Down or synthetic.

5:51 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I have a Mountain hardwear Lamina 35 and I have a Big Agnes Moon something 0. I am trying to figure out if I have the right bag in my arsenal or if I need to get a 10 or 15 and if so, down or synthetic? We will be in tents all three nights in August in the Andes. Highest ele is sleeping around 13,000 feet. I was reading that keeping things dry is harder, thus wonder if down would be a bad choice.

7:45 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Don't know about the temps there for the time, but I'm pleased with how water resistant the pertex is on my Rab 20 degree down bag. It seems like every major company is working on making their down bags highly water resistant these days...

7:45 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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GOG...I use synthetic insulation almost exclusively in the humid and wet environments I spend most of my time. I have a down mummy-bag and the UL down parka by Montbell...but I use the parka around town more than I do outdoors...and I have played around with the mummy-bag on several trips but find it absorbs too much moisture from me and the ambient air. In the end I find my DIY synthetic quilt just handles moisture much better than down.

With that said...there are significant differences in synthetic insulations...and down outlast synthetics by about a billion times (not literally...but much more)...so be sure to choose a quality synthetic. As far as synthetic insulations go the new Primaloft One is amazing (I should do a review)...I actually think it competes really well with down in terms of warmth + loft + compression...but it can be hard to source for DIY projects...and it will only be in some of the newer top-of-the-line synthetic bags and clothing...which means you'll pay a pretty penny for it.

The way I would select which bag(s) to bring would be entirely dependent upon the kind of cold I am going to encounter. Where I typically go I mostly encounter wet (near freezing) cold...so being careful and using a bivy helps...but ultimately my down bag would absorb too much moisture after a few days of use. If I were going to a place with a very dry environment and the temps are expected to be near freezing...I would choose a down bag over synthetic with no hesitation...as the warmer times should allow me to manage moisture accumulation (drying it during the warmer parts of the day). If I were going to be experiencing deep cold (never above freezing)...then I would use my down-mummy under my DIY synthetic quilt...for the extra warmth...but also because the moisture from my body will freeze inside the synthetic instead of the down...where the moisture is less detrimental and easier to get rid of. Others suggest using a vapor-barrier inside your bag in deep cold (basically wearing lightweight raingear to bed). I have never tried this because it sounds terrible...but in principle it would manage moisture well in deep cold conditions.

Finally...no matter which bag(s) I chose...I would use a lightweight bivy...because a bivy helps prevent a catastrophe with ground moisture (it can happen easy in wet cold conditions)....but more importantly...it helps to prevent both body and air moisture from building up inside the insulation of a bag. IMO...a bivy is necessary anytime I am going to be relying on my insulation for more than a couple of days...and whenever the temperature is not going to get high enough to draw moisture out of my insulation.

8:00 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks. That is really helpful. I am pretty sure we will encounter wet air throughout, even if only at night whilst in our tents. And the second night on trail will be high and cold if not also wet. So i think I will start researching synthetics. i also think my 35 will be too cold so will be looking in the 10 15 range.

Looking at:

The North Face  Snow Leopard Sleeping Bag - 0 Degree Synthetic (Climashield) for $175.00 on ssale.


ISLGRAGN.jpg

8:22 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Cannot make the picture size right LOL!

9:18 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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GOG...what is the historical low (or predicted if available) for the area you will be sleeping?

10:47 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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I would go with synthetic for that region of the world

10:51 p.m. on September 17, 2013 (EDT)
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Synthetic for sure. Sleeping in wet down is like sleeping in cottage cheese. 

2:15 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I am finding mid 40's at MP...but Dead Wmans pass is 5k feet higher so am thinking much colder there for at least that night. I read blogs that have that high pass at zero F.

7:14 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I wouldn't want to hike all day through an equatorial forest, with a high risk of getting rained on, then top out at elevation with temperatures near freezing only to find out my sleeping bag is soggy. A good waterproof stuff sack would be a very good idea!

10:59 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Yes, I will have the bag in a dry bag and the porter's carry the stuff for over night. We carry our day needs. You are limited to lbs and you must pay for a porter to carry your stuff so it is divided.

11:38 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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It depends on the climate and your philosophy. In dry conditions I love down and say prayers to geese on cold mornings. For wet conditions like Alaska synthetic is a lot safer. I had a wet down bag only one night, but will never forget it.

The new down bags with water resistance hold promise, but I will believe it when I see it.

11:48 a.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Only problem I see with down vs. synthetic is the fact that once down gets wet, it's a bit harder to dry. Loft-wise, down is the way to go and down also traps heat better. In my opinion, it's really personal choice, as both will keep you comfortable and warm.

12:27 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I will echo the synthetic crowd. While I prefer down, at 13,000' a wet bag that can't provide warmth is a miserable place to be.

