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It looks like Sierra Designs did the impossible with DriDown. The company debuted this game-changer for jackets and sleeping bags at Outdoor Retailer last month and I had a chance to see the results up close.

DriDown

First, a little primer on down insulation. If you’ve ever shopped for a sleeping bag you know there are basically two choices: down or synthetic insulation. Down has the advantage of being lighter weight and more compressible than synthetic materials but the trade-off is it loses most of its insulating value when it becomes wet. Which is ironic given the fact that geese spend so much time in the water. 🙂

Anyway, Sierra Designs developed a process to apply a micro-thin polymer layer to natural down, resulting in a product that stays dry 7-times longer and dries much faster than untreated down. The amazing thing is the down keeps all its insulating value and essentially weighs the same. The upshot: down jackets don’t get bogged down with body vapor and stay warm longer. And down sleeping bags are no longer confined to desert camping – a little rain won’t cause these bags to turn into clammy meat lockers.

Visually, it’s easy to see the effectiveness of DriDown in the photo above. The down sample on the left is untreated while the sample on the right is DriDown. Both similarly-sized samples were “dunked” in the water at the same time but the DriDown regained most of its loft almost immediately.

Sierra Designs is rolling DriDown into many products for 2012 and the best part is, in most cases it doesn’t add to the cost of the product. This might just be the first challenge to the outdoor industry law of lighter/cheaper/more durable (pick two)!

Sleeping Bags

The Cloud inside an ultralight Mojo tent.

Beyond DriDown, Sierra Designs also showed off more innovative sleeping bag designs at this year’s Outdoor Retailer. The Cloud is the lightest 15-degree sleeping bag on the market at just 1lb, 12 oz. and I have to say it feels absolutely airy to the touch. Unlike most sleeping bags, the Cloud features vertical baffles and a translucent nylon shell that allows you to actually see the down fill inside. The MSRP on the Cloud is $499 but can you really put a price on such a heavenly night’s rest in the great outdoors?

Sierra Designs also offers innovative convertible sleeping bags like the one pictured above with a removable down torso panel that turns a 30-degree bag into a 15-degree bag and back again with ease. This makes it possible to use the same bag at base camp AND the summit for multi-day treks but it’s also perfect for those who don’t want to buy separate summer and winter bags.

It was great to see all the new tech and products from Sierra Designs at Outdoor Retailer this year – can’t wait to see what these guys come up with next! (It’ll be hard to top DriDown for sure.)

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