Backcountry Tips and Tricks

Couscous is one of the best grains to bring into the backcountry. It’s so easy to cook and it yields a lot food in a short amount of time. Inspired by the NOLS cookery book, this couscous dish has complex carbs, protein, fats, salt, and fiber. The stuff we all love in the backcountry.

Alpine Couscous

2/3 Cup couscous (you can use bulk couscous or different box flavors!)

1 Cup water

½ (or more…) cup sharp cheddar –grated or cubed.

1/2-2/3 cup roasted and chopped almonds

½ cup dried cranberries

Salt and pepper to taste

Before you head up to the mountains, chop and roast your almonds. You can do this on a fry pan (make sure to keep almonds moving so as not to burn them), or you can roast them in the oven (again, keep an eye on them, those suckers will go pretty quickly.)

When it’s time for dinner, take out your cheese and cut it into small cubes (the smaller the cubes the easier they will melt) and pull out your cranberries, chopping them as well if you so desire.

With all your other ingredients prepared, bring your water to a boil. When the water is boiling, pour in couscous, stir, and then remove from heat. Keep that puppy covered for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir in cheese almonds and cranberries. Huzzah! Your dinner for 2 is complete with melted cheese and tasty almond/cranberry goodness.

To minimize mess, eat this meal straight out of the pot, the cheese causes a lot of greasiness. Don’t be afraid to play around with this meal, add more or less of the ingredients or add in new ones like TVP for a little added protein, pine nuts for a different nutty taste, or parmesan instead of cheddar. Customize this meal to your taste buds!


Gear Reviews
Winter can be tough on the feet. It’s wet, cold, and if your feet fall prey to those two things, life sucks. We had a chance to try out some winter footwear from Garmont this season that took care of those things and fit the bill for both town and trails (raise hands in excitement). The Rambler GTX and DragonTail MTN GTX are two models that don’t mess around. These shoes have serious tread, excellent support, and are most importantly, waterproof.
Garmont Rambler GTX: $270
unnamed-4 These boots mean business! This is one of those boots that will do a lot and not put up a fuss about it. We wore these boots snowshoeing in Washington, hiking through snow on Mount Shasta, and traveling on some gnarly trails in the North State of California. When you wear these, don’t be surprised if the heel feels a little tight, this is Garmont’s heel lock system. Essentially it help prevent slippage in the heal reducing the opportunities for blisters to form. The higher upper cut adds that much needed ankle support when wearing a pack while the lacing system provides forefoot sensitivity for those technical hikes. Super light weight yet relatively rigid, these boots can travel on trail, over rock, and even in alpine conditions We recommend working up to higher mileage when first trekking in these boots, our tester noticed it took a few times before he felt the boot was broken in and his feet were comfortable. IMG_3042
Garmont DragonTail MTN GTX: $190
unnamed-3 These low top, light hikers are awesome for the outdoor lifestyle. If you frequent trails and mountain towns (our favorite is Winthrop, Wa) these might become your go to, especially in wet weather. The GorTex lining means feet stay dry when traipsing through puddles either on trail or through town. The tread has enough grip to handle both dirt and rock for day hikes and longer approaches. We took these shoes on hikes through snow, scrambling on rock, and wore them every day in that small town of Winthrop. We love when shoes work for multiple occasions and think the cut of this shoe rides that line well. Supportive yet low profile, these kicks pair with casual pants just as well as hiking pants. IMG_3088

