Do I Need a Down or Synthetic Sleeping Bag?

Down vs. synthetic. It’s an age old insulation argument that may never be settled. One camp swears by synthetic and the other will defend down insulation until they day they die. Both types of insulation have their advantages and disadvantages, but which one is right for you? If you’re trying to decide between a down or synthetic sleeping bag, there are a few things you should consider.

In terms of performance, down insulation has edged out synthetic insulation pretty much since synthetic insulation became a thing. The gap narrows each and every year, however. The differences in performance between synthetic and down insulation are becoming less striking as technology improves.

The factors

Price

While the price of high end synthetic sleeping bags can be near the price of more affordable duck down sleeping bags, down fill sleeping bags typically cost more than synthetic sleeping bags.

Weight

The weight of a sleeping bag depends on the shell materials and also the amount of insulation used. The lower the temperature rating, the more the sleeping bag weighs. Generally speaking, down weighs less than its synthetic counterpart.

Care

Synthetic insulation is easier to care for than down insulation. That being said, if cared for properly, high-fill down can outlast any synthetic bag.

Space

Down sleeping bags compress to a smaller size than a comparable synthetic sleeping bag.

Insulation

This is the area in which synthetic has really stepped up its game. There was a time when down insulation had a clear advantage over synthetic in terms of heat retention and insulation. Today, many types of synthetic insulation can compete with down insulation in this category. Many people still maintain that down sleeping bags crank out more heat ounce-for-ounce, but synthetic insulation is right there with down.

Moisture

Moisture management is the chink in down’s armor. Water can render a down bag useless. Down compresses wet, which means that it can’t insulate. And while many companies have introduced “waterproof” down sleeping bags with a hydrophobic treatment, synthetic wins in this category.

The gist

Price

If you’re going to use your sleeping several times a month – or if your activities demand the performance of down insulation – spend the extra cash on a down sleeping bag. If you car camp twice a year, you can probably get by with a synthetic sleeping bag.

Weight

Mountain guides, ultralight thru-hikers, and polar explorers must eliminate all unnecessary weight. A few extra ounces from a synthetic sleeping bag isn’t going to make that big of a difference for your average camper or backpacker, however.

Care

Are you ready for a high maintenance sleeping bag? Down is durable as long as you protect and care for it. If you don’t want to worry about your bag, go with synthetic.

Space

Casual campers can manage with a massive sleeping bag, but backpackers can’t. That being said, not every backpacker needs a down sleeping bag that compresses to the size of a cantaloupe. Plenty of synthetic bags pack small enough for a backpacking trip.

Insulation

The difference between down and synthetic’s ability to insulate alone may not justify the price of a down sleeping bag for you. Remember, a 30-degree synthetic sleeping bag is rated to keep you just as warm as a 30-degree down sleeping bag.

Moisture

If you can guarantee your bag will stay dry, down’s weakness to water won’t be much of a factor. It’s not always easy to keep your bag dry when you’re in or around water. Precipitation, condensation, and bodies of water can render a down bag useless. Synthetic bags handle moisture better.

 

Looking for a place to buy sleeping bags in Northwest Arkansas? We carry a selection of down sleeping bags and synthetic sleeping bags that are sure to meet your needs. Stop by and see us today!

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