Aug 9, 2009 at 7:52 pm #1238447
I think most of us have experienced dew, condensation, inside-of-tent-water-spills and the like and gotten our down sleeping bags damp. It makes for some cold nights. I have never gotten a down sleeping bag totally saturated, but I assume it would flatten out and not provide any warmth at all. I'm too careful and I never want to deal with possible mildew build-up.
Now what I wonder about is sleeping in wet synthetic sleeping bags. I've gotten synthetic bags damp and didn't notice anything, but never soaked them all the way. People always say that synthetic sleeping bags will provide warmth when wet. Common sense says that it's probably going to be miserable to try to sleep in a moist sponge, although if you wring it out it might not be so bad–or would it? I don't know.
Can anyone debunk this myth or give credence to it with a pleasant experience sleeping in a wet synthetic sleeping bag some night?Aug 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm #1519764
IIRC, Ben Tang has done it. Per him, it was no fun and a long, cold night. I'll let him speak for himself, though.
Also, I wouldn't be surprised of Ryan Jordan has some experience in that realm.Aug 9, 2009 at 8:17 pm #1519766
Sarah KirkconnellBPL Member
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
I have done it years ago. It sucked frankly.Sure it insulates but you still have a damp bag against you!
Then when my son was very young he had an accident on night 1 of a 2 night trip, in the middle of the night. We shared a sleeping bag quilt style that night. No way would he have gone back to sleep with it being wet and cold. (1 reason for synthetics for kids is the ease in washing!)Aug 9, 2009 at 8:37 pm #1519771
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"Can anyone debunk this myth or give credence to it with a pleasant experience sleeping in a wet synthetic sleeping bag some night?"
I don't know about debunking, or pleasant experiences, but I can share my one experience with a thoroughly damp synthetic bag. I and 2 friends did the Buckindy-Snowking Traverse in the Cascades about 20 years ago. It was a 5 day/4 night off trail affair and it rained every day. Everything quickly got soaked, including my Moonstone synthetic bag(rated at 32 degrees-supposedly), as we hadn't yet figured out trash compactor bags. Night time temperatures were in the low 40's and, while not the most comfortable I have ever been due to the damp feeling, I added a second layer of polypro, top and bottom, and slept warmly every night . Had the temperatures been maybe 5 or so degrees lower, it might have been a different story, I just don't know. But I can say that if you add a second layer of synthetic clothing, you should have no trouble down into the low 40's with a wet synthetic bag rated in the low 30's. One data point for you to consider.
Edited by Ouzel: Another point to consider is that your body heat will drive moisture out of the bag as the night wears on.Aug 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm #1519788
Ben 2 WorldBPL Member
@ben2worldLocale: So Cal
"IIRC, Ben Tang has done it. Per him, it was no fun and a long, cold night. I'll let him speak for himself, though."
No, Matt, that wasn't me… maybe somebody else?Aug 9, 2009 at 10:51 pm #1519790
I am pretty sure that Ryan Jordan has experienced this. Perhaps he can chime in….Aug 9, 2009 at 11:20 pm #1519793
@cbertLocale: N. California
when i was 8 and on a YMCA summer camp trip to Yosemite. We arrived to the campground fairly late, nearly dark & I said to my counselor "it looks like rain – we should set up tents." I think the counselors were tired & didn't want to set-up & since I was 8, I let them talk me out of setting mine up (I assume they assumed, wrongly, that I'd need help).
I woke up in the wee hours, ~30 degree hollowfill bag soaked through with rain (a slow, light rain – storm not thunderstorm) – I was cold and wet, but survived; however, it was not very cold, maybe high 40s, low 50s.
A down bag would have been worse, how much worse I don't know, but the larger lesson I learned was never to listen to anyone else when my radar is beeping. I remember giving my counselor a piece of my mind & him being a bit abashed.Aug 10, 2009 at 4:21 am #1519800
Hrm. I though you had an older post on the backpacker forums. I guess not. I searched this AM for something like it, but found nothing. Hrm.Aug 10, 2009 at 8:46 am #1519830
Buck NelsonBPL Member
My dad, brother and I were out in the boonies of SW Alaska many years ago, and set up camp in an open tundra area. We picked the most wind-protected spot around, and when they asked what they could do to help I had them carry rocks to weigh down the tent stakes in the two tents we were using, in case a bad wind storm came up.
Well we did get the wind. A screaming gale with violent gusts that violently shook and twisted the tents. The worst part was the downpour that accompanied it. Several times I crawled out into the torrential rain to tighten guy-lines and to see how things were holding up. Finally, a pole buckled in the tent my brother and I were in. My brother went to the other tent. Rain started seeping in my tent and finally water was pooled at least an inch deep. I got completely soaked along with my sleeping bag. The other tent was still standing so I abandoned my tent and crawled in the other tent.
In the morning everything we had was wet in both tents. A cooking pot showed it had rained about four inches! There were no trees in the area and the tiny wet willows didn't provide enough heat to dry our bags. It was cool and cloudy for a few days after that. We slept soaked the first night and wet for the next night and damp on the next night or so. We squeezed all the water we could out of our bags after that first night. On the next couple of nights our body heat would drive water to the top of the bags and we'd sponge it off and squeeze it outside. We had plenty of stove fuel so using our canteens we had hot water bottles. It was miserably wet and the skin on our hands and feet were shriveled for days like we'd just gotten out of the bathtub. It took about three days to get all dried out, mostly with body heat.
This was before the days of Satellite phones, and there was no where to go and nothing much to do beyond what we'd done. The big difference if this were to happen again is I would have taken our sleeping bags and put them in plastic bags as soon as water started coming in.
We talked to some guys who had been in the same area during that storm and they said they'd sat up all night leaning against the side of their tent to hold it up. Our float plane pilot said the day after the storm he'd seen a tent out in a LAKE! No word on what had become of the owners.
Those was the wettest sleeping bag I've ever experienced and I hope to never repeat it.Aug 11, 2009 at 8:55 am #1520062
The only time I've ever gotten a sleeping bag truly wet it was synthetic, and I got hypothermic.
It was my first winter camping trip, I was 10 or 11, and we "made" a shelter, with no groundcloth or anything. Just a thin foam pad. Melted lots of snow and it soaked into the sleeping bag. Temps were around 0*F. Overall it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was not remotely warm in the wet synthetic bag. Profoundly hypothermic. Fortunately my buddy and I weren't completely stupid, nor were the adults in our lives… there was a cabin a half-mile away through the woods. Our felt-pac boots we had tossed in the end of our shelter froze solid in their bent-over position and we couldn't get our feet in them, so we ended up trucking off to the cabin in our socks through knee-deep snow.
All I needed was one bad experience to prevent me from ever allowing a bag to get wet again. Doesn't matter if it's synthetic or down, you'll freeze if it's wet. The synthetic will just dry out more quickly. Have I ever had a bag just generally absorb humidity? Sure, five days of straight rain will do that. But I've only used down bags, and just aired them/sunned them when possible to dry 'em back out. I have to say, after enough rain and wetness, I don't mind spending an extra hour lounging about in sunshine while my bag dries out (and I'd dry a synthetic bag under the same conditions if I ever carried one).
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