The worst things about Montana

Necessary companion to yesterday.  Feel free to take offense.

1: The food


I irritate friends and coworkers almost weekly on this subject, but the thing I lament most often about Montana is not being able to get a decent Avocado for less than $1.25 and being able to count the acceptable eating institutions in a valley of 100,000 on both hands, with fingers left over.  The former is a function of distance, and I presume lack of demand, but the later* is less easily explicable.  The prominence of the exceptions to Montana = shit restaurants, and the fervor with which they are upheld by their devotees, only proves my point.  With a few exceptions (Bernice’s, Sportsman’s Lodge, the Polebridge Merc under the previous owners) my most memorable meals have all been at home or in the field, and centered around wild game or fish.  So go suck it Montana, and let me know when the 20th century has made it over from Wyoming.

*It should be noted that this does not apply to Montana breweries, of which there are many good ones.

2: The distance


As I noted yesterday Montana wins much by being far from population centers.  The somewhat inexorable corollary to this is that a substantive change of scenery, when for instance the rainy fall doldrums have set in, is often a very long way away.  6-8 hours, or in the grip of winter even more.  Lower latitudes provide more diversity of opportunity, especially when they’re associated with more drastic changes in elevation than most of Montana provides.

It also requires more time, money and effort for folks to visit you when you live in Montana, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

There is no way to have your cake and eat it with this one.

3: The dark


These last two are somewhat specific to our corner of the state, which has both the short days of early winter along the 48th parallel and occasional spells of Pacific-influenced drizzle and cloud.  We also, in the valley, are frequently blessed with inversions of mist and fog off Flathead Lake, which during severe temperature gradients can be thick enough to necessitate fog lights and sub 40 mph speeds on the highway.  In short, late fall and early winter can be tough, especially when all daylight hours are spent at work and the snow has yet to fall in earnest.  Getting into hunting has made this much easier to bear, as by the time the season is over I’ve generally been so tired that I’m quite content to stay home in the dark, reading and cooking.  Nonetheless, we miss southwest sunshine, when a cloudy day is so rare as to be an afterthought.  Having it again will be a welcome return.

4: The white people


Of which I am of course one.

The Flathead Valley is sufficiently remote and uninviting (see above) that one needs a compelling reason to be here in residence.  The most obvious, and in my book most trustworthy, reason is any permutation of hiking/skiing/boating/hunting/fishing.  Most of the truly enthusiastic participants here are transplants, do more than one outdoor activity at a dedicated level, and are white.  The second reason, and in my book the least trustworthy, is those who moved here “for the view.”  I’d like to deport any Flathead residents who don’t drive east beyond West Glacier at least six times a year, it’d doubtless sort out the sprawl, hilltop eyesores, and continue degradation of the wildland/urban interface nicely.  These people are also majorly white, and much more likely than average to be from California (an easy slur, but a true one).  The third reason, which will be addressed in a forthcoming valedictory post concerning my professional life over the last six years, is that the folks in question were born and raised and due to the cathection of choice and circumstance cannot leave.  Again, most of these people are white.

The dark side of all this is that the Flathead is an insular, insulated, often out of touch place.  There’s a reason Richard Spencer chose to move to Whitefish a few years ago, and that reason does not do the area credit.  I’ll miss the Flathead, I’ll miss the mountains in all directions, I’ll miss the clear rivers and the larches changing in October and the deer behind every third tree, and the many friends we’re leaving behind, but I will not miss the cynical utopia which is much of the valley, halcyon uncritical of a daily world which never was.  The more I think about it, the stronger my conclusion that it probably isn’t the best place to raise a child.

Bye bye Montana, we’ll visit often but I doubt we’ll ever be back for good.

The best things about Montana

In vague order of preference, because in two months we’ll at long last be back on the edge of the Colorado Plateau, living in western Colorado.  When we moved to Montana eight years it was for me to attend graduate school, the University of Montana was the best place to offer me admission, and Montana had made that list largely because of all the things M and I did not know about it.  I think we’ve used our time wisely.

1: Big Wilderness



Aka the Crown of the Continent ecosystem of Glacier and the Bob Marshall complex, as well as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Selway-Frank Church complex.  These are the three largest roadless areas in the lower 48, and are all at least partially in Montana.  When summer roads are at their most open a strong hiker can cherry-pick trailheads and walk across any of the three in a day, but at the same time the hardest way through can even in the easiest of seasons take over a week of hard work.  In the winter, all three grow several times larger.  Outside Alaska or the northern half of Canada, there is in North America no substitute.

