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What the Heck is Traceable Down?

A good number of outdoor brands care an awful lot about the environment. After all, if you want people to go outdoors, you should want to take care of the outdoors, too. I was having a discussion with a customer in our Evanston, IL store one day when I mentioned the term “traceable down” while talking about a Patagonia jacket. I was a new employee at the time, and I thought I was pretty hot stuff for knowing about this term at all.
A duck. Nothing more. Nothing less.
A blank look. “What’s that?” the customer asked. You could have knocked me over with a feather (pun intended). “Ummm, well, that means that Patagonia knows where the down comes from.” “So what?” I had to admit that I didn’t know much about it, but I resolved to get an answer. It turns out that I was partially right – having traceable down means that Patagonia knows where the down used in their products is sourced. But that is only a small part of the big picture.

Patagonia’s Traceable Down Standard

Despite its brilliance as an insulator, some people take umbrage with down because of the way that it can be sourced. Patagonia’s Traceable Down is the gold standard for responsible sourcing of down across the industry. Accordingly, they invest an incredible amount of resources and time into it. Traceable Down ensures that the down Patagonia sources comes only from farms that meet Patagonia’s standards for ethical animal treatment. First off, 100% of Patagonia’s down is a by-product of the food industry, meaning that no animals are kept on farms only for their down. They do not purchase any down sourced from farms that allow practices like live plucking or force-feeding. Both of these are painful processes that are unnecessary in the production of down. Patagonia prohibit its farms from using these practices. They also prevent them from even purchasing eggs from farms that allow live plucking or force-feeding. That’s right. Patagonia holds the parent farms of its farms to high ethical standards. This means that the end-product is a generation removed from these cruel and inhumane practices. Patagonia audits their farms, their storage facilities, and their garment factories. They make sure that the animals are treated in accordance with their best practices, and that the Traceable Down is stored and used separately from all other down in every stage of production. When you buy Patagonia’s Traceable Down products, you can be confident that the materials sourced for your jacket is responsibly sourced: held to the highest standards in the industry.


Patagonia sources a lot of down, so who they choose to buy from can have a big effect on the industry. If an apparel manufacturer chooses to use only down that is ethically and humanely sourced, that can be a significant motivator for everyone to treat their animals a little better in hopes that they may qualify for a big contract for their down. Other brands, the North Face included, have also rolled out programs similar to Patagonia’s Traceable Down. This just goes to show you that doing the right thing is contagious.
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