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View Full Version : A Few Q's on Down Sleeping Bags



MEB
05-22-2006, 07:12 AM
Hi All,

In the process of trying to lighten my pack and make more room, I'm considering purchasing a down sleeping bag. I've never owned one though but it seems so many people perfer them over the synthetic bags as they are warmer and more comfy.

Ok...so say you were out last week in all that wet weather backpacking with your down bag...how and what do you use/do to keep it as dry as you possilby can? Any tips or tricks that you can recommend?

-MEB

Artex
05-22-2006, 07:15 AM
I have a stuff sack that's pretty much waterproof. I've been in drenching rains and my down bag has kept dry with it.

Best of luck! :)

Oldsmores
05-22-2006, 07:16 AM
...Ok...so say you were out last week in all that wet weather backpacking with your down bag...how and what do you use/do to keep it as dry as you possilby can? Any tips or tricks that you can recommend?

-MEB
Keep it in it's stuff sack in a plastic garbage bag in the bottom of your pack. If you're leaving it in the tent during the day, stuff it and put it in the garbage bag.

sleeping bear
05-22-2006, 07:19 AM
garbage bags

I took my down bag on some pretty soggy trips last summer. For me it was more a matter of always being concious of it. Always kept it in a garbage bag (or 2!) and let it bake in the sun when I had a chance. I had zero problems.

MEB
05-22-2006, 07:26 AM
I should have mentioned this in my first post but I forgot.

My husband seems to think I need a gortex bag shell or something to that effect...anybody use those or is it unnecessary?

Oldsmores
05-22-2006, 07:34 AM
IMHO- a goretex shell is nice to have, but certainly not required. I guess in general though - given the normal northeast rains and the advances in synthetic insulations, I'm not sure a down bag is the best choice for summer. You're talking about a fairly light bag to start with and the weight savings are offset by the care required and the initial expense. YMMV

Halite
05-22-2006, 08:30 AM
You shouldn't need a goretex shell unless you plan on sleeping in a very minimalist shelter, such as a tarp. Relying on a goretex shell to keep your bag dry would defeat much of the weight and breathability benefits you would be hoping to get from a down bag.

I've used down bags year around without water issues. With a moderate amount of care, you can keep your down bag dry enough to avoid delofting.

If you are concerned about condensation or drips causing problems, you might want to consider a bag made with a water resistant fabric. There are a couple of fabrics used for sleeping bags that are lighter and more breathable than goretex. Feathered Friends allows you to choose from two different waterproof fabrics--Epic and Event. Their bags aren't cheap, but they are incredibly well made and will be good for backpacking for years:

http://www.featheredfriends.com/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=2&CatId=1&ProductName=Hummingbird

Rick
05-22-2006, 08:39 AM
MEB,
I don't even know if you can get a Goretex covered down bag. Problem is that the moisture you give off (several pints) in the course of an evening's sleep probably couldn't migrate through the down and then get past the Goretex barrier. There are sleeping bags with "Pertex" shells, "evEnt" shells and a few others that aren't exactly water proof as I understand but water resistant.

But to the original question - My biggest concern with down is not that it might get wet in my pack - I can control that, but that it keeps collecting moisture each night.While some moisture passes through the bag completely, you really need to let the bag hang over your tent or from a branch for a little while at least every other day or so to dry out a bit.

If the weather is very rainy and wet and there is not enough dry air, wind or sun to let it evaporate, then over several days the bag starts to get a bit heavier as the down picks up moisture. Even so, it might lose a little loft (I notice it at the feet on occasion), but probably not enough to cause you more than a passing discomfort.

However, even on a wet, windy day, as long as it isn't raining, the bag can hang in the wind for 1/2 hour and lose a lot of stored moisture. I also put it in the tent as soon as my tent is up. Even a little bit of sun will heat the tent up considerable and help a slightly damp bag to dry out faster.

MEB, After years of using down and a decent shelter, I have never run into a problem. If you have a poor shelter, (entirely different subject) then you might run into problems.