12:51 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I have used a new Sierra Designs Dri-Down bag a couple times over the summer.  I won the bag here on TS.  Thanks again TS and SD!!!  I am not ready to write a full review yet because I want to get some winter use out of it before posting a review.  

I will say this....   While in Glacier Park over the summer we spent 2 nights in the tent where it rained heavy and often.  One of the nights water came in through the bottom walls of my old kelty tent because I didn't have the rain vestibule pulled completely away from the walls of the tent.  Inside my tent got very wet.  I had my dri-down bag and my son had a synthetic bag.  Both bags got pretty wet.  I hung both bags the next day and the dri-down dried just as fast as the synthetic bag did.  Also, I didn't even know my bag was getting wet.  I stayed dry inside the bag but the outer membrane and some of the down soaked up a little water.  I was pretty impressed with the performance of the SD dri-down bag.  It seems down technology has come a long ways over the last couple years.  

4:41 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Ruff...what kind of insulation was in the synthetic bag?...this makes a huge difference in water absorption and drying times...people make a big fuss over fill-power (I actually like a little feathers because I feel it stays slightly fluffier in humid air)...but the differences in synthetic bags is immense...comparing my old synthetic Kelty bag to my Primaloft One synthetic quilt is like comparing a sail boat to a rocket!

Regardless...Dri-Down is an interesting product (probably a rear-guard action against the strives synthetics have made lately). There are not a lot of comparisons of Dri-Down and regular down in terms of loft resiliency and breathability (two concerns that have popped-up with some users)...but what does seem more certain is that the chemical treatment (like all DWRs) will eventually fade and be less effective...which means that since down last forever...the treatment is something that will only be there for a limited part of the bag's life. Of course...you still have a perfectly good down sleeping bag...unless the treatment does limit the down's performance on loft resiliency and breathability...then it might be a bad compromise given the long life of down.

GOG...I asked about the temps because I am not sure you should spend the money for another bag...when what might be better is a bag-liner or a lightweight bivy...particularly since you already have a great synthetic bag (Thermal Q is a great product). Both of these products will increase the warmth of the bag you already have significantly...gives you some extra versatility...and only adds a few ounces to your overall kit. With an extra fleece or wool mid-layer...hat...socks...I think you can rest easy knowing that you will sleep warm enough. The difference between the two being that the liner can be used as a lightweight summer bag...and the bivy helps protect your bag from moisture (like if you want to use your bag to sit around camp away from your shelter at night or in the early morning). If your bag already has an exterior fabric that is water-resistant I might just go with the liner...as two water-resistant layers amplify the problem I discuss below.

I am in the camp that does not favor water-resistant fabrics and coatings on the outside of my bag (or on aything except a shell actually). No matter what they say about breathability...these fabrics and coatings make it harder for warm moist air to pass through your bag...making it more likely that your bag will accumulate moisture faster...and dry out slower! I think it is actually difficult to find a bag where the manufacturers have not chosen such a fabric and coating in the present market...because it does sell the product a lot easier "oh! my down will stay drier". Of course...this overlooks the fact that I (I would venture most people) rarely have a problem with the moisture outside of my bag getting in (again with the bivy)...my primary problem is with the moisture inside my bag getting out.

4:56 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, Joseph. Lots of good here...also my friend Maggie Figs will need to pick up a bag so even if I employ the bivvy/liner method to my Lamina 35, we will need to be sure she gets an adequat bag as well.

The Lamina 35 has Thermal.Q™ fill. It has  a durable, lightweight nylon shell with DWR treatment to repel water.

4:57 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Sierra Designs Zissou 12-Degree 700 Fill DriDown Sleeping Bag.

 

DriDown from Sierra Designs website: "A vast improvement over regular down, DriDown™ features a molecular level polymer applied to individual down plumes during the down finishing process.  A proprietary application method developed by Sierra Designs ensures a hydrophobic finish.  As a result, DriDown™ stays dry 7 times longer in the presence of rain, melting snow, or spills, maintains 98% loft after a night in a high humidity environment, and dries 33% faster when it does get wet for a dryer, warmer, more comfortable night’s sleep."

I think most sleeping bag manufacturer's have their own version of treated down.  

 

So far I have been quite impressed with this bag but the real test will come in the next 4 months.  

 

 

5:49 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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GOG...is it Maggie's first bag? I have more bags and quilts than I probably should (some were made so I saved big bucks)...but many of my bags and quilts are intended to work with each other...if she has another bag it would be best to work with what she has and save her a lot of money and increase versatility (bags are one of the most expensive pieces of gear...so a little savings usually means big dollars).