2: Few people



Montana recently pushed over a million, which is few only by warped contemporary standards, but that spars-ish population is both historically responsible for the three areas outlined above being undeveloped by the time the conservation movement grew to maturity, and for their continued integrity as large and wild.  Yes, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks form parts of the Crown and GYE, and see 3-5 million visitors annually, but that visitation is concentrated in the summer and close to the road.  Even the trailed alpine backcountry of Glacier, for which it’s been increasingly difficult to obtain overnight permits, has big areas which see a few dozen sets of feet each year.  Even the front country of those same parks has plenty of little islands, hidden in plain sight, where solitude can easily be found.

But the real significance here, and the real reason Montana remains so well-comported in this desperate age, is its distance from truly big cities.  The city closest to Montana is not even in the United States, but in Canada, namely Calgary, which is just less than 300 km from the border, and at least 400 km from most prospective destinations.  The closest US cities are Seattle (370 miles) and Salt Lake City (300 miles).  Within Montana both Billings and Missoula clear the 100,000 mark when counted honestly (i.e. not sticking to within arbitrary city limits), and in our home of the past six years (the Flathead Valley) a further 100,000 live in four large towns and the 20 by 15 mile rectangle for which Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and Bigfork are the four corners.  That’s a third of the states people locked up in a few small places, which means that there are many, many place in Montana which may have plenty of old logging roads blighting their appeal on the map, but also are also visited as infrequently as all but the most remote places within the big name Wilderness-es.  Combined, these first two factors give Montana a vastly different feel than Utah, Colorado, or Arizona.

3: Hunting




If you live in Montana and don’t hunt, big game, small game, or both, you are missing out on what is without question the most distinguished and outstanding aspect of the whole state and it’s massive pantheon of outdoor opportunity.

Resident hunting licenses are dirt cheap.  As a resident you get a general deer tag and general elk tag, every year, which is good for both archery and firearms season, and is valid in 90+% of the hunting districts statewide.  Additional doe and cow tags are available over the counter, and the number you hold is more limited by how much you are willing to drive than anything else.  Still more deer and elk tags can be had via drawing, and many of those are almost guaranteed so long as you read the regulations and draw odds correctly.  Montana has legit hunting opportunities for all other native big game species, save Grizzly Bears and Bison.  Grizzly hunting will happen within the next decade, and bison hunting which doesn’t depend on winter migration out of Yellowstone got a foothold this year with a few early September permits for the headwater valleys in the Beartooths.  Moose, Mountain Goat, and Bighorn Sheep opportunities are for residents at least as good as any other western state, including the only places in the US where Bighorn permits are guaranteed.  For all of the above seasons are long, and generally speaking animals are well-distributed.  The diversity of hunts and hunting opportunities is such that imagination and lifespan form more durable caps on opportunity than anything else.

Small game hunting in Montana isn’t as sexy, but also presents unique opportunities.  For instance, three species of grouse reside in the mountains just north of our house, testament to the elevation change and diverse vegetation therein.  One could, with a three grouse bag limit, fill it with one spruce, one dusky, and one ruffed.  I haven’t done that, and likely never fill, but I’ve managed two of three on over half a dozen different occasions.  With proper motivation and access to private land, non-native pheasant and turkey could be had in the same weekend.

4: Packrafting

This goes along with big wild areas which were developed late, insofar as outside the Montana/Idaho Rockies all the big, gentler rivers in the lower 48 already had a road (or railroad) along side when the age of conservation arrived.  Whitewater outings like the Grand Canyon, or scrappy little creeks like the Dirty Devil, do not provide the same opportunity as the South Fork of the Flathead or (when the NPS removes head from ass) the Lamar and upper Yellowstone.

Relaxing, meditative travel away from roads and on non-technical terrain is one of life’s rare pleasures.

5: Winter



Another of life’s increasingly rare pleasures is a proper winter, which piles snow fast and deep and gives a human pause to reconsider implicit supremacy, by freezing skin and making it inadvisable to leave the house, even with four-wheel drive.  As the world warms this will become and increasingly rare experience, and while increased latitude will protect Montana for a while, the states relative lack of high altitudes (compared to Colorado) will ultimately prove problematic.  In other words, while the ski areas may hang on for a bit, nordic skiing will in many places shortly be a thing of the past.  So enjoy the non-fatbike days while they last, and embrace the scary driving.