Rick
05-22-2006, 08:51 AM
Halite -It sounds like I am repeating you....I think we were posting at the same time and saying roughly the same thing!!! Great minds think alike!!! :D

SherpaKroto
05-22-2006, 09:30 AM
MEB: I use trash compactor bags instead of trash bags as they are much more durable. FWIW, I much prefer my synthetic bag for summer camping. Gris bouhgt it for me for my 50th B'Day and it is pretty much the only bag I use. When looking at 40F bags, a down bag would only save me a few ounces. I can save that by skipping a twinkie :o

Nessmuk
05-22-2006, 09:35 AM
Hi All,

In the process of trying to lighten my pack and make more room, I'm considering purchasing a down sleeping bag. I've never owned one though but it seems so many people perfer them over the synthetic bags as they are warmer and more comfy.

Ok...so say you were out last week in all that wet weather backpacking with your down bag...how and what do you use/do to keep it as dry as you possilby can? Any tips or tricks that you can recommend?

-MEBChoose down for its lightweight and compressibility advantages. That's why I use down. "Comfyness" is secondary. I have both winter weight and two summer weight down bags which I love dearly. But it turns out my lightest weight bag (okay for most June-August nights) is synthetic because (at the time I was shopping) down didn't come in anything rated warmer than 40 degrees.

I have a couple of tips for keeping your bag dry. You know that the air around your body is full of moisture. That moisture migrates through your bag, and hopefully to the outside. Some of that moisture likely reaches the saturation point on it's way to the outside, and depending on ambient temperature and humidity it becomes liquid at the condensation layer inside your bag. There's not a lot you can do to prevent that but a couple of things may keep the problem from becoming worse.

When you wake up in the morning there is still a lot of very humid warm air in the bag next to your body. You need to get rid of that air. The very first thing you should do when exiting your bag is to rapidly squish out as much of that warm humid air as possible before it cools and condenses. Squish the bag a couple of times, don't let it lay there cooling. Then let it fluff up and if it is reasonably dry outside let it air dry before packing it away. If it is raining outside, get it in it's stuff sack right away. Always put a garbage bag liner inside your stuff sack, and put your bag inside that.

If you sleep in a tent that is not very well ventilated you may notice a lot of condensation on the inner walls. You need to keep your sleeping bag from touching that liquid water. Usually in a small tent the foot portion of your sleeping bag will get wet that way. You can prevent this by putting just the foot portion of your bag in a loose garbage bag. Not up to your knees, just the very end portion where it would touch the damp tent wall. Similarly, if your shoulders touch the side walls, put a towel or extra clothing you can dry easily there to keep your bag from absorbing condensed water.

Finally, never never sleep with your mouth and nose breathing inside the bag. You will exhale way too much moisture to migrate to the outside of the bag.

Chip
05-22-2006, 10:17 AM
MEB, lots of good advice here on down. I just went the other way, though. I'd been using an old Northface bivy shell and fleece bag liner over a Thermarest self-inflating pad for warmer weather, but that combo was not very comfortable, light or warm.
I just got this synthetic bag (http://www.ccoutdoorstore.com/bigagcrmo40s.html) and this Exped Foam Airmat 9. (http://moontrail.com/sleeping_pads/exped_foamairmattress.php) This new combo is lighter, warmer and way more comfy.

blacknblue
05-22-2006, 10:36 AM
I've never had a problem keeping my down bags dry. I do the garbage trick like a few have already mentioned. As well, my sleeping bag is generally the first thing out of the pack in the evening and last thing that I pack up in the morning, given it as much time as possible to vent out all of my overnight moisture and generally skank.

I have a Mountain Hardwear bag that is has their proprietary waterproofing, but it doesn't seem to add/detract much at all. I suppose if I slept without a tent in the rain, then I would notice.

I think the best reason for down over synthetic is the compressibility and weight factors. My 40-degree synthetic compresses to the same size and weight as my 10-degree down.

John S
05-22-2006, 12:40 PM
MEB,

Don’t bother with the extra waterproof materials. A Dryloft bag will add about six ounces and almost a $100. The standard materials of quality down bags are tightly woven, treated with a DWR and are all you need. I just gave my WM Caribou (microfiber) a quick test. I draped it over a chair, threw a handful of water at it and watched the water bead up and just sit there. Pretty good for bag that’s been stuffed and unstuffed 40-50 times. Brushing up against heavy condensation in a single wall tent has not been a problem either. The weak spot for water is the stitching and there the risk is the same for both types of material.

