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Post-Trip Cleanup: Caring for Your Gear

The return from a trip is usually just as chaotic as the frenzied packing. Inevitably, we get home late at night with commitments the following morning. Post-trip cleanup simply doesn’t happen the way we intend. But take a step back from the bedlam, slow down, and think about how you care for your gear when the trails have been trekked and the rivers run. After all, properly cleaning and storing our equipment will keep it in prime condition for our next adventure. If you’ve thrown out the care guide for your latest investment, here’s what I recommend for post-trip cleanup and long-term care.


  • Tents

Tents are often packed up still holding the morning dew and promptly forgotten about in our rush for hot showers at home. It’s important to set your tent up or hang it to dry completely once you return, which will prevent mildew. Shake it out well, or turn it inside out to remove the sand and dirt that you tracked in. Those particles can result in punctured or worn fabric if they’re not removed. Take care not to leave your tent in direct sunlight while it dries; those UV rays are as harsh on nylon as they are on our skin. After most trips, this routine will be enough.

Once a year, it doesn’t hurt to dive into some deeper maintenance. You can wash your tent with a mild soap or use Nikwax Tech Wash, and I find it best to wash by hand. Use a soft sponge to scrub any mud or stains off. This may also be a good time to seam seal your rain fly if it’s been a while, and while you’re at it treat the rain fly with TX Direct to re-waterproof it. Take a minute to check the poles— is the shock cord still intact, or is it time to revitalize the old? If your tent is more than a few years old, it may be due for solar proofing, as well. Finally, inspect your tent body and fly for pin-sized holes that need patched, and cover those with a combination of seam sealant and repair tape.


Tech Wash is a versatile essential for post-trip cleanup.

  • Backpacks and Stuff Sacks

Backpacks don’t need much care, but on the rare occasion they become salt-stained and hold onto a foul odor at trip’s end. Dunk your pack in a tub with a mild soap such as Dr. Bronner’s and agitate it. A brush may be needed to remove pesky stains. Make sure you let the pack dry completely before storing it, since hip belts and harnesses can harbor water well after the rest has dried.

Stuff sacks, compression sacks, and dry sacks can also be dunked in a mild soap solution. Again, air dry is best. These don’t need washed often but should be hung up to dry after every trip.

  • Sleeping Bags

When you have to hold your breath before you crawl into your sleeping bag, it’s time for laundry. Sleeping bags don’t need washed often, but a yearly cycle will extend the life and comfort of your bag. Sleeping bags are delicate, however, and improperly washing a bag can damage it. Care options differ for synthetic- and down- filled bags. Synthetic bags are easy to care for—toss it in the washer with a mild detergent and let it run.

For all the benefits of down, it requires a little extra care when laundry day comes. I recommend washing your down bag with a special detergent like Nikwax Down Wash to keep your bag in the best condition. Down bags will need washed in cool water on a gentle cycle, and you’ll need a front-loading machine without an agitator. The agitator on your machine can tear the lining between the baffles, meaning all the bag’s down will end up clumped in one spot. Take care when transferring a wet bag from the washer to dryer, and never hang a soaked down bag to dry. The weight of wet down can tear the lining between baffles as the bag hangs. Bags can be dried on low heat, which may take several cycles. Adding a few tennis balls to the dryer will break up the clumps of down and return your bag to maximum loft.


  • Sleeping Pads

When you get back from a trip, lay your sleeping pad out to dry. If it’s inflatable or self-inflating, leave the valve open so any moisture inside the pad can dry. With self-inflating pads, it’s best not to store the pad compressed. When the foam core is consistently compressed, it doesn’t inflate on its own next time it’s used. Rather than rolling it up, self-inflating pads can be left open and tucked in a closet.

Like most gear, sleeping pads should be washed with a mild soap every few months. Inflatable pads are especially important to clean, since packing them away with sediment can result in punctures. Strong detergents and cleaning products can wear down the airtight seal on inflatable pads, so take caution when cleaning.

  • Clothing

I shouldn’t have to say this, but yes, you should do laundry after a trip. That’s not where most people run into problems. Rather, improperly washing garments is more likely to result in damaged fabrics. Most outdoor clothing has care instructions that differ slightly from what you may be used to. Whether your clothes are synthetic, bamboo, wool, or hemp, they’ll do best washed in cool water on a gentle cycle. As for drying, most apparel will last longer and perform best if you let it air dry. Wool takes special care, since heat will quickly transform your base layer or sweater into a child’s size. Bamboo, hemp, wool, and all mid-layers and jackets should be hung to dry.

