Down vs. Synthetic fill sleeping bags ..

-- Last Updated: Feb-25-09 10:25 PM EST --

...... reason I'm asking is because I've never owned a down bag .

Over the years various bags I've used have all , one by one , gone the way of the wind . My current bag is 8-9 yrs. old and may soon join it's ancestors ... non of them were all that to start of with anyway , but served me .

I sure like the comfort of things filled with down !! ... always a pleasure to wrap up in and plop your head on !! ... but maybe some new type synthetics are that nice too , I just don't have any experience with them .

The down bags are at least twice the cost (actually more than that I think) of comparable degree rated synthetic fills ... but as the years increase , so does my preference for comfort , I call it the wussy factor .

I'm gonna get a bag rated at 0* max. this time , so that's already decided .

Don't concern about "if the bag gets wet it takes longer to dry out" , because it won't be gettin wet , at least from rain , wet conditions , etc. .

So if anyone who has good experience time with both types bags , it would be appreciated if you could help or advise me on this one ... I might add , a nice down bag has always been there in the back of my head , but you know how things can be more in your head than they really turn out to be in the real world .

I don't mind payin for a down bag , but I just don't know what I'd be payin for in the "real work , and special comforts" dept. ??

oh yeah , what should the fill number be for a 0* down bag ?? ... seems the different brands don't all go by the same book !!

Why a down bag over a synthetic fill . or why a symthethic fill over a down bag ??

thanks ...

Down is better value
I have an inexpensive MEC down bag. It is cheap because it uses 550 fill power down/feathers from China, rather than 700 or more goose down from Canada.

I have owned several synthetic bags. Most loose most of their loft in the first year or two (this was when I slept in one 60+ nights/year). The better insulators were less durable and vice versa. The down lasts a long time.

As for the wet - thing. Wet sleeping bags just aren’t that warm anyway, and I would prefer to sleep in dry clothes than a wet bag.

what’s 550 fill power down /feathers ??
… are you saying it is comparable to that canadian 700 goose down ??

what is the difference ??

is more compressible. Takes up less room. I have a couple of Big Agnes bags and love them. You have to use a self inflating foam pad with them though.

Had both
I had a North Face Cats Meow (synthetic). After a few years, the synthetic fill broke down and the bag lost most of its loft. I replaced it with a Marmot Atom (850 fill down). The Atom is a 40 degree bag, and the Cats Meow was a 20. Despite this, the Atom is now warmer! Down will compress smaller, fluff better, and last longer.

I have owned both…

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 10:38 PM EST –

A good down sleeping bag is worth its weight (or lack of) in gold.

My favorite bag of all time is my Moonstone Lucid 20F bag. BUT, the company went under so that won't do you any good.

For synthetic bags I recommend the Mountain Hardware UltraLamina line of sleeping bags, lucky for you they have just come out with a 0F bag.

For down I recommend the Western Mountaineering Kodiak line of sleeping bags. They are made of 850+ fill and made in the USA (if that matters to you).

** edit **
The higher the 'down number' the more the loft. A 0 degree 600 fill bag will weigh more and will not pack down as much as an 800 fill sleeping bag (all other factors being equal).

you’ll are covincing me fast !!!
… hey paddlemore , that explains alot … same degree ratings between different fill numbers , 600 and 800 . I get it now , the loft and weight ??

I still…
…choose synthetic when around the water. I’ve got several good down bags and I won’t take them kayaking.

mr_canoehead …
… some of others have said the synthetics break down and seem to lose some of their insulating power … where as the down holds is lofting and insulating power over time/use … I think I am understanding what you have said about “down is a better value” . is that what you meant by better value ??

Try Campmor

– Last Updated: Feb-25-09 11:11 PM EST –

My son "borrowed" my synthetic bag (good quality) a few years ago. Campmor had a sale going on and I picked a 0 degree down bag for less than $100. Anything down is good. I've got a 15 year old down coat that is still the warmest coat I have.

It costs more now, but still a good deal...

check this out too...


nice bag Andy_S …
… seems to have all the right stuff , even though i don’t know what I’m talkin about (yet) , lol …

Over the years some down
bags lose feathers. The more expensive ones should not allow feathers to escape.

Also pay attention to the seaming…Sewn through seams are not as good as baffles.

A good compression dry bag will take the worry about wetness away.