Gear Reviews
The Good: Solid built with a design to save necessary body parts for skiing. The Bad: Your buddy’s injury when he decides to go with a cheap crappy binding. The Ugly: #websitemakeover So, what’s there to talk about with a downhill ski bindings? If we’re being honest, your average Jo Shmo wouldn’t think very much. But to people who’ve suffered injury due to release malfunction and failure, a good binding can mean everything. Well, the folks over at Knee Binding said ‘what the hell?’ to the 70,000 ski related injuries every year and decided to change the industry. They know their stuff and created a binding that was strong, super functional, and saved the knees. IMG_6437 IMG_6447
What Makes Knee Binding Different
Knee Binding has a third dimension called a Purelateral heel release. This means the heel can detect forces that typically cause knee injuries and release before you screw yourself over for years to come. Basically, you can catch an edge on the tip, tail, or tip and tale and the binding will release before your ligaments do. The other big deal is the FlexFloat mounting system. This allows the ski to flex naturally when it needs to and move with the terrain. Pre release is significantly minimized with this feature. Lastly, their professional grade bindings are made here in the USA, and who doesn’t love that. Knee Binding makes several bindings with Dins ranging from 3-14. IMG_6443 IMG_6452
The Mist
Did you know, women are more susceptible to knee injuries than men? No? Me either. Thanks, KB, for the beta. They sent us over the Mist, a women specific binding, to try out on the slopes of Mount Shasta. The Mist, while relatively lightweight, remains rigid and durable. When we stepped into these bindings it was like stepping into a set of jaws. It just felt insanely solid. As we headed downhill, the feeling of confidence, knowing your bindings had such a versatile range of release, was overwhelming. IMG_6441
So, how do we know all this for sure?
There’s a plethora of videos on KB’s website showing the manufacturing process and testing of the binding. Actually, their whole website is filled with good to know information about bindings, knees, and everything in between. These guys could use a serious make over on their website, but hey, I guess when you win a bunch of awards,  your website can look like 2001.  

Better Businesses

Have you seen the videos of those crazy tents suspended in trees? We have, and we think they’re crazy awesome. Tentsile a young and innovative company creating portable tree houses. Tents are suspended between three trees to keep you off the ground while camping, backpacking, and traveling. The cool factor for these things is off the charts. We had the opportunity to chat with Tentsile and get a look on the inside of this (literally) tree hugging company. With an emphasis on the value of tree, this company is giving back to the forests while empowering people to spend more time in them.

Trek Tech: How and why was Tentsile founded?

