Are you a light sleeper or can you sleep on a rock during a hurricane. No matter what type you are staying warm and picking the right sleeping bag is cruical.
I don’t know about you but when I first walked into REI to look at sleeping bags for my first camping trip I had no idea sleeping bags came in different types of materials. The only thing I knew about down was it came from birds and synthetic just didn’t sound natural. Standing their looking at the large rack of hanging bags I felt like a middle school kid at his first dance not knowing what to do. To avoid embarrassment I went home and did my research. Both materials have positives and negatives. Just like at your first dance you have to decide which one is right for you to take on your new adventure.
Down is not made from feathers. Down is the fluffy undercoat that is found of geese and ducks. It is highly effective in trapping body heat and is exceptionally breathable. Down is also extremely light and has incredible compressibility. These qualities make down a backpackers best friend. Down’s major short fall is that it is incapable of repelling moisture and requires more care. Even “New Down” which is coated with material to make it water proof, is not recommended if you are hiking in wet or humid conditions.
Synthetic is a man made design using ultra thin polyester fibers that are design to replicate down, and retain these qualities even when it gets wet. Synthetic has the ability to completely dry within hours of becoming wet. Synthetic is also hypoallergenic and is usually lighter on the checkbook than down. Synthetic, however, is not as compressible and is heavier to achieve the same warmth as down.
Both of these materials have great qualities and deciding almost feels impossible. Why isn’t there one material that has the warmth of down and is water resistant like synthetic? My best advice to help you make your decision is to think about where you live, what your goals are, and where you want to go. I live in Northern Nevada and dream to one day complete the Pacific Crest Trail, PCT. These factors led me to choose the REI Radiant Sleeping Bag. This is a down bag that I am extremely happy with because of its warmth to weight ratio and I live in a very dry climate. I personally would not recommend this bag to someone who lived in South Carolina because of the humidity.
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Photo is attributed to Rusted Moon Outfitters