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Topic: Synthetic sleeping bag v. Down bag< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 7:06 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Hey Everyone,

I have an EMS 20deg synthetic sleeping bag, and I am going to be thru-hiking the Appalachian trail in the spring  of 2013. Can I use this on my trek or should I get a down bag?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 7:24 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Can you use the bag you have on your thru-hike?  Yes, you absolutely can.

Can you save significant weight and space in your pack by switching to a down bag instead?  Sure.

Whether it's worth the cost to you is your choice.  Personally though, for a thru-hike, considering the amount of time you'll be carrying it and sleeping in it, I'd go for a lighter down bag myself.  Plenty of very-decent down bags can be had at relatively low cost that would server your purposes.  No need to spend a fortune on a new bag.

But don't take my personal preference as a mandate that you have to switch.  Up to you.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 7:29 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

From what I've read you will be best served by two bags on the AT.  So maybe you both use your bag and buy a new one.  Lots of info on the AT on the forums at whiteblaze.net

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 8:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've never met an AT hiker who carries two bags...and I live on the AT.
My only concern with a down bag would be the moisture...much of the AT is very humid and wet at times.
If you go down you'll want a quality water proof sack for it.
I personally carry a synthetic, but it's a pretty light one.
I'm sure you would be happy with a quality bag of either composition. Down being the lighter of course.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 8:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't think they carry both at the same time.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 23 2013, 11:57 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 23 2013, 4:24 pm)
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Can you use the bag you have on your thru-hike?  Yes, you absolutely can.

Can you save significant weight and space in your pack by switching to a down bag instead?  Sure.

Whether it's worth the cost to you is your choice.  Personally though, for a thru-hike, considering the amount of time you'll be carrying it and sleeping in it, I'd go for a lighter down bag myself.  Plenty of very-decent down bags can be had at relatively low cost that would server your purposes.  No need to spend a fortune on a new bag.

But don't take my personal preference as a mandate that you have to switch.  Up to you.

+1

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 24 2013, 5:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I would also suggest you post your question at WhiteBlaze.
There are plenty of AT guys there that use down, a "20f" rated bag is common , others have a 30f -/+ they supplement with clothing.
Some do indeed start with one bag and finish with another.
A good down bag will be at least 1 lbs lighter and pack  a lot smaller, therefore taking up less space in your pack (so maybe a lighter pack...)
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 25 2013, 12:15 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(paulbrown @ Jan. 23 2013, 8:56 pm)
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I don't think they carry both at the same time.

The two bag system comes into play if you're leaving Springer fairly early (late Feb & March). Then a lot of people will carry a heavier duty sleeping bag, and switch it out to a summer bag around Pearisburg, VA (mile 615 or so). This is going to be our plan for 2015 because we're thinking of leaving Springer sometime around Feb 26-Mar 1. All it takes is a simple mail drop to pick up the summer bag, and send the spring/fall bag home.

WhiteBlaze is definitely the place to cruise around for AT thru-hike information. I woundn't really post any questins here at all because pretty much everything you will ask has already been talked about to death over there.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 25 2013, 1:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'd also suggest a down bag. It's lighter and you can also carry a light sweater for the first part of the trip if you need extra warmth.

And it looks like EMS is having a 30% sale on their down bags if you want to stay with that brand.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 25 2013, 4:20 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Your choice really depends on the conditions you're backpacking in. I've got a square 40* MEC Down bag that I take during the summer and early fall in dry conditions (and I can unzip it and use it as a quilt), but its next to useless in the wet late fall and winter conditions in the Smokies. I've got a 0* Mountainsmith synthetic mummy bag which is still fairly packable and keeps me warm in the cold damp conditions. Extra weight sometimes needs to be the compromise you make in order to take what works in your conditions.

So I think the answer to your question is 'take what will work where you're going'.

I think the best advice here is to look up Whiteblaze for suggestions. They will be able to give you the best mix of environmental reviews of the areas you'll pass through at that time of year and what your considerations should be.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 25 2013, 8:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

FWIW, I've used down bags for numerous years in extremely wet and cold regions.  The myth that "down bags won't work in wet places" is just a myth.

Regardless of what bag you use, take care to keep it dry.  That's Backpacking-101.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 9:06 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 25 2013, 8:30 pm)
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FWIW, I've used down bags for numerous years in extremely wet and cold regions.  The myth that "down bags won't work in wet places" is just a myth.

Regardless of what bag you use, take care to keep it dry.  That's Backpacking-101.

