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Speckled
distinguished member (255)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
02/28/2021 06:00PM  
I have one down and two synthetic. Thoughts on each?

The down is lighter and compresses better, but the cost is certianly higher. I'd like to upgrade to all down, but am having a hard time justifying it as the two synthetic bags are still in great shape. Maybe a future Christmas Gift. As to why I need three, there's three of us in the family here.
 
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billconner
distinguished member(7700)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
02/28/2021 06:09PM  
Winter, say below 25 or so in night, I really need down. Warmer, and I like down for light weight, more critical for back packing, less for canoe trips.
 
02/28/2021 06:29PM  
I have a BA down bag for the cold seasons. I tend to like to sleep in cooler temps though so summer camping or warmer spring/fall I'm usually in a much less-warm bag and with it half zipped. So at that point...depending on price and is it for car camping more or backpacking or the BW.....would sway me.

But I have no issue taking a synthetic 40 degree bag in the summer. In May or October or now? Down all the way for me anyway
 
02/28/2021 06:36PM  
Generally I take down bags for their ability to be compressed. I have a number of bags. Used to take 2 synthetic fill bags for the shoulder season trips I prefer. But as my standard of living improved I could afford down so now use it even in the summer. The synthetic fill bags are used by the grandchildren and the occasional friend who joins a trip w/o gear of their own.
 
OCDave
distinguished member(580)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
02/28/2021 09:16PM  
I wanted a down bag for years but delayed the purchase because my 2 Synthetic NorthFace Cats Meow bags I bought in my 20's were still in great shape. They take a lot of space and they are kind of heavy but, they are still in great shape. Eventually realized, I deserve nice things. I so wish I'd have bought my down earlier.

Treat yourself! Don't justify it, just do it. As soon as you can afford a suitable down bag, buy it. Buy two. Don't skimp on quality. The synthetic bags can be loaned out, sold, given away or ignored. You deserve better.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(901)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
02/28/2021 09:36PM  
I have always slept with a down bag, except for a winter bag I used in high school. I just love the feel of a down bag compared to a synthetic bag. Since I only buy one sleeping bag every 20 years, I am happy to accept the cost.
 
02/28/2021 09:41PM  

Down!
 
RunningFox
distinguished member (117)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
02/28/2021 10:13PM  
I have a 20 degree Kealty Cosmic down bag. In the shoulder season I wear a light wt. down coat (Eddie Bauer from Costco) with a tight-fitting down hood inside the sleeping bag. I hate being cold at night.
 
dschult2
senior member (71)senior membersenior member
 
03/01/2021 12:10AM  
No doubt about it, down all the way. I have three, one for summer, shoulder seasons, and for winter. For me it definitely justifies the cost. If you can afford it, go down.
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(1974)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/01/2021 07:37AM  
Down for me.

I have a 0’ down for shoulder seasons
I have a 20’ down for everything else.

They compress to half the size of synthetic and are lighter. A must have for a solo tripper.

Keep in mind, the temp rating is at what point you freeze to death. My 0’ bag is good to about 15’ in real life and then the cold seeps in.

Tom
 
03/01/2021 08:28AM  
The way I see it, volume is as much of a factor as weight. The more you fill your pack, the more it bulges out from your back. A full pack doesn't just pull you down, it also pulls back on your shoulders and in on your hips. The further out that weight is, the more leverage it has on you. It may not be a huge factor, but it is one to consider. The closer you can get that weight to your center of gravity, the less effort you have to put into carrying it.

This also applies to how I arrange my pack. Heavier items are closer to my back and lighter items further. If you want an example of how this works, lift a weight closer to your body then move it away from your body a few inches at a time and then bring it back. This is also why I put my tackle box in a day pack and wear it on my front while portaging.
 
Speckled
distinguished member (255)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/01/2021 08:35AM  
tumblehome: "Down for me.


I have a 0’ down for shoulder seasons
I have a 20’ down for everything else.


The compress to half the size of synthetic and are lighter. A must have for a solo tripper.


Keep in mind, the temp rating is at what point you freeze to death. My 0’ bag is good to about 15’ in real life and then the cold seeps in.


