Sources for outdoor fabric, down, and kits now that Frostline is Gone

and

"An Essay on Down" (what it is, how to store it, and how to wash it, sleeping bag temperature ratings; plus, modern Wool) (click here to skip directly to topic)

 

ARE THERE FROSTLINE SUCCESSORS? --- UNFORTUNATELY, to the best of my knowledge, no one is currently manufacturing complete kits like Frostline, Holubar or Altra sold in the 1970s and 80s. By "complete" I mean kits with all the material pre-cut; all the notions packaged and ready; the down in neat little packets pre-measured for inserting into each compartment; and a great set of instructions. This is sad, and if any readers find a company currently making such kits, please contact me asap! I have provided a number of links below which can allow the persistent person to obtain the fabrics, fillings and patterns from which they can sew up their own gear despite the demise of Frostline and its kin.

The closest modern cousin to the classic kit companies like Frostline, Altra, or Holubar Kits is probably a small company named "Thru-Hiker." They offer a small selection of kits aimed at the ultralight backpacking crowd. Note: although they provide all the raw materials and notions, the pieces are not pre-cut (instead, you get a pattern), and the down is not provided in those neat little pre-measured "applicators" like Frostline or Holubar had in the good ole days. Thru-Hiker's down is extremely high loft, can be purchased separately, and is a good price.

Here are several Links to the few but admirable companies now carrying on the Frostline tradition---

The Rainshed <http://www.therainshed.com/>, in Corvallis, Oregon, near Oregon State University (OSU)... this is one of the most complete stocks of fabrics, patterns and notions that one could ever desire, I myself have purchased from them several times in the past...they've been around for many years (I have their wonderful, thick 1993 color catalog)......Also in Oregon, and also a place I've visited and purchased from in the past, is Green Pepper <http://thegreenpepper.com/>, which has been around since Frostline times in 1973---their main products are all patterns for outdoor gear (also see mention of them under Canvas Works).......In nearby Idaho state is Idaho Outdoor Fabrics <http://www.owfinc.com/>, which is a truly righteous successor to the Frostline heritiage, with a huge selection and even bulk rates for big buyers. Note: while they do carry patterns, they don't make true Frostline-type kits...... Washingtonians in Seattle are blessed with Seattle Fabrics (SeattleFabrics.com) which stocks many of the very newest, most innovative materials, such as Polartech Power Shield and Spandura. In the South Puget Sound area is a great place in Olympia, WA called "Canvas Works," <http://www.canvasworks.net/> which carries a large selection of outdoor fabrics, including the required zippers and other notions to put together almost any pack, parka, or misc. piece of gear. They also carry a big selection of outdoor clothing patterns from "Green Pepper" .......Also try FabricLine/Rose City Textiles, a Portland,Oregon company with a diverse selection of fabrics, patterns and notions-- on the web at fabricline.com <http://www.fabricline.com/>. Note: although Fabricline carries many fabrics that could be used to construct backpacking/climbing gear, I could find no patterns that might apply to such sewing. However, Annette at Rose City Textiles is really fun to talk with and very encouraging toward any and all would-be outdoor gear creators.(Note: recently, Feb. 2010, the Fabricline website seems to have become only a "portal" site-- readers with info. please tell me what has happened!)......A new contributor has told me about "Rockywoods" in Loveland, Colorado,http://www.rockywoods.com/
. Rockywoods has a wide variety of both classic and more modern high-tech fabrics, plus a few kits, but not pre-cut kits, and definitely not kits equipped with nice little down packets like Frostline used to have!

Finally, I've had a number of inquiries from owners of old, classic tents from various makers who have needed some type of new pole, or pole repair parts-- they should go to the "Tent Poles and Parts" section of QuestOutfitters.com, based in Sarasota, Florida. They have many pole supplies, as well as an excellent discussion....And for those in the Pacific Northwest, a great place for custom poles and repairs is located in Vancouver, WA; it is named .Yunan Aluminum pole company and has wide expertise, ph 360-260-9527, website is PolesForYou.com.

Although the successors to the Frostline tradition may be few and far between, they all seem to love their mission.....


How to Buy Goose Down--- And here's information sent to me recently by contributor Bill K........"Yes, there are several online sources of good down. Thru-hiker.com, which I mentioned previously, sells 800+ fill-power goose down in 3-ounce bags for $29.95/bag plus shipping. This is excellent down (I made the Whitney Jacket from the thru-hiker kit). Customer service is as good as it gets. Also a good source for synthetic insulation (Primaloft and Climashield) and ultralight fabrics.

