Insulations Advance Sustainability and Safety
by Kathlyn Swantko
Sustainability, safety, and improved performance were at the forefront for insulations at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show 2023, held January 10 - 12, at Salt Lake City, Utah. The Show returned to Salt Lake City after being held in Denver for 5 years. The show featured 400 global brands and more than 6,000 attendees.
Insulations continued the move away from the use of waterproofing containing PCF (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals) and other forever chemicals. In addition to advancing environmental safety, sustainability in insulations is being achieved by new technology and the use of natural and recycled materials. All this has occurred while improving performance.
The FabricLink Network looks at several insulations that are leading the way.
Nikwax - promoted it’s Hydrophobic Down Plus (NHD+) and Hydrophobic Down Recycled (NHD Recycled). Both are completely PFC free.
NHD+ is the world’s highest performing waterproof down fill, and keeps users dry more than 600% longer than competing waterproof down products. It is Responsible Down Certified (RDS) and is available in 650 - 900 fill power. NHD Recycled is the world’s highest performing recycled down fill., and keeps the user 900% drier than untreated down. It is available in 650 - 800 fill power.
With 45 years of experience in perfecting high performing PFC-free aftercare products, Nikwax points to its ability to deliver the highest performing hydrophobic down products to the outdoor industry, while continuing to lead with innovative, sustainable, ethical, authentic, and fair practices. Downlite is currently one of the ingredient brands working with Nikwax technology.
Allied Feather + Down / Fuze Biotech collaboration recently secured a 2023 Outdoor Retailer Innovation Award for their new ExpeDRY down insulation. ExpeDRY outperforms traditional hydrophobic down under extreme, real-world conditions. Fueled by Fuze’s gold particle technology, ALLIED’s ExpeDRY represents the next generation in high performance down insulation.
Traditional hydrophobic down works great when in direct contact with water droplets. However, in real world situations, these down products often come into direct contact with water vapor at high levels of humidity, where hydrophobic chemistry is far less efficient. ExpeDRY actively allows the water vapor to evaporate more easily, keeping the entire insulation chamber, and the user dry for a longer time.
ExpeDRY has a much lower environmental impact than traditional hydrophobic finishes. Sustainable in sourcing and performance, the gold used in this process is recovered from discarded electronics and will not wash out. ExpeDRY insulation is currently available globally in jackets by Artilect and Jack Wolfskin. Additional brands coming online for Fall/Winter 23/24.
Paka’s Puffer Insulation with PAKAFILL® is a new sustainable lightweight ingredient product for performance outerwear. The PAKAFILL® alpaca-fiber insulated lightweight puffer jacket is changing the standards in the outerwear market. The PAKAFILL® technology assures the warmest ethical insulation, with a thermal CLO value of 2.59. Unlike down and petroleum-infused synthetics, the sourcing and production of PAKAFILL® does not harm animals or the environment. Alpaca fiber can thermoregulate temperatures due to its growth in one of the world’s most rugged climates, and PAKAFILL® is fully traceable, and even keeps the wearer warm when wet.\
The Peruvian Andes is where over 3.6 million free-roaming alpacas live. It’s a place that freezes at night and is exceedingly hot during the day, yet alpacas have adapted to this climate. Therefore, PAKAFILL® insulating material thermoregulates in both climate extremes from sub-zero conditions to high aerobic activity, and is able to regulate over a 60ºF comfort range.
PAKAFILL® insulation is naturally water-repellent with only 8% moisture-retention rate. Its hollow air pockets hold heat and repel moisture. PAKAFILL® is naturally antibacterial and odor-resistant, unlike insulations that can trap sweat and bacteria together, resulting in odor. The alpaca fiber, also requires less washing or care.
PAKAFILL® enables companies to use a sustainable and ethical option that is safe for outdoor products. For FW23, the company is also looking at other sustainable innovations to use in its own outerwear brand, including a moisture-wicking algae product and a corn-based shell material. The PAKAFILL® technology will be accessible to all outerwear companies that are looking to use more eco-friendly insulating materials.
Thermore launches EVOdown® - Officially launched in June of 2022, Thermore continued to promote its recycled insulation made from 100% recycled fibers from PET bottles. Thermore EVOdown® bridges the gap between free fibers and traditional padding, delivering the ultra-soft hand and luxurious drape of blow-in fibers in a rolled form. This hybrid technology consists of millions of free fibers encapsulated by two containing outer layers, making it the world’s only product of this type that allows for a boost in productivity and an ease of manufacturing.
Consumers like the product’s light-weight and its silky touch, as well as its unbeatable easy care. EVOdown® Recycled is another step towards sustainability for Thermore, which has now converted over 97% of its turnover into insulations, made of either fully or partially recycled fibers, which brings the company closer than ever to an exclusively sustainable product offer. Sustainability has always been part of Thermore’s DNA, as the Group pioneered the use of recycled fibers in the early 80s and mastered it thereafter..