Caring for outdoor apparel takes extra effort; wool, bamboo, hemp, and synthetic fabrics are delicate.

  • Down Jackets

Over time, the fill in your down jacket will begin to clump together due to dirt, grime, and oil. When this happens, your jacket loses much of its insulating power and it’s time for a restorative wash. Like down sleeping bags, your garment should be washed with a specialized down treatment. Wash in a front-loading machine, or hand wash in a bathtub. Once again, adding tennis balls to the dryer will break up those clumps and return the fluff to your winter jacket.

  • Rain Gear

If your rain jacket starts to leak, it can often be given a second life just by cleaning it. As oils and particles clog the rain jacket’s pores, it becomes less breathable and prone to leaking. A simple clean can work wonders, but be sure to use a mild detergent such as Tech Wash that won’t degrade the waterproof membrane. Household detergents can sometimes ruin an expensive jacket. Rain jackets usually only need washed every few months, depending on their use. Once a year, it’s a good idea to treat your jacket with TX Direct wash-in waterproofing to restore the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating.



The right gear care can keep your rain jacket working properly for endless adventures.

  • Boots, Shoes, and Sandals

Inevitably, the smelliest piece of gear is our shoes. While that smell can never be fully extinguished, cleaning your footwear can provide some temporary relief. The same lesson as before rings true for footwear: use a mild soap. A scrub brush is essential for really cleaning the soles. Wash your shoes in a sink until the water runs clear. Remove the insoles before you let them air dry to prevent mildew from forming. Once clean, your shoes may need re-waterproofed, depending on the material. Leather boots and shoes can be treated with mink oil or a Nikwax product, which not only restores the water-repellency, but also extends the life of the leather. If the sole is separating from your shoe, a quick dose of Shoe Goo will keep you on your feet.

When sandal sweat becomes unbearable, a thorough washing is in order. Use Nikwax sandal wash—equipped with a scrub brush—to remove the foul-smelling bacteria in your sandals. Don’t forget to wash and scrub the straps, too! And if your sandal of choice happens to be Bedrocks or Chacos, you can send them back to the maker for a new sole or straps when the time comes. Keep your favorite sandals on your feet and out of the landfill!



If you have questions on how to care for your favorite piece or aren’t sure what cleaning product is best, stop by RRT or give us a call (513-248-7787) to chat with an expert. Likewise, our repair services are available for any tasks you’re not up to, from seam-sealing a tent to patching a leaky sleeping pad.


by: Will Babb

Staff Gear Favorites: Part 3

Your favorite piece of gear can be like a good friend. You might only see it a few times each year, but it can feel like no time has passed. RRT’s staff has many gear favorites; here are some pieces in particular that have won our affection year after year.

Liquidlogic's Braaap is a staff gear favorite, perfect for running whitewater.

Courtesy of Bart Steen

Sam – Liquidlogic – Braaap

Since the summer of 2016, the Liquidlogic Braaap has been my go-to boat of choice for all things whitewater. Whether you are learning to roll or running your favorite Class V, the Braaap is the right choice. I have run the hardest rapids on my resume and made my happiest memories on the river while paddling this boat. The whitewater boat design and innovation has dramatically changed since the Braaap first came out, however I still find myself wanting another.

The outfitting Liquidlogic uses inside the boat makes for a comfortable ride sunup to sundown and provides comfort walking to and from the river with a boat resting on your shoulder. The design of the Braaap feels sporty, fast, and nimble but provides the volume to manage steep creeks. My favorite rivers for the Braaap are ones with high volumes of water; notably, the Kern River when snow is melting or the Gauley River when the dam is releasing. While living in Asheville, NC I found myself buying boats from Liquidlogic, as they’re designed by paddlers that ran the same rivers as me. If you see me at RRT, please ask about the Braaap and its more playful counterpart, the Party Braaap. 

*Although not a stock item, RRT is happy to order the Braaap or other whitewater kayaks for you given advance notice. Contact a staff member for details.

Karoline's gear favorite is Rab's Electron Pro down jacket.


