Floodlight: A Jacket Made Waterproof by the Fabric, Not the Feathers

In an attempt to move the industry away from waterproof down, which has insulation problems, Outdoor Research's latest relies on untreated feathers sealed inside a breathable, waterproof fabric

Berne Broudy

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Waterproof down has been a hot topic of conversation in gear circles recently. DWR (durable water repellent), the invisible treatment that’s used on the outside of nearly every waterproof jacket to make liquids bead up and roll off, has been around for years, but companies that produce down are only just now figuring out how best to apply DWR directly to their material of choice to make the feathers themselves waterproof.

Down is the warmest-by-weight insulating material available. And many companies think waterproof down solves the material’s biggest problem—that when it gets wet from sweat or rain it stops insulating. But critics say it’s an imperfect solution, and that it’s impossible to measure how effective applying a waterproofing treatment to down is, because whether or not your jacket’s insulation is waterproof, if the inner and outer fabrics aren’t, you’re going to feel wet, cold, and clammy.

Outdoor Research, a leading technical clothing company, is in the second camp. So instead of building its highest-end new belay parka with waterproof down, the company used untreated high-loft 800-fill down inside seam-sealed waterproof breathable Pertex Shield fabric. The company’s designers bonded a lining directly to the outer fabric, creating channels. They then stuffed down into these channels, where it is protected from the elements—mechanically waterproof not chemically waterproof.

The result is a jacket that’s lightweight and highly compressible and ideal for situations where you need warmth and weather protection, but space is at a minimum. An adjustable, wire-brimmed hood keeps wind and weather off of your face. Other details include large handwarmer pockets, an exterior napoleon pocket, and internal stash pockets. The Floodlight is cut to move—designed with alpine climbing and backcountry skiing in mind. Available for men and women in fall 2013, $375; outdoorresearch.com.

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