Vegan Sleeping Bag Woes

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    Timothy Reynolds
    BPL Member


    Locale: New England


    I’m down with down. Except, I don’t buy products made from animals if I can at all help it. I’m well aware that a great 850+ Fill down sleeping bag will keep me nice and cozy at 0 degrees, and compress like a charm — not to mention the weight benefits.

    However, I am committed to the above mentioned principle, and it’s kicking my ass. This last weekend, I was out hiking and despite all the voodoo, layers, and prep, I was still freezing my butt off in my “0 degree” Mountain Hardware Lamina, that has primaloft fill. The outside-the-tent temperature was hovering around 5˚. Not only that, this bag has a tendency to become sopping wet with moisture on the top surface in sub freezing temperatures, which is probably a contributing factor to its suckiness. I chose this bag because it got positive reviews, its vegan, it compresses brilliantly, and is under 3lbs.

    I know that adding some kind of vapor barrier liner might help with the moisture issue, but I’m confused as to what to do — getting next to skin stuff feels redundant if I’m only using it for sleeping, and I really don’t want that extra weight. Adding a VBL sleeping bag liner seems to negate the whole concept; aren’t you supposed to have a next to skin barrier, so that your body moisture doesn’t enter your clothing?

    I think the solution to my winter hiking woes is quite simply a NEW BAG. Can any of you suggest a bag that’s…

    a) Vegan?
    b) Light Weight?
    c) Compresses well (not into a football stuff sack, but as a good frameless pack filler)?
    d) Can keep you warm down to 0˚ (negating the need to do crunches every 15 minutes en lieu of sleeping)?

    Thanks so much, you awesome people, you!


    Timothy Reynolds
    BPL Member


    Locale: New England

    I posted this without having a good look at the forums this morning, and having totally forgotten about quilts. I've never used a quilt, but it seems like Enlightened Equipment might have a solution for my problem.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Think condensation at those low temps is a problem regardless of fill, according to recents posts here on BPL. I've been thinking of quilt plus bivy for about 15F but am hesitant due to fill choices. Even the last Complete Walker, the authors recommend synthetic fill as camping at below freezing yet wet conditions can be challenging (down to zero).

    Then again, there's tickets or gasoline to Arizona for some low elevation camping.

    Loki Cuthbert
    BPL Member


    Locale: Portland, OR

    head over to the used gear forum to pick up a down bag or quilt. Re-purposing used gear means that a new product is not manufactured and no additional animals where used. It has a lower environmental impact than buying a new vegan synthetic bag.


    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Only solution is thicker insulation – then it's heavier and compresses even less

    Quilt isn't so good at those low temperatures, drafts around sides, sleeping bag is better

    Nice that you don't want to trash the planet. Synthetics also have negative impact. Maybe at those low temperatures down is the only solution. Just buy one bag and use it forever to minimize impact on planet which will be better for Geese.

    Frances Bothfeld


    Locale: Iowa

    I too am a vegan for the same principles. However I am able to justify my use of leather goods and down sleeping bags/quilts by buying used goods. While it is true that animals did suffer for the piece of gear, you are not directly contributing too it. If you can wrap your mind around this, used gear would be a good alternative.

    Doug Wolfe
    BPL Member


    Synthetic is nice but nothing will keep you warm like a good down bag or quilt.. Like said above buy just one sweet down bag or quilt and use it forever…
    I'm sure you know this tip already but ill put it out there anyway..
    When your pushing the limit of your bag take any loose leftover clothing and stuff it in your bag. I've done this several times taking my 10* EE quilt down to as low as -8. The stuffing works wonders!!! An for the most part my jackets are all synthetic…
    Good luck with your quest of finding the perfect vegan bag.



    Locale: The Cascades

    "I know that adding some kind of vapor barrier liner might help with the moisture issue, but I’m confused as to what to do — getting next to skin stuff feels redundant if I’m only using it for sleeping, and I really don’t want that extra weight. Adding a VBL sleeping bag liner seems to negate the whole concept; aren’t you supposed to have a next to skin barrier, so that your body moisture doesn’t enter your clothing?"

    As they say, ya can't have everything. A few extra ounces of VBL could help solve some of your issues. A VBL would help with the warmth issue as well, and could be as simple as a couple of trash bags or as expensive as CF shirt/pants. I would doubt that just getting another bag is going to do too much in solving your issue.

    Greg F
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    I am just starting to use VBL liners so those with more experience should be followed but to your question about getting your clothes wet inside the VBL bag. I wear my hiking base layer to sleep in and it does get damp.

    I calibrate the thickness of my base layer so that I am warm when moving with just a WPB over top. When I get up I put on my WPB pants and a windshirt. After hiking for a few hours the base layer dries out to the standard WPB kind of damp.

    This system works okay but does have one problem. At breaks or on cold mornings I usually slip on my mid layer fleece over top of my outer layer pants and a down jacket on overtop of the windshirt. This means I have a damp base layer on and a dry insulation layer on the outside. I try to minimize movement in this set up to avoid pushing moisture to the outside layers.

    My goal is to always be slightly cold except at night when I want to be warm but not sweaty. I am only doing single night overnights right now so I don't know the long term effects of this on insulation and I am in the Canadian rockies so it is cold and dry compared to other areas.

    One option I have considered is to have a second set of base layers for dry activities. So around camp in the morning and evening I wear the dry set to keep insulation layers dry and at night and while hiking wear the damp base layer set. This covers all situations but rest stops but by then if I am properly dressed and vented the damp base layer should be fairly dry.