Let me give you an example...I own both a down and synthetic mummy...I paid for both and they are 30-35 degree bags. I intentionally got bags for higher temps because it was cheaper (I paid for these) and because I wanted my bags to be as useful in warm temps as possible. In colder temps I bring along one or both of the synthetic quilts I made (super easy project) to go over the mummies...resolving the issue of multiple bags turning in different directions...and more importantly...ensuring that moisture gets trapped in the quilts instead of the bags. For the quilts (like I did with the bags) I used the smallest amount of insulation I could purchase because (like clothing-layers) a lot of thin layers are superior to fewer thick layers (think of it as different temp settings...the more the merrier). There is more to say about how all these bags work together for different conditions...but I think the idea is clear...each new piece should work with the next if at all possible to improve the overall function of your sleeping system.

Ruff...I was asking about the insulation in the synthetic bag...so I can get a feel for why the down and synthetic dried at about the same speed (even treated-amazing-magical-down should be slower to dry than a top of the line synthetic fiber)...so if I knew about what kind of synthetic insulation you were using in the other bag I'll have a better idea of how well the treated-down actually works.

Just to be clear...when I was speaking of coatings in the last part of my previous reply...I was speaking of coatings to the outside fabric of a sleeping bag or quilt only (not the insulation...which as I understand it should make no difference). I understand that manufacturers use different DWR coatings on the outside of their bags...but all of them work the same way...so my issue with water-resistant bags still stands (they trap moisture in the bag longer than bags which use untreated fabrics).

6:04 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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If she has any bacg it is not a bag for the outdoors, really. Not to mention we are very limited in the amount of weight we can have the porters carry. So a quilt bag combo might eat too much into that. She will need a good bag for other adventures as well. We live in Vegas so not a lot of need for a low temp bag here since neither of us pack up into the cold regions. That being said, I did recomend at LEAST a liner to her to go with the bag she gets.

6:44 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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Joseph.  The other bag is a Kelty with Polarguard 3D insulation.

8:10 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I have only been to Las Vegas once...it was a billion degrees and a Mexican grandmother gave me one of the "flyers"...it was strange to say the least. The quilt and bag combo only weighs a few ounces more than a single bag with equal insulation...the outer fabric is 1.1 oz. ripstop nylon...and the quilt is "quilted" not baffled...so for the extra few ounces the combo adjust to a wider array of temps and conditions than two separate bags (cheaper too). I only mentioned it to get you thinking about the advantages of choosing a lighter bag…but ultimately it is personal preference. If Maggie does most of her camping and hiking around Las Vegas I would recommend not getting a synthetic bag just for the trip to the Andes...I would instead suggest a 40-35 degree down bag which is better suited for the warm and dry conditions in and around Vegas. To deal with the cold and wet you will encounter on your trip I would instead suggest a a lightweight liner and bivy...and bring extra layers of clothing.

There are a lot of liners out there to choose from...gram-counters like silk...but the STS reactor liner is 50.00 and rated at 15 degrees of additional warmth...and at only 8 additional ounces it sounds like the perfect choice to me (might just work perfectly alone on hot summer nights in the desert too). For the bivy you have a lot of options as well...MLD and Equinox offer sil-nylon options that come in at 6.9oz. and 6.6oz. respectively...though you'll pay about an extra 100.00 for the MLD version which offers a bug-net over the face. I tend to lean towards cheap and simple...so if I didn't make the bivy myself (in its simplest form a bivy is nothing more than a big waterproof stuff-sack) I would probably choose the Equinox if it was large enough (a larger bivy allows more lofting and is easier to get in and out of). There are more breathable options like Epic…but TS members seem to dislike it (see Black Diamond Winter Bivy)…and breathability is not that necessary on a piece of gear you can open up and roll-back to ventilate as necessary. Just to try the idea out I once used an oversized garbage bag on a 5 day walk in the woods…worked great…and was super easy to get in and out of! If you were going to war…or off to live in the bush for the rest of your life I would suggest the USGI Gortex bivy…like most military issue gear it weighs near a metric ton…but is almost bullet-proof.

Just a note about extra layers…I really cannot suggest strong enough the value in taking a lighter bag and bringing more layers. Unless you plan on sitting in camp for a long time (which is totally fine and fun!)…you only use your bag for a small part of the time you are out...because sleeping bags are notoriously difficult to hike in (see Japanese Snuggy). Bringing extra clothes (that you purchased with the big bucks you saved when you bought a smaller bag) will mean you have more versatility…as you have the option of wearing more of your insulation more of the time. In short…you will be warmer and more comfortable more of the time you are out. When I want to bring just a little additional warmth I choose a warm hat + socks + top (possible gloves too). These few pieces bring the comfort level up a lot for the little weight and space they demand. What you choose depends on a lot of things…but I like fleece and wool in damp conditions…and you should test to see that you can sleep in the items relatively comfortably without them falling off or whatever.


