A cursory glance at the Jack Wolfskin Alpspitze Down Hoody wouldn't garner much attention. Lined up next to half a dozen pieces, it seems like just another zip-up puffer destined for through-hiking and ski touring. But it’s what inside — a gold that doesn’t glitter — that makes it one of the most significant innovations in the outdoor space come the fall of 2023.
The current version doesn't push the down envelope — it's the upcoming Fall 2023 update that brings technology to the forefront. Trapped within the Alpspitze’s baffles (as well as in two pieces by Artilect) is Allied Feather and Down’s new ExpeDry down fill. Permanent, perfluorochemical-free, and revolutionary in its application and effect, it was unveiled at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Salt Lake City, Utah, on January 10. Together, these three pieces may hint at where an entire outdoor industry is headed.
First, the backstory: Duck and goose down, two by-products of the meat industry and some of the greatest natural insulating materials available, are rendered worthless by a few drops of water. “We figured that if the whole drawback is that it doesn’t work when it gets wet, let’s address that,” AFD President Daniel Uretsky said to Gear Patrol.
And so, working with a laboratory of chemists, the company came up with a compound that, when applied to feathers, renders them waterproof. Introduced in 2013, treated down was revolutionary — that is, until its potentially catastrophic environmental impacts were discovered. The waterproofing perfluorochemicals, or PFCs, only grow in concentration when entering water supplies and, in high-enough doses, have been linked to impacts on growth and development, reproduction, and liver damage.
So AFD scrambled its team of chemists again, gradually reducing PFCs in its products until, in 2018, it reached zero with a wash-in wax-like coating, which became the industry standard. But a better solution, one both permanent and more effective, would shortly be in development.
ExpeDry, exclusively licensed to Jack Wolfskin and Artilect for 2023, was first envisioned in 2019. Permanent, sustainable, and with a claimed zero environmental impact, it does its job through the most implausible of materials possible: pure gold. Sourced from old electronics, the element is blasted into near-nanoscopic particles, then suspended in a water-based solution before its application onto down. Once dry, the two are permanently bonded, providing both an antimicrobial property and a water-based reaction.
When a vapor of sweat or a drop of rain hits a treated feather, the molecules are zapped with an electrical charge, which prevents condensation and the down itself from clumping up and losing efficacy. Translation: Instead of shivering on the chair lift after a sweaty mogul run, you’ll be as warm as you were in the car ride to the mountain.
It takes a certain type of company to adopt a cutting-edge product. Jack Wolfskin, which had already phased out PFCs from its durable water repellent fabric finishes in 2019 while incorporating environmentally friendly features into all its products, was a natural fit. It comes down to philosophy, explains Jack Wolfskin CEO Richard Collier. "Our playground is the outdoors," he says. "If we can’t look after it, no one can."
The updated Alpspitze Down Hoody will launch fall of this year, with a price of $369.95.