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  1. #1
    Walking Stick glessed's Avatar
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    Default Condensation and Down Sleeping Bags

    Don't quite know how to properly ask this question, but is the condensation inside a tent enough to damage a down sleeping bag or make sleeping uncomfortable . It seems like everyone raves about down bags over synthetic so I am assuming that there is no significant problem here.

    What experience do you have in this regard?

    BTW I just purchased a BA Copper Spur UL1 for my upcoming AT thru hike.
    Hiked from Springer to just North of Hot Springs and the flip flopped to Massachusetts and hiked South until Labor Day in 2010. Plan to continue in 2011.

  2. #2
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    Condensation that accumulates on the inside of your tent can get on your sleeping bag. However, most sleeping bags have an effective durable water repellancy (DWR) that will simply make the water bead up and roll off. If there is copious condensation then yes, it can wet your sleeping bag enough to wet the insulation.

    If down gets wet (really wet) it has no insulative value where synthetic insulation will. However, down is warmer for the weight and can last many more years than synthetic insulation, which begins decomposing as soon as it is made.

    I think you will be just fine with a down bag. Should it get a little damp just dry it out when the sun comes out perhaps over your lunch break.

    Besides wet performance, there is no benefit of synthetic insulation over that of down in a sleeping bag (I would have a different perspective on a jacket, however).

    Nice tent, BTW.

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    Section Hiker Wise Old Owl's Avatar
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    Though a little outside of your question, one thing came into play one year when the temps froze my water bottle solid one night I had ice on the down foot box of the bag. Since then I always put a fresh pair of hiking sock on when jumping in. I guess I sweat a lot down at the tootsy's!
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” Dr Seuss
    Woo

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    Be sure to keep your down bag (and warm clothing) dry. Use a plastic garbage bag or trash compactor bag inside your pack to keep things dry.
    If you do get a lot of condensation on a humid night, use a bandanna or pack towel to dry the inside of your tent.
    FamilyGuy said: Should it get a little damp just dry it out when the sun comes out perhaps over your lunch break.
    I usually do this on the theory that every day my bag gets a little damper (and colder), just from moisture from my body.

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    Garlic
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    It has never been an issue for me. Keeping a cotton bandanna handy is a good idea.

    Eventually, heavy exposure to fog and condensation will slightly compromise the down, but usually not enough to ruin your trip. Dry the bag out in sunshine, a room, or a laundromat when you can.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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    I just thought of something else. In those conditions where I expect condensation to be an issue, I will put the end of my sleeping bag inside my rain shell to protect it from rubbing against the side or end of my shelter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyGuy View Post
    I just thought of something else. In those conditions where I expect condensation to be an issue, I will put the end of my sleeping bag inside my rain shell to protect it from rubbing against the side or end of my shelter.
    Bad idea.
    Your breathable rain shell isn't all that breathable. Especially of there isn't a lot of heat pushing the moisture thru the breathable membrane of the rain shell. That is one of the reasons that no one makes a gore-tex bag or tent anymore.
    Over a few nights you may have a bit of moisture work its way into the bag, but it is not a big deal. When you get into town (every 3 or 4 or 5 days) and are doing laundry, just toss your bag into the dryer for a $.25 cycle. Nice dry bag every time.
    What? Me worry??

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    Registered User Toolshed's Avatar
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    Tent condensation isn't really an issue.
    Condensation feels like it is voluminous and very damaging, but only because it is usually colder, hence wet & not vapor and concentrated on the outer shell of your bag. You could have 10 times as much moisture in the bag clionging to down from perspiration and respiration and not realize it.
    Your respiration and perspiration are the real hidden dangers. One can easily lose a pint or two of of perspiration through their feet during the course of a night - Straight into your down bag. There are other body areas that lose almost as much moisture as well.
    This is the real cause of reduction of insulation in down bags over repeated use. That's why it is a good idea to air out your bag at lunch or diner or on rest breaks. Just unzip and hang it over something for 30 mins to an hour - Direct sunnlight helps.
    .....Someday, like many others who joined WB in the early years, I may dry up and dissapear....

  9. #9

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    shouldn't be a problem as long as you cowboy camp, use a tarp, a hammock or a regular tent. stay away from single wall tents if you want to totally avoid condensation.

    geek

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    Quote Originally Posted by RedneckRye View Post
    Bad idea.
    Your breathable rain shell isn't all that breathable. Especially of there isn't a lot of heat pushing the moisture thru the breathable membrane of the rain shell. That is one of the reasons that no one makes a gore-tex bag or tent anymore.
    Over a few nights you may have a bit of moisture work its way into the bag, but it is not a big deal. When you get into town (every 3 or 4 or 5 days) and are doing laundry, just toss your bag into the dryer for a $.25 cycle. Nice dry bag every time.
    No - its fine. Most body moisture comes from the torso and the mouth. My jacket is eVENT and is breathable. Of note, this is exactly what Hilleberg recommends. It works.

    There are WP bags still made with dryvent, hyvent, eVENT, Epic, the list goes on so you are incorrect.

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    Registered User Panzer1's Avatar
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    When you stop for lunch you can use your food bag rope to create a clothes line and hang your sleeping bag on that so that it dries out completely. Assuming of course its not raining..

