View Full Version : Down vs. Synthetic?

01-11-2009, 09:23
Which do you prefer and why?
Pros and Cons of each?

01-11-2009, 09:27
Start here:

01-11-2009, 11:33
I like down better in clothes and sleeping bags. I started out with synthetic because I was worried about getting it wet. Well, I never did. Made the switch I never looked back.

01-11-2009, 11:48
My next sleeping bag will be down, but I don't like down in clothing above -0F,
and I don't spend enough time below 0F that wool and fleece and skin layers and light shells don't get me there and back again. Whatever I bring for -20F still has to work for rain at 20F and 30F, so I think a down sleeping bag is good, but not down clothing. I've thought about a ligh long overcoat of down, that could double as an overquilt, but nobody makes such a thing for men. I might make one some day. It might be easier to make with synthetic insulation, and just as light and functional. Length to just below the knees, and maybe loose enough to hunker down and pull over the knees when sitting.

01-11-2009, 11:54
Which do you prefer and why?
Pros and Cons of each?

Down is more warmth, less bulk, lighter, although there are several very good synthetic products out there. The only real pro for sythetic is that the loft won't absolutely collapse when wet like down will. You pretty much don't want to sleep in a wet sleeping bag, regardless, so go with down and keep it dry. A down jacket is great to have in the pack and you're probably only going to wear it around camp, with a rain shell to keep it dry.

I think a synthetic insulated vest is a good addition since its something you can hike in and not worry to much about light drizzle or sweat (mostly sweat).

01-13-2009, 14:10
After seeing how much smaller and easier down packs I switched, pronto.

01-13-2009, 14:31
Are we talking about sleeping bag or clothing insulation?
Perhaps it doesn't matter.

One advantage of some synthetic fill is that baffles aren't required, and that feathers can't leak, so for some applications, particularly flat items, synthetic filled items might end up being just as light as high quality down filled items, and easier and cheaper to constuct, and more robust for wet weather. Poncho liners are an example. You have to add up the warmth and weight of the finished product, and really the total system including how it fits in with all the other layers carried.

01-13-2009, 16:11
Down. Warmer and compacts better.

01-13-2009, 16:16
I know 99% of you don't care, but Synthetic is the animal friendly option.

01-13-2009, 17:04
I know 99% of you don't care, but Synthetic is the animal friendly option.

Well, like so many things, there's a gray area. It's not like it's the reason that geese are harvested.

It's a useful byproduct. Down is to foie gras as leather is to hamburgers.

Extracting petrochemicals needed to make synthetic aint exactly rainbows and butterflies to the animals that live near wells, refineries, etc.

01-13-2009, 17:39
Extracting petrochemicals needed to make synthetic aint exactly rainbows and butterflies to the animals that live near wells, refineries, etc.

Exactly. I read something a few years ago, honestly can't remember where so take it with that big grain of salt, but the article was of a study that certain products like leather and down are much more friendly to the environment, because of all the energy that goes into making the synthetic materials puts out all sorts of horrible stuff into the environment. The article basically boiled it down to, "take the skin off an already dead animal, or poison an entire environment to "protect" those same animals that are still alive". I'm sure there are many flaws in that argument, but it did raise some valid points.

As far as the actual topic... down is my 100% pick for sleeping bags. Lighter, I swear it breathes better, it packs better, it lasts longer. Synthetic I would bring on a long whitewater rafting trip maybe, but I'd probably still just bring down packed into a drybag.

01-13-2009, 18:36
Here is how one person described the wool vs. synthetic debate in terms of "green friendly". Can apply to this rigmarole:

There are environmental issues with wool vs synthetics, but enviro-yammer about clothing is frequently overblown and takes on the flavor of green washing PR speak. Wool is “natural,” but sheep farms take land, and ranching is not exactly wilderness preservation. Synthetics are made with chemicals that are usually not biodegradable and require more industrial infrastructure (I’d rather see a ranch then a chemical plant). Both sheep fur and petro thread require energy for manufacture, raw material supply, and product shipping. In the end, I’d guess both products probably have virtually equal environmental impact, so I’m not worrying about it.

(Emphasis Mine! I tend to agree. :))

So go with what works as the green friendly debate is an endless rube's game. Use what works. :)
(Another vote for down bags)

01-13-2009, 18:55
Down in sleeping bags since 1985.
Synthetic in shoulder-season garments (fleece with a wind shell dries faster than most fancy-pants synth. filled jackets). You also can't remove the shell and use it separately with the shelled synth. filled garments. Btw: windstopper fleece only stops the wind half way through, minimizing its warmth vs. separate fleece and shell system.
Down wins again for winter-cold weather outerwear.