Coming next: The worst things about Montana.

Cowboy Coffee redux

Two years ago I detailed my preferred method of making cowboy coffee in the field, and advocated for it as the all around best method.  Plenty of articles about backcountry coffee have come out since, but there is still no new news here.  Via is convenient (especially as it is quite palatable cold), but expensive and for all Starbucks work still has an aftertaste suitable for taking paint off car hoods.  The Aeropress and various french press accessories work well, but for me will always be unacceptably bulky for true backcountry (save something like a canoe trip).  There is also, in my mind, a lot to be said for applying technique to create something beautiful, rather than buying yet another gadget.

The main difficulty with cowboy coffee is cleanup.  If you’re not camping near a water source it’s difficult to not have a big mess to sort out later.  Given my serious coffee habit, and the serious performance-enhancing benefits of caffeine, I never skimp on coffee, and that often means bringing both Via and fine grounds.  The former is for quick mornings and mid-day breaks, the later for sit-down breakfasts and extended stops mid-day.

Regardless, don’t faff about with backcountry coffee.  Bring plenty, and do it right.  Below the photo is my original text on making cowboy coffee, updated.

I grin a little everything some new gadget comes out for making good coffee in the backcountry.  As with many things, the original method is still the best, and in this particular case has the added benefit of requiring no equipment at all, aside from the pot, stove or fire, and ground coffee you already have.  Like pitching a tarp so you’ll stay dry in a storm, digging a cathole, gutting a fish, navigating off-trail, or building a fire after an all-day rain, making cowboy coffee may seem intimidating at first, but is actually quite simple.  Unlike those other things, you can get 90% of the way from cowboy coffee newb to expert without leaving your house.  It’s a skill that, given coffees performance enhancing qualities, should be considered as essential as knowing to piss downwind.

First start with a generous amount of grounds and some cold water.  As many wise folks have said, you don’t need nearly as much water to make coffee as most people think.  Fine grounds are advantageous when making cowboy coffee, they saturate faster and easier, which is the key to their reliably sinking.  I bring espresso ground beans, but there is nothing wrong with turkish either.

Combine grounds and cold water and set it to boil.  You want to give the grounds as long as possible to saturate and get heavy, as well as impart good flavor to the liquid.

Bring to a roiling boil, and keep it there for 10-15 seconds.  On most camp stoves doing this without boiling over will require a less than full pot, as well as hovering the pot over the burner using a grip, pliers, or a glove/sock.  Consensus seems to be that coffee ought to be brought to 200F (+/- 5F) for best results. Given that 200F is the boiling point at around 6000 feet, and the 5 degree margin of error encompasses the boiling point between 4000 and 9000 feet, we hikers appear to be in good shape. The length at which coffee should be held at said temp comes down to personal preference. I have a strong affinity for bitterness, so I go longer. If a triple espresso is not your normal mid-afternoon snack, as it is mine, you might want to boil only briefly or not at all.

Let the pot rest for a minute.  There are many ways, like adding a squirt of cold water or tapping the edge, to help the grounds settle, but if you’ve done the above and have a bit of patience this issue should take care of itself.

Drink.  You can decant from the pot into mugs/cups/bottles, or drink straight from the pot.  Obviously, don’t swirl or otherwise seriously disturb the coffee, or attempt to pour or drink the last ounce at the bottom.

This is the best, and simplest, and lightest, way to get a solid cup of coffee in the backcountry.  And often a good way to impress friends and neighbors.  Practice a bit at home, and you’ll be set to go.

Don’t lie for happiness

Adventure Journal is a website that on most days I love to hate, for its click baitness and lifestyleish vacuity, but fairly often it publishes an essay of real profundity, which most of you simply must read.  This is one of those.



Social media is dangerous.  Not so much because on the internet money and editing can buy representations of places which are so fake they build expectations which will likely never be met, but because too much time looking at the curated (i.e. fake) pictures other folks present of their lives can reset ones internal compass so thoroughly that a life of infinite resignation becomes almost inevitable.  So do not, like the courageous Ms. Purington, pretend that your life is something that it is not.  This tells you, almost without exception, that you want things to do other than what they are.  Do not waste time trying to embrace things that you do not actually like; one of the higher forms on enlightenment (and thus, happiness) is not being able to identify those pursuits which will give your life meaning, it is being able to cast off without regret those which will not.

