Best synthetic insulation?

2:41 p.m. on June 6, 2008 (EDT)
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Talking strictly performance here, which is best for sleeping bags?

3:30 p.m. on June 6, 2008 (EDT)
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Primaloft is closest to down in warmth for weight and compressibility. Then again, what do you mean by "performance"? In terms of durability, the current Primaloft is standing up for me better than any of the other synthetics. But it is more costly than most (still way less than down).

Polargard has several different versions, 2 of which come close to Primaloft in warmth for weight, but are not as compressible.

Right now, there are a large number of proprietary names being used by the sleeping bag manufacturers, and you can't always tell what the fiber actually is. Also, while 3 or 4 years ago, there were only a couple of recycled fill materials, there are now a dozen or more (two big name manufacturers that I know of each have 2 different recycled fill materials with names that seem to be unique only to those manufacturers. So while recycled fills would seem to be environmentally more friendly and "best" in that sense, the information on which has more recycled content and which is better in terms of warmth for weight (as well as how they compare to, say, Primaloft or Polargard) is really hard to say (comparison tests are hard to find, and most of those are for completed bags).

8:53 p.m. on June 7, 2008 (EDT)
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My Integral Designs Primaloft clothing and bags are the best synthetics I have ever used and seem to be holding up well. The new Climashield Combat sleeping bags from Kifaru also seem VERY interesting, a 0*F-rated synthetic bag at 2.75Lbs., THAT is a real breakthrough, if it works.

7:15 p.m. on June 8, 2008 (EDT)
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Wiggy'y Lamilite. PERIOD. http://wiggys.com/lamilite.cfm? Ive had the jealous pleasure of using a friends Wiggy bag. And, wow! Comfy, comfy, comfy. lots a foot room. Lots a shoulder room. No cold spots even when sleeping on your side on a cheap self inflater at -20c. The first bag that ever pulled THAT one off for me. I do MOST of my sleeping on my side, so a bag that can keep my pointy hipbones warm gets two thumbs up for me. I can also vouch that after a week with just above freezing temps and spitting rain on the first day, to 25 to 35 degrees below freezing on the third, fourth, and fifth days, the bag stayed dry and didn't increase in weight. Whereas the bags that my friends were using ALL, down or synthetic, had a 10 to 15 pound collar of frozen sleeping bag, extending nearly 6 inches down the front of the bag, and almost all the way into the interior of the bags. Experienced the "ice collar" myself many a time with non Wiggy bags. HOWEVER. And this is a BIG however. (Notice the LARGE letters?) Money, money, money, monnnneeyyy. Monneeyy! Hence my lack of a Wiggy bag and my use of a Polar Guard High Void filled bag. Second best. In my humble (BLSHT!) opinion. Takes a LOT longer to grow an ice collar, and my minus 35 is SOOOO thick, it's almost a ground pad by itself. (Almost) :) So, that's it from me. Wiggy's if you got the $. Or anything with PGHV. IMHO. Good Hunting!

9:07 p.m. on June 8, 2008 (EDT)
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I was expecting this and it is probably an invitation to a form of posting that has been all too prevalent on various backpacking forums for some years. "Lamilite" is simply a type of Polarguard, no more, no less and is NOT the "best" insulation nor are Wiggy's bags even close to equaling ID and other cutting-edge synthetics.

How do I KNOW, well, I bought one and I used it here in B.C. and I used it interchangeably with my I.D. "North Twin", they weigh the same and the ID bag was noticeably warmer. I have now used sleeping bags extensively for 44 years in BC, AB, the Yukon and N.W.T. and this includes stints of several MONTHS at a time in un-heated shelters in remote wilderness areas.

Wiggy makes cheap bags that are heavy, lack a collar and thus lose heat energy through the opening and also have relatively crude stitching, cheap drawcords and are difficult to fit into an average pack. They are NOT my idea of a good backpacking bag.

1:44 p.m. on June 9, 2008 (EDT)
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My motivation for this question comes from the myriad "designer" sythetics that have flooded the market as of late. There have been many apparent advancements in nearly all camps around the market, both those employing more "standard" production methods, and others championing a % of recycled content. I'm all for the recycled content versions, but was wondering how these "green" offerings compare in terms longevity, weight for insulation value, and succeptiblity to wetness, when put up against the old standby's such as Polarguard, Primaloft, Climashield, etc...

Also, what is the concensus on Thermolite Extreme? Lafuma uses it in their synthetic summer bags, and with what appears to be great success. It's light, certifiably warm, and damn cheap, as far as I can tell. Does this insulation seem to be as good of a fit for summer (40F) conditions as it seems?

2:07 p.m. on June 9, 2008 (EDT)
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Ice collars come from the all-too-common practice of tucking one's head inside the bag and breathing through the insulation. You should always breathe through the face hole. You sweat off about a half liter to a liter of water during 8-10 hours of sleeping and breathe out about a liter's worth. If you vent all that through the insulation, you will get condensation and/or frost. The sweat vents through a large area, but your breath comes only through your nose and mouth (obviously!), a small area. Direct that inside the bag below the face hole and you get the ice collar. Personally, I haven't had an ice collar that I can recall, though sometimes I have had a small bit of frost around the edges of the face hole.

