1. What is down?
Down consists of clusters of filaments growing from a central quill point without a quill shaft. It looks much like a dandelion pod. Down is the light, fluffy undercoating that geese, ducks, and other waterfowl have to keep them warm. Land fowl such as chickens do not produce down.
2. What is a feather?
Feathers, the principal covering of birds, have a flat construction. A feather has a hard, quill shaft from one end to the other, with a series of fibers joining together into a flat structure on each side of the shaft.
3. What is the difference
Feathers are flat and two dimensional, and are grown for flying, while smaller feathers are for protection. Down is three dimensional, a soft puff that is grown for warmth.
4. How can down be so light, yet insulate so well?
Because of its three dimensional structure and ability to “loft”, each down cluster traps more air for its weight than any synthetic. Every ounce of quality down has about 2 million fluffy filaments that interlock and overlap to form a protective layer of still air that keeps warmth in and cold out. Because of its resilience, you can scrunch it up or flatten it out. All it takes is a good shake for it to fluff up and bounce back to the form that keeps you cozy and warm.
5. How are down & feathers processed?
Down and feathers are carefully washed with special processes, rinsed, dried, and then separated into different grades by blowing. The drafts from a machine send the best down drifting up to the highest bins, to be graded as the finest quality. Down of lesser quality floats into middle bins, and feathers, because they are much heavier, fall into the bottom bins. This entire process must be properly done, in order to permanently eliminate odours, and to ensure permanent lofting of the down.
6. Which birds provide the best down?
Generally speaking, the best down comes from larger, more mature birds. When age and maturity are equal, goose down is better than duck down. However, down from an older duck is better than down from a younger goose. Larger Down has an extraordinarily high warmth-to-weight ratio. A duvet or sleeping bag filled with this down will be very light and incredibly warm. And it will last for decades.
On the other hand, poor quality White Goose Down will have smaller Down. It will not loft up, and has a rather low warmth-to-weight ratio. Even if there is more of this down by weight, it won’t be as warm. Down from younger birds not only tends to have poor filling power, it will also tend to collapse in a relatively short time, because its fibers are too fragile. This is usually the difference between an inexpensive goose down product, and an expensive one.
7. What is eiderdown?
Eiderdown comes from the Eider Duck, and it is considered by some to be the finest quality of all down. It is also the most expensive. This down is unique in that it clings to itself, resulting in superior insulating power. The Eider Duck is a protected migratory species. Down is collected by hand from nests without disturbing the birds.
8. Does climate affect the quality of down?
Climate doesn’t affect the quality of down, but it will affect quantity. A bird in cold weather will grow more down to stay warm. But quality itself depends simply on the maturity of the bird.
9. Does colour have any relation to quality?
None at all. White down is preferred because it can be put into light coloured coverings without showing through. Again, quality is determined mainly by the maturity of the bird. Eider down, as an example, is dark brown.
10. Where does down originate?
11. Why is down superior to synthetics as an insulator?
12. How long can I expect my down product to last?
13. What happens to down if it gets wet?
14. How do I clean my down product?
15. What do I do if my down doesn't reloft after cleaning?
16. How do I store my down?
17. Why do down products vary so much in price?
18. How do I know I'm getting what I'm paying for?
19. What is the Down Association of Canada?
The Down Association of Canada is a national, non- profit organization headquartered in Toronto, and dedicated to maintaining quality standards for down products. For years the Down Association of Canada has had its own program of surveillance within the industry called “Market Minder”, where items are randomly purchased and tested for quality. This program encourages all processors, manufacturers and retailers to comply with Canadian labeling standards, and conducts investigative and remedial procedures through its National office.