I have had a Gerry down bag since 1963. Its almost as warm as it used to be. Its not real compressible and think the down feathers were a lower count. No idea of the temp rating. My new bag is rated to 20 and packs down to the size of a football in its compression sack. Its 800 fill down. It probably is not goose down. Most down these days is not I think.

I have used them all these years almost exclusively for canoe and kayak camping . I tried a synthetic a few years ago and hated it…not compressible and incredibly bulky and a little heavier.

Newer synthetic materials may be more compressible and have the same qualities as down, but I am not up to speed on them. I simply love my down bag.

Same thread from WCP

Feathered Friends or
Western Mountaineering are the best places to look for the down bags.

If you somehow wind up saturated, it is true, down bags will not insulate as well as a synthetic. However, this shouldn’t be an issue except for the most remote of wet weather trips if you are taking proper precautions to keep your bag dry.

I have a Marmot Sawtooth I really like. It is a midprice down bag I think 600 fill. It is rated 20 degree and I have slept warm in it at 15 and I,m not as warm blooded as I was 2 or 3 decades ago.

It took me a long time to become a “down guy” and I’m sure there are some great synthetics out now but I really like the Marmot bags .

The loft number is measured
by the number of feathers in a cubic foot. I do not know all of the specifics of industry standard. Therefore, a 900 fill bag will have more smaller feathers than a 650 fill bag that uses fewer larger feathers. I can pretty much get my Marmot 30 degree 900 fill bag into a widwmouth nalgene bottle, but am about an 1/8" short of screwing the top on. A 900 or more fill bag is sweet, but you usually pay some hefty bucks.

Also, keep in mind that most (not all) manufacturer temp ratings are “survival” ratings. Most people are interested in being comfortable. Generally you need to add 10 degrees on to the rating for comfort. Marmot historically has been more true to comfort on their ratings, but that might also have changed recently.

do not underestimate the “wet” aspect of down. You are pretty much screwed when it becomes wet; takes forever to dry out. Synthetics dry out relatively fast.

“A good compression drybag…
…will take the worry of wetness away”…

And drybags never leak.

Neither do tents.

Go with down
if weather exposure is minimal. I use a synthetic bag for backpacking and will use it this year for kayak camping, but if I’m going to a cabin, sleeping in an RV or anywhere else that I know will stay dry, down is my favorite comfy choice. Lots of good advice and info here for you.

zero deg = zero deg
most people know that sleeping bag temperature ratings are generally an optimistic exageration by the manufacturer. Take them with a grain of salt, and consider a zero degree bag to more realisticly be a plus ten degree bag. Also, generally, the more you’ve paid for a bag, the closer to reality the rating will be.

But assuming that ratings are accurate, a zero degree down bag, when compared to a zero degree hollowfill or whatever bag, the down bag will be lighter, and compress better, packing down into a smaller package.

So for backpacking say, down would be a better choice.

For car camping at the local park, it wouldn’t matter a bit.

Which is better depends on how you will be using it.

There are many variations of fill used in synthetic bags - generally, the more you pay for the bag, the better quality the fill - i.e. it will be lighter for a given temperature rating. Same for down - the fill power (I think its a measured weight of down fills how many cubic inches) - the fill power higher the number, the more volume of dead air space, which is the real insulating factor, so the same bag with 800 fill power will require a bit less weight of down than a 650, and will be a bit more compressible.

It costs more for 800 down than 650, as it takes a lot more small down feathers to fill that volume. Another reason the higher quality down bags are more expensive is that the manufacturers will also be using newer, high tech fabrics that are also lighter than the “standard” fabrics used on cheaper bags. They are trying to build the lightest bag they can for a given temperature rating.

thanks for everyones help and assist …
… I’m seriously leaning towards the down bag , but that’s not a surprise is it ??

The “if it gets wet” thoughts have been reinforced for me also , so extra precaution will prevail with it’s out bag packing , probably good compression bag !!

I took the time to talk with a manufacturer rep. on the phone , and ask about the down fill ratings , loft , feathers , weight , etc. …

The rep. explained it to me this way about the feathers and loft … they actually seperate the feathers by a fan , the ones that blow the fartherest are the lightest ones and loft up more … the others end up at different distances closer to the fan and are rated as lower numbers and don’t loft as much respectively … a cubic foot of 550 will weigh more than a cu.ft. of 850 , so it’s more feather weight vs. more air in the same cu.ft. … now which is better at insulating is a subjective call , but the higher loft feathers (higher #'s) are considered better in general and cost more because there are less of them available .