Lifespan of a down bag?
Aug 15, 2019 at 11:06 am #3606187
My venerable Montbell Down Hugger #3 is losing feathers and warmth and does not feel like it used to. When I looked up how long a bag should last it said a very long time. When I write Montbell they say 4-6 years. That would mean my bag at 8 years had a good run. It still works but not for the same temps. Is that what you have found too? For me it’s 10-14 nights a year, typically, of nights in bag. Washed just as they advise. So a bag may last a lifetime but will lose a lot of warmth in less than 10 years of average use?Aug 15, 2019 at 11:32 am #3606188Edward John MBPL Member
I just had my bag washed and topped up. After 30 years it needed 200 grams of 850FP down, so it lost approximately 30% of its warmth and 100 grams of down over that thirty years. I would have expected a lot more than 8 years from a good down bag myselfAug 15, 2019 at 11:46 am #3606189David PBPL Member
I don’t use down personally but I would concur with Edward that most down bags should have more longevity. My friends WM down bag is going strong after 20 plus years and he uses it probably 30-40 nights a year. I have no experience with montbell but the research I’ve done suggests they should last and retain their warmth for quite a while. Have you been storing the bag compressed or loosely?Aug 15, 2019 at 12:07 pm #3606190Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
I would expect a good down bag/quilt to last longer than eight years with only ~10 nights of use per year. I would expect after that time it might need a wash, but you said you did that already. Has it lost loft or are perhaps as you get older you require a warmer bag then you used to need for a given temp?
I had a WM bag for ten years and washed it once. It seemed as warm the day I sold it as the day I bought it. Currently my main quilt is nine years old and it is probably ready for a wash, but seems reasonably close to the rating it was new.Aug 15, 2019 at 2:10 pm #3606207MattBPL Member
@mhrLocale: San Juan Mtns.
Your math suggests that your bag would not make it all the way through one complete AT thru-hike before losing effectiveness. That is certainly not acceptable (or affordable). Barring some biblical disaster, I’d expect at least twice that life with good, anal-retentive care along the way.Aug 15, 2019 at 2:43 pm #3606210Geoff CaplanBPL Member
@geoffcaplanLocale: Lake District, Cumbria
I had a lightweight alpine bag hand-made for me by Rab Carrington in the early days of his business. He used very good down.
I’d estimate that I used it for well over 450 nights, with no significant performance reduction. I always wore sleeping clothes and/or a silk liner to protect it from body oils.
Washed it around 3 times and was careful not to over-compress when carrying – I prefer a somewhat larger pack that allows me to pack the bag quite loose. Stored draped over a hanger in a well vented closet.
It’s now in the Rab company museum!Aug 15, 2019 at 3:30 pm #3606218Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
Did you wash it often? Did you store it compressed? Both of those could lead to early degradation of the down, but barring that 4-6 years seems ridiculously short lived for a high quality down sleeping bag. Rab may say that because they have no idea what someone does with the bag.
In comparison, I use my parent double sleeping bags car camping that they bought from REI ~45 years ago. They are still warm and fully functional.Aug 15, 2019 at 4:12 pm #3606220
My son is currently using a TNF Purple Haze, a 15 degree down bag with a “Versatech” shell that I bought from Campmoor in 1987. (Versatech was known back in the day as a very tightly woven fabric which was considered “water resistant” on it’s own,)
North Face used to have a program where you’d send them your bag & 25 bucks, and they’d wash it and refill it to it’s original specs. I believe I sent it to them twice if not three times. Early 90’s, I got another down bag with a Gore Dryloft shell. While I’d notice some plumes pop through the interior lining, I never saw down pop out of the outside of the shell.
About 10 years ago, I got a FFriends semi-rectangular bag, and while the quality is top notch, I’m constantly surprised just how much down seems to pop out of the bag. Since then, I’ve been using mostly high fill powered EE quilts, which I had to pay special attention to, especially my quilt with 7d fabric.
Based on my observations over the years, I am fairly convinced the type of shell will affect down loss the most over time. It’s pretty clear to me that not all shells are the same. In hindsight, the tightly woven Versatech shell still seems pretty impressive to this day, but I’m sure it’s at the cost of less permeability.
Fill power, storage and washing will all affect down loss as well, but I believe the shell type seems to be the biggest factor.Aug 15, 2019 at 5:26 pm #3606228John VanceBPL Member
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
I have a FF bag I bought in 1973 that has survived Boy Scouts, thru hikes, many shorter trips, and service as a quilt on my bed for a decade and is still going strong.
My daughters use it for cold weather trips. It has been washed a dozen times but no down added. It has leaked very few plumes or feathers.
Honestly, even one ounce of down migrating through the seams and shell would amount to a great deal of free floating feathers and plumes – even over several years of use.
Something more must have gone on or the down had a issue from the start but I would expect high quality down that is cared for to last decades and that has been my experience with all the down filled items I have purchased or made. The shell is another matter but with care should last as long as the down IMHO.Aug 15, 2019 at 6:15 pm #3606235
I have the same bag about 10 years or so old. What I have noticed is that the shell isn’t holding down as well anymore. Mine has lost about 1.5 ounces of down from its new weight.
