In an expedition sleeping bag upon which your survival depends 65% of the insulating weight/mass, comes from "down". Since Valandré uses"one of the most sophisticated 3D construction techniques in the world", we simply do not want to fill the shell with "hay". After all you won't expect Porsche to fitt a 911 with a 2 stroke engine. Straight and simple explanations are therefore important.
It is fundamental to keep in mind that geese are migrating animals. Twice a year they migrate, between the north and south hemispheres, therefore completing long distance endurance flights up to 800 miles non-stop and at altitudes reaching 24.000ft with a cruising speed of 50 miles/hour (80km/h). A brilliant example can be seen in a BBC extreme animal video on YouTube: Top gun geese in flight (BBC) or read: Migrating Geese (wbu.com)
(They can breathe and fly above 24.000ft, because of a "Turbo charged double lung system"; during inhalation the air flows across the lungs and goes into an air balloon. Expelling the air from the container, the same air traverses the lungs a second time)
As the gosling hatches from the egg after 28 days in late spring it must develop into a fully mature bird within only 24 weeks, to be capable of following the flock in the autumn migration towards the "summer" in the south.
The down quality in all Valandre goose down products is the result of the French Gray Goose production situated in the south west of France.
This gray goose, also known as the Gray Goose of Toulouse, is bred under strictly control in specialized farms where female and male birds live freely in open fields. The sole purpose of these reproducing geese is to reproduce eggs that are then collected and sent to an incubation facility.
In order to avoid racial degeneration, different closely connected breeds are regularly, introduced into the reproducing flock, in order to inject new DNA, thus ensuring the vitality of the Gray Goose of Toulouse.
The incubation is a highly controlled process performed in completely sterile facilities. Eggs are kept for 28 days at constant temperatures in an incubation machine that regularly rotates them so the embryo is kept alive. .
After hatching from the egg, and again in order to keep the race under control, the male and female goslings are separated, to be raised apart, leaving no possibility of cross breeding.
Within 24 weeks, the "cute little yellow gosling" will transform into an ultra endurance flying machine, capable of long distance nonstop flights at high altitudes and at high speeds a kind of Haile Gebrseassie running on top of the Himalayas.
The gosling will literally eat nonstop, like a pig, in order to support its growth, store the necessary energy, and prepare the down and feathers for the migration.
Down development is indeed vital to survive the migration. It consists of 4 different "molts". As the "cute little yellow gosling" hatches from the egg, it wears a first protection coat, of yellow filaments. This coat will be replaced by a first down coat that will slowly see the first small feathers develop. This second coat will molt as the goose develops a third coat, where the down and flying feathers are 75% developed but is not capable of resisting a migration.
It's in the last four weeks that this "coat" will molt for the fourth and last time, at a moment when the goose has reached its final size, but not weight. During the last 4 weeks the bird will seek any good excuse to "stuff itself" with the energy needed, for long haul nonstop flights. Corn rich in fatty acids is feed to the animal without any limits, and the more they get the better they feel, as they just want to "super size".
The energy is stored in the animal’s fat under the skin and in the liver which has the natural function of a "fuel tank". But as the bird is molting during this last 4 week period, the "excess energy" enters the new and final coat. The new down is strong and fresh, clean, unbroken, and ready to go. It is right at this moment that we harvest the totally mature down.
And this point explains the difference in insulating capacity from a third molt down quality from geese raised for meat production and a fourth molt quality from a four week older "fatty" animal.
This is the principle, but like everything it can be perfected and taken to a higher level. As we are in a high quality production area, we have set a negotiated quality standard, where the best down lots are systematically selected and put aside exclusively for Valandré, a quality principle that covers all of the South West of France. So you are not only getting a totally mature forth molt fatty gray goose, your quality has been selected amongst the best lots available in the South West of France.
In order to protect the natural insulation quality after slaughtering, a race against the clock is engaged in the processing. When alive the goose, is a clean animal that needs to be raised outside in the fields, and they need water to swim in, as part of their down/feather preparation. However, the animal is not sterile and carries bacteria in the down and feathers.
The presences of bacteria in the raw material, in connection with water harvesting, triggers a natural fermentation process witch if not stopped, will eventually destroy the quality of insulation.
Therefore drying facilities are connected to the slaughter houses, where the raw material is instantly dried then quickly transported into the processing facility, geographically situated IN the production area, as quality control is highly time dependant. Any delay can alter the quality of the down.
The down is sorted from the feathers in tall vertical columns. A fan at the top gently pulls the feather/down mix towards the top of the column. The heavy feathers don’t fly as high in the column as the down does. Valandré only accepts the down that makes it to the very top of the column. Sorting the feather/down mix is more of an art than science. Throughout the entire sorting process an attendant monitors the vacuum level and down moisture content to ensure a perfect sorting. The vacuum gently removes the down from the sorting column and it is taken to the cleaning station. The down goes through multiple wash cycles to remove any chance contaminant. Dried, sterilized, fluffed and loosely stored in bags, the down is now ready for the 3-hour ride to our factory where it will breathe life into every one of Valandré's down products.
It is this singular, unmatched and 100% pure "fatty" gray goose of Toulouse, purified into 95% big clusters and 5% other (filaments and micro feathers) that will keep you warm and safe. This exclusive down can be sourced only from one specific region and you can only get it from one company: Valandré.
This leaves us with the final and fundamental question: So what's the filling power?
First of all, there's a difference between test results, made according to European or US standards, this is due to a difference in cylinder diameter and weight of the compression staple in the two different methods. Basically it is possible to consider that an 800cuin EU test result, correspond to an 850cuin US test result.
At Valandré, we may seem raw and direct but we are simply straight forward and not rude (unless we are provoked). So, let’s get this straight.
As with the EN 13537 test results published here and there (without any documentation at all, as well as no control), there are serious problems of naive (or maybe not so naive...who knows?) exaggerations, It's exactly the same with the test results claims of filling power.
The fact is, based upon working a unique and totally mature 95/05 "fatty" Gray goose (fourth molt), that it's not possible (or extremely difficult) to exceed a claim of EU 800cuin (US 850cuin). It can be done in an extremely small quantity, but it can't be done in a steady annual production. And a third molt Eastern European quality from meat production claimed to reach 850cuin US appears simply: not realistic.
We claim a steady quality of+/- 800cuin (EU Standards), but as the standards are generally misused (widespread inflation), this claim becomes meaningless, so let's put it in a different and straight forward way: the puff is puffy enough for you. In other words: big enough for you babe!
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