Unless you’re buying this week, there should be a decent assortment of bags for you to check out this weekend!

hikerfast
05-22-2006, 01:16 PM
I used my new 20 degree down bag this weekend and it was so warm i slept in it unzipped. Bear in mind we were wondering if it was misting or snowing so it must have been fairly cold, maybe around 30. In my old synthetic 20 degree bag, I remember being cold when it was about 45 out with it zipped all the way. In the morning my tent had wet inside walls, but myself and my bag appeared to be dry as a bone.

Lawn Sale
05-22-2006, 09:35 PM
In the summer I use a 40° synthetic as it's much lighter than my down bags, by about a pound. I'll still use the down this time of year though, and I'll use the warmer bag only in the hottest 3 months.

I don't use a trash bag as I invested the $20 and got a waterproof compression sack instead. I found the trash bags don't let the air out well when it's inside a compression sack, so I just leave it out. They also don't rip as easily and can take quite a cranking.

AntlerPeak
05-23-2006, 06:33 AM
Meb

I have used a down bag for over thirty years and not once has it ever gotten wet.

True they save weight but more importantly, at least for me, is the space issue. I have a twenty degree bag that compresses small enough to fit in the bottom pocket of my external frame pack. It also fits nicely into the internal frame. This allows the bag to be secured away from the weather and not hanging on top or on the bottom of your pack. The space you save is a blessing.

As others have said with the stuff sack and the garbage bag liner in your pack you should have no trouble. This has worked well for thirty years with no issues. With care the bag will last a long time. Through this period there have been many two week trips, sections of the AT, the NPT etc.
The space/weight you save is really noticed on those longer trips. On one trip from Caratunk to Katahdin ( two weeks ) it rained the first five days straight. The bag stayed dry.

Cleaning is not difficult a mild soap and a washing machine works well. You can dry them in a home dryer, no heat with a sneaker thrown in to break up the down clumps. Again think gentle cycles. Washer, cool water, dryer air only no heat.

Nessmuk
05-23-2006, 06:48 AM
Cleaning is not difficult a mild soap and a washing machine works well. You can dry them in a home dryer, no heat with a sneaker thrown in to break up the down clumps. Again think gentle cycles. Washer, cool water, dryer air only no heat.Keeping your down bag clean is extremely important. It is most handy to use a lightweight liner to sleep in. It keeps the down bag clean from a grungy hiking body, especially dirty oily hair. It also expands your comfort options. It will add a few degress of comfort on a cold night, or can be used alone on those nights when its too cold to go without a covering but too warm for the unzipped sleeping bag. An old sheet sewn into a bag will do as a liner, I invested in a silk liner bag which is terrific and weighs almost nothing.

I also recommend a good compression sack for dramatically reducing the packed volume of your bag. Just be sure to store your bag at home fluffed and loose in a large breathable storage bag (not the stuff sack).

MEB
05-23-2006, 06:55 AM
Wow! :) Thanks everyone for all the advice and information....it will really help me out with my decision.

-MEB

JJD
05-23-2006, 04:48 PM
In the summer I use a 40° synthetic as it's much lighter than my down bags, by about a pound. I'll still use the down this time of year though, and I'll use the warmer bag only in the hottest 3 months.

I don't use a trash bag as I invested the $20 and got a waterproof compression sack instead. I found the trash bags don't let the air out well when it's inside a compression sack, so I just leave it out. They also don't rip as easily and can take quite a cranking.


Darn, 1 pound is super light for a synthetic 40*. What model is it? Marmot Pounder?



I just got a Kelty Light Year 45* down bag. It weighs about two pounds, but it's definitely conservatively rated (and it's a big bag). It probably got down to 40* this weekend and I was toasty without any extra clothes. I wore some mid-weight bottoms to bed but I had to take them off because I was sweating. Plus we were out in a shelter. I bet you could take it down to 30* in a tent with some layering.

DougPaul
05-23-2006, 10:45 PM
A problem with water-proof breathable shells on sleeping bags--they make the bag much slower to dry. (Water-proof breathable layers requre a significant temp difference between the sides to be effective at moistue transport.

Doug

Lawn Sale
05-24-2006, 09:10 PM
Darn, 1 pound is super light for a synthetic 40*. What model is it? Marmot Pounder?