For the last six months Saturdays have been mine and Little Bears alone, while M works.  I’ve learned the hard way that mountain biking on even remotely challenging trails is out, and I’ve mostly succeeded in giving up any regret and loving the fire road rides with plenty of walking breaks along the way (top photo).  The warm weather and low water of late summer has allowed a few one-parent packraft journeys, though keeping him from wandering off while I rig things is complicated (bottom photo) and prudence restricts us to very mellow water and short routes.

Even so, I catch myself not just only portraying and capturing (in pixels and in memories) the most palatable moments, but easily forgetting the moments of stress, lost sleep, and general existential despair which seems to go hand and hand with the first few years of parenting.  I get angry at myself for this, as it’s the first step down becoming part of a world whose portrayal of parenting is criminally rosy and optimistic.

At the same time, there is little point in excessive self-abnegation, or indeed navel gazing of any kind, positive or negative.  Which is why I’m inclined to let videos like the above stand, largely hate-free.  On the one hand it’s a cheap, short, reductive portrayal of what was surely a profound backpacking trip.  (They seem to have gone through a week or two after Skurka and I, and in the opposite direction.)  On the other it captures the profundity of that remarkable traverse very well, and the presentation is as direct and precious as it is inherently incomplete.

So be careful out there, the world of representation is a hazardous one.

Sierra Designs Elite Cagoule review

I’ve been putting off writing this for a month or more, until I had it on through a good solid half+ day rain.  But walking out earlier this week in two hours of steady rain, I realized that due to terrain and preference I just don’t hike in that sort of thing very often.  Maybe once a year, on average, and therefore the half dozen or so occasions I’ve had the Elite Cagoule on in 2-4 hour spells of precip are for me quite adequate for evaluative purposes.  If I lived somewhere else or went on more multi-week trips I’d likely have a different opinion, and if you the reader are a consistent deluge hiker you might want a different reviewer.

I discussed and photographed the fundamentals of this anorak here.


Strong points of the Elite Cagoule are the construction quality and venting features.  It is well put together, the fit is good (save for the hood volume, see below), and details like the elastic and velcro cuffs are dead on.  The armpit vents work astonishingly well, impressive given that I was all but convinced they’d prove a gimmick.  The combination of the mesh backed kangaroo pocket and open “skirt” provide more air circulation through the chest than one would expect.  The neck opening, which closes with three snaps, is just deep enough to use that venting while still keeping your chest protected.  The chest pocket, with no closure mechanism save gussets in the bottom corners, securely held things like maps, yet never let water in.  Overall, Sierra Designs has found an approach that, for backpacking, works much better than any pitzips I’ve ever used.  If function trumps hype and the market of non-core hikers are willing to buy something which won’t be seen in any mountaineering ad, this approach should become the standard.

The Elite Cagoule is a backpacking and hiking specific rain coat, and the same features which work so well while hiking with a pack make it unsuitable for most other wilderness pursuits.  The armpit vents can’t be closed, for one, and vent well enough that in cold wind they hemorrhage body heat.  A 20 minute hail storm with strong upstream winds, endured in a packraft during the Bob Open this year, made that very clear.  This can also be a liability in shoulder season alpine environments.  The skirt, which “closes” with velcro dots and a single pair of snaps at the hem, doesn’t seal up reliably, and if it did wouldn’t provide enough room for a full stride.  This renders it flappy in high winds, unusable on a bike, and a nuisance when paired with a packraft sprayskirt.  I no longer bring the Elite Cagoule on any packrafting trip, or biking trip, or any trip up near treeline where I might really be pushing the warmth boundaries of my clothing system.

None of this is a condemnation of the Cagoule itself, just a reminder that it is a niche rain coat (albeit the biggest niche around).  Sierra Designs also made a few choices which just irritate the hell out of me in all circumstances.  The hood is well shaped, but lacks a rear cinch cord and more seriously is too small.  When I have a hat, hood, or both on under it, and pack straps further constraining fabric mobility, I can’t look too far up without forehead pressure.  More egregiously, the two hood cinch cords on either side of the face are routed inside the garment, which is for me totally unacceptable, and something I just cannot understand.  After initial adjustment I only need to further cinch my hood when the weather really gets nasty, so why the hell would I want to unbutton my coat and let weather in to do that?  The enhanced appearance this gives a puffy coat I can understand, but in a shell it is unjustifiable, common practice though it may be.  The DWR also seems a bit weak, though in truth I haven’t used and washed the Elite Cagoule nearly enough to say anything meaningful on that subject.  I also think the skirt opening should be moved further back.  As mentioned the velcro closure dots are all but useless, and they have to be open to allow for full leg movement anyway.  By being positioned towards the front they’re pushed open with each stride, allowing more of the thigh than seems necessary to get wet.

