What sleeping Bag do you prefer?


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What sleeping bag do you prefer?

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New member
Sep 20, 2004
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Just a bit curious, what do you think is better down or synthetic filling of a sleeping bag? I use a EMS 35 bag that I have had mixed reviews about. It seems down is better until its wet and then your screwed, in a sense. Synthetic doesn't keep me warm very well in high elevations like in the Whites - Guyot for example, I was bitterly cold when it was July. What does everyone think about one or the other?
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Tough call

I did not vote because it is dependent upon season and conditions. I only have a synthetic bag, but I totally agree with you regarding the cool air, even in the summer. I have been very cold in my 20 degree synthetic even in a hut with long underwear and a fleece jacket when it has been 30 degrees outside.
I think I would like a lightweight synthetic bag (Phanthom) for the more moderate temps and would like a very warm down bag for the winter...I am a bit concerned about the down getting wet, but feel that is not much of an issue in the severe winter cold.
Though my preference is for down as it drapes better and feels a bit more cozy than synthetic, I use both synthetic and down.
I voted for down. I've never tried a synthetic bag, so I can't really comment on it. The down bag has certainly kept me warm enough, and luckily hasn't gotten wet yet. :)
Most of the time,I use down, but synthetic bags have their place. Longer extended trips I prefer the synthetic, and boat trips again synthetic. Moisture build up is less of a problem, but down I feel is just more comfy, it packs smaller, and is lighter. I have slept in a wet synthetic bag and it is still cold. I quess on paper and in the labs synthetic helps insulate better then wet down, but wet is wet and it is cold.
I, too, voted for Down

Although one must accept that there are uses for one over the other.

On down getting wet: I just generally view the inside of my tent or sleeping area (in a L/T) as requiring laboratory-level moisture control. It's one of my little neuroses. No boot-mud, no rain-gear schmutz, no spilled food. So for me, the down/moisture issue is supposedly already decided. If it gets wet anyway, then it'll be in good company for procedure violations!

Crazy like Guy Fawkes,

I prefer down, though I have a synthetic for kayking (oddly never used). I never gotten down wet enough to make a difference, though I have noticed the winter more weight but less bag effect to some degree.

Note to down bag users: Wtex (?) makes a dry bag from a lighter coated nylon material and has a therma rest like valve. Close the dry bag, fold it over on itself forcing the air out and seal. Functions better than any compression sack I've used. I haven't fully tested the immersion proofness of the bag yet but it's excelled in the kayak.
This post is intended to educate, not offend...

All birds have feathers, which like hair, are specialized outgrowths of skin projecting from follicles by a shaft. Despite the common misconception, down clusters are not immature feathers. They are specialized feathers with an unusual construction. Down clusters are spherical plumes with hundreds of filaments radiating from single quill point, like a ripe dandelion pod. This makes down very soft. Down's structure also traps air, making it a good thermal insulator. Down is the first plumage on young birds and forms a protective insulating liner under the regular feathers of most birds, especially aquatic birds. This insulating layer helps birds maintain their body temperature in inclement weather. Much of the Down used in today's market is a by-product of food production, obtained from slaughtered birds. It is well documented the horrific conditions animals raised for slaughter spend their lives in. Even worse is the practice of "live-plucking." I can avoid the graphic decription of this as I'm sure everyone can imagine it.

Synthetics are more durable, easier to clean, warmer when wet, dry quicker, are far less likely to cause allergies, and are much cheaper.
Down for me, for the following arguments:

1. Much lighter
2. Retains its loft/warmth longer (as long as you hang them when not using).
3. I believe that good ones are every bit as durable as synthetic.
4. An important side benefit is that down takes up less pack space, which allows you to use a smaller pack, thus saving even more weight.
5. If you always pack your bag in a waterproof stuff sack, the risk of getting it wet greatly diminishes.

Then again, good down bags cost much more...
TMax said:
Synthetics are more durable, easier to clean, warmer when wet, dry quicker, are far less likely to cause allergies, and are much cheaper.
Unless you abuse your sleeping bags, down bags will outlast polyester bags by a significant factor. In the long run down may be no more expensive than polyester (one may wear out several polyester bags for each down bag).

Down is my choice.

My first sleeping bag was an inexpensive no-brand down bag purchased at a local Department Store back in the mid 70's. I took that bag with me on my attempt to thru hike the AT in '76. Due to my carelessness during that hike the bag got soaked and I spent one COLD miserable night swearing I'd never own a down bag again. Upon returning from that trip I went to LL Bean and purchased a top of the line quality synthetic bag. Today I still have both of those bags. The down bag is still puffy and warm but the synthetic bag is as flat as a cheap bedquilt.

