Patagonia has just unveiled a radical new species of goose down that provides more puff per ounce than anything else on the market. How did they do it? With some serious R&D and high-tech wizardry that prominently features the (suitably sci-fi) phrase “silicon-based plasma-bonding process.”
The chemistry and science is undoubtedly complex, and involves all kinds of industrial-looking lab equipment (as the Patagonia video below highlights), but the short story is this. Patagonia takes 800-fill down and applies a special surface treatment to the feathers that adds both water-resistance and increases the fill power to 1000. They call it Encapsil Down. The development story is pretty interesting and detailed extensively in this recent post on Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line.
(By the way, fill power is a measure of how many cubic inches an ounce of goose down takes up under standard laboratory testing conditions. A high fill-power down is thus warmer for its weight than a lower fill-power down.)
In late February, Patagonia released the first product using this new variety of down, the Encapsil Down Belay Parka. Weighing a mere 18 ounces, it is designed for serious cold-weather alpine use. It retails for $699. You can find in-depth reviews of the drool-worthy garment at Outside Magazine and on GearJunkie.
The one notable drawback of this new down? Maintaining the water-repellent coating and super-high loft requires a special cleaning process. According to Patagonia, regular down-cleaning soaps and detergents negatively affect the water-repellent coating and the company instead recommends a “liquid carbon dioxide process.” Since you won’t find liquid CO2 on your local store shelves, you’ll need to send the jacket to Patagonia to be cleaned, which they do free of charge.
Learn more about goose down:
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.