    Panzer

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Adams View Post
    shouldn't be a problem as long as you cowboy camp, use a tarp, a hammock or a regular tent. stay away from single wall tents if you want to totally avoid condensation.

    geek
    HERESY!
    Slight correction: A double walled tent doesn't prevent condensation, it just prevents you from touching it. In a tent with a mesh ceiling, your condensation may just come for a visit when rain knocks it from the inside of the fly. Steep sidewalls on the fly minimize this.
    NO tent can protect you from a heavy fog - it rolls right through your mesh and makes everything damp.
    The upside is that your body temperature helps to evaporate some of the moisture it puts into the bag via normal transpiration (low level sweat - which happens all the time).
    Keep your bag out of the rain, rivers, and lakes and you should be just fine and revel in the fact that your bag has probably kept its temperature rating throughout your trip whereas those who started with synthetic bags are probably carrying extra clothing up in Maine in the fall to supplement the lost loft in their synthetic bags.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11
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  13. #13

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    I think any event/DWR fabric on a bag tends to hold in the vapor more than holding out the liquid, that plus the extra weight/$ is better used on more or higher loft down. Only my -20 bag has a DWR coating on it and I got that because it happened to be the deal at the time on a bag that will seldom go out. In a few hundred nights out in all seasons with down bags I have never had problems that required days off/trip to town to dry a bag

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyGuy View Post
    No - its fine. Most body moisture comes from the torso and the mouth. My jacket is eVENT and is breathable. Of note, this is exactly what Hilleberg recommends. It works.

    There are WP bags still made with dryvent, hyvent, eVENT, Epic, the list goes on so you are incorrect.
    eVent is far more breathable than Gore, but still far less breathable than DWR treated micro fiber nylon.
    Does Hilleberg make bags? I thought they mainly did single wall tents, mainly distributed in europe.
    Waterproof bags are indeed made by a number of manufacturers, but their actual real life uses are fairly limited. When was the last time last time a non-mountaineer slept in a snow cave?
    Big tent, little tent, no tent - from my experience, I seem to have moisture in/on my bag around my mouth and my feet.
    What? Me worry??

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toolshed View Post
    Tent condensation isn't really an issue.
    Condensation feels like it is voluminous and very damaging, but only because it is usually colder, hence wet & not vapor and concentrated on the outer shell of your bag. You could have 10 times as much moisture in the bag clionging to down from perspiration and respiration and not realize it.
    Your respiration and perspiration are the real hidden dangers. One can easily lose a pint or two of of perspiration through their feet during the course of a night - Straight into your down bag. There are other body areas that lose almost as much moisture as well.
    This is the real cause of reduction of insulation in down bags over repeated use. That's why it is a good idea to air out your bag at lunch or diner or on rest breaks. Just unzip and hang it over something for 30 mins to an hour - Direct sunnlight helps.
    "There are other body areas that lose almost as much moisture as well."

    Yet another reason to unzip the bag and step outside when you first wake up and feel the urge!
    What? Me worry??

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    Quote Originally Posted by RedneckRye View Post
    eVent is far more breathable than Gore, but still far less breathable than DWR treated micro fiber nylon.
    Does Hilleberg make bags? I thought they mainly did single wall tents, mainly distributed in europe.
    Waterproof bags are indeed made by a number of manufacturers, but their actual real life uses are fairly limited. When was the last time last time a non-mountaineer slept in a snow cave?
    Big tent, little tent, no tent - from my experience, I seem to have moisture in/on my bag around my mouth and my feet.
    No - eVENT is not 'far less breathable.' I use it in jackets and in two bivy bags of which I have never (NEVER) had condensation. So from a user to a poser, it works.

    Two issues here - your feet sweat so I would recommend wearing socks to contain the accumulated moisture. Your feet are producing condensation. The second issue is the condensation that will accumulate on the inside of the tent wall. A waterproof jacket helps with this. And yes, Hilleberg recommends doing so if you expect copious amounts of condensation to accumulate on the tent walls.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyGuy View Post
    No - eVENT is not 'far less breathable.' I use it in jackets and in two bivy bags of which I have never (NEVER) had condensation. So from a user to a poser, it works.

    Two issues here - your feet sweat so I would recommend wearing socks to contain the accumulated moisture. Your feet are producing condensation. The second issue is the condensation that will accumulate on the inside of the tent wall. A waterproof jacket helps with this. And yes, Hilleberg recommends doing so if you expect copious amounts of condensation to accumulate on the tent walls.
    RedneckRye,
    I'm with you on this one.

    geek

  18. #18

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    Good thread - I'm learning a lot.

    Related question - probably a dumb one: With my synthetic bags, I bring damp clothing e.g. socks and shirt into the bag with me at night and they dry by morning with no ill effects on the bag. At least it's worked for me. So I assume one can't do this with a down bag?

    I've always used synthetic until 2 years ago when I bought a Kelty 45 degree downbag for late spring, summer, early fall camping.

  19. #19

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    cooker....yes you can, it works well with down as well as synthetic, just know that the moisture that comes off whatever you are drying has to go somewhere...either into the insulation, into your clothes, out of the bag....etc.

    something i find works well when drying stuff in my down bag is, in the morning, to compress the bag to squeeze out all the moist air, then let it loft up again. if its particularly damp do it a few times.

    ymmv

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Adams View Post
    stay away from single wall tents if you want to totally avoid condensation.
    Do you need to totally avoid condensation? Get used to it. People make too big of a deal about condensation.
    If it is getting into your sleeping bag that is another matter and you may need to modify your shelter.

    I only use single wall shelters, tarps and tarptents. The worst I have had was multiple nights camping inside rain clouds. The condensation totally coated the inside of the tarp, outside as well as everything else in the area. My sleeping bag got a little damp, but the coating kept it from the down or at least my body heat evaporated any that made it in.

    I do air out my gear as often as practical. A double wall tent needs the aired out just as much as a single walled shelter. As stated earlier, they suffer form condensation like everything else and will get smelly if left packed wet.
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