Japanese-Snuggy.png

8:20 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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So much good stuff to think about and shop for here. I am going to consider all of these things and Saturday me and Maggie and our Base Logistics Comander (her husband) are meeting to start some gear planning!

8:40 p.m. on September 18, 2013 (EDT)
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I often supplimented my sleeping bags warmth with a wool blanket stitched around the long side and one end then pulled over my bag to add extra warmth.

9:56 a.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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FYI, Gonzan reviewed the SD zissou here:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/sierra-designs/zissou-30-lite-dridown/#review26198

 

And FWIW I reviewed a Nemo bag with a similar technology (DownTek) here:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/nemo/nocturne-30/#review26110

 

10:16 a.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks, Patman!

11:10 a.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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The only time down is a bad idea is if you plan an open bivy.  Most people sleep in a tent so a wet sleeping bag is just a theoretical risk.  Use a Big Agnes drydown bag; best of both worlds. 

2:07 p.m. on September 19, 2013 (EDT)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

The only time down is a bad idea is if you plan an open bivy.  Most people sleep in a tent so a wet sleeping bag is just a theoretical risk.  Use a Big Agnes drydown bag; best of both worlds. 

 Well, I also worry that it will pick up moisture on the trail, if there is heavy rain. Hoping, of course, the porters are properly protected from the rain. It is also supposed to rain a LOT at night.

11:30 a.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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if you're in a tent, down should be fine so long as you are moderately cautious with the bag.  believe me - sleeping inside a wet synthetic fill bag is no fun either.  If you are concerned about rain, the key is packing the bag well, preferably stuffed inside a trash bag inside the stuff sack, or inside an appropriately-sized dry bag.  don't take the bag out until you are inside a fully-pitched tent, and use a ground cloth to protect the tent floor.  if you have major concerns about drips/spray, get a bag with a waterproof/breathable outer shell.  really, though, that isn't necessary for the most part.  (my winter bag has a waterproof/breathable outer shell, which is nice for rime falling from the crest of the tent.  however, the liquids that it has repelled are primarily soup and tea).      

A 35-40 degree bag might be a little lightweight for that altitude in the Andes in the summer, but a 15-20 degree bag would be more than adequate, i suspect.  (a friend of mine who climbed Aconcagua went with a minus 20 f down bag, but he was sleeping a fair bit higher than you will be).  for a number of years, i used a north face synthetic bag for the winter.  i like the quality of their sleeping bags, so i don't think you would go wrong wth the one you linked. 

you take some great trips,  K. 

 

 

2:04 p.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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To be clear my suggestion for a 35-40 degree bag was intended only as part of a system which also included a 15 degree bag-liner and a lightweight bivy…in total this combination should put you at a temp rating somewhere as low of as 10-15 degrees. Plus…my suggestion has the added benefit of being a layered system which allows you many more temp options than a single bag alone does. In my humble opinion…a lot of people over-bag and disregard the value of layering beyond the clothing they wear.

My suggestion was also aimed at making the gear you buy useful beyond this single trip…as I believe you will never use a 15-20 degree bag in or around Vegas…or in many other locations for ¾ of the year. A lighter bag is useful in more places and at more times than a heavier bag (cheaper too!)…and the liner and bivy can be used separately so that you can pick and choose the perfect amount of protection and weight for your trip (I use a liner alone in the warmest parts of the year).

As far as WPB…the last thing I want to do with my sleeping system is introduce the problems of rain-gear into my sleeping system (at a much higher cost)! A lightweight bivy prevents spill and spray just as well as a WPB bag…and has the added benefit of allowing nearly infinite degrees of breathability and warmth by simply rolling it up and down (did I mention cheaper too?). Packing your bag with the bivy on in combination with a simple trash-compactor bag (dry-bag if on or crossing water) will provide your sleeping bag with no less than two-layers of protection…a system which I have never found wanting.

4:06 p.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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If I am using a sleeping bag that is too warm for the current conditions I am in, I simply do not zip it up or I use it as a blanket and do not crawl into it.   I have tried bag liners and "layers" and it can make for a miserable night of sleep because the layers don't necessarily move together when you move or roll around.  Also, top layers have a tendency to slide off a slippery sleeping bag when you move around.   Personally, I am not a fan of the "layer" system for sleeping.  I sleep in a tent 90% of the time so 1 sleeping bag is sufficient with the tent being my outer layer.  

6:21 p.m. on September 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Ruff's sentiments are similar to what many folks did (still do) say about layered clothing systems (which can also be more bulky and move around in all sorts of different directions). In the end...it is a personal choice...as no strategy is perfect. Like I do with clothing...I personally favor the greater versatility and inconvenience of having my layers move around over the added expense and weight of having too much bag...mostly because I move around a lot and have never had my sleeping insulation not move around and need adjusting.

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