From Mount Everest climbs to Antarctic treks, down is the most prized insulator for the world's coldest, harshest weather. It provides superior warmth for its weight, something that other materials just can't touch ... at least when it's dry. When it's wet, down absorbs water and loses the air space that allows it to insulate so effectively. Because winter weather can bring everything from rain to freezing rain to snow, down's ineffectiveness when wet is a glaring shortcoming.

As we discussed in our look at futuristic fabrics, outdoor clothing manufacturer Berghaus introduced a new type of hydrophobic down last year, that it believes can solve the one problem that prevents down from being the ultimate wunder-material. This month, two American apparel-makers are introducing similar technologies, an indication that water-repellant or hydrophobic down may indeed be the wave of the future.

California-based mountaineering company Brooks Range is introducing what it calls DownTec, a down that's treated with a nano polymer that makes it impenetrable by water. The down is also anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Brooks Range will introduce the DownTec technology in the Mojave jacket, an 800-fill down jacket that will launch next fall. The retail price is set at US$299.

Sierra Designs, a Colorado-based gear and clothing manufacturer, will also launch water-repellant down jackets next fall. Sierra calls its material DriDown.

Similar to Brooks Range, Sierra treats its down with a polymer to make it hydrophobic. According to the company, its DriDown jackets stay dry seven times longer than traditional down jackets, and dry 33 percent more quickly when they do get wet.

DriDown will be used in men's and women's Tov and Gnar Lite jackets, which will both launch in the fall. The Tov will retail for $259 and the Gnar Lite for $229.

Three companies in less than a year? Water-repellant down is looking less like a gimmick and more like the go-to insulation of the future. We hope that it works every bit as effectively as advertised.

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