1,800 forum posts
I'm starting this thread in response to the 600 v. 800 down thread and what seems to be an arms race to build the lightest, most expensive down jacket on the planet and convince everyone that if you don't have it, your gear is inferior and you should either stay at home or get out your credit card. This is bunk and it annoys me to no end. I know this attitude can and does discourage people from getting into backpacking because I see posts from people who say "I'd like to go camping, but it just costs too much." It doesn't have to be that way.
Yes, there is a lot of junk on the market that I wouldn't recommend to someone car camping in fair weather, but between that and stuff endorsed by Ed Viesturs or someone like him (who is getting it for free) there is a vast middle for the average person.
I am at best a casual camper. I am not climbing 8000M peaks, skiing across Antarctica or doing anything more than spending a few days in winter in a place like Yosemite. Maybe one of these days, I'll get to Yellowstone, but I really don't see myself at Everest Base Camp gearing up for an assault on the summit. Not going to happen in this lifetime anyway.
So, do I need the absolute best at any price? NO. They same way I don't need to work on the fastest computer I can find or drive a Ferrari on the 405 in rush hour traffic.
I have two down bags and two parkas. One of each I bought used. The bags have 650 down (I know one does for sure and assume the other does as well since it is mid 80's vintage), one is a Marmot, the other MacPac, two brands I know and respect. The two parkas are both TNF - an old nylon Nuptse, probably 600 or 650 down and a Baltoro which is Dryloft and 700 down. Sure, it would be nice if they had 800 down, but for what I paid for them, not worth it to me. A few extra ounces compared to what I saved was a fair trade off.
I got my Nuptse at a TNF outlet store for about $100, which is 50% of today's retail; paid just over 50% retail for the Baltoro on eBay a few years ago compared to $500 retail or $600 for the new version Himalayan; same with one of my bags - 50% retail of its original price; paid retail 25 years ago for the MacPac.
The bottom line is that not everyone needs top of the line gear. I am one of those people. I have some stuff that I think is pretty high quality, but not worth replacing just because something better has come along.
I'm not faulting anyone for upgrading or buying the best; what I am saying is that not everyone needs the best, that often good is good enough. So, in the battle of the down, is 650 "inferior" to 800? Not really, it just isn't as warm for its weight, which for many applications, is really irrelevant.