View Full Version : Sleeping bag fill

Uncle Wayne
10-17-2002, 02:45
I'm shopping for a 30 to 35 degree sleeping bag with a weight of around 2 pounds. My local store has these to choose from all having bags within the above limits: The North Face, Kelty, and Marmot, some with down and some with synthetic fill. If these bags all fall within my desired range and price being comparable, which would you choose, down or synthetic fill? I'd appreciate any advice or opinion or other options. On my recent section hike in the Smokies, I used a 55 degree fleece bag. The lowest temperature I saw was 51 degrees and I was a little uncomfortable during the night. My fleece bag doesn't have a hood and I didn't have a toboggan so that may have been the problem. After putting on my windbreaker / rain jacket with hood I was ok.
Thanks for your help.

The Weasel
10-17-2002, 04:05

Sounds like you camp a lot like me; I use my "Wal Mart Special" fleece bag down to about 40, and plan to stay warm by having fleece pants (also used for extra pants or days in cold weather), extra tee, extra socks (as mittens), rain shell for very cold nights.

I love down, 'cause it's light and compresses nicely (if you're careful) and very warm. But it's worthless unless you are very obsessive-compulsive/anal (easy for a lawyer) about keeping it dry. I use a sil-bag, inside my waterproofed Gust pack, but if my bag gets wet during the night, I'm scrod, so I'm careful then too. Syn fills will still keep you warm even when wet. If you can be as careful as I am with down, go for it, but if you're loosey-goosey about such things, go with syn.

The Weasel

The Weasel
10-17-2002, 04:07
By the way, why limit yourself to your "local store". Doesn't sound like they are a real heavy duty outfitter, so unless you're building customer rapport, why not buy from REI (rei.com), Campmor (campmor.com) and/or Sierra Discount (not sure of URL, someone else can give it, I hope.) MUCH greater selection, excellent prices (esp from Sierra and REI's closeout page).

The Weasel

10-17-2002, 07:30
The debate on sleeping bag fills continues.

First, I consider sleeping bags to be a "mature" product. That is, all sleeping bags are essentially similar. No big differences between major brands.

So, you said that bags with both fills are "within your price range." so price isn't a factor.

And, I'm assuming that fit isn't a factor either. You have slipped into each of them and find them long enough, but not too long, and wide enough for your hips, etc.

So, then, as a backpacker, it comes down to weight. Now, if you look at the tables in the Backpacker Gear Guide, you will find that for warm weather bags, like a 35 degree bag, that there isn't a huge difference, if any, between down bags and synthetic bags.

Now, all things are equal. Myself, I'll go with the synthetic bag, because of the warmth while wet property. I think that while thru-hiking, everything gets wet, or at least damp, no matter how hard you try otherwise. (that could be debated in another post). Plus synthetic filled bags are usually cheaper priced

10-17-2002, 08:32
I would be a bit careful about asserting that all sleeping bags within the same temperature range are about equal. For example, a 25 degree Coleman is probably not comparable to a 25 degree Western Mountaineering bag. One reason is that temperature ratings are a pretty subjective thing. There isn't any set standard that companies use to measure the warmth of a sleeping bag. Take a look at

This is a good review of lightweight bags. If I were to buy a 1 bag does it all (I have only one bag right now), I would get a down bag. They are, overall, lighter, more compact, and theoretically last longer. This is offset, at least partially, by their higher price and having to be a little careful about where you sleep (i.e, don't sleep in a ditch if rain is coming). If I lived in Washington or coastal BC, I would seriously consider a synthetic bag, at least for certain kinds of trips.

One final thing: If you are looking to buy down and want it cheap, wait a while and browse various websites like


All of these sites have close out deals. I got my Marmot Arroyo for about $100 off. Marmot changed the styling of the Arroyo and I saved some money.

10-17-2002, 20:34
As each style of bag goes out you can find them for greatly reduced prices. i know that campmor had bags that were out of style, left handed, oversized, and undersized there were really cheap. i cant quote numbers or anything but what a bag looks like on the outside isnt about to keep me from buying it if its much better quality. ive always shyed away from down just because i dont want to be caught with a wet down, for whatever reason. new synthetics have been coming out lately that are easyer to compact, lighter and have more loft. it comes down to personal preferance, whether you think you can keep a down bag dry, comfortability, weight and compactability. i go for synthetic but thats just me. i suggest you dont just go on what the sales clerk at that local store says, but do some real research before you make a decision. a bag is a pretty serious thing, especialy when yours fails. (although i supose it could be argued that there are alternatives if needed.)