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Down vs. synthetic sleeping bag

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:57 am
by Paul
Which one for multi day kayak trips?

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:26 pm
by krudave
No question: synthetic. However, my son uses down on the water, and gets away with it. And, he is not a goose, either. :wink: :wink:

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:36 pm
by mje
Down is nice, but really unnecessary, given current technology. For summer camping I use a 1.5lb synthetic bag from REI.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 2:42 pm
by chrstjrn
Down is more comfortable (breathes better), more compactable, lighter, and warmer. But synthetic is the rational choice because down loses almost 100% of it's warmth when wet, and is hard to dry out. This can be a major safety issue. I only use synthetic sleeping bags.

That said, I love down. Montbell (the Japanese REI) makes down mid-layers (i.e. they're not meant to be either the top layer or the bottom layer) that are extremely light and compactable. If you have the space in your dry bags and the climate isn't too wet (in Arabia, for instance), these are a terrific way to stay warm in the evening-- I've worn them inside my sleeping bag to double it's effectiveness when I was caught out in an unexpected winter storm. I believe that Patagonia makes a similar upper garment called the "down sweater". ... an=1101283 ... an=1101247 ... AY_HANDLER
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Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:37 pm
by nohoval_turrets
I use down bags all the time. As already noted you really have to keep them dry. Once or twice I've had problems with condensation in the tent, and have had to wait a little in the morning until the bag gets a chance to dry. It has a water resistant outer so the down stays dry, but it wouldn't if I packed it away like that.

I like down because it feels cosier, and it packs away smaller.


Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 9:11 pm
by Alm
Interesting that all the different opinons are correct :-) .... The summation by Chris is quite complete. Down - for comfort, synthetics - for ultimate safety. I love down - it is comfortable, soft, breathes better, more compact. I can't explain this, but despite waterproof fabric, down still feels more breathable. As to the compactness and weight - with the current technology synthetic fibers, like the latest Polarguard fillers, weigh the same and are almost the same compact as down. I can pack my +1C (35F) 2005 Polarguard synthetic into the same very small bag, size of a small loaf of bread, that came with my +1C down bag. The word is, - synthetic bags should not be compressed that tight, - this eventually results in irreversible shrinkage, so I pack it in its stock bag, size of a big loaf of bread, which then is somewhat compressed anyway when loaded into my clothing drybag. Down bags won't deteriorate from repeated excessive compression (and synthetic bags won't deteriorate for years from normal compression in their stock bags). As to the safety, - synthetic bag needs to be stored in a drybag anyway, same as a down bag, and with a drybag chances that down bag will lose its insulation properties when wet, are pretty slim - mostly this may happen when tent leaks.

I could've used my down bag many more years, but had to buy a synthetic one, because down somehow screwed up. After a few manual washes in bathtube the down became "lumpy", and no matter how I tried to break those lumps through the fabric, nothing helped. As a result, it got "bold" spots in the insulation, and didn't protect me well in cold nights.

So, if you are okay with sleeping under something not as soft, light and breathable as down duvet (even the best sythetic insulation is still stiffer and more airtight than down), - synthetic fibers are fine. You can get some pretty good last-year or discontinued +1C synthetic brand names with the latest fillers under $70 (and those for warmer temps - under $50).

Combination of synthetic and down - I donno... they are not cheap, and as I can see, not as popular as pure down or pure synthetic.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 12:45 am
by Rick
I use a down bag for winter backpacking trips for many of the reasons noted above. The main one however is the packability. I have a 15f bag that packs down to bread loaf size that has served me well below 0f. I had not thought of the factor of it getting wet, when I use it around here there is no liquid water around. I would think I would rather have a wet synthetic bag than a wet down bag anyday. One main thing to remember with any slepping bag: when not is use they should be hung not packed.

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 2:19 pm
by larrybluhm
Alex, If you still have that lumpy down bag try putting it in the dryer at low heat along with a pair of clean sneakers. The sneakers thump about in the dryer and break up the clumps and also generate some static electricity which helps the bag to regain its loft.

I use down for snow and ice conditions as in mountaineering and synthetic for everything else.