Tentsile: Tentsile was founded in 2010. Our Tree Tents were originally conceived as portable treehouses that you could take with you anywhere. Our unique designs were created to fit between three trees, and to keep you suspended off the lumpy and uneven ground for a dry, cozy, comfortable night’s sleep. Alex Shirley-Smith began making prototypes of the Tentsile Tree Tent in 2010. The prototypes we larger, heavier and more expensive to produce. Over 10 different models were made before we settled on the Tentsile Stingray, and then we moved into production. Tentsile was built around a love for trees and the Great Outdoors. We respect the environment, and seek to protect and conserve it, so that future generations may enjoy it as much as we do. In partnership with WeForest and The Eden Projects, we plant 3 trees for each tent sold, and in doing so have helped to restore deforested regions of Ethiopia, Zambia and Madagascar. So far we have supported the planting of over 46 000 trees.  TT: How can using a Tentsile product benefit the places we travel on? TS: When attaching your Tentsile Tree Tent to the trees, you avoid damaging the flora and fauna on the ground below. Using our tents on your travels has a lower impact on the natural environment in which you are camping. We are proud partners of Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics, and encourage all of our customers to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when travelling, to ensure minimal impact on the environment.TT: Does using a Tentsile product harm the trees they are tensioned off of? TS: No, our tents do not harm the trees when used correctly. We have many guidelines highlighting the correct use of our tents and the best practice for minimal impact on the trees, which can be found on our website and Youtube channel. In March 2017, we will be releasing our new No Trace Kit, which aims to give additional protection to trees to minimize any potential damage. TT: In what ways is Tentsile aiding environmental sustainability efforts? TS: Tentsile is committed to protecting the environment and preserving / regenerating the World’s forests. In addition to our tree planting programs outlined above, we also work with local environmental initiatives who are protecting / conserving woodland and wildlife around the world. For example, we work with ARC Amazon, based in the Peruvian Rainforest, whose dedicated team of biologists and scientists, along with the help of volunteers, are studying the local wildlife and ecosystems, whilst also protecting this small area from deforestation by illegal logging. Another example; we supported Stephen Belcher, a European wildlife expert, who was doing research into the rarely seen & extremely endangered, Javan Rhino. Using our tents, Stephen managed to sleep right in the middle of the Rainforest and get the first ever HD footage and images of the Javan Rhino in its natural environment. We post regular updates from partner organizations in our blog and newsletter, so that customers can follow their progress. In doing so, we hope to engage our followers in an open dialogue about the environment and climate change. TT: In what ways is Tentsile aiding social responsibility efforts? TS: We have partnered with several organizations in the past few years to support their humanitarian efforts. We tend to work with projects who are in need of gear to help them navigate across difficult terrain – for example, in areas where there has been a natural disaster. In 2016 we partnered with Adventurers for Change, who travelled through Nepal to distribute emergency aid and solar lighting to rural villages that were affected by the earthquake the previous year. We donated 11 tents so that their team of volunteers could reach the most remote and isolated regions, close to the epicenter of the earthquake. TT: What types of trees do you plant, are they native to the area?   TS: The projects we support work from Forest Management Plans based on best practice forestry.  The objective is to work towards the mature native forest or woodland, that would occur naturally in the landscape.  This relies therefore on the use of native tree species.  Seeds are often collected from existing forest areas and propagated in community and home based tree-nurseries.  Once established saplings are planted out into the areas under management. Trees are selected for different purposes.  Pioneer species may provide shade for other species to follow.  Some species have leaves which are used as animal fodder. Others are leguminous, meaning they help enrich the soil through nitrogen fixation.  Species selection, positioning, density and their contribution to ecological integrity and livelihood improvement of the local people is a complex process. Another forest restoration method is to work with what nature already provides.  There may be a high density of new seedlings within the forest.  Crowded together, competing for light and water, not all will survive. Using techniques of assisted natural regeneration, these seedlings are transplanted to the periphery of the forest where they have better access to light and the forest area expands. In Zambia’s copperbelt for example, we work with WeForest to supports farmers to restore the native Miombo woodlands that are disappearing from the region. By employing assisted natural regeneration of Miombo woodlots (plots of native woodland on farms) and introducing activities such as bioenergy and honey production, that rely on healthy standing woodlands, local communities develop new income streams lifting them out of poverty whilst restoring their forests.  Some of the species in use in this project can be found here.TT: What makes working for Tentsile worthwhile? TS: It’s exciting to be part of a company that is genuinely passionate about the environment, and better still, doing something about it. At Tentsile, we are not just about tents. Instead, we hope to inspire people to spend time amongst nature, to embrace the wilderness and wander off the beaten track, and above all to protect and conserve the Great Outdoors. To know that you are empowering people to do that – that’s what makes it worthwhile. TT: What are some of your employee’s favorite places to use a Tentsile? TS: They include the Redwoods, East Africa, & the forests of Romania!TT: Can you describe some of your goals and projects for 2017? TS: We have just revealed our New Year’s Resolution – to get 1,000,000 people in the trees in the next 5 years! We want people to join our global community and be a part of the Tentsile Tribe, so we invite them to ‘#BecomeOneOfTheMillion’. To meet our objective, we’ll need to make sure there are lots of healthy forests too, so we’re aiming to plant 1,000 000 trees in collaboration with our partners and a network of Outdoor Brands. We’re continuing to develop our online Tentsile Community – a space for Tree Tent experts and novices alike to share tips, secret camping locations and more. We will be launching the world’s first Tentsile Eco Experience Camp in Finland later this year, and have a number of other similar sites in the pipeline too. Tentsile will be popping up at several Festivals throughout the year, including Euphoria Festival in Austin Texas (April), where we’ll be setting up an entire Tree Tent Village. TT: Are there any other organizations you’re partnering with that the consumer can get on board with? TS: We partner with many Brands who share a passion for innovation and smart design – for example, Oru Kayak, LuminAid Solar Light, Biolite, Cotopaxi, and Goal Zero to name but a few.TT: In your efforts to increase a tree’s value, non monetarily, have you been able to see a change in society’s value towards them?   TS: We are beginning to – certainly within the Tentsile Tribe! Feedback from our followers suggests that they really value and support our tree planting efforts and are excited to discover a product that helps them spend more time amongst the trees, with a smaller eco-footprint than ever before. But there’s still a long way to go; until we’ve replanted the World’s lost forests, and stopped illegal logging for good – we will not rest!

