including an in-house wash and dry service for all of our down products.
We cannot guarantee that washing will remove all stains from lightweight technical fabrics but we can assure you that the down inside will be clean and loft well.
Rab® down products can be home cleaned, however this is a difficult and time-consuming job as the drying process can take several hours. Please give it careful consideration before starting and note that box wall garments and sleeping bags may require you to redistribute the down after washing. Allow at least 3-4 hours for a jacket and 6-8 hours for a sleeping bag.
1) Hand or machine wash on a gentle 30ºC cycle with Nikwax Down Wash Direct, NOT DETERGENT.
2) Rinse to make sure there is no soap residue present within the product. If you are cleaning a box walled product, when removing it from the washing machine ensure that the weight of the item is supported by ‘cradling’ it in a bath towel or similar. Failure to do so may result in damage to the down compartments.
3) Immediate tumble drying should commence in a commercial dryer on a cool setting. Remove the item from the dryer every half hour, manipulating the down within the baffles to restore loft. Avoid the temptation to remove the item from the dryer too soon. Although the outer fabrics may feel dry and warm to the touch, down contained within the baffling can still be clumped by moisture.
4) When finished it is advisable to store your jacket or sleeping bag uncompressed in a dry, cool place. Airing should continue for two days before use. Failure to allow enough time for the item to dry will result in a flat looking garment that will need to be re-washed and dried again.
Down should be stored uncompressed and out of direct sunlight in a dry, cool place. If your down product gets damp, air it thoroughly and make sure it is completely dry before putting it back into storage. If the product is still damp after airing, a short cycle in a tumble dryer on a cool setting should help to complete the drying and restore the loft.