Karoline – Rab – Electron Pro

A love letter to my Electron:

Dear Electron, Thank you for keeping me warm. Through cold bonfires, brisk hikes, and cold days at the crag, you are always there for me. You are truly a cozy little cocoon of happiness. XOXO


Karoline's favorite gear is Rab's ultra-packable Electron Pro down jacket.

Rab’s Electron Pro down jacket packs down to the size of a small house cat.

Perry – Rab – Microlight Alpine

On the streets or on the trail, the Rab Microlight Alpine is the first piece out of my closet. Its 700-fill down keeps me toasty when needed, and compacts down small when not. With a wind-resistant and ripstop outer material, this is the only layer I need until the rain starts.


Joe C – Rab – Ascendor Light Pants

What if I told you there are men’s pants that feel like yoga pants but look like normal hiking pants? Well, there are: the Ascendor Light pants by Rab. They are so lightweight, it hardly feels like you’re wearing any pants at all! They also come in some fantastic colors. I love using these pants for hiking or climbing because they are lightweight and breathable. It is so easy to move in them you can land the heel hook that makes no sense at all but definitely looks badass. These pants are worth the money and you definitely won’t regret buying them.

Joe's favorite gear are his Ascendor Light pants from Rab.

Rab’s Ascendor Light pants offer the breathability, flexibility, and comfort needed for the gnarliest heel hooks.

All Around Pick – Nemo- Tensor

Incredibly, our staff each selected a different item for their favorite piece of gear. Their favorites covered everything from boats to a poop shovel, but surprisingly enough, a sleeping pad wasn’t listed. That isn’t because we don’t enjoy comfort or because we don’t love what we use. It might just be because we can pretty much all agree on one favorite: Nemo’s Tensor. Fully inflatable, lightweight, and above-average comfortable, the Tensor has been an all-around staff favorite for years.

Perfect for backpacking trips with its small pack size and minimal weight, it’s also been a favorite on packrafting and canoeing excursions. It’s held up to the rigors of the Pacific Crest Trail and was the pad of choice for a staff trip to Alaska. Whether you choose a long or wide version for extra comfort or the insulated pad for frigid nights, the Tensor series will surely meet your demands just as it’s pleased our staff.



These gear favorites have pleased our staff for years of adventures. Odds are, they’ll soon become your favorite too.

Down vs. Synthetic Outerwear

by: Will Babb

Comparing down versus synthetic insulation in outdoor outerwear

If you ever want to waste an hour of your time, ask a gear junkie about the difference between down and synthetic, sit back, and listen to a monologue about the pros and cons of each. If that doesn’t sound like the best use of your time, spend a few minutes reading the rest of this blog for a brief overview of anything you might need to know. I’ll start off by defining a few things, dispelling a few myths, and sharing some key pieces of information.

When it comes to down insulation, the big talking point is always fill power. This isn’t an enigmatic concept only the experts know about; it’s actually fairly simple. The fill power refers to the number of cubic inches of down in one ounce. A piece with 700-fill down will have 700 cubic inches of volume per ounce of down. A big myth is that the higher the fill, the warmer the piece. This is sometimes, but not always, true. Fill refers to the quality of the down, but not how warm it is. Warmth has just as much to do with the amount of down or the way it is packed into the piece as it does fill power.

There is a right time and place for down or synthetic. Typically, synthetics perform better in wet conditions because they will continue to insulate even after they are saturated. However, synthetics tend to be heavier and less compressible than down, although they usually make less of a dent in your wallet. Down pieces, on the other hand, are highly compressible, lightweight, and sometimes as expensive as a flatscreen TV. The downside (pun intended) is that these pieces don’t insulate when wet. Even hydrophobic down, treated with a solution such as DownTek, won’t perform as well as synthetics once it gets wet.

Additionally a down garment doesn’t actually contain feathers. Instead, the loft comes from down plumules which are incredibly light and airy and will pack down smaller. These featherlight (another pun!) down clusters are what give your jacket all that fluff, without the annoyance of quills poking your skin. If you’re in the market for a new winter jacket or sleeping bag, it’s important to consider all of those factors before making a purchase. The conditions you’ll be using it in and how important weight and pack size are to you might determine which one is best for you.

Most down pieces will be either duck or goose down, with goose down being the higher quality but more expensive of the two. Many outdoor brands such as Rab and Sea to Summit are using sustainably sourced down certified by the Responsible Down Standard, which ensures ethical treatment of birds.