Gear Reviews

Hurtta Extreme Warmer: $88

Sometimes our winter adventures are just too cold to bring our furry friends along. Not all of them have coats like Huskies or Berners. Well, Hurtta decided that just wouldn’t do, so they made a dog coat that would allow pups to withstand some pretty cold temps.  And since our canine intern here at Trek Tech loves winter adventuring, we had to try it. img_6374 img_6409 The Extreme Warmer is a serious parka for pooches. While covering all the major muscle groups, the jacket still allows for full mobility. This is important for dogs like the Roaming Retriever who find bounding through the snow far better than walking. The shell of the Warmer is weather resistant while the liner is covered in foiling so to reflect back the heat your pup’s putting off. We find this super helpful when the temps drop and Sauvie slows down. If your dog doesn’t hate it too much, there’s a protective hood that can be pulled up and ever their ears and synched down when the winds pick up. Understandably, Sauvie despises this feature despite its usefulness. One of the best things about this jacket is all the adjustability. There are several synching points and the strap that secures the jacket around his body is easily adjustable. The leg loops are another nice securing feature to this parka. img_6398 img_6366 While the Roaming Retriever frequents the snow quite often, we’ve never taken him winter camping. We thought we would give it a go since we had the Extreme Warmer. A couple of us headed up to Mount Shasta, near Panther meadows around 7500ft where the high for that day was 26 ….and the low was scheduled to be 15. That 15 degrees ended up being 9 degrees that night. Unsurprisingly, Sauvie was in heaven the whole time. Bounding, leaping, and charging through the snow, we’ve never seen a Golden Retriever more in his element. All was well, even when the sun went down. The temperature immediately starting dropping but as long as we stayed moving, our intern was happy. Sauvie only began shivering in his coat when we sat down to start cooking, so we finished up and moved to the tent. Curled up between the two of us on a pad and sleeping bag, Sauvie slept the night away, periodically licking our faces through the tiny face holes of our sleeping bags. img_6377-1 If you’re out adventuring in the snow and cold and you’re four legged friend doesn’t quite have the furry coat required to keep them warm, the Extreme Warmer by Hurtta will provide that extra layer of protection and insulation. This coat now lives in our car during the winter season so Sauvie always has the ability to adventure with us, no matter what the conditions. img_6391

Gear Reviews
RMU Valhalla Skis: $799 Rocky Mountain Underground is a small company that makes some serious skis. Nestled in Breckenridge, CO, these guys know a thing or two about snow. We had a chance to check out a pair of their women specific skis that have been built with input from female guides, patrollers, and professional skiers; the Valhallas. Needless to say, the stoke was high to get these skis out on a mountain. The Valhallas are a 5 point ski that have a rocker tip and tail and camber underfoot. Basically, with the rocker tip and tail and a 104mm waist, these skis love powder. The camber allows them to handle other conditions and terrain as well but not quite as gracefully as powder. clone We went to Mount Bachelor last weekend near Bend, OR to test the Valhallas. We headed up to the mountain after they received a massive dumping and 8 inches of fresh, cold snow covered the slopes. We’re pretty sure it never got above 20 degrees the whole day and while we struggled to avoid vertigo for the first half of the day, the sun came out that afternoon. The bottom line is the Valhallas in fresh, untracked powder are like a dream. They float pretty effortlessly and with 17.5m turn radius, require just a quick hop to get them turning through trees. Once things got skied out and choppy, however, all of the sudden I was grateful for all the PNW skiing I grew up doing. These are bit of beast in rough snow, requiring a more advanced skier to reign them in. It took a few runs, but by the afternoon, I learned the rhythm of the Valhallas, when they needed aggressive handling and when I could just let them do their thing. img_6872 The Valhallas are light skis and get a little knocked around at slower speeds. If you’re trying to make turn after turn in rough snow, you’re going to burn out quickly. But when we let these things rip, even through the crud, they settled in like a fighter jet. It’s a weird paradox to feel stabler at higher speeds than casually making your way down the slope. Here’s the deal- The Valhallas thrive in that cold, deep snow. If you live in or travel frequently to places like Utah, Colorado, or even Bachelor in Central Oregon on a good year, these skis are an absolute blast. But if you mostly ski the northwest where champagne powder is an elusive unicorn and the mash potatoes and cream cheese are in plenty, it’ll be hard experience the full potential of these skis. img_6347

