Hydrophobic Down – What is it?

hydrophobc-side-bannerprodzoomimg16272Developed by Nikwax, Hydrophobic down insulation a.k.a water resistant down, is the game changing new technology in outdoor apparel that has taken the industry and consumers by storm (no pun intended).

Even today in the days of outdoor fabric and equipment technology getting more and more advanced, nothing can match the superior performance of down – a natural fibre – for light weight, loft and thermal efficiency in dry conditions. It has, however, traditionally had one Achilles heel – fragility in wet conditions.

Down filling loses most of it’s insulating properties, loft and light weight once it becomes wet. This is particularly a problem in cold, damp climates like the UK, where we can’t guarantee it won’t rain!

A man-made synthetic insulation like Primaloft florishes in cold, wet conditions, filling the gap left by down’s vulnerability to wet weather and we will often recommend it to those who are going to be using it primarily in this country.

One must be very careful with their down garment and ensure it doesn’t get wet and lose much of it’s performance. Even if you don’t get caught in the rain, prolonged exertion in a down item over a period of time can result in moisture from the body getting soaked up by the garment, resulting in a slow deterioration of performance during an expedition.

Hydrophobic down, a.k.a water resistant down is the solution to these issues. It is one of the market leading water resistant down insulations on the market.

Hydrophobic Down

hydrophobic-down-logoWhat is hydrophobic down? What does it do?

Water resistant down insulation is being given all kinds of different names by a variety of brands. We have DriDown, ProDown, Hydrodown, Q-shield, hydrophobic down, SuperHydroDown (okay, we made the last one up, but you get the point).

Developed by Nikwax and used by Rab in all of their down garments and sleeping bags, Hydrophonic Down is a water repellent/resistant down insulation that has been pre-treated with a special water repellent agent to offer the best properties of both synthetic and natural untreated down as well as several major advantages:

  1. Hydrophobic down resists water for considerably longer than untreated down.
  2. It retains the ability to stay lofted when wet, unlike untreated down
  3. It absorbs much less water than untreated down, keeping it lofted and preventing clumping and the ‘down soup’ you get when untreated down gets wet.
  4. It dries quicker, and you won’t have to put it in the tumble drier with tennis balls!
How does it work?

In their own words: “Nikwax Hydrophobic Down™ has a flexible Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish on each individual down filament. This reduces absorption of moisture protecting down from perspiration, condensation and precipitation and maintaining loft and insulation in cold and damp conditions.

“Keeping down free from moisture allows it to be effective for longer when in use. Additionally, it is protected from microbial action which can cause breakdown of damp down, therefore increasing the usable lifetime of your item.

Hydrophobic/water resistant down will retain it’s thermal efficiency in a much wider range of conditions and therefore is the ideal solution to the challenges provided by a cold, wet climate like our own.

Hydrophobic Down vs Down

Untreated down (left) compared to hydrophobic down (right)

The Berghaus’ Ilam jacket was one of the first hydrophobic down jackets on the market last year and it was very successful, earning plenty of praise.

This season, more manufacturers are getting in on the act and introducing water resistant down insulation to their ranges.

Rab Microlight Jacket

The Microlight Jacket collection is an example of has been really popular at Taunton Leisure already this autumn –  a range of highly compressible, light weight and good looking jackets are great for everyday use and an ideal winter companion for all outdoor activities. It uses water resistant hydrophobic down for the best qualities of synthetic and natural down.


Women’s Microlight (left) & Men’s Microlight Alpine Jacket (right)

You can store one of these in your day pack, packed away into it’s own chest pocket, and bring it out if the temperature drops or you need a super warm layer when you stop.

It also has 125g of 750 European goose down (size large) and uses a 30D Pertex Microlight face fabric with a DWR solution which is shower proof, so unless you’re caught in really strong rainfall the insulation won’t get wet.

Environmentally Friendly

Nikwax waterproofing products are WaterBased, non-aerosol, non-flammable, non-hazardous and environmentally friendly. They contain no harmful solvents or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are completely free of fluorocarbons (which have been shown to be persistent in the environment and have been associated with serious health issues).

This is a game changing new technology that has raised the bar for insulated jackets. Rab and Nikwax both have outstanding pedigree in outdoor gear, so we’re confident these will continue to be a big success.

See the full range of Hydrophobic Down Products.

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