Overall, the Elite Cagoule is a well built and (with a few small yet serious flaws) functional piece of rain gear for hiking and backpacking.  It takes venting seriously, which is fairly unique amongst WPB rain jackets, and as Sierra Designs conclusively demonstrates is a very effective approach to the problem of sweaty raingear.  With a few tweaks the Elite Cagoule could be even better, and darn close to a faultless jacket for backpacking.


Spanish Peaks Bighorn ewe hunt



r0021126(Two mountain goats, bedded just up and right from center.)

This hunt was conceived back in the spring when I noticed that for the first time Montana was offering 15 ewe licenses for region 301, which encompasses the Spanish Peaks, a small but tall and steep range I’d never visited.  Hoping that a new hunt in a potentially remote area would give my 2 bonus points good odds, I applied but was not drawn.  Three weeks ago I got back from my big hunt into the Bob Marshall early, only to receive on the first day back a call telling me that I had been 16th on the list, and thus had first crack at a tag another hunter had turned back in.  I accepted, of course.

Alpine species have developed an overwhelming and almost unjustifiable cachet due to the scarcity of permits, but also due to the all encompassing intensity of hunting them.  As I hope the following video shows, aside from the first few miles of my hike in and out I was always in sheep terrain, and thus always on high alert, either hiking through snowy terrain or glassing, usually in the cold and wind.  I got snowed on, rained on, hailed on, blown raw, a little sunburnt, and am missing a few bits of both palms thanks to chunky granite talus.  Three great, packed full days in totally new-to-me territory, cut short by a retreat back over the 9600′ pass that separated me from the trailhead, and whose north face was already 2 feet deep in windpacked snow.  Had I stayed through that last afternoon and night, during which it rained and then snowed continuously all the way down to 5000′, avalanche hazard surely would have had me hiking out the other side and facing a long hitchhike, rifle in tow.  Everything was ideal, save for perhaps that early retreat, and the fact that I saw no sheep, nor trace of sheep.

With so little notice I was on the back foot, both with respect to research and time.  I set the first full week in October as the first available big chunk of time, and started googling, emailing, and phone calling.  The regional biologist and the internet were more helpful and explicit than I imagined possible, and I hiked in full of optimism that I’d see animals.  Obviously I had underestimated the amount of snow a storm a few days prior had brought to the Spanish Peaks, as well as failed to ask enough specific questions about how the ewe and lamb herds would respond to snow, how much, and when.  The day after I hiked out I spent the morning looking around their know winter range, but snow kept visibility poor, and the sheep still seemed to be in transit.

So now the backup plan is to go back towards the bitter end of the season, when snow and cold will have brought the sheep down.  I’m disappointed that it will likely come to that.  A sheep tag, even a ewe tag, is a rare enough opportunity, and I wanted this one to be my first successful sheep hunt, and to be on my terms; back in the wilderness, on terrain the sheep only share with goats, with a long and horrid packout to cap it off.  Apparently I should have tried harder to fit a smaller, more predictable hunt window into our schedule, though that would have had just as many potential pitfalls.  I know I can’t have great and precious moments without the coextensive risk of failure and bitterness, but tonight that doesn’t make me feel any better.


One are in which I am not disappointed was the rigor of my hunt and the way in which I choose to take it on.  It’s been quite a few years since I felt as exposed as I did crossing the high pass and realizing just how weather-dependent any recrossing would be.  Adding ~60 pounds of sheep meat and head to my 30 pounds of hunting gear would have made the hike out horrendous, but it would have been possible.


The BT2 remained my ideal shelter for a trip like this.  It’s light enough, more than big enough, and can shrug off any fall weather, even that which is right on the cusp of alpine winter.

I used Seek Outside’s Exposure panel loading pack, whose big zipper is a great way to go when you’ll be pulling out tripod, spotting scope, and warm clothing many times per day.  I like having all that stuff inside my pack, secure and well balanced, yet accessible.

The BD Hot Forge Hoody continued to impress, managing sweat well enough and packing more warmth than its thickness would initially suggest.  I got plenty cold glassing, but not as bad or as quickly as I would have thought.