Almost all down pieces will be baffled, which give them the quilted look. These baffles prevent the down from piling in one end of the sleeping bag and distribute the insulation evenly. These baffles are made in one of two ways, either via sewn-through construction or box wall baffling. Sewn-through construction is the most common method used in gear. The fault in this is that you are left vulnerable to cold spots, whereas box wall construction eliminates this problem but results in a heavier, less compressible, and more expensive piece of gear.

I briefly mentioned fill power above, but there’s a bit more to it than just numbers. Most outdoor apparel or sleeping bags will have fill power somewhere between 650 and 850, with some extremely high-quality garments having fill as high as 950- or 1,000-fill. A typical piece might have 650-fill; anything above 750 would be considered lightweight and more suitable for backpacking. As with most gear, the lighter pieces and higher fill are almost always a bit more expensive.

With higher fill power, jackets require less down to create the same amount of insulation. For example, a piece with 850-fill power might only need three ounces of fill to create just as much loft as a 650-fill power piece packed with five ounces of down. To add confusion, down is either rated by a European or US standard and the standards are slightly different. Generally, the US has a lower standard, so a Patagonia jacket labeled as 850-fill by the US standard is equivalent to a Rab jacket rated at 800-fill by the European standard. A good rule is to subtract 50 fill power from the US number to get an approximate European equivalency.

Fill weight is an often-overlooked specification when people are comparing items. Fill power only tells you the quality of the down used, but the weight refers to how much down there is. The heavier the fill weight, the more down is in the garment and the warmer it will be. It is important to remember the connection between weight and power though, as both contribute to the overall warmth of the jacket.

Down jackets or sleeping bags are a great choice when lightweight, packable gear is important, but the chances of wet weather are low. For activities like backpacking or mountaineering, down is a good choice and worth the extra money. Down can always be layered with a waterproof piece to protect it from the elements. I tend to prefer down because I usually need lightweight gear and love having the ability to pack a jacket into its own pocket or compress my sleeping bag to the size of a water bottle.

Synthetic insulation is much less complicated than down. There’s no fill power or complicated terms to understand; synthetic insulation keeps you warm even in wet conditions and it’s that simple. There are many types of synthetics; almost every company has its own proprietary synthetic. The differences between Primaloft, Cirrus, or Polartec insulation are minimal; some breathe better than others, but it would take far too much detail to cover the minute differences in this blog. Many companies are making recycled synthetic fill for the conscious consumer. It’s still important to look at fill weight with a synthetic piece. How much insulation is actually in the garment is crucial.

Your gear should last you for a long time if it is cared for properly. Synthetics are much easier to care for, whereas down requires delicate washings, special detergents, and appropriate storage. A lot of people don’t consider this until after they’ve purchased their gear, but if ease of care is important to you, don’t forget this factor when making a decision. If you’re going to be adventuring in wet conditions or will spend your winter skiing day in and
day out, a synthetic piece would probably suit you better than down. It’s that superior performance after it gets wet that gives synthetics the edge when weight is less important than insulation.

As of yet, there are no synthetic materials that can compete with the high warmth to weight ratio of down. If you’re looking for a crazy light and packable piece that is still useful in wet conditions and inexpensive, you might need to look in an alternate universe. There is no perfect piece to suit all of your needs, so you might need to make some compromises on what you want. You’ll have to weigh the options and decide what factors matter the most to you, and then see if down or synthetic will fit those prerequisites. There are pros and cons to both down and synthetic gear, but it is not as intimidating as it sounds to choose between the two! Do your research beforehand and you should walk away with gear that will keep you warm and happy all winter long.


*Get the full gear ninja training and become an expert with these other Down blogs and videos:

Sleeping bag breakdowns by the Goatman: read here

Cleaning your down with the Bear: read here

Hydrophobic Down test video: watch here

*these blogs are not revised from their original post and may have outdated product information.

A Gateway to Mountaineering

Ohio to Colorado
by: Kayla “Clover” McKinney

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

– John Muir

One often turns to John Muir for inspiration when planning for any mountaineering trip. As an avid explorer and lover of the hills, he paved the way for many, giving new inspiration and wonder for the wild. This blog is an introduction on how to train and outfit you to summit a Colorado fourteener in the winter, from the perspective of someone who lives in Cincinnati, OH. It does not include overnight trips, technical skills, or altitude training, but is meant as an overview for beginners.