I think it’s an age of fabric issue causing down leakage. I have about 200 nights in mine.Aug 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm #3606238Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
1.5oz of down loss would be significant in a bag that only starts with 11oz of down, so that would be an issue.Aug 15, 2019 at 7:43 pm #3606245
1.5 ounces of 600 fp down is approximately half a cubic foot of down.
That’s a lot!Aug 16, 2019 at 1:41 am #3606292
Hmmm. You cannot just leave the bag in the stuff sack?Aug 16, 2019 at 1:49 am #3606294
OK, Sarcasm aside.
I have treated the bag better than I have my daughters, or so I supposed. It would appear then that no one has ever had a bag lose warmth in less than 10years. That suggests 1) Montbell is dead wrong about bag life, or, 2) I made some large error.
Why would MontBell provide a bogus estimate? To protect themselves against owner misuse one suspects
But what was it? Where was the abuse? I washed the bag thrice, maybe, exactly as instructed. Over an 8 year span. I did not use a liner most of the time. Hard to believe the is the answer- but was it?
Now I do not know, but it is clear that lifespan expectations are much greater than 50 nights!Aug 16, 2019 at 6:06 am #3606316Martin NorrisBPL Member
Used a EE down quilt for about 200+ nights over 4 years, no liner and often just sleeping in my hiking clothes or maybe worse…no hiking clothes! , hand washed and machine dried when it didn’t smell nice (a guess would be 3/4 times), still fine, lofts well, maybe a small temp rating loss. So no I don’t think Montbell is playing fair.Aug 16, 2019 at 3:43 pm #3606342Elliott WolinBPL Member
@ewolinLocale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
My two 41-year-old REI 550 FP winter bags seems to loft good as new, but they’ve had light usage and are stored loosely stuffed in a breathable bag. My two 43-year-old REI duck down bags also seem to be in great shape, and they’ve been used a fair amount. Also stuffed loosely in a breathable bag, they’ve been washed a few times.
So even my lower quality duck down bags seem to be holding up after decades. Note that 550 FP was near state of the art back in the mid-70s.Aug 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm #3606343
With my Montbell bag it down does migrate through the bag. Mostly at the seams of the baffles. Basically I have a small hand full of down stuck to me each morning and when dying you have a handfull as well.
It is definitely a 40F bag now instead of 30.Aug 16, 2019 at 4:12 pm #3606345Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
One MYOG down bag leaks a little down. That fabric was not perfectly downproof
Another MYOG down bag doesn’t leak. That fabric is from ripstopbytheroll.com and is certified downproof
I am surprised a commercial bag manufacturer would use fabric that leaks down. They should use certified downproof fabric. There’s some test they do.Aug 16, 2019 at 4:35 pm #3606353
” Mostly at the seams of the baffles”
So another Montbell bag with noticeable down loss? Experiencing “a small handful” of down loss from a bag after each morning seems excessive to me and would definitely point to a larger issue.
I’m beginning to wonder if the quality/type of stitching is the issue, combined with the stretchy fabric (assuming that is what you have.) Those stretchable shell fabrics will certainly let out more down.Aug 16, 2019 at 6:05 pm #3606359
The Fabric on mine doesn’t stretch (it is the regular bag not the stretchy one) but I do think that the the biased stitching to create diagonal baffles creates more stress on the seams compared to vertical or horizontal baffles.Aug 19, 2019 at 1:01 am #3606673Steve ThompsonBPL Member
I have a Snow Lion winter bag, nearly 50 years old now. Original rating -20F, now still good to 0F. All in all, not bad. I also have a 10 year old WM Apache that sees 20-30 night a year and would say it lofts and as good as new (I wash every other season). So my limited experience…if Montbell says their bags are only good 4-6 years then I for sure wouldn’t get another one.Aug 19, 2019 at 1:11 am #3606674
OK Montbell wrote back to say 4-6 seasons of heavy use, such as thru hikes. So there you have it: we went our bags back for evaluation as warranty check, will see what transpiresAug 19, 2019 at 1:54 am #3606675James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yeah, I had a couple down bags that lasted about 20 years before I had to relegate them to stricktly summer use. 750FP down, pertex shells. 20 years at about 40-60 nights per year means about 800 nights. They did experience some down degradation just from sleeping on the down (the plumes actually tear apart a bit each night.) My MontBell Super Stretch is a nicer bag but hasn’t leaked hardly at all over 12-15 years of use. But, I only take that one out on 10-20F nights…maybe 100 nights total. My EE quilt still lofts as much as it originally did. My older bags were given away (mostly because of the weight…they never got used.)
I always carry my bags compressed. I always wash them in very light down wash (less than 1/2 what they say on the label) or just plain water when I get back from a trip. I send them through two to three dryer cycles. They always hang in my gear room. All the bags saw some loss of temp ratings in the first 10 years/500 nights, but if it was more than 5-6 degrees, I would be pissed. Average, I expect about a 3/4degree F per year. After 400 nights, I would NOT expect about a 10F degree loss after 8 years of light usage.
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