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Down vs. Synthetic Sleeping Bags

Discussion in 'Preparedness & Survival' started by timbernet, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. timbernet

    timbernet Boring, Oregon Member

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    Ahh, a debate equal to that of Glock vs. 1911 and 9mm vs .45 (the right answer being 1911 in .45, of course ;-) )

    Anyways - Down sleeping bags vs synthetic!
    I currently have a 15F synthetic bag. It is a good bag, was around $250 when I bought it - has served me well, but is bulky. The weight isn't an issue (around 3, 3.5lbs) but the overall size, even with a compression sack, is huge and takes up space in the pack.

    I know down performs better - it is lighter, compresses smaller, can actually get you warmer in less time.... but SUCKS when you get it wet... and that might not mean rain - but maybe condensation.

    So for those of you with down bags out here in the Northwest - what is your experience like?

    So far my synthetic bag has never gotten wet /crossing fingers/ and I could easily get a dry sack for my down bag if I got one...
    I camp in a tent... so I don't have to worry about camping under tarps, etc...
     
  2. spengo

    spengo GLORIOUS CASCADIA Active Member

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    What about a bag with down stuffing and a synthetic waterproof exterior?
     
  3. elsullo

    elsullo Portland Oregon New Member

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    Decades ago I was a very active backpacker/hitchhiker. I had both prime goosedown and synthetic Hollowfill bags. I started out with an army surplus duck feather bag! Even after my hiking years, I was fortunate enough to live isolated out in the hills, and mostly slept out on the lawn all summer long in a bag.

    Yes, natural down does compress beautifully, but that includes UNDER you so ground chill is worse, even with a pad. And eventually, down will shift around and clump up into lumps. When it gets wet or damp from perspiration this makes it MUCH harder to dry out. Goosedown is best for the high mountain climbers, up where there is zero humidity and where compressibility and weight are more critical.

    Synthetics don't compress so well, but that gives you more insulation and padding UNDER you too. Synthetics are bulky, but don't shift around into clumps. Synthetics dry quickly in the air, and still insulate even while still wet. Dark colored bags absorb the sun's warmth better for quicker drying. You probably know to avoid cheap "sewn-through" bags with their inevitable cold spots, and choose the even coverage of "shingle" or "offset-baffle" construction, with a full "open-flat" perimeter zipper so you can dry it on a clothesline.

    I still use my old synthetic bags as bed quilts! Stuff them in a classy flannel "duvet cover" and nobody knows what it is that keeps them so toasty...........................elsullo :thumbup:
     
  4. johnboy

    johnboy Hillsboro Member

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    Agree w Elsullo...........synthetic is a little more durable/forgiving and bulky, but it does the job wet or dry. Down is good but must pamper it a little more. Whatever suits your use the most............
     
  5. SICARIO

    SICARIO Oregon City Active Member

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    For ideal situations (camping, hunting, hiking), you're hard pressed to beat down. But, in a SHTF Scenario, where "ideal situations" won't be likely, you'd want to eliminate all weak links. So, your potential risks are

    Down = won't work when when, could be life threatening,

    Synthetic = more bulk/weight.

    Check out the Kifaru Regulator bags. They are about the cost of a nice down bag, weigh only slightly more, and compress slightly more than a down bag. Might be the best compromise.
     
  6. GRUNDEL

    GRUNDEL Washougal Area Active Member

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    I have had a Down cold weather bag made by Marmot for about 13 years now. It’s has a Gore-tex outer shell and is rated to -20. I got it at a time when I was doing a lot of climbing. As you stated for warmth you can’t beat down. I have spent many nights in the Olympic and Cascade Mountains with it and have NEVER been cold. I have a good tent for the winter but prefer to just use a Bivi sack when ever possible.

    My down bag will compress down to about the size of a Nerf football so I slip it into an additional water resistant stuff sack when it is in my pack.

    As for condensation if I am in a tent the bag keeps me warm enough I keep things very well ventilated unless dealing with blowing snow. Usually when I am using this bag any condensation is in the form of ice crystals so it is just a matter of brushing it off. On the few occasions it has gotten wet from rain or heavy condensation. It has never penetrated the outer shell to the down fill so I just let it air dry the best I can at the time.

    I will say I have never totally swamped my bag out. Not from the inside or outside but know if it happens when it is cold out I am screwed.

    I myself choose to use Down for the weight, warmth, comfort, and compressed size. I do however take precautions to keep it dry but no more than I would a synthetic bag.

    My only other advice when buying a bag is spend the money and buy a good one.
     
  7. chemist

    chemist Beaverton OR Well-Known Member

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    Nothing compares to down - I sleep under it all Winter long. When I was frequently solo backpacking, my down bag saved my frozen butt more times than i can remember. Don't underestimate the importance of that rapid warm-up!

    But for the car trunk, there's no reason NOT to use synthetic. Sleeping bags, like water filters, are one of those cheap, storable items that it pays to keep extras of.
     
  8. GRUNDEL

    GRUNDEL Washougal Area Active Member

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    Something else to think about is how you are going to store your bag. Down bags like to be stored all fluffed up in a loose fitting bag when possible. Crushing them down in a compression sack for several months or years at a time can affect how well down feathers fluff back up allowing them to trap air, ultimately affecting how warm the bag keeps you.

    For long term storage (months or years) in a compressed state a synthetic bag will probably serve you better better.
     
  9. richdav

    richdav oregon Member

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    I have slept in a cold wet down bag and it was horrible and I have slept in cold wet synthetic bags and it was horrible.
     
  10. spengo

    spengo GLORIOUS CASCADIA Active Member

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    Gore-tex, that's the stuff I was talkin' about. Keeps that water out.
     
  11. GRUNDEL

    GRUNDEL Washougal Area Active Member

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    If your after a light weight, breathable material to keep things dry Gore-Tex is arguable the best stuff on the market. You get what you pay for and as most know you will pay a pretty penny for it.

    How well it works greatly depends on the application. Most out door products (clothing & Sleeping bags) that bare the Brand GORE-TEX use a Gore-Tex membrane laminated (sandwiched) between an inner and outer fabric. The outer fabric is almost always abrasion resistant and coated with an additional water proofing agent. This works great on a jacket or pants but rapidly wears away if used in extreme conditions. Frequent cleaning of the garment and reapplying of aftermarket water proofing agents are usually recommended.

    One huge advantage to buying any product that bares the Gore-Tex Brand is that Gore figured out years ago that the seams are were the water gets in. Thus all Gore-Tex products come with taped seams.

    If you can afford a Sleeping bag with a Gore-Tex outer-shell I highly recommend it. Another route to go is kill two birds with one stone and get a Gore-Tex Bivy sack. It will give you some added protection for your sleeping bag and cut five or more pounds off the load your packing when you leave your tent at home. You will also find when trekking with a Bivy Sack instead of a tent you are far less limited on were you can sleep due to the much smaller foot print. Basically if its flat enough and big enough for you to sleep on you are good to go.