Fourteener:  “In mountaineering terminology in the United States, a fourteener is a mountain that meets or exceeds an elevation of 14,000 feet (4,270 m) above mean sea level.”

Fourteen thousand feet is the highest elevation of any summit in the lower 48. Colorado is blessed with 53 fourteeners (though the tallest fourteener is in California) with the tallest mountain in the state being Mt. Elbert at 14,440 ft. To summit one (or more) of these bad boys in the dead of the winter is no easy feat. There’s snow, lots of snow, blizzards, wind, ice, exposed sun, and harsh terrain to consider.

So how does one train for a winter mountaineering expedition, especially when they live only approximately 480 feet above sea level?

As far as physical training goes for one who lives in an Midwestern urban environment like I do, you’ve got to think a little out of the box. We don’t have mountains in Cincinnati; our tallest “peak” in the city is the Rumpke Landfill, aka Mt. Rumpke, at 1,075 feet (328 m). You have to take advantage of your urban environment. While we don’t have mountains , we have miles of stairs, and some of the steepest roads around. Repeated runs of Straight Street, Ravine Street and Vine Street can give your muscles and lungs a taste of the uphill. Run stairs at Carew Tower, Crosley Tower on UC’s campus (there’s 17 flights!), Paul Brown Stadium and  many old stairways on the streets and in the parks of Cincinnati. This interactive map shows all of the stairs throughout the city:

In order to train for a mountaineering expedition you need a proper blend of aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular training, strength training, flexibility training, and skill development in addition to cross training and adequate rest and recovery. Training should be taken with a consistent approach, steadily increasing the regimen, adhering to set goals and maintaining a good diversity. Don’t just run stairs. Do some distance and trail running, yoga, strength training, biking, rock climbing, etc.

For more information about physical conditioning, check out Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, the best book you’ll find for planning and preparing for a mountaineering trip.

1525402_10202364516969571_486418870_n“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing,”
-Alfred Wainwright

How do you outfit yourself for sub-freezing temperatures, strong winds and even stronger wind chill, without being overheated and sweaty while essentially working out in the intense cold? You don’t want to carry too much, but you want to have enough to suit your needs. You’ll start your climb in the dark, when it’s the coldest, and be climbing down in the afternoon, with all sorts of possible weather curve balls thrown in between. So what do you bring?

You need above all windproof, waterproof, insulated, and breathable clothing which can be accomplished with multiple layers. The first thing you put on the morning of your expedition is your insulating base layer. You want to go for either wool or synthetic. Absolutely no cotton (“cotton kills” because cotton retains moisture, leeching heat from your body when wet and cold). I personally recommend the Ibex Woolies 150 gram, as they are super insulating, form fitting and odor resistant.

Second, you’ll need warm, insulating mid-layers. This would be a fleece and a down jacket or equivalent.

Third, you need your wind and water protection: your rain shell. You can either go for more breathable, and less insulated, or you can go for more insulated and less breathable. This is all about personal preference and how your body reacts to physical exertion. If you sweat a lot, I would consider going for a lighter shell in order to promote breathability to let out sweat.

Any more layers than this is optional, but realize that the more you wear, the heavier and bulkier you will feel going up the mountain. In summation, layering adds versatility to your outfit and the ability to remove/add on warmth when needed.

There are a variety of additions and preferences to be considered based on what works best for you individually. These could include more/less layers and insulation, synthetic or down insulation, hoods or no hoods, etc. If you don’t know you’re personal preferences, stop by the store and we can help you narrow down the options!

Here is a personal gear list for reference:


Head, Necks & Hands

Warm hat and/or balaclava 
A balaclava can replace the hat.  Balaclavas provide versatility and cover areas of the face that can be susceptible to cold injuries.
Sun hat *  
A baseball cap or light hat with a brim can be useful around camp or on warm climb days to protect face and eyes from the intense sun.
High quality UV protective eye wear is a must.  The sun rays are especially intense at high altitude, especially reflected off the snow.  Glasses must fit sufficiently tight to prevent rays from reflecting under the glasses from the ground.  Ski goggles can be used in lieu of glasses.  They do have the advantage of wind and reflective protection, but can become hot and foggy on a warm climbing day.
Liner gloves 
A pair of well fitting liner gloves or light running gloves that fit under your insulated gloves/mittens are essential in preventing cold injuries when removing outer insulated gloves to perform tasks requiring more finger dexterity.
Insulated gloves or mittens
Warm hands are key to winter comfort.  Mittens provide greater warmth and are preferable for those that tend to experience cold fingers easily.  Gloves provide greater dexterity, but it can be harder to keep fingers warm.  Either gloves or mittens must provide room to wiggle fingers and be water/wind proof.