My optics package of Meopta Meopro 6.5×32 binoculars, Vortex Razor 11-33×50 spotting scope, Vortex Summit SS tripod, and Outdoorsmans tripod adaptor (for the bins) is unchanged for this year.  It leaves me undergunned on magnification in alpine country, but the optical quality to $$ ratio is high.  Retail this is a 1600 dollar arsenal, and in some significant respects barely above beginner in quality.  And yet for someone like me, for whom assessing trophy caliber is entirely subservient to just finding critters, it is a very serviceable and light rig.  The ball head is first up to be replaced, followed by the addition of some high powered (12 or 15x) bins.

I bought a pair of LaSportiva Trango Trk boots specifically for this hunt, and was very impressed. My evolving views on footwear for the mountains, and specifically mountain hunting, is a topic for a later date.

And finally, the Kimber Montana continued to be a great rifle to carry for many miles on end.  It shoots well too, when the occasion arises.

Treated v. hybrid down; don’t believe the hype


For the problem with down jackets and sleeping bags has never been with external moisture (precip, or otherwise).  Modern shell fabrics are good enough, and sticking things in drybags on under raingear or mitigating shelter condensation simple enough, that getting my insulation actually wet this way hardly ever happens.  The only memorable instances involve me failing to screw a canyon keg down tight (Heaps, 2004) or putting a pack with a non-dimension polyant bottom down in a puddle (New Zealand, 2015).

Internal moisture, on the other hand, has been the bane of down insulation, down coats especially, such that a while back I swore them off entirely, save for one massive parka for deep cold.  In Montana the normal range in which I use a moderately warm coat is 40-15 F, temperatures which occur 10 months a year, and where sweating is inevitable.  I need a coat that I can put on over damp, if not wet, baselayers and both stay warm and get dry.  A standard down coat, especially the light ones with 2-3 ounces of high-fill, can do this 1.5 times before they’re just about useless.

On the other hand the compactness and snuggle-factor of down are both high.  Additionally, on the vast majority of trips I bring not one, but two insulating layers.  One is for staying warm while moving slowish, when it’s really nasty, or in a packraft.  The other is for breaks, camps, glassing, and a little extra safety margin.  Every time I don’t use fleece for the first application I end up disappointed, so last year I went back to experimenting with down to maintain the integrity of my two-part system without the whole mess taking up a ton of pack space.

First up was the Sierra Designs Better Vest, which has decent specs as well as being from the company that pioneered DWR down (and claims to have the superior product).  I was not impressed, both with an absurdly  slim fit, and with down which didn’t resist wetting out from inside any better than standard stuff.  The Dridown did dry out faster, but even if the fit hadn’t been whacked out I was still unimpressed enough to move the Better Vest down the road.

Next was the BD Hot Forge hoody, whose fit and detailing I continue to be impressed by (hood excepted).  The insulation, Primaloft Gold, is 70% treated down and 30% “Primaloft ultra-fine fibers”.  I wasn’t expecting to be all that impressed with Gold, compared to normal down, but the way it manages internal moisture has nothing less than shocked me.  In this respect performance is so far above pure treated down that I find it hard to see the purpose of the later.  For example, on the first day of our August trip my baselayer and windshirt got pretty close to soaked, first because of drizzle and then because of sweat inside a rain coat while hiking uphill with a heavy pack.  Camp was at 7000′, it was still drizzling, it was dark, and Little Bear had finally fallen asleep after a lot of crying we choose to just hike through.  I didn’t have the luxury of drying out or paying much attention to my own needs.  After dinner and getting the tent up I stuffed a hot water down my coat, got into my sleeping bag, and went to sleep.  When I woke up a few hours later, my shirts were dry.  Not dryer, dry.  The Hot Forge had matched a full Primaloft coat in what is for me the most important test.

In summary, I’m pretty skeptical about the utility of treated down, and very impressed with Primaloft Gold.  Even if Gold breaks down in a few years and I need a new coat sooner than I would a pure down coat, it will probably still be a worthwhile compromise.  For the last few years I’ve been running a head-to-head comparison between standard and treated down, via the standard 800 fill which came in my stock Vireo Nano, and the 3 ounces of treated down I added to the upper third.  Simply put, I haven’t noticed much of a difference.  There have been plenty of claims about the virtues of treated down, but I think most of them are based on situations which are of little practical importance.  As far as a I know no one makes a down blend sleeping bag in premium materials.  It’d be an expensive experiment, but one in which I’d be very interested.