Feathered Friends in Seattle will sell down, although they don't advertise it on their web site. As of several years ago, the 800-fill stuff was $8 an ounce in 6-ounce bags. They also sell what they call "floor down," which is what they vacuum up after a day of making sleeping bags. It's half the price, but not worth the extra effort required, as it has to be washed and picked-through, since it contains dust, pieces of thread, and possibly other foreign material (I found a small piece of wood in the batch that I got.).. I made a sleeping bag with it.

Also in Seattle, recommended to me by Rainy Pass Repair, is Jack's Comforters, recently renamed to ALL ABOUT DOWN. Jack Sukalac's card says, "Down Specialists, Renovation and Repair." phone 206-784-3444. They do sleeping bags, and could be a good place to take a classic down bag that has some "issues."

There's also Feather Industries in Canada, which sells down in various grades. They're a wholesaler, so prices are good, but they have a 2-pound minimum, with a 20% surcharge for anything less than 25 pounds. I've never purchased from them, but I've heard good reports. Also, hungariangoosedown.com, of which I know nothing.

http://www.featherind.com/
http://www.hungariangoosedown.com/bulkb.htm

And in November 2009, Miki, who formerly worked for Frostline in Boulder, told me about a firm named Lodi Down and Feather.


Please Note: All Material on this page, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. ... Editors: Please contact me if you have interest in publishing....Others: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon.....Sponsors: if your outdoor company is interested in sponsoring this site, please contact me for details.


"An Essay on Down"

GOOSE DOWN was a key component of the success of both Frostline and Holubar Kits.... both companies created innovative methods to package the down for consumer sewing kits. Goose Down occupied center stage for decades during the History of Gear. It was the clearly superior insulation of choice. Even today, in 2010, despite the rise of interesting new insulations, quality down remains the ultimate in most respects.

Down terminology--- "fillpower" is one of the main parameters that determines down quality. Down with increasingly higher (better) fillpower costs more and more. Cheap down in department store jackets often has only 450-500 fillpower, and it's duck down with lots of larger feathers and feather shafts, etc. "Normal" down is goose down with a fillpower of 550, as measured in the supposedly standard testing cylinder-- under controlled conditions, how much volume will one pound of down expand to fill up? Typical levels of better quality down are 600, 650, 700, and then the ultra-premium 800. Some folks doubt the truth of claims as high as 800, but in my book, having owned a bag with 800 fillpower down, as you get into the highest grades, it's all mighty fine stuff, soft and luxurious and heavenly light and compressible. You really can tell a big difference, even over 550 down. The exact source of the down (the birds) formerly was held in great esteem, with eider down and Polish down being regarded as the ultimate, but nowadays many say it doesn't really matter where it comes from, as long as it passes the tests, one down is as good as any other--- and nowadays most of the World's down comes from geese raised for meat in (you guessed it) China....

The Proper Storage of Your Down Gear-- Here are some storage tips:
Packing loosely is the right thing to do. Never store your down bag or garment tightly compressed into its stuff sack or compression sack.....Down-filled articles need to need to breathe freely to avoid any build-up of damaging water vapors. Thus
storing inside things like plastic garbage bags is a distinct no-no. A cotton storage bag usually comes with any new, quality
down bag and is the best thing. If you don't have one of those, take an old sheet, queen size
is good, and create a makeshift storage sack out of that, tie the top shut
with a piece of cordage.
Storage needs to be in a dry, cool place. Attics are bad, especially due to the extreme
heat that occurs during the summertimes. There's enough heat up there in the summer to kill any average duck or goose! Normally, inside the house in the back of a closet is a perfect spot, UNLESS the closet is subject to excessive humidity build-up.

The cleaning of older down garments and sleeping bags--- this is an important subject. It is related to the general topic of not destroying your expensive down bag by misuse and abuse. The picture below shows one of the terrible things that can result. This classic Sierra Designs Superlight bag has suffered an interior baffle tearing loose. The bag baffle had knotted and trapped a big clump of down. It was like a tumor inside the bag, so I did surgery through a 1.5 inch long slit. This kind of damage can be the result of over-vigorous stuffing and unstuffing, or perhaps from too many gymnastics inside the bag. It can also occur during the process of washing the bag.... The brief warning is NOT to dry clean or machine wash older down items, IN PARTICULAR sleeping bags with their delicate interior structures of baffling... Hand washing with a good down soap is the method of choice. The key word is GENTLE, GENTLE, GENTLE. ... IF you must disregard my cautions, use only an appropriately-sized front loading machine and mild soap, and dry on a verified minimal heat setting in a large commerical dryer, with lots and lots of big dry towels to cushion and absorb moisture. Remove item from dryer frequently and very carefully and very gently pull apart the big wads of clumped-up wet down, then continue drying. Be prepared to spend at least two hours for drying of larger down items like sleeping bags. If you have a truly valuable collector's vintage bag like an old Holubar Expedition bag, or anything that is both old, and collectible, I highly advise that you spend the money (est. $30-40, plus shipping both ways) to have the bag professionally done by a specialist like Rainy Pass Repairs-- and PLEASE be prepared for the possible news that the washing may not be possible if the internal baffling and/or the stitching holding it has become weak or rotted due to age and hard usage (see my page about Repairs of Vintage Gear).