Tom"


Well aware of the temp rating thing. My first trip in 1999, I bought a 32F synthetic bag. We went on fishing opener - after the first night, I made that conclusion. 32 degree bag doesn't mean your comfortable down to 32...you just won't die. I now bring a zero degree down bag for all spring and fall trips, only using that 32 degree bag in the summer.
 
gotwins
distinguished member (170)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/15/2021 02:21PM  
If you really want to treat yourself, get a Western Mountaineering down bag.
Made in San Jose, CA. I have two and I wouldn't buy any other brand. I have the Alpinlite and have had it for about 15 years now, then bought myself the MityLite 5 years ago for warmer nights. I'm going up on May 17th, we'll see what the temperatures are supposed to be and I'll choose which one to bring.

The MityLite compresses down to the size of a softball if I really want to get aggressive with it. However, I generally just stuff it in the supplied stuff sack, which is about the size of two Nalgene bottles.
 
03/15/2021 04:34PM  
My summer bag is a 35 degree Mont-bell It can compress to the size of a bag of coffee and is more than enough warmth
 
mgraber
distinguished member(1188)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/15/2021 04:49PM  
As long as you can positively keep them dry, down all the way. There just isn't any comparison, and they last many years if properly cared for.
 
portagedog09
member (25)member
 
03/15/2021 05:42PM  
I'll support the down vote with the fact that they compress much smaller per temperature rating, (when stored properly) loft up much better than synthetics and weigh less per degree of insulating factor. With practically every new down bag sold being treated with 'down defender' or insert manufacturer's water resistant technology and DWR shell treatment, there is really no reason to worry about extreme care to keep it dry - other than who wants to use ANY kind of wet sleeping bag! Yes, the cost is more, but for anything more than car camping and sleep-over's - you just can't put a price on a good nights sleep. Especially when you're working hard in the back country. Brand preference - Big Agnes gets my vote.
 
lindylair
distinguished member(2496)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/15/2021 06:54PM  
I have a couple down bags and a few synthetic. This includes the Big Agnes Encampment 15(synthetic) and the Big Agnes Lost Ranger 15(down). They are very close to identical bags other than the fill. The Lost Ranger compresses down about 1/3 more than the Encampment, weighs less but cost considerably more. I have used both a lot and it seems like the Encampment is a little more comfortable to sleep in(maybe cut slightly larger) and a little warmer. Nothing scientific about those conclusions, just my take.

The addition of water repellency to down is great but beyond that I am not sure what technology can do to improve it more. On the other hand technology has improved synthetic fills a lot in terms of warmth to weight ratio, compressibility and loftability. I would expect this to continue and the gap between the two to get somewhat less.

I like down bags for sure but there are plenty of darn good synthetic bags out there that are somewhat more affordable if a little more volume and a few more ounces isn't a huge concern.

On my May trip this year i will be bringing my LL Bean 20 degree down tek bag, but only because it is rectangular and will provide me with a little more space and comfort, along with my new down blanket, just in case:)
 
martian
senior member (94)senior membersenior member
 
03/16/2021 06:29PM  
We've got seven bags ranging from -20 to 30 degrees for the four of us. Five of which are down. Each has a season.
If I know going in it's going to be very wet I choose synthetic. Synthetic like wool & Polarfleece are still warm when wet. I do prefer down because pound per warmth/compressibility nothing tops it. I dry compression bag my down bags regardless. You just need to be tad more careful with it regardless of down treatments. Keep that in your mind and down is golden. I agree Western Mountaineering down bags are fantastic quality bags. Enjoy the research.
 
gotwins
distinguished member (170)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/16/2021 06:45PM  
I always wonder about the warm while wet argument for synthetic. Has anyone ever had to sleep in a waterlogged synthetic bag, and if so, was it all toasty warm? Not saying a down bag is warm when wet, but I can’t imagine a syn bag being much warmer if soaked. Also, I pack my down bags inside a second water proof Sea to Summit bag before it goes in my pack.
 
