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  1. #1

    Default Feeding An Underfed Vest

    As I prepare for a January trip I go to the gear shed and pull out a vintage North Face down vest from the 1980s---as I always like using a down vest for warmth in camp and even warmth when on the move.

    In the gear shed I also have a blown out Exped Downmat filled with 900 quality goose down---so a twisted idea enters my brain: Why not pull out the Exped down and insert it into the underfed and under filled vest? (Most down garments are woefully under filled, btw).


    Here's the Exped downmat with two baffle tubes cut open to retrieve down---very high quality down btw. Each tube fills up a gallon Hefty bag. I use two tubes to fill the vest.


    Here's your standard vintage North Face vest.


    To make the stuffing much easier I just cut slits in the vest baffles and insert the down and close the holes up fast with ripstop tape which will last indefinitely.

    End Result? 100% warmer winter vest---remarkably puffed up and warm!!

  2. #2
    Registered User Ewker's Avatar
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    great idea Tipi
    Conquest: It is not the Mountain we conquer but Ourselves

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ewker View Post
    great idea Tipi
    There's nothing quite like grabbing handfuls of precious 900 fill goose down and stuffing something with it.

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    Fantastic improvisation and recycling at its best.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Fantastic improvisation and recycling at its best.
    I had the surplus down laying around and an old disposable vest---now the vest if super warm and is part of my standard winter load.

  6. #6

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    Nice work! What happened to the pad originally?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Nice work! What happened to the pad originally?
    On the first night of a 19 day winter trip into the Snowbird backcountry the almost new Downmat blew a baffle tube-weld resulting in a big bulge. And a growing bulge.

  8. #8

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    Yikes. And exped didn't replace it?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by CalebJ View Post
    Yikes. And exped didn't replace it?
    Yes, I emailed them a pic of the blowout and they sent a new pad no questions asked---great company---but I was too spooked to try it again on a long trip.

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    TW, what brand/type of ripstop tape did you use?

    I have some thin fabric repair tape that I've used before on a guitar gig bag (interior); wonder if it would have worked for something like this. I'll hadn't ever thought of doing this kind of surgery, but now you've got the wheels turning.

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    That’s Marty McFlys vest :0)

    thom

  12. #12
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Cool, well done. Sure looks like a vest I had some time ago...

    I did the same thing to an old sleeping bag.... I had an 800-fill MHW bag that was warm and light, but I never liked because it was too constricting. Enter a used MHW phantom 45-degree "long" model version I bought for virtually nothing, that WAS large enough in girth, but not nearly as warm. So, with great care I harvested the down from the small bag, put 4 ounces or so (that's a lot of down) into the larger bag, voila, now I had (and still have) a fantastic and very light 25 degree-ish bag. Of course I had to cut slits in a dozen horizontal baffles, but the Tenacious Tape repair to each is bomber. The baffles held the extra down easily w/o being too tight and compressing the down.

    2-3 years later, I bought an EE double quilt for my wife and I, but soon discovered that EE is very optimistic on their temp ratings, well, easy to fix, still had plenty of 800-fill down left, and voila, added 4-5 ounces to the EE quilt, now it's toasty warm! What was really nice about the EE quilt is that I only had to make one single slit, and with a 2' piece of 1" PVC pipe and a broom handle for a plunger, I was able to access basically all of the baffles. Same deal, even with the extra down, the baffles were still plenty big.

    Dealing with that virtually weightless down is messy though.. always had some cleaning up to do afterwards, and it goes without saying, you really need to do this indoors with zero air flow around.

    I used to have a few pics of these down-stuff events, can't find them, alas.

  13. #13
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    TW, what brand/type of ripstop tape did you use?

    I have some thin fabric repair tape that I've used before on a guitar gig bag (interior); wonder if it would have worked for something like this. I'll hadn't ever thought of doing this kind of surgery, but now you've got the wheels turning.
    I'm sure Tipi will answer as to what he used, but I did a couple of similar things (per post below) and used Tenacious Tape, the stuff is uber-sticky and amazingly strong.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    TW, what brand/type of ripstop tape did you use?

    I have some thin fabric repair tape that I've used before on a guitar gig bag (interior); wonder if it would have worked for something like this. I'll hadn't ever thought of doing this kind of surgery, but now you've got the wheels turning.
    I've been using Kenyon repair tape for the last 30 or 40 years and it's a favorite little item. I ran out and used a some pieces of McNett's tenacious tape. I think the Tenacious stuff holds better but is a little more stiff and not as light and flexible. Btw---these tapes can sometimes "smear" off the fabric and so once placed over a cut can be sewn on for greater security.

    51VkJj-em7L._AA200.jpg

    41Rl0VDc9SL._AA200.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    Cool, well done. Sure looks like a vest I had some time ago...

    I did the same thing to an old sleeping bag.... I had an 800-fill MHW bag that was warm and light, but I never liked because it was too constricting. Enter a used MHW phantom 45-degree "long" model version I bought for virtually nothing, that WAS large enough in girth, but not nearly as warm. So, with great care I harvested the down from the small bag, put 4 ounces or so (that's a lot of down) into the larger bag, voila, now I had (and still have) a fantastic and very light 25 degree-ish bag. Of course I had to cut slits in a dozen horizontal baffles, but the Tenacious Tape repair to each is bomber. The baffles held the extra down easily w/o being too tight and compressing the down.

    2-3 years later, I bought an EE double quilt for my wife and I, but soon discovered that EE is very optimistic on their temp ratings, well, easy to fix, still had plenty of 800-fill down left, and voila, added 4-5 ounces to the EE quilt, now it's toasty warm! What was really nice about the EE quilt is that I only had to make one single slit, and with a 2' piece of 1" PVC pipe and a broom handle for a plunger, I was able to access basically all of the baffles. Same deal, even with the extra down, the baffles were still plenty big.