Wiggy is an interesting character, with some really strange ideas. But he has managed to get a fair number of military contracts for bags (probably one reason his bags are so heavy - they have to be to stand up in the field under combat conditions, except his civilian bags are, as kutenay says, pretty shoddily made).

1:15 a.m. on June 10, 2008 (EDT)
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Hmmm. Never tried anything with Integral Designs Primaloft. Didn't notice any workmanship probs with the Wiggy. (Last and only use was more than 10 years ago however.) Only ONCE did I make the mistake of pulling my head into my sleeping bag in extremely cold temps. (Forgot my balaclava.) Woke SOAKED in the morning. Did THAT once. But, I still LOVE my Polar Guard High Void filled bag. Is it heavy? Yup! About 6 lbs for a -35c bag. Is it bulky? You betcha! Do you need to be Houdini to fit it into it's stuff sack? Damn near! Is it nearly a foot thick when fully fluffed and comfortable enough to use at home as a mattress? Ohhhhhhhhh... Yeahhhhhhhhh. Seriously though, for less than 1/3 the price of a minus 25c ID Primaloft, one can have a minus 35c PGHV from Eureka. The bulk issue isn't a problem if you spend the extra 20 bucks and buy the best 10" x 15 compression sack you can find. Once you get that bugger compressed as small as it will go, you then have a weapon/shield that you can use to abuse the more unruly members of your group or even club an attacking grizzly on the head with it. Ha-Ha! ALMOST that solid. Only real downside is the weight. And not even a real downside. 6 lbs and -35c for $180. A -35c Integral Designs would cost between $560 & $860 for a combined inner and outer bag or a down bag. And weigh between 5 lbs for the Down bag and 7 lbs+ for the modular Primaloft bags. Plus the PGHV are SOOOOO thick when fluffed up, mmmmmm... The insulation in PGHV bags also runs from one end of the bag to the other without interuption. This means no external or internal seams except for the zipper. Equals, no cold spots. I love my Eureka.

P.S. I also adore and use exclusively on my summer trips an old Thinsulate/ metalized polyester insulated cycling sleeping bag. It weighs about 1 pound, is rated for 33 fahrenheit or ~+1 celcius, and compresses to a 3 inch by 8 inch roll. A sleeping bag that can fit into a cargo pocket on a pair of pants. I love it! Only drawback: You MUST use a VERY good ground pad.

10:31 a.m. on June 10, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for the suggestions, TJ. I don't want to say "price isn't a factor" in my decision-making, because it is, but with E-bay, price becomes less of a concern. With that in mind, I'm really looking for the synthetic insulation with the best combination of the qualities I listed above. It seems as though some variation of Primaloft fits the bill.

10:26 p.m. on June 13, 2008 (EDT)
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I couldn't pass up a deal I found on a +45F Lafuma bag for $30, at REi.com. Thermolite extreme insulation; Tactel polyamide shell. Certified by some independent European organization to be as warm as they say it is. I'll be testing the Lafuma Extreme 600 this summer for a total of around 34 nights. 1lb 4oz, and could stuff into your Nalgene, literally. Will be using it with a 3/4 length EMS self-inflatable mummy shaped pad, inside an MSR Missing Link.

9:18 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
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The comments on the Integral Designs bags are incorrect, I know as I have and USE these bags and have done for five years. The ID Pl. combo of North Twin and Andromeda OB weighs 5.75 lbs. in reg./broad and WORKS in severe conditions like NO cheap bag will. My ID down bag weighs 4.5 lbs. and is warm at -35*F, I base my comments on actual, regular, frequent use, not mere supposition.

Anyone with extensive cold weather wilderness experience will tell you that attempting to compress ANY sleeping bag into a compression sack is pure torture and using a small sack for a bulky bag is simply foolish; this can REALLY make your entire trip miserable. An ID Pl. bag fits into a LIGHT silnylon sack and then squishs into your pack section reserved for your bag, simple, fast, easy and it will not damage the insulation.

Wiggy's bags are junk, ID are among the top four bags made anywhere and anyone who is seriously interested in wilderness backpacking.mountaineering/hunting/fishing/working would be very well advised to obtain one. Their synthetic bags are so far past ANY others I have seen that comparison is meaningless. You get what you pay for, a truely fine bag is one gear item that really IS worth spending big bux on.

11:25 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
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pillowthread, I don't know what your "worst case" nightly temps will drop to , but 1 lb. 4 oz. of anything is not very much. I would take a set of thermals, but maybe you already are, just that I have been COLD before and was really wishing I had spent more money on a better bag.
I now have a mountain hardware 15* bag I am confident it is adequate for the areas I go to. The cheap bag let me down, I don't want to say what brand it is , but it is spelled... North Point.

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