Down versus synthetic sleeping bags: What’s the deal?Submitted by - Steve Wozniak, Minneapolis, MN
The deal is pretty simple actually. Do you wanna save money? Buy a synthetic. Do you wanna save weight? Go with down.
OK, now for some more details.
Synthetic insulations (like Primaloft, Climashield, and the plethora of proprietary insulations) are a safer choice if you often find yourself in wet conditions, such as backpacking Washington’s Olympic coast with a tarp for shelter, like I did a few years back. I was very grateful for my synthetic bag on that trip because synthetics don’t completely crap out on you when they get wet. Although they won’t exactly keep you toasty, wet synthetic bags are not totally useless. Wet feathers are. Until you get them dry, of course.
Personally, I’m a down bag snob. And it’s not just the weight–a high quality down bag can be over a pound lighter than a synthetic with the same temperature rating–it’s the cozy factor. I always sleep warmer, and warm up quicker, in a down bag. And now that you can get awesome waterproof stuffsacks–such as Sea to Summit’s eVent Compression Dry Sacks (Editors’ Choice Award winner in 2007) you at least won’t have to worry about your down bag getting wet in transit.