Over the years I've owned several synthetic bags. All of them have lost their loft over time. ALL of them. My 30 year old down bag is STILL puffy & warm.

Today my 3 season bag of choice is the Western Mountaineering Ultralight. 1 pound 12 oz, conservativly rated to 25 degrees, and packs down to the size of a small loaf of bread.

I voted down, because that's what I use 90% of the time.

Down is lighter, more compactable and will last much longer (but it is more expensive). The only problem is if you do longer trips. Then I would use synthetic because you can't have your down bag dry completely every day and you will get cold. The synthetic will still be warm with the moisture.
I actually prefer synthetics. For some rason they feel more comfortable to me. I own 4 synthetics and 2 down and my current favorite is the one Gris gave me for my 50th B'day: a Moonstone 3D rated at 55F. An awesome summer bag, though it is now resting until spring :)
I use both but due to my injuries will be using Down even more it is lighter . I saw some sort of new 20 degree down bag that weighed less than 2 lbs if that . I havea huge Western Mountainerring bag for winter it is too warm at -10 but it is lighter than many -20 synthetic bags the thing is "rated " to - 40 I think. I have never been cold in it and it is very comfy .
But I voted Down
I have a Western Mountaineering down bag that is rated to 20, packs down to next to nothing, and is warm as toast; also weighs less than 2lbs.

A hiking pal has a Marmot Helium down bag. It's very impressive; 15 degree rating, 900 fill down, weighs in at 1lb 13oz. The loft on the thing is amazing, as is the DWR on the shell. The bad news is the price. $350. :eek:
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I tend to sleep cold in the wee hours of the morning, so I use bags that are rated to lower temps than needed. And also can't use a mummy bag zipped up all the way. :eek: Which translates into fairly heavy bags.
I thought for multiple night backpacks in the Whites, a synthetic bag was best. But my zero degree bag weighed 5lbs. 12 ozs., which I used for years with no problems. (three season use)
Then I had to take a few years off & when I got back into it, I knew I had to shed some pounds. So the only way to get the rating, was switch to down. I chose a 15 deree bag from Mountain Hardwear. With 700 fill, it only weighs about 2 lbs. And to be honest, I think it's warmer than my zero synthetic one. So far, no problems with moisture. Just need to be even more careful. Packs up a lot easier too!
For winter, I used a -40 bag, and that puppy was down for sure due to the weight.
So........I guess you could say, I used to be 25% for down / 75% synthetic. Now I'm all down. :confused: :)
I voted for down, having owned down bags for quite a few years. I can attest to the longevity, as my 1983 EMS Robson Long -20 is still going strong, Though it seams to leak a few feathers on every trip.

I did sleep in a sopping wet synthetic bag one a fall night back around 94 and I can attest that it is miserable. Warm. I was OK, but I had to keep getting up every hour to wring the bag out and change positions (It is extremely difficult to roll over in a wet bag, because the nylon clings to you horribly). I didn't sleep much and I was miserable. Since then I never trust anyone's tent until I have actually seen it, and I now always carry at least a 5x8 light tarp.

Other than the above, I have never gotten a bag, wet, though they have been slightly damp (3-seasons) and frozen (winter) from perspiration. I did buy a cheap TNF PGIII synth bag when I went to Alaska a few years ago (I also bought a Eureka Single wall tent) and was glad I had the synth bag, as it was always cold and damp in that single wall tent (What on earth was I thinking, bringing that tent to rainy Alaska)

But ultimately it comes down to personal choice. Until you have tried both, you can't really judge for yourself as to what you will like, which is why so many backcountry enthusiasts have several different 20d bags hanging in gear rooms (Though E-bay does help to relive the clutter :) )
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I have 2 down bags and a number of synthetic. While I like the weight and compressability of the Down, I trust the synthetic fully through years of use. When winter camping, my sleeping bag tends to build up a slight amount of condensation, and I don't know how the Down would handle it. In the summer they're nice as the ones I have are extremely light weight.

When it gets really cold I also nest the bags, and worry about nesting the Down and compressing the loft too much. Not a problem with the synthetic.
Lawn Sale said:
When it gets really cold I also nest the bags, and worry about nesting the Down and compressing the loft too much. Not a problem with the synthetic.
Nesting down inside of synthetic gives you the best of both worlds. Most of the moisture gets deposited in the polyester bag. The stiffer polyester is more prone to "pumping" than is the down--the down inner fills the interior space and prevents the pumping.

The only real problem is that nested bags tend to be heavier than a single bag of the same rating.

I used to use this system in winter, now I just use a single down bag.