    Dealing with that virtually weightless down is messy though.. always had some cleaning up to do afterwards, and it goes without saying, you really need to do this indoors with zero air flow around.

    I used to have a few pics of these down-stuff events, can't find them, alas.
    Colorado Rob---You know the amazing value of loose high quality down and how "easy" it is to add it to other items. And what a big difference it makes. It's really amazing how under filled most down garments are and how much more they can hold and how improved they become---although sadly not being a seamstress I have to make unsightly cuts in a perfectly good though under filled item.

    And yes, messing around with goose down is messy and weird. With one small gust a $100 worth of down goes swirling away. And every single cluster of downs seems immediately valuable so you grope around trying to get every single cluster grabbed before it swirls away. There needs to be a little hand held vacuum machine which could suck up down into a storage bag with one switch and with another switch blow this stored down thru a nozzle into the item.

  15. #15
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    W/o "quoting" your post, Tipi, to save redundancy, I'll further share how I managed the down, I actually collected the harvested down into 1-quart zip-locks, and went so far as to weigh it, in grams, distributing the grams proportional to the baffle sizes as they varied down the length of the bag' I know, totally anal, but I had the time.

    But after distributing the down into the zip-locks, I'd make a slit on a baffle (inside of bag, of course), take my 1" PVC pipe and "stuff" it carefully with a zip-lock's down, put the end of the pipe into the slit, then "plunge" the down out with a piece of broom handle that happened to just fit inside of the PCV pipe nearly perfectly.

    So bottom line to Tipi's OP, save those old down items! Especially the ones with good, high quality down.

    I almost bought some down on Amazon once, it seemed reasonable in price, and was quoted as "800" or "850" fill. I can't seem to find that now, but here's some "750", if you believe it, $25 for 200 grams (about 7 ounces, that's a lot of down). 750 isn't bad down, again, if you believe it.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H7RPSSG...jaz10cnVl&th=1

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    W/o "quoting" your post, Tipi, to save redundancy, I'll further share how I managed the down, I actually collected the harvested down into 1-quart zip-locks, and went so far as to weigh it, in grams, distributing the grams proportional to the baffle sizes as they varied down the length of the bag' I know, totally anal, but I had the time.

    But after distributing the down into the zip-locks, I'd make a slit on a baffle (inside of bag, of course), take my 1" PVC pipe and "stuff" it carefully with a zip-lock's down, put the end of the pipe into the slit, then "plunge" the down out with a piece of broom handle that happened to just fit inside of the PCV pipe nearly perfectly.

    So bottom line to Tipi's OP, save those old down items! Especially the ones with good, high quality down.

    I almost bought some down on Amazon once, it seemed reasonable in price, and was quoted as "800" or "850" fill. I can't seem to find that now, but here's some "750", if you believe it, $25 for 200 grams (about 7 ounces, that's a lot of down). 750 isn't bad down, again, if you believe it.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07H7RPSSG...jaz10cnVl&th=1
    I used a gallon Hefty bag which held one Exped baffle tube of down and then made the garment cut and added Handfuls of the down into the jacket. I like your pvc pipe idea as then the garment cut could be made much smaller than hand sized.

    I've been wearing the new improved North Face vest outside every day and sleeping with it ever night in the backyard and it's amazing how several ounces of high quality down has turned my mediocre vest into an almost stand-alone down parka for torso core warmth. And the beauty of a down vest for backpacking is it can be worn while hiking with a pack in deep cold just to keep the core warm and still allow the arms to swing free and vent off body heat.

    All this was known to me in 1980 when I had an earlier version of a North Face vest---in blue taffeta---and used it all the time when backpacking and in movement. Gave it to an old girlfriend etc end of story. The older NF version vest looked just like this---but in blue---and even predates my vintage vest---

    s-l1600.jpg

  17. #17

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    Nice upgrade! I'm never without my down vest on cold weather hikes. They are great for an extra layer in the bag, too.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by martinb View Post
    Nice upgrade! I'm never without my down vest on cold weather hikes. They are great for an extra layer in the bag, too.
    I think the design and nature of a good down vest is to supply radiated heat where it precisely belongs---chest and stomach and sides and back---the torso core---and so a down vest immediately warms me up at the most important spots.

    And so by over filling a down vest as I have done results in a very puffy and very warm addition under a bigger down parka for true winter in-camp survival. It becomes in effect a better choice for warmth than a bulky fleece jacket or a heavy merino top.

    The old mantra---"Never backpack wearing goose down" is true for most winter backpackers even at 0F or below---because the heat generated hiking with a pack over a down jacket is usually too much (unless you're on Denali with 60mph winds at -30F). But a down vest sort of changes the mantra to "Throw the pack on and leave camp wearing your down vest until the first drop of sweat causes you to dump the pack and remove the vest". In severe cold this might be far down the trail with a vest. Freeing up the arms helps when moving to allow better ventilation etc.

  19. #19

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    Having filled a few baffles back in the Frostline Kits era, I'm tempted to say "don't try this at home".

    One puff of air the wrong way, and you have down flying around everywhere...

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by RockDoc View Post
    Having filled a few baffles back in the Frostline Kits era, I'm tempted to say "don't try this at home".

    One puff of air the wrong way, and you have down flying around everywhere...
    The worst part is each puff of air blows about $50 worth of precious down in all directions. But no---it's perfectly alright and safe to "try this at home". Remember, I'm scavenging down from an otherwise useless item so it's a win-win solution with a little mess here and there.

    But like I said, working with goose down could be improved with the proper vacuum tools, blowers, insert nozzles etc etc. Let me google "working with down" and see what the commercial companies do.

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