Gear Reviews

MSR Deploy TR-3 Winter Poles: $159.95

The Good: A lightweight, easily adjustable touring pole that can compact down small enough to be carried in a pack. The Bad: The included snow baskets aren’t very helpful on a storm day with lots of powder. The Awkward: There’s no way to talk about ski poles with out things sounding sexual. Back country skiing is a game of adjustment. You’re constantly adjusting layers for the conditions, speed for the distance of tour, and ideally, pole length for the type of terrain. Varying pole length can be amazingly helpful in differing terrain, but an amazing pain in the ass if you don’t have quick adjusting poles. The MSR Deploy poles bring lightweight adjustability to the table, allowing you to get the most efficiency out of your ski tour. img_5959 Winter came early this year in Northern California so we’ve been rocking the rock skis since October. We’ve already had the chance to take these poles on several tours on Mount Shasta. Surprisingly, we’ve brought them along in both corn conditions as well as powder days (all hail the snow gods!) During tours we were able to quickly adjust the length of the poles with MSR’s Trigger Release. By simply pulling up on the trigger below the pole handle, the pole shaft easily moves up and down to your desired length (is there any way to not make this sound sexual?) Simply release the trigger to lock the poles into place. We found that it requires two hands to lengthen the poles but only one to shorten it (nope, there’s no way). img_6343 img_6340-1 We absolutely love how light and compact these poles are. The shafts are built will a 7000 series aerospace aluminum, keeping it super lightweight while remaining stiff and solid (here we go again.) The aluminum build gives your poles a bit of rattle while skinning up, but so far it doesn’t indicate any compromise in quality. The pole handles have a catch for aiding in lifting your risers on the way up while the straps are glove friendly and have a ‘break-away’ safety feature for on the way down. The straps are even comfortable and lay flay against the hand with out gloves. MSR offers these poles with snow baskets and powder baskets that are sold separately. We strongly suggest getting the powder baskets if you plan for any storm days. The included snow baskets are definitely not sufficient for powder. For those looking for a lightweight, strong, quickly adjustable pole this season, the Deploy TR-3s fit the bill, just be sure to throw those powder baskets in the shopping cart as well.

Gear Reviews

EzyDog Element Jacket: $40

The Roaming Retriever is a golden who loves TRAILS. He loves to be off leash and the longer the adventure, the better. But most importantly Sauvie loves trail in ALL types of weather conditions; snow, rain, freezing cold mornings…it doesn’t matter. We have a dog that gives us the look of ‘you hate me’ if we don’t take him out on the trail. So to keep Sauvie safe and comfortable on those shitty weather endeavors, take along the Element Jacket from Ezydog.