I agree with all of that.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 9:43 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That's assuming you can keep it dry. I always have terrible luck with moisture.
On my last trip something chewed through my rain cover while I was sleeping and I didn't notice.
After about 4 or 5 hours of hiking in the 40 degree rain, almost everything inside was wet. Luckily my sleeping bag managed to avoid most of it.
My fault for not noticing, but still.
Keep your sleeping bag in a waterproof sack if you're in wet conditions. Down or not.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 12:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 25 2013, 7:30 pm)
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FWIW, I've used down bags for numerous years in extremely wet and cold regions.  The myth that "down bags won't work in wet places" is just a myth.

It hasn't been too cold here this winter, but it's been really wet, and I've gotten out a lot more in December and January than normal.
I've had my Marmot Pinnacle fail to fully loft up and have cold spots twice recently in the 30s.
Both times the bag came home noticeably damp, and not from condensation(once was in 3-sided shelter 10 people could sleep in).
I used it this week at 17F, and was uncomfortably warm to the point I had to unzip it for awhile until I settled down for the night.
The difference? 85-100% humidity on the nights in the 30s.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 2:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Owen571 @ Jan. 26 2013, 9:23 am)
QUOTE

(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 25 2013, 7:30 pm)
QUOTE
FWIW, I've used down bags for numerous years in extremely wet and cold regions.  The myth that "down bags won't work in wet places" is just a myth.

It hasn't been too cold here this winter, but it's been really wet, and I've gotten out a lot more in December and January than normal.
I've had my Marmot Pinnacle fail to fully loft up and have cold spots twice recently in the 30s.
Both times the bag came home noticeably damp, and not from condensation(once was in 3-sided shelter 10 people could sleep in).
I used it this week at 17F, and was uncomfortably warm to the point I had to unzip it for awhile until I settled down for the night.
The difference? 85-100% humidity on the nights in the 30s.

My experience has mirrored GoBlue's. I would suspect other differences beside humidity. Eating before bed, hydration, etc.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 4:14 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I am in no way trying to contradict the much vaster experience of GBH and Tigger, but I have found that cool very humid nights my down bag definitely has felt moist and less lofty, and felt a little chillier than when it was dryer out. The tent was partially mesh walled and the fly staked out for air exchange so breathability was maximized as much as possible under the circumstances.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 5:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Meh.  I've used down in plenty of cold, wet nights (in fact, cold and wet for over a week at a time without a break on multiple occasions through rainforests and icefields in SE Alaska) and slept just fine, no "cold spots."  YMMV, I suppose.  But it's not like I'm using magic or something, and I've known plenty others who've done the same.

There are a lot of reasons one can sleep cold on any given night, but its far easier to automatically blame gear than one's techniques.  Again, YMMV.  My down bag continues to loft in cold humid conditions, and it's not magic.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 6:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 26 2013, 4:42 pm)
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Meh.  I've used down in plenty of cold, wet nights (in fact, cold and wet for over a week at a time without a break on multiple occasions through rainforests and icefields in SE Alaska) and slept just fine, no "cold spots."  YMMV, I suppose.  But it's not like I'm using magic or something, and I've known plenty others who've done the same.

There are a lot of reasons one can sleep cold on any given night, but its far easier to automatically blame gear than one's techniques.  Again, YMMV.  My down bag continues to loft in cold humid conditions, and it's not magic.

I agree.

I used to use synthetic all the time mainly because of the price. I live and camp where humidity is a way of life. I always got cold until I finally sprung for a down quilt. Wish I had done that years ago.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 26 2013, 11:50 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I think y'all should call up this host of manufacturers adopting Dri-down, and make sure they know that loft isn't air, and humidity isn't moisture in the air, so they'll get over their misconceptions about the testing that has them expecting to retain more loft when their products are exposed to moisture and high humidity. Those poor schmucks really think they're onto something :(
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 12:06 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(Owen571 @ Jan. 26 2013, 8:50 pm)
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I think y'all should call up this host of manufacturers adopting Dri-down, and make sure they know that loft isn't air, and humidity isn't moisture in the air, so they'll get over their misconceptions about the testing that has them expecting to retain more loft when their products are exposed to moisture and high humidity. Those poor schmucks really think they're onto something :(

I just won't invest in their products unless they cost the same as what I've got already.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 12:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(GoBlueHiker @ Jan. 26 2013, 5:42 pm)
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Meh.  I've used down in plenty of cold, wet nights (in fact, cold and wet for over a week at a time without a break on multiple occasions through rainforests and icefields in SE Alaska) and slept just fine, no "cold spots."  YMMV, I suppose.  But it's not like I'm using magic or something, and I've known plenty others who've done the same.

There are a lot of reasons one can sleep cold on any given night, but its far easier to automatically blame gear than one's techniques.  Again, YMMV.  My down bag continues to loft in cold humid conditions, and it's not magic.