    I am still working out how to use this system.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    if your synth bag was sopping wet … can you imagine what would happen to a down one?

    that "0 degree" bag is en-rated LL to 10F … which is why you look at the en-ratings and not what the manufacturer claims

    i suggest you post up the exact details of your trip and the gear … to solve the issue before buying anything new …

    Colin Krusor
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northwest US

    It's true that the treatment of geese in China (where most down originates) is not always what most of us would call humane. But producing synthetic fill requires an oil derrick or offshore rig, several chemical plants, and a chemical waste disposal facility.

    If I happened upon a pristine planet full of wildlife somewhere, and decided to use it for producing sleeping bags, I think I would do a lot less harm, and cause a lot less suffering on balance, by making them from silk and down than by making them from plastics.

    Lynn Tramper


    Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna

    Would you consider eider down? Pretty pricy, but you would probably only ever need to buy one bag, and the down is hand collected from the gooses nest rather than actually killing birds. It depends on how strictly you wish to apply your principles.

    Nelson Sherry


    Locale: Mid-Willamette Valley

    Why reject a perfectly good bag because it is short on insulation and you struggle keeping it dry. As for down, getting wet will be an even bigger problem for it than your synthetic bag.

    There seems to be an overwhelming sentiment in this thread that down is the only best option. Synthetics are MUCH better at handling wet, and the "down" side of synthetics isn't that you can't be warm in them, it is just that you will be carrying about double the weight and double the bulk for the same level of warmth. So, is being vegan worth a little extra volume and an extra two pounds of base weight? If so, keep using synthetic, and carry whatever it takes to stay warm while using a pack big enough to haul the volume. If being vegan isn't worth two pounds, I gotta say, I question your commitment to the ideal. ;)

    I like the vapor barrier suggestion. I also use a summer-weight synthetic quilt over my bag to up its R-value and reduce condensation in the main bag when weather gets too cold. For even more added warmth, you can also share a quilt with your neighbor or pet while not sharing a sleeping bag.

    And, of course, there is always the hot water bottles with cozies and all the puffy clothing we can use to up our warmth even more.

    Good luck.

    Max Dilthey



    I like my Mountain hardwear Ultralamina synthetic bag, but the 32 degree rating feels more like a 40 degree. I think the Mountain Hardwear crew assumes you are Mountain Hard.

    Try some of the general sleeping bag tricks for warming up. Sleep outside more pre-trip to adjust, wear less clothing day to day, and once you're on the trip, wear clothing in the bag and heat a water bottle.


    Daniel Russell


    Locale: Creation

    +1 on Colin's comment. What is worse… plucking geese or completely trashing the planet by hosting the necessities for synthetics?

    The only humane solution is to raise your own geese and get them used to handling. You can pluck their coat when they are ready to shed it (learned this from a quick google search).
    But who does that in our society of modern conveniences?

    I'm not bashing Vegans for wanting to save animals but what about all the suffering humans? I'd sacrifice a thousand geese to help women/children raised in Shantytowns in Africa. The average woman in these towns has 10 children (of which %80 of the children die because of inadequate access to clean water). The natural cycle of life, I suppose.
    Too bad I'm just a small fish in a world of sharks. Cheers for capitalism!

    There may be a company that "humanely" plucks geese for their down but the premium would be absolutely ridiculous. Again… modern convenience comes into play.

    Greg F
    BPL Member


    Locale: Canadian Rockies

    One thing about synthetic is that most of the hydrocarbons used in it are waste streams from our never ending thirst for gasoline. So is basically recycling. So the impact of a synth bag is only the additional processing of the waste stream not the whole cycle. Also livestock farming on a mass scale is highly politing. Waste water streams being the most dangerous if untreated.

    I think nitpicking between industrialized processes is just nitpicking, to do a full account of the impact takes more than the cursory look in an internet forum. At least there is a measurable distintion between an animal suffering and not suffering. Although you have to believe that the animal would be better off not existing than to be alive and used for down as any farmed animal with no product isnt raised or bred anymore. So no real simple answers on the ethics of using animals.

    Pete Staehling
    BPL Member


    Sorry to wander off topic, but…

    > "I like my Mountain Hardwear Ultralamina synthetic bag, but the 32 degree rating feels more like a 40 degree. I think the Mountain Hardwear crew assumes you are Mountain Hard."

    I am a little surprised to read that since I found the Mountain Hardware Phantom that I own to be extremely conservative in it's rating. The 45 is comfy for me down to a bit below freezing before adding any help in the form of clothing. I have to wonder if the difference is a difference in personal preference or if the Lamina line is less conservatively rated than the Phantom line. Has anyone here compared the Phantom and Lamina lines in that regard?

    Dean F.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Back in the Front Range

    I've got to +1 that I think you're on the right track in thinking about a VBL layer. A VBL liner is cheaper and lighter but, yes, it's pointless to wear all of your clothes to sleep in while using one. A VBL underlayer might work better for you but, as mentioned, cost and weigh more. (Skurka does this.) Plus it's multi-use, since you can hike in it if needed.

    Mary D
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge

    "Plus it's multi-use, since you can hike in it if needed."

    Or maybe not, considering Ike Jutkowitz' recent experience, which has me seriously rethinking my practice of using my nonbreathable rain gear as a VBL. If you've been wearing it all day in the rain, (or in my case, taking quick trips outside on a soggy night) you may not want to take it into your sleeping bag!

    Back to the original topic: The practice of live plucking has been banned in many countries. Make sure you know where your down is coming from.

    Anthony Weston
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern CA

    in addition to your R5 sleeping pad or better if you take a very thin 1/4 gossamer gear pad into you sleeping bag (cut small butt to shoulders), I find it greatly increases the warmth. I tried an 1/8 inch pad and it works but as I turned in the night it didn't have enough thickness to keep from folding up on itself.

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    Were you sleeping in the open?

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