This canine jacket is perfect for a one coat quiver for active dogs. The shell is wind and weatherproof, made with 600 denier (really tough) material. The lining is this magic stuff called non-piling fleece, and if you’ve heard of it, you know we’re not joking when we call it magic. Super soft and warm, this stuff holds up over time to the constant abrasion of dog fur. Fitting this shell over Sauvie is, well, Ezy (I couldn’t resist). The neck hole is wide enough to fit over a collar so there’s no hassling an excited trail pup. The straps at the bottom of the chest plate clip to the upper jacket and are both adjustable and stretchy, allowing for optimal fit and comfort. img_6295 Tested on the trails of Northern California, we’re digging this jacket for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s the perfect weight to warmth ratio for an active adventurer with fur of any kind. The fleece liner adds just the right amount of warmth to a frosty morning run. Second, it’s leash compatible. Sadly, dogs can’t always be off leash. The Element has a double zipper of the back allowing the leash access to the collar or harness underneath. Third, it comes in colors! We love the orange simply for visibility but EzyDog also makes a red and blue version. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset For the active dog adventuring in iffy weather, the Element Jacket is a great addition. It’s not a puffy or a parka so snow camping might be out. It is, however,  a perfect layer for dogs on the move during the fall, winter, and spring season.  

Better Businesses

Better Businesses: DownTek

We saw a lot of innovative and sustainably driven businesses at Outdoor Retailer this year, but a few truly impressed Trek Tech. One of which is DownTek. Not only does their company model make for an exceptional Better Business, but their product has significantly influenced the outdoor industry and enhanced the outdoor experience. For years, down has been praised for its warmth to weight ratio. However, the biggest problem with down, until recently, is its inability to hold loft and keep you insulated once wet. We saw for ourselves at Outdoor Retailer DownTek’s incredible solution to this problem. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to chat with Caroline who works with Sustainable Down Source and DownTek. and ask her some questions about the industry changing DownTek. img_3742
TrekTech: What is DownTek and what is its relationship to Down Décor and Sustainable Down Source?
DownTek: DownTek is a brand of water repellant down sold by Sustainable Down Source. Sustainable Down Source is a division of Down Decor. Down Decor has two divisions, Sustainable Down Source and Down Decor Home Textiles.  Thanks to the recognition of DownTek and DownTek ZeroPFC, the bulk down division of Down Decor grew significantly and in the last year became an entity of its own, rendering the natural transition to Sustainable Down Source. While still a division of Down Decor – including shared headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio – SDS now serves as a bulk down supplier of regular down, DownTek, and DownTek ZeroPFC to the outdoor, fashion, and home textiles industries.  Down Decor Home Textiles, meanwhile, focuses on cut and sew and filling (pillows and comforters, both down and synthetic) for home textiles. img_3649
TT: There’s so much hype around DownTek! In what ways is it better than ‘traditional’ down fill?
DT: When regular down is exposed to moisture, the water molecules cling to the filaments of the cluster, weighing it down and forcing the cluster to collapse. Once collapsed, down loses its ability to insulate because the pockets of air that provide insulation are gone. Air pockets on the down clusters of DownTek™ Water Repellent Down do not collapse. The DWR treatment creates surface tension on the filaments of the down clusters that forces the moisture molecules to bead up and roll off the down, leaving each cluster free to continue trapping warm air, thereby maintaining the ability to insulate even when exposed to water. IDFL* developed the ‘shake test’: a global standard for the measurement of how well DWR down performs when subjected to water. They put 2 grams of down in a jar along with 400 ml of water and place the jar on an oscillating machine. Then they check the level of saturation at various time intervals until the down is completely submerged – meaning the clusters have completely collapsed and the down is no longer able to insulate. Whereas untreated down lasts anywhere from 25-60 minutes before becoming completely saturated, DownTek™ Water Repellent Down lasts anywhere from 800-1000 minutes. This is with the down being in direct and constant contact with water for that length of time.
TT: In what ways is your company striving to be environmentally ethical?