To be honest, I think part of the problem was that I was overheating earlier in the night and dampened my bag more from the inside out from sweating.  Then as the temps dropped a lot I was colder because the bag was too moist from sweating earlier.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 9:47 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(SmokeyBear @ Jan. 27 2013, 12:59 am)
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To be honest, I think part of the problem was that I was overheating earlier in the night and dampened my bag more from the inside out from sweating.  Then as the temps dropped a lot I was colder because the bag was too moist from sweating earlier.

I suspect that is a common problem, but easily avoided.  I sometimes start without using the bag at all if it is really warm, with it over me like a quilt with an arm or leg out if a bit cooler,  in the bag but not zipped if it is a bit cooler yet, and so on until I ultimately am zipped up and with the hood drawstring almost closed.  You can easily progress through the steps as it cools down.  It is easy for me because I'd rather be a bit on the chilly side than be sweating.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 11:33 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I have this issue where i often start off feeling ok - then wake up an hour or two later super hot, sweating. I unzip but then about an hour or two from waking I am bloody cold and even fully zipped have trouble staying warm. So i try to stay as zipped as possible earlier to keep that heat in, but in some cases i overheat and sweat.

I suppose my body is still running hot earlier in the night, but cools off a lot from the lowered metabolic activity rate so by near morning I am getting chilly. The extra humidity in the air and a drop in temperatures doesn't help matters.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 3:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(SmokeyBear @ Jan. 26 2013, 4:14 pm)
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I am in no way trying to contradict the much vaster experience of GBH and Tigger, but I have found that cool very humid nights my down bag definitely has felt moist and less lofty, and felt a little chillier than when it was dryer out. The tent was partially mesh walled and the fly staked out for air exchange so breathability was maximized as much as possible under the circumstances.

I - or to be more correct: my hiking partner - had the same experience once. After a cold five day trip with lots of mist and rain and nights around 32 F (no overheating in her bag ...) the loft deteriorated to the point that cold spots started to appear. The bag never got wet from the outside (rain, wet tent walls etc.) so I don't think our technique was the problem. My synthetic was clammy too, but noticeably less than her bag.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 6:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

"I have this issue where i often start off feeling ok - then wake up an hour or two later super hot, sweating. I unzip but then about an hour or two from waking I am bloody cold and even fully zipped have trouble staying warm"

Very common scenario.
Possible cause :
Folk tend to hang about at camp till they get a bit cold so they get inside their sleeping bag to warm up.
So you need to zip up to build up the temperature inside.
You do and fall asleep.
After a while you start sweating and that wakes you up, so you unzip.
At this point your bag is already compromised (that is : it has absorbed a lot of moisture from you..) but you are "hot" so you leave it open for a while and then get cold.
Because you are now cold and possibly both your clothing (if any) and the bag are damp you will have a hard time to dry them up so you remain cold.

To avoid, get into the sleeping bag "warm" do some exercises or walk about a bit to warm up. (have a hot drink, not alcohol)
(Again I can only emphasise that being relatively clean here helps a lot ...)
So if you get into the bag warm you will not zip that up and start sweating and so on...
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 27 2013, 11:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Yeah we definitely love to hang around the campfire, and since most of our backpacking is in the spring and fall it usually gets pretty chilly. I'll have all my layers on and still be a bit chilly.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 28 2013, 1:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

what I was taught and experienc has proven; Humid/wet areas = synthetic, dry/cold = down.

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(Ginseng @ Jan. 28 2013, 1:46 pm)
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what I was taught and experienc has proven; Humid/wet areas = synthetic, dry/cold = down.

What I was taught and experience has proven: Humid/wet areas = down, dry/cold = down.

Experience is not universally infallible.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 28 2013, 7:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(fifeplayer @ Jan. 28 2013, 2:20 pm)
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(Ginseng @ Jan. 28 2013, 1:46 pm)
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what I was taught and experienc has proven; Humid/wet areas = synthetic, dry/cold = down.

What I was taught and experience has proven: Humid/wet areas = down, dry/cold = down.

Experience is not universally infallible.

+1.  Experience has proven to me that down is perfectly useable in extended wet conditions.  Having spent over a year of my life (last I totaled it up) camping in coastal temperate rainforests in all seasons, I've used down exclusively without complaint.  Started using it when I was five years old camping with my dad, and haven't looked back since.

The only difference between these experiences are the users.  Draw your own conclusions.

I'll reiterate again:  keep the bag dry.  It makes a difference.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 28 2013, 10:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

A Southerner's experience: it's alwways humid here, and down keeps me warmer.

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