The cost of high-quality goose down for puffy jackets and sleeping bags has more than doubled since 2009. This recent Wall Street Journal article tells the story, but it basically boils down to increasing demand meets decreasing supply.
Most goose down comes from China and is essentially a byproduct of producing geese for food. But dietary and other societal changes in China mean that fewer geese are being raised for food. At the same time, down garments have become ever more ubiquitous, in demand, and in style.
The price of goose down has gone up as a result and major apparel makers—including The North Face, Columbia Sportswear, and Land’s End—plan on raising the retail prices of their down garments in 2014, particular for high-end down products.
In response to these rising costs, there has been a rekindled interest in down-synthetic blends, which reduce the amount of goose down needed. At the end of December, Primaloft unveiled its proprietary Performance Down Blend, which comes in 60/40 and 70/30 down/Primaloft blends. Expect to see more of this as Allied Feather and DownTech—two of the largest down suppliers—roll out their own blends later this year.
So what to do? Take care of what you’ve already got. Give your existing down garments and/or sleeping bag some TLC. Goose down is some amazing stuff and with minimal care can easily maintain the vast majority of its warmth and loft for decades. Dirt, dust, and body oils and sweat do compromise down’s puffiness; hand-washing it with a mild down-specific soap (I use NikWax Down Wash) readily brings it back to near-new condition. And never, ever keep a down sleeping bag or jacket compressed in a stuff sack for home storage, which will cause lasting, crushing damage to the down plumules and feathers.