DT: Sustainable Down Source is taking a number of steps to be environmentally ethical. We are collaborating with industry groups to address environmental concerns and help develop solutions. Besides being RDS certified, we are also part of SAC, ZDHC, and a bluesign system partner. We also use the Higg Index to measure our sustainability efforts – meaning we can gauge our progress and identify areas in need of additional attention. Below is a summary of these affiliations.
  1. SAC /HIGG Index
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is a unique and extraordinary alliance comprised of :
  • Companies of all sizes from all sectors of fashion, manufacturing, and retail
  • NGO’s dedicated to environmental, social, and trade issues
  • Sustainability experts
  • Affiliated trade organizations
This unprecedented collaboration has resulted in an equally unprecedented plan for sustainable production in the apparel, footwear, and home textiles industries. Central to the plan is the Higg Index, a suite of assessment tools that allows brands, retailers, and manufacturers to measure the environmental, labor, and social impact they are making at every step of the supply chain. These self-assessment tools enable members to evaluate areas of risk, areas of strength, and areas where improvements can be made. SDS is a proud member of SAC and has implemented use of the Higg Index at both facilities in the USA, with plans to begin modules for assessment of our Taiwan and Nanjing facilities in 2016. By using the Higg Index, we were able to quantify our impact in a way that was not previously available to us. As a result of our findings we have undergone facility renovations for cleaner air emissions and minimized use of electrical power, as well as implemented employee engagement and health initiatives, and developed a rigorous recycling program to minimize the amount of waste to local landfills. SAC is making a significant impact on the sustainability efforts in manufacturing and retail and SDS is excited to be part of a coalition comprised of individuals who understand that large scale and lasting change can only be achieved by working together. For more information visit: http://apparelcoalition.org
  1. ZDHC
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical Programme has identified and fulfilled the need for a comprehensive list of restricted substances that includes in-depth research to identify potential hazards and audit protocols applicable cross-industry and throughout the supply chain to eliminate the hazards once identified. The audit protocols are an important feature to the ZDHC Programme as they provide a uniform and consistent process for identifying areas of risk and implementing the appropriate steps to eliminate the presence of harmful substances from every step of the supply chain. Another central aspect of the ZDHC Programme is a focus on water management. Water efficiency and wastewater discharge quality are both integral to sustainable manufacturing. In 2016 ZDHC released the Wastewater Quality Discharge Guideline, which provides a unified standard by which the manufacturing supply chain can gauge their degree of compliance and identify areas in need of improvement. SDS is a contributing member to ZDHC and is pleased to be part of the Roadmap to Zero. For more information visit: www.roadmaptozero.com
  1. Bluesign
As a bluesign® system partner, SDS is committed to applying the bluesign® system which unites the entire textile supply chain to jointly reduce its impact on people and the environment. The Input Stream Management ensures that approved chemical products and raw materials are used in all steps of the manufacturing process. Substances posing risks to people and the environment are hence eliminated from the very beginning. On-site inspections verify the proper application of such chemical products and raw materials in controlled processes and ensure the responsible use of resources. bluesign® system partners are responsibly acting parties of the textile supply chain committed to applying the bluesign® system. They aim to continuously improve their environmental performance and are focused on a sustainable future. For more information visit: www.bluesign.com
  1. “We employ a proprietary application method instead of a bath treatment, thereby eliminating waste run-off.” This sounds fascinating! Can you expand and explain what this means?
We protect our affluent waste water run-off from harmful substances so that these elements do not end up in the environment. bags-of-down3
TT: Can you define ‘ethically sourced’ down. – What does RDS mean? Why is this term important?