SLEEPING BAG TEMPERATURE RATINGS AND LOFT--- The scoop on Sleeping Bag temperature ratings, the best method for an average consumer without expensive testing lab equipment is to lay out the subject sleeping bag for several days to become fully fluffed-out. Then take a normal 12 inch ruler and gently shove it up against the side of the bag, about where your ribs are. Carefully sight a level line, most likely you'll see a reading of somewhere around 5 to 8 inches.

5 inches would be good to about 25 degrees for an average sleeper, assuming the bag doesn't have any broken internal baffles with big cold spots resulting.
6 inches good to about 15
7 inches good to about 5
8 inches good to about 10 below

Shown below: the ruby red bag is a 1972 Snowline bag with 7.4 inches of loft, vs. a blue 1965 Holubar Expedition Royalight bag with 9.3 inches of loft. "Snowline" was the original name chosen by the founder of Snowlion, but lasted only briefly due to conflict with the prior users of the name (Eddie Bauer)

Important Notes:
As the temperature falls into the frigid ranges, other bag construction factors become more and more important, either adding to, or subtracting from, the amount of loft the bag possesses. Eg. If the bag has an excellent hood
Design, that helps. Eg. If the bag has a down-filled draft collar around the shoulders, that can help a lot. Eg. If the bag has a vapor barrier liner, that can add a good 10 degrees to the temperature rating, especially on the 2nd and 3rd and 4th nights out in frigid temps. Eg. If the cut of the bag is spacious, that subtracts from the temperature rating. Eg. If the zipper baffle area is not well-designed, that will result in a nasty cold spot. Eg. If you’re sleeping out in the open, any amount of breeze will subtract from your rating, and what will help bring it back up is a good bag cover, Goretex or any other good wind barrier. Eg. Ground insulation--- a really big factor is the adequacy of your ground insulation; it takes ever-increasing thickness and R-value as the temp drops to zero and below, especially on snow or ice. Eg. Related to this, your temperature rating goes to hell if you keep rolling off your ground pad during the night, so bag systems that are designed such that the sleeper cannot roll off are much better under severe cold conditions (eg. The Warmlite Triple Bag with a built-in pad or the new bag systems from Therm-a-Rest like the Altair sleeping bag).
Therm-a-Rest XTherm pad, thermarest XTherm sleeping pad is the best for combining light weight, small bulk and high R value.

Let me know your measurement results, please!

Bruce Johnson
January 2014

WOOL: ANOTHER TRADITIONAL INSULATION is wool, usually from sheep. It has been deeply discounted and even maligned since the rise of modern synthetics, but wool has kept people warm for ten thousand years in some of the World's nastiest climates so must have some virtues. A small family-owned company in the mountains of Sweden has been producing a high tech form of merino wool since 1972, naming it "Ullfrotte' Original." They form it into a complete lineup of base and midlayer garments. Gary Neptune of Neptune Mountaineering highly favors Woolpower. The garments can even be machine washed and machine dried... Contact: info@woolpower.se, or their website at www.woolpower.se

copyright Bruce B. Johnson 2006-2014. Reader input is welcome.

I hope this sheds some light on the fascinating subject of that warm puffy down that we love to cocoon ourselves in.

Shown is a Holubar Kits "Rustler" down jacket kit, which was a sewn-through construction. Those of us who were more daring and skilled sometimes would take such a kit and meticulously add baffling material between the inner and outer fabrics, thus creating a much warmer and infinitely more "braggable" personal creation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Shown is the JanSport "Brass Bed" series, which featured down tops paired with Polarguard bottoms. This unusual design was meant to maximize the powers of down, while minimizing down's two main weaknesses-- compressibility under body weight, and poor performance when wet or damp.

 

 

Please Note: All Material above, and in all my "History of Gear" webpages, is copyrighted, and no usage of my material is permitted unless explicit permission is granted by me, Bruce B. Johnson, owner of OregonPhotos.com. ... Editors: Please contact me if you have interest in publishing....Others: if you were involved with one of the old-line, vintage gear companies and have a story to tell in these pages, please contact me soon.

WWW.OREGONPHOTOS.COM

Main Page: Essays and pictures about the Pioneers of the Outdoor Gear Revolution, 1935-The Present,, 45+ pages, five books published, and always expanding as new material come in!

 

Frostline Kits, the original "sew-it-yourself" company

GERRY MOUNTAINEERING, begun in 1945

 

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Page last revised January 15, 2014