Upper Body

Mid-weight top
A mid weight wool or synthetic top such as Ibex Woolies or Patagonia Capilene 3 should be used as a base layer in winter.
Expedition-weight top   
Keeping the core warm is essential to keeping hands and feet warm.  On cold nights, this can improve warmth in a sleeping bag.  If you tend to be cold while standing in a lift line or waiting for the bus, you should consider adding this to your gear list.
Vest *
A vest is a lightweight option to aid in keeping the core warm without adding bulk.  It is good middle ground if you think an expedition-weight top is overkill, but still tend to run cold at the bus stop.
Fleece Jacket  
A thick fleece layer that that fits under your weatherproof outer jacket.
Down / Synthetic Parka 
The parka should be sized to fit under your weatherproof outer jacket so that warmth can easily be added when hanging around camp or on the summit posing for a pic.
Outer Jacket 
Windproof top.  Can be Gore-tex, eVent, Pertex Shield or simply have a DWR finish.  The goal is wind protection and high breathability. Hard shells or soft shells both work based on preference.
Sports bra
Women should bring a synthetic or wool sports bra or tank top.

1609570_10202364558570611_639271010_nLower Body

Mid-weight bottoms 
A mid weight synthetic or wool bottom such as Ibex/Smartwool/Patagonia Capilene should be used as a base layer in winter.
Expedition-weight bottoms *  
Similar to the Expedition-weight top, this layer is best for those that run cold.  Legs generate a ton of heat when climbing often making this layer hot for some even on the coldest days.
Outer Pants   
Windproof, soft or hard shell.  Can be Gore-tex, eVent, Pertex Shield or simply have a DWR finish. The goal is wind protection, high breathability and limited snow cling.
Guys and gals should bring synthetic underwear. Avoid cotton due to moisture absorption and chaffing.


Liner socks     
Liner socks help to provide rapid moisture transport and reduce blister-causing friction.
Insulating socks 
Expedition weight wool or poly socks.  Socks should be long enough to extend well past the tops of boots and overlap with long underwear bottoms.
Expedition style gaiters such as Outdoor Research Crocodiles to keep snow out of boots.
Boots are perhaps your most critical piece of winter gear.  A poor fitting boot cannot only cause blisters and discomfort, but also cold injuries such as frostbite.  Boots should be plastic style or leather mountaineering with a ridged sole for use with crampons.  Plastic boots can be rented at many quality outfitters.  If you plan to rent, you should determine what boots are available and attempt to get fit for and test the boots locally.  You should have enough room to wiggle toes, but not so much your foot moves around to help keep blood flowing to your feet.  The fit should be slightly roomier than summer hiking boots.
Camp booties can help to keep your feet warm around camp and in your sleeping bag if your feet tend to run cold.  An extra pair of socks can also do the trick in your sleeping bag.

*indicates optional/weather specific item

 General Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog are from personal experience and research and is based on mountain’s around 14,000ft in the winter and does not apply to all winter excursions. Please do further research before embarking on a winter mountaineering trip. For more information on mountaineering, check out Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills and for more information on Colorado’s fourteeners.



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“Down” Gear Clinic

Who Wants to get “Down”?
Gear Clinic: Education and Implementation of Down
Written by: Bryan Wolf

A Gear Clinic is the day that everyone shows up to work in the outdoors world. Why? Well that is simple, because we are gear junkies. A gear clinic means two things to a gear junkie: First, we are about to be exposed to the newest and best information in that particular product category. Second, we are going to be offered a sick crazy deal on the clinic of the day.

A sales representative comes in the store and spends anywhere from 1-3 hours reviewing everything about the products, and in this case it would be down. RRT has had clinics over down sleeping bags, jackets, and down treatments.

Here is Your Down Clinic
Behind the Numbers

Like most anything, not all down is created equal. Down, which is typically a byproduct of the meat industry, can be either goose or duck. We’ll discuss the difference between goose or duck, the fill power of down, the contents of down fill, down maturity, and what’s new in down technology.