DT: The Responsible Down Standard is a rigorous certification process that ensures the ethical treatment of birds. While down and feathers are a by-product of the meat industry, it has been the down and feather industry that has taken the lead in ensuring that birds being slaughtered for their meat are not force-fed or live plucked and that at each step in the supply chain the Five Freedoms are respected and enforced. RDS certification follows the chain of custody from farm to final product, with each step in the supply chain undergoing annual audits. Upon passing the audit, each facility is awarded a Scope Certificate that verifies compliance with the expectations set forth by RDS. In addition to the Scope Certificate, Transaction Certificates (TC’s) are also issued with each sale and purchase of RDS down and feathers as it goes from slaughter-house, to processor, to bulk down supplier, to factory, to retail- providing a verifiable paper trail and reinforcing the integrity and traceability of the program. Long before RDS was established as the standard for ensuring the ethical treatment of birds, SDS (then Down Decor) voluntarily underwent annual, third party audits to ensure that no live-plucking or force-feeding occurred in the supply chain. SDS is fully committed to the ethical treatment of birds and we only buy down and feathers from verifiable sources. While it is a very small percentage of the world’s down supply that comes from live-plucking, it is nonetheless a serious issue and requires serious attention. SDS is proud to be RDS certified and to offer RDS certification for our regular bulk down, DownTek Water Repellent Down, and DownTek ZeroPFC.
TT: Zero PFC, ‘perfluorocarbon-free water repellent down’, can you explain this in lamens terms?
DT: From the beginning Down Decor realized the importance of clean chemistry and DownTek was developed with no long-chain carbons (which persist in the environment), instead using a C6 short-chain carbon (which has a half life of 15 minutes and is deemed safe by the EPA). By 2014, the outdoor, fashion, and home textiles industries were making a clear shift towards more sustainable business practices, including greater focus on chemicals management, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility. While C6 DWR is still considered safe for use, Down Decor developed DownTek ZeroPFC, a carbon-free DWR option. Instead of carbons, ZeroPFC uses lipids to create water repellency. The DWR performance is not as strong as with original DownTek (see explanation of ‘shake test’ below) but is still significantly greater than that of regular down.
TT: How can we, as consumers of down products, educate ourselves more on the issue of sustainably sourcing down? Why is sustainably sourced down so important?
DT: The RDS website (www.responsibledown.org) is very informative regarding sustainably sourced down. Sustainably/ethically sourced down means that measures and audits have been put in place to eliminate any threat of force feeding or live-plucking of the birds. It means that the birds are treated humanely from hatch to slaughter. It’s important to keep in mind that birds are only slaughtered for their meat. Ducks and geese are a primary food source in Asia and Eastern Europe, much like chicken is in the USA. If everyone in the world quit eating ducks and geese then there would no longer be a down industry. Down is only a by-product of the meat industry. The total monetary value of the bird that comes from it’s down and feathers is less than 9%. Despite the meat industry being the primary money maker in the slaughter of birds, it has been the down industry that has led and shouldered the cost of the movement to ensure that birds are treated humanely throughout their lives, leading to a humane slaughter.
TT: What are some of the companies using DownTek?
DT: LL Bean, Big Agnes, Marmot, Enlightened, EMS, Reecho, Mountain Designs, to name a few besides several fashion brands.
TT: Does DownTek have any new products or tech coming out that you can share about with us? What are DownTek’s goals for 2017?
DT: Sustainable Down Source is always working on making our products better. We cannot release the details of our current project, but we are excited about the possibilities.
*International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL). IDFL is a third-party testing facility that provides a wide range of tests.  

Gear Reviews

Functioning Fashion: Gregory Pierpont Backpack

Sometimes adventures and travel take us places other than mountains. For front country travel, we want a pack that’s just as functional as our multiday packs but sleek enough to fit through crowded places. The Gregory Pierpont  is a 23.5L pack out the Avenues Collection. It bridges the gap between a fashionable urban pack and a functioning traveling pack. The sleek and streamlined look is deceiving, hiding this pack’s insane durability of the 600 denier polyester ripstop weave and water resistant bottom panels. img_6272 img_6282 We feel the Pierpont successfully border lines professional. Our tester doubles as a DJ for weddings and found this pack to be the perfect piece of gear for hauling a laptop, headphones, cables, etc, to his events. His only critique was the side pocket wouldn’t expand enough to fit a water bottle when fully packed. And although the dedicated laptop sleeve will fit a 15 inch laptop, it’s a tight squeeze. The little tweaks aside, the Pierpont speaks to millennials in its trending and modern look and delivers durability and performance to the professional who needs function before fashion. img_6280