It weights a pound less than my closest down bag, which is a 20°. The 40° is an LL Bean synthetic filled with Polarguard HV and it weighs in at 26 ounces.

trailbiscuit
05-24-2006, 09:55 PM
FWIW, hiked with a guy last summer who had the Marmot Pounder. He called it the "freezer." He figured it was rated closer to 55 or 60; he was always cold. Temps were in the mid to low 40's at night.

At the time I was using my Mtn Hardware, Lamina 45 (synthetic), and was very comfy.

But...if I had to do it over again...I'd go down. So, I could buy a Western Mountaineering bag. Love the Western!!!!

dreamstream
05-25-2006, 06:51 AM
After many years of good freezings, I broke down this year and bought a Western Mountaineering Highlight/Beothuk. I had been alergic to down as a kid so always avoided it since. But after doing a bit of searching info, it sounded like pure down that has been well treated and cleaned is seldom a problem for alergies.

Had it out in the Whites last week, 5 days rain, snow, 20's outside maybe low 30's inside. Bag is rated at 40F but slept fine well below that, not sneezing or itchy eyes. My wife used it one night and slept warm and she is a cold sleeper. Much warmer than the good quality 32F bag I have and less than half the weight at 15.5 oz.

Bag has a decent stuff sack that looks water resistant, but I had it in a plastic bag to be safe, stayed dry no problem over 5 days with 0 chance of anything drying even a little.

Expensive, but worth it in my view. Outer fabric seems to shed water well, like the idea of a tight weave fabric that sheds water as oposed to some sort of treatment ot coating that can break down or get washed away over time.

rhihn
05-25-2006, 07:08 AM
After many years of good freezings, I broke down this year and bought a Western Mountaineering Highlight/Beothuk. I had been alergic to down as a kid so always avoided it since. But after doing a bit of searching info, it sounded like pure down that has been well treated and cleaned is seldom a problem for alergies.

Had it out in the Whites last week, 5 days rain, snow, 20's outside maybe low 30's inside. Bag is rated at 40F but slept fine well below that, not sneezing or itchy eyes. My wife used it one night and slept warm and she is a cold sleeper. Much warmer than the good quality 32F bag I have and less than half the weight at 15.5 oz.

Bag has a decent stuff sack that looks water resistant, but I had it in a plastic bag to be safe, stayed dry no problem over 5 days with 0 chance of anything drying even a little.

Expensive, but worth it in my view. Outer fabric seems to shed water well, like the idea of a tight weave fabric that sheds water as oposed to some sort of treatment ot coating that can break down or get washed away over time.

We have Western Mountaineering Highlite (35 degrees) and love it, both for the weight and compressibility. Just used it in the Grand Canyon on a trip - when we used a bag at all! We did try it out in the Adirondacks when temps were hovering around freezing and found we were a little cold. I'm not sure if there were other factors in play, so we'll try it again in those temps when we get the chance before making a final decision about its warmth. I do find the zipper annoying, as it will come apart at the end when zipped all the way down. The fabric is quite thin, so extra care must be taken to help prevent tearing.

dreamstream
05-25-2006, 07:36 AM
Agreed the half zipper is a con, but I guess that is to save some weight and help keep the foot box warm. My wife now wants her own sleeping new bag, likely be a Summerlite to get the full length zipper and full baffle with a few extra degrees of warmth at the price of 3 oz.

The shell is thin, I don't think I would want to sleep directly on the ground with it, but never plan to sleep directly on the ground anyway.

I notice some of the ratings and product names are different between the bags sold in the US and Canada, What is up with that?

They sure make nice bags!

DrJJFate
05-25-2006, 08:35 AM
Have had it for two years. Rated 35 deg, weighs 16oz and packs very small. Love it.

JJD
05-25-2006, 11:09 AM
It weights a pound less than my closest down bag, which is a 20°. The 40° is an LL Bean synthetic filled with Polarguard HV and it weighs in at 26 ounces.


Ohhhh, it's a pound less than your other bags. I thought you were saying it weighs 1 pound total. :o

JJD
05-25-2006, 11:20 AM
I can't wait until I can justify buying a Western Mountaineering bag. :D

trailbiscuit
05-25-2006, 11:54 AM
I had been alergic to down as a kid so always avoided it since. But after doing a bit of searching info, it sounded like pure down that has been well treated and cleaned is seldom a problem for alergies.
I was worried about the very same issue. But, no problems at all. And, I'm allergic to everything.