Think of the feathers around the exterior of a goose, these are tough with large stems. A goose or duck will actually derive its warmth from what is under them, the down feathers or down plumes. Down plumes are the lightest insulation available. The more loft, the greater the barrier between you and the harsh cold. Loft is going to be dependent on both fill power and how many grams of that fill power are being used?

“Fill Power” is the number of cubic inches that are displaced with a single ounce of down. So if we use 700 fill down, it will displace 700 cubic inches of space with just one ounce! That is why the outdoor world loves it! When you compare the additional weight that you can save with higher fill power, it can really add up.

It’s best to look at the fill power and the grams of down used. 100 grams of 700 fill will be warmer than 75 grams of 700 fill. Also, equal grams in a 500 fill jacket will not be as warm as that in a 700 fill jacket. If information is not available on grams or fill power, it’s likely to be of poor quality. In the outdoor industry, most down products will be 500-900 fill.

A typical down sweater may be 650 fill and 100+ grams. The Rab Microlight is 750 fill and 140 grams of fill. The Montane Nitro is 800 fill and 150 grams of fill. A competitors down sweater at the same price uses a 600 fill and a unspecified weight (But it does have a more trendy name sewn on the front).

What Down Is It?
Some Quality Assurance

About a year ago, the adventurous crew at RRT finally fell in love with what we feel to be the best sleeping bags on the market. There are a slew of factors that make Sea to Summit sleeping bags so awesome, but our favorite part is how they test each batch of down product.

This is the IDFL test report. The test details the percentage of down clusters, fibers, feathers, and other impurities. This report also verifies the ratings of fill power promised to the consumer. Most times, the test brings back over qualified ratings! Hopefully, most consumers like me are done buying cheap, unaccountable, and short-lived pieces of gear. You can understand how awesome that each Sea to Summit sleeping bag comes with its own report.

With the cost of goose down on the rise, you can find many companies switching to duck which has been thought of as lower quality down. While goose has its benefits, duck down is not much different. Duck down has more natural oils adding extra weight. The oils also can cause the down to have a slight odor when wet.

Another great aspect of going with a creditable down supplier and manufacturer is knowing the maturity of the down. Each fiber of the down cluster has hundreds of smaller fibers on it, and beyond that even tinier fibers on those fibers. A mature goose or duck plume will develop more and more of those tiny offshoots which act as tiny hooks that keep the down fibers from separating and creating cold spots. Basically, the more mature the bird, the less chance of cold spots through the down. When you apply this knowledge to sleeping bags, lower quality, less mature down will not cling to itself as well as more mature down. The down fill will separate sooner and you will be left with a cold spot in its absence. A cold spot in a sleeping bag that is meant to keep you safe and warm is unacceptable. Mature down will be more dependable and will also have a greater life span.

Using Down, Even When It’s Wet
Where modern technology is taking us.

The buzz is out and everyone is wondering if the technology is ready and real. Through a few innovative processes, down can be treated to become hydrophobic. Down has notoriously been the perfect solution for insulation except for when it comes to a cold kid in a wet down bag. Down naturally becomes very matted down and loses its loft (the only thing that matters) when it is wet. Enter Down Tek.

Down-Tek, besides being a Cincinnati company is also the most environmentally friendly of all down treatment providers. Down Tek treats down to become anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and biggest of all water repellent. Its water repellency is best described as the “Lotus Effect” where water molecules do not adhere to the down feathers. The treatment doesn’t add any weight to the bag either.

I’ve attached a picture for a fun look at this effect, or you can visit Down-Tek for a demo video. Despite being sloshed around in a jar of water the down retains its loft after being strained out which is truly amazing. There is a lot more detail to this as you could imagine, and the truth is, you should take care of your bag and keep it dry anyway with or with-out dry down.

Currently both Sea to Summit and Big Agnes are using down from Down-Tek. This spring unveils all of their respective sleeping bag lines utilizing this technology. Today in-store we have the Talus from Sea to Summit showcasing the Down-Tek. The Talus3 is 700 grams of 750+ fill power goose down, guaranteed to be 90% or higher in full down clusters only. The Talus uses only mature down fibers and has an EN rating of 16/1/-35 degrees.

Now you know what all that means and about the wonderful world of down. Come by the store and speak with a clinic specialist and as always, a product user.