03/16/2021 07:19PM  
gotwins: "I always wonder about the warm while wet argument for synthetic. Has anyone ever had to sleep in a waterlogged synthetic bag, and if so, was it all toasty warm? Not saying a down bag is warm when wet, but I can’t imagine a syn bag being much warmer if soaked. Also, I pack my down bags inside a second water proof Sea to Summit bag before it goes in my pack. "

Uh yes, both times an error on my part. The synthetic wet was cold and uncomfortable, so I stayed in it to warm it and made soup to warm me and it up. It worked somewhat but never comfortable. It had almost dried out by morning. The down, not quite as wet, Was crawled into and I started breaking the clumped parts best as I could, fell asleep. By morning was dryer than the synthetic and comfy. Both were in 40 plus degrees, sleeping under rain cover. Neither was fun! This sold me on keeping any s-bag dry and convinced me on down!
My experience take it for what it is worth.

butthead
 
03/16/2021 08:14PM  
butthead: "gotwins: "I always wonder about the warm while wet argument for synthetic. Has anyone ever had to sleep in a waterlogged synthetic bag, and if so, was it all toasty warm? Not saying a down bag is warm when wet, but I can’t imagine a syn bag being much warmer if soaked. Also, I pack my down bags inside a second water proof Sea to Summit bag before it goes in my pack. "


Uh yes, both times an error on my part. The synthetic wet was cold and uncomfortable, so I stayed in it to warm it and made soup to warm me and it up. It worked somewhat but never comfortable. It had almost dried out by morning. The down, not quite as wet, Was crawled into and I started breaking the clumped parts best as I could, fell asleep. By morning was dryer than the synthetic and comfy. Both were in 40 plus degrees, sleeping under rain cover. Neither was fun! This sold me on keeping any s-bag dry and convinced me on down!
My experience take it for what it is worth.


butthead
"


Good Advice Comes from Bad Experience.
 
BrianDay
member (44)member
 
03/17/2021 07:38AM  
gotwins: "I always wonder about the warm while wet argument for synthetic. Has anyone ever had to sleep in a waterlogged synthetic bag, and if so, was it all toasty warm? Not saying a down bag is warm when wet, but I can’t imagine a syn bag being much warmer if soaked. Also, I pack my down bags inside a second water proof Sea to Summit bag before it goes in my pack. "

I did a month-long sea kayak expedition in the Aleutian Islands many years ago. I had an ultralight synthetic bag and my partner had a warmer down bag.

It was wet. Rain, fog, waves and 40 degree temperatures. Every night I crawled into my bag in wet baselayers. Condensation puddled in the corners of the tent floor.

The only time I was truly dry on that trip was the moment just before I crawled out of the bag in the morning and slid into my drysuit (which remained waterproof but was thoroughly wetted-out and soaking from sweat inside). My baselayer completely dried inside the bag each night.

Over the course of the trip my thin bag maintained its warmth and loft. My friend's down bag became progressively flatter from accumulated moisture and repeated stuffing into a dry bag.

I would say this is the real advantage of synthetics. Not so much that they'll be warm when soaking wet. More that they allow you to repeatedly dry your damp clothes overnight without losing loft.

Repeated stuffing tends to work moisture into the down feathers, even water resistant down. High humidity makes it difficult to push that moisture out of the bag with body heat. Especially on a trip with several days of rain.

In BWCA terms, think about a trip in late September where it starts to rain on day 1 and keeps on raining for the next three days. Temps in the 40s. Wind. Soaked from sweat inside your raingear. Damp to the bone.

I would want a synthetic bag on that trip.

Brian
 
gotwins
distinguished member (170)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/17/2021 08:57AM  
Good points, Brian. I think a syn bag would make a lot of sense on a trip like that in Alaska.
 
mgraber
distinguished member(1188)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
03/17/2021 11:46AM  
gotwins: "I always wonder about the warm while wet argument for synthetic. Has anyone ever had to sleep in a waterlogged synthetic bag, and if so, was it all toasty warm? Not saying a down bag is warm when wet, but I can’t imagine a syn bag being much warmer if soaked. Also, I pack my down bags inside a second water proof Sea to Summit bag before it goes in my pack. "
I won't go in to details about how I know, but yes, when truly wet a down bag goes completely flat and gives nearly zero insulation, which could be not just uncomfortable, but dangerous. A wet synthetic bag, while not great by any means, does retain some loft and insulation and could definitely be a life saver. If equally wet, the synthetic bag is easier to dry, but both are difficult. As billconner said, it is important to keep any bag dry, as moisture will always make you cold. It might be the most important thing you do.
 
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