It all began with Mountain Equipment (ME), the UK gear maker who recently began importing their excellent softgoods line to the States. ME’s “Down Codex” program is designed to track bird plumage insulation from the animal all the way to your sleeping bag or other “end use,” so you know what you’re buying (quality control) and how the animals were treated in getting you the goods (animal welfare).
Interestingly, one of the UK guys at Mountain Equipment told me that his impression is that consumers in Western Europe are much more concerned about the animal welfare part of this than those of us in North America. I don’t know if that’s really true, but have to say his impression got my attention. How about you WildSnowers? Any of you concerned with tracking how that down in your jacket is obtained? One interesting factoid regarding all this is that most down is actually a byproduct of the food industry (about 96% of the value of a goose is the meat). Because of that, how the birds are treated for food production is where the issues may be; force feeding and that sort of thing.
Having thus recently become interested in feathers, I got in a conversation with ME and they suggested a visit to the International Down and Feathers Lab (IDFL) to check out how down is tested and standardized — the “quality” part of the Codex equation. IDFL’s world headquarters are in Salt Lake City (with facilities around the world), so during Outdoor Retailer I spent a few hours getting the tour. Fascinating. Check it all out below (click images to enlarge).
Next, Part Two is an essay on down fill standards, or lack thereof in the outdoor industry.
As it were, we recommend a quality down puff jacket for backcountry skiing in all but the wettest climates. Get ready for winter and shop for it!