- Jun 7, 2011 at 10:54 pm #1275088Alina GBPL Member
@alinaLocale: Toronto, Ontario
I am undecided between down and synthetic sleeping bags.
Some people say that the choice of the bag depends on where you are going to be backpacking. Well, I do not know. It might be all over the place. I read that if you will be in rainy and humid conditions then you should get synthetic bag but how will I know ahead of time of the conditions? Easier said than done.
I think that the danger is only from condensation inside the tent from humidity and rain. Am I correct? I do not think that there are any other ways for the bag to get wet, are there?
Which type of sleeping bag would you buy if you were me? Maybe any specific recommendations?
Thank you very much in advance.
I am looking forward to your comments.
AlinaJun 7, 2011 at 11:06 pm #1746335drowning in spamMember
I would get the down version and develop my skills so that moisture doesn't become a problem.Jun 7, 2011 at 11:08 pm #1746336Christopher KuzakMember
Obviously you could get a lot of different answers, but I went with a non-synthetic bag a couple years ago after using a synthetic one for many years. It's warmer, it's lighter, and I just line the stuff sack with a kitchen garbage bag to protect it from the elements. That said, I still have my synthetic and would use it if I knew I was going somewhere where a down bag could get soaked.Jun 8, 2011 at 8:00 am #1746404Fred ThorpMember
From purely a weight & volume standpoint, it's a no-brainer. Going from synthetic to a quality down bag, I immediately shed some pounds. Because the down bag compresses into a smaller package, I was able to go to a smaller pack, and shed some more pounds. Someone else can address more specifically the longevity of synthetic insulation vs down, but down wins here too. How much you want to spend would probably help with the suggestions.Jun 8, 2011 at 4:30 pm #1746646Mary DBPL Member
@hikinggrannyLocale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Down is lighter, compresses far more easily and has a far longer useful life than does synthetic insulation. A high-quality down sleeping bag will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Yes, it's expensive, but when you divide the cost by years of useful life (about 5 with a synthetic bag), the high-quality, high-priced down bag actually is cheaper per year.
You need to protect all insulation, regardless of type, from getting wet, and air it out frequently. Soggy synthetic insulation is just as cold as soggy down! Other hazards besides condensation in the tent, pitching the tent in a depression or heavy rain soaking inside the pack include slipping when fording streams and slipping and falling in a large mud puddle along Washington's Olympic NP wilderness beach. (I've done both of the latter, the second one last summer.)Jun 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm #1746694Here ThereBPL Member
Ditto to everything Mary said. Unless you know that you are consistently going to be in really wet environments for days on end I would recommend down. With a little care down will be fine for most people, nearly all of the time.
I do have a synthetic quilt that I pull out from time to time, but that's because I like to tarp camp with small tarps, so there is a higher chance of getting it wet than if I were using a fully enclosed shelter.Jun 8, 2011 at 7:02 pm #1746718Mat TallmanMember
If you're not sure where you'll be doing your backpacking, it will be difficult not only to select an insulation type, but also a temperature rating. If you're looking to hike in the Appalachians/Eastern US in 3-seasons, you will need much different gear than for the Rockies or High Sierra where it tends to be much cooler. You can compromise and get something that will mostly fit for both, but you're more likely to end up cold in one environment, and sweating in the other.
Seems, in my mind, that without some idea of where you'd like to go, there is no "good" answer to this question…Jun 8, 2011 at 7:04 pm #1746721Chris K.BPL Member
Another vote for down. I bought my first down bag in 2006 after using a synthetic bag for many years. It was pricey. A good down bag is one of the most expensive pieces of gear you can buy. But, as noted above, after five years using it in a wide variety of climates and conditions it is still like new. The weight, warmth, and compressibility make it easy to take anywhere, and if you get a bag (or quilt) with a more water resistant shell fabric you don't have to worry too much about incidental contact with water, like brushing against condensation on a tent wall.
As far as type of bag, consider how you sleep – cold, hot, toss and turn, back, side. Deciding between a quilt or a bag would depend on these sleep habits and what you consider comfortable.Jun 8, 2011 at 7:29 pm #1746735Lawson KlineBPL Member
I would go synthetic if your going to be using the bag for everything. I like down bags but I think they are better suited for dry weather. Sure a synthetic bag is a bit heavier they don't compact as well but there isn't a night and day difference between the two.
I recently looked into the idea of making sleeping bags using unwashed down. Though I didn't have much luck finding any. One guy told me that if I wanted unwashed down I would have to pluck it off the birds myself. Sure washed down lofts much better then unwashed down and it works nicely in your climate controlled house in its duvet cover but keeping the natural hydrophobic oils on the down make alot of sense when your using your sleeping bag outside in the humidity, rain, snow and anything else wet you come across.Jun 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm #1746755John GBPL Member
@johng10Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
I think Down is significantly warmer (ie: true to it's temp rating, whereas synthetic is usually rated 10-15 degrees "optimistic").
However, down may be a problem on the east coast at times. In the spring, it's 75-80 degrees during the day, falls to 40-45 degrees at night, and is rainy with little wind. ie: Condensation drips off the inside my tarp. AND my bags absorb enough moisture to feel clammy / slightly damp.
According to the Airport's guages, it's currently (June 8) it's 81 degrees, with 83% humidity, no wind – and the dewpoint is 75 degrees. Even if we don't get dew, if I hang my damp, thin poly T-shirt over a line to dry at night, and it's damper in the morning due to the 85-90% humidity.
That said, I still like down.Jun 8, 2011 at 10:42 pm #1746812Alina GBPL Member
@alinaLocale: Toronto, Ontario
Thank you everyone for your comments. It looks like overwhelmingly you guys prefer down bags.
@Fred. I do not mind to pay a little more for good quality. I guess that I would be looking for something that is a good value.
@Mat. I am in Toronto, Ontario so for starters I will be experiencing Ontario, maybe Quebec, New England etc. Places where I can drive to. Eventually I would like to backpack in the west coast, Arizona and so on.
@Chris. I sleep medium, do not toss, mostly on my side.
Any particular recommendation? I have come across a few nice ones:
Arc Ghost http://www.nunatakusa.com/site07/arc_products/arc_ghost.htm .It does not have a hood. I wonder if it is OK. How important is hood?
HighLite from Western Mountaineering http://www.backcountry.com/western-mountaineering-highlite-sleeping-bag-35-degree-down?avad=41369_e1bb1967
Or Summerlite from Western Mountaineering http://www.e-omc.com/catalog/products/1237/Western-Mountaineering-Summerlite-Sleeping-Bag.html?avad=41369_e1bb19db
I know that Mont Bell is a popular one as well.
They are all up to 30 something degrees. Is it good enough for a nice 3 seasons bag but not too hot in summer?
Just curious: what are the areas (in the USA and anywhere else in the world)that you would consider wet and humid, where you would prefer/recommend to have a synthetic bag?
Thank you.Jun 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm #1747093Stephen MBPL Member
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I always use down and I wild camp in Scotland where it always rains and I have never got a sleeping bag wet.
cheersJun 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm #1747147Richard LyonBPL Member
@richardglyonLocale: Bridger Mountains
Alina, I'd go for a down bag/quilt unless there's a good chance of the bag's getting wet while you are in your shelter. If you're planning on a floored tent, that shouldn't happen if you follow the rules the other posters have mentioned. A bivy or tarp may expose the bag to water unexpectedly, but not if you follow some additional precautions.
I have a Ghost and love it. I also have a Valandre Mirage rated at 25 F that the Ghost has rendered redundant. PM me if you're interested.
RichardJun 9, 2011 at 3:44 pm #1747154Roger CaffinModerator
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I recently looked into the idea of making sleeping bags using unwashed down.
Can't be sold: health dept regulations. Down must be sterilised prior to shipping, import and sale.
But good down does not lack the natural oils. And I would always go for a down bag for anything serious. All my bags and quilts are down.
cheersJun 9, 2011 at 4:14 pm #1747163Troy AmmonsBPL Member
Down will be lighter per warmth if in the 650-900 ci/oz range, it stuffs smaller and lasts longer. I have a down bag that I have had since the late 70s and it still has 90% of its loft. Down will wet out faster but since the advent of superb DWRs its a whole different story. If it ever gets totally wet then it is very hard to dry out in the field. The trick is to not let that happen. Just set up your pack so if you take a fall in a river your bag and cloths will stay dry.
Also for me, I dont know about everybody else it just feels better climbing into a down bag.
That said I have been in extremely humid-rainy-foggy weather, years ago, hoovering around freezing for about a week straight and my down bag delofted a small amount every day, but never wetted out and I still stayed very warm.
That was back when there were no DWR coatings.
A few winters ago I slept out unprotected in the open with a montbell bag at about 40dF. Heavy fog and dew that night.
As soon as the sun hit the bag it was totally dry in 10 minutes. That was my 1st experience with DWR and I was amazed how fast it dried. DWR is great stuff on a sleeping bag.
Now as far as synthetics, all will be more bulky packed than down bags and that is a big drawback to me.
I will say if you are in someplace like South Florida where it is 90% humidity all the time, or a rain forest etc, I would recommend synthetics over down. Those types of environments are just wet all the time. I am sure a modern DWR down bag would do fine, but I would prefer synthetic in those conditions.
Also maybe if you are in sub zero conditions 24/7 then down can have issues as the condensation side is inside the down chambers, and moisture will continually form and freeze inside your bag eventually delofting it but a synthetic topper would cure that. Another issue is a -20dF synthetic bag is going to be very heavy compared to a high quality down bag.
Climashield is about equal to 550 down in warmth to weight and climashield is about as good as it gets for synthetic insulation.
Synthetics eventually break down and lose loft and especially fast if you stuff the $%^& out it and super compress it continually like in a compression bag.
Its best just to let it lay in the bottom of your pack. Same with down though. Over compressing anything is no good.
A particular favorite of mine is the golite ultra 20 down quilt. 20oz, good to 20dF and stuffs to about the size of a Football.
Wet areas where I would rather have a synthetic bag…
Anywhere that has constant high humidity and rain.
Tropics, Everglades, Pacific Northwest, Patagonia, Basically any rain forest.
Thats about all I can think of for now.
For moderate and or warm weather and you can do a MYOG 45dF climashield quilt at about 14oz for about $110.
For a little more $ a 25-30dF climashield quilt at about 22 oz.Jun 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm #1747188Russ PorterMember
To answer your question where I think synethic wins out vs. Down is coastal Alaska (rains a lot 140 inches a year). These places are very remote places where if you did get your sleeping bag wet there is nothing that will keep you warm and walking out is not an option. I live in AK and I use down all over the state expect for in these cases. Anywhere in the lower 48 I would use down.Jun 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm #1747195HkNewmanBPL Member
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
For a typical weekend (2-3 nights), wouldn't a down sleeping bag or quilt using a water-repellent cover be just about as good as a synthetic unless you jumped in a swimming pool with it? Feathered friends, Nanutak, and even the EMS Mountainlight series for those on a budget – used the latter in an all-night deluge and just wiped water off the surface of the bag.
Of course there is the price factor vs higher price down offerings.Jun 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm #1747285James holdenBPL Member
where you are, what you are doing and how confident you are
note that some very experienced people and authors on this site do use synth when the conditions suit itNov 19, 2019 at 2:33 am #3619453joe tittigerBPL Member
@tittigerLocale: on the road
Brilliant idea, thank you. I am getting some Ancona ducks this coming spring and will keep this in mind.Nov 19, 2019 at 7:24 pm #3619592
There are strong arguments for both. Down is more popular, but there are some well-trusted advocates for synth (e.g. Ron Bell at MLD).
Which variables matter more to you?
Down Pros: weight savings, volume savings, better feeling, sometimes the ability to redistribute the down around as you like, long-term value
Synth Pros: money saving, more moisture forgiving, no issues with the distribution of the down, vegan-friendly
I currently have a 20 degree Enlightened Equipment quilt that I like a lot. My next quilt purchase will be a Nunatak (if you’re really undecided check out their hybrid, the Nebula!)
If I were going to get a bag instead of a quilt, Montbell makes the only kind of mummy that I can tolerate. I just tried them in a store locally that stocks both Montbell and Feather Friends. FF is a great brand, and has women’s cut bags! but I like how the Montbell construction moves well with me.
If you go with a quilt you do need something to cover your head. Sometimes just a hat is fine. Sometimes I wear my down hooded anorak if it’s cold. You can buy separate down (or synth!) balaclavas from a few different places.Nov 19, 2019 at 7:39 pm #3619594
It also seems like quilt vs bag is a question for you. As a side sleeper, I would recommend a quilt over a bag.
It sounds like you’re ready to spend on top-of-the line from the get go, and I know there’s the old “buy-once-cry-once” adage. But if you want to give yourself to some room to experiment and see what works well *for you,* you could start with the best value options, e.g. Enlightened Equipment (down and synth options) or the REI Magma line (mummy bags and quilts), then upgrade to the really premium brands when you’re certain of what you like.Nov 20, 2019 at 1:02 am #3619650Paul HatfieldBPL Member
How much does Mont-Bell’s super spiral stretch system rely on elastane? Elastane degrades with age and/or heat. (I’ve seen elastane go totally bad in as short as 2 years, even with no use.)Nov 20, 2019 at 8:16 pm #3619731
“How much does Mont-Bell’s super spiral stretch system rely on elastane? Elastane degrades with age and/or heat. (I’ve seen elastane go totally bad in as short as 2 years, even with no use.)”
Important question! I’ve been wondering about that, and would for sure want to confirm the answer before shelling out for it. But I’m optimistic because copy sounds like it’s the stitching technique, as opposed to the type of thread. The fabric specs don’t give any info on thread.Nov 21, 2019 at 2:44 am #3619777James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Down is lighter for the the same temp rating. At a 20F average (typical for most 3 season gear in the USA) a 20F WM bag will weigh 29oz. A typical synthetic bag will weigh around 36oz. Roughly a 7oz difference.
Typical down will last about 10plus years@60 nights/year, loosing about 10F in warmth over that time. Synthetic will last about 1 year@60nights per year loosing 10+F in warmth. (I have used both over some 50 years of hiking/camping.) Down is FAR less expensive over 10 years.
Down can sustain being damp with some loss of temp rating. Dampness doesn’t seem to bother synthetics.
Down will be almost useless soaking wet. Synthetics are much better soaking wet.
Down will compress about 20-40 to 1. Much more requires more than hand compression. Synthetics can do about 10-15 to 1. Soo, a 550-600fp down is roughly equivalent to the best synthetics. This makes down MUCH smaller than synthetics without any damage.
As I said, down is lighter and this is Backpacking Light. 850fp or 900fp down is all about saving weight and volume (meaning I can carry a smaller, lighter pack, too.) Unless you live in the swampy areas or rainforest areas of the country, where some overfill for temp would offset the weight advantage and the potential for getting more than a damp bag exists every trip, down is highly recommended. In highly damp, yet cold areas, a combination of both (synthetic over a down) works OK, too. In wet swampy environments with high humidity/wet tent floors, a synthetic alone is pretty good.Nov 21, 2019 at 4:46 pm #3619822Tipi WalterBPL Member
Down all the way. Period.
One big drawback to synthetic—unless fiberfill has changed over the last many years: Your synthetic bag is